Nestled at the base of Vail Ski Mountain, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and surrounded by White River National Forest, Vail is a spectacular mountain town with bountiful recreational opportunities from skiing, snowboarding, ski biking, tubing, sledding, ice skating and much more. Here are some tips on how to choose where to stay and more to make the most of your Vail family vacation.
Insider Tip: Be sure to check out our guide to Vail in Colorado!
Vail is a fairly easy drive. It is about an hour and a half to two hours from the Denver area, if you plan well. Nestled at the base of Vail Ski Mountain, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and surrounded by White River National Forest, Vail is a spectacular mountain town. Vail boasts bountiful recreational opportunities from skiing, snowboarding, ski biking, tubing, sledding, ice skating and even ice climbing. Or in summer enjoy hiking, biking, jeeping, mountain climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding and horseback riding or wildlife watching. There will be something different that each family member will love on your Vail family vacation.
Disclosure: We have a business relationship with Antlers at Vail, one of the hotel mentioned below. As always our opinions are our own.
Where in Vail should your family stay?
Where to Stay in Vail? Vail Village vs. Lionshead Village
Vail is comprised of two village base areas (Lionshead and Vail) less than a mile apart. A convenient free bus system, a beautiful bike path along the river, pedestrian friendly heated streets and four ski lifts connect the two villages. Regardless of which village you chose as your home base, you will have access to everything that Vail has to offer.
Both villages have the quaint feel of an Alpine village with cobblestone streets and architecture reminiscent of centuries-old Europe. Vail Village boasts a bit more nightlife and is center for much of the music for which Vail is known. Lionshead Village is slightly quieter, with newer hotel properties, many of which are condominium hotels ideal for families and longer stays.
Families, larger groups and those coming for a longer visit may want to consider one of the condominium hotels for their Vail family vacation. These will have full kitchens for preparing meals and more space for spreading out. The Eagle Bahn Gondola also runs out of Lionshead Village up to the new Epic Discovery, a mountain playground.
Best Family Friendly Hotels in Vail, Colorado
Vail is home to some fantastic condominium properties. As a family we prefer hotel accommodations where we have a kitchen, separate bedrooms and space to spread out.
Antlers at Vail
Antlers at Vail has an ideal location in Lionshead Village about 150 yards from the ski lifts at the base of Vail Mountain. Their spacious condos make this one of our favorites. The heated creekside pool and hot tubs lined with natural stone are a favorite with families. And, the gas fireplaces in every condo make winding down at night a pleasure.
Manor Vail is located at the base of Golden Peak. Vail Ski School runs out of Golden Peak, making this an ideal location for families whose kids plan on attending ski school. The condos here are also spacious. And, there’s a lovely restaurant with a deck.
Four Seasons Vail
This is a favorite of my sister and her family. And, who doesn’t want to stay at a Four Seasons? If you are staying as a family, you will be best served to splurge on a suite for a little more room. The cute tents they bring for the kids make for a fun experience.
Other Vail Hotels
There are plenty of great hotel brands in Vail. So, if you have a hotel brand that you prefer, you’re likely to find it here. The Vail Marriott is located just to the west of Antlers at Vail in Lionshead Village. There’s also a Ritz Residences just to the west of the Marriott. And, down the frontage road a bit is a newly rebranded Grand Hyatt. The Grand Hyatt boasts a ski lift out the back of the property. It is a bit removed from the village but has all the amenities you might need right there. Across the highway in West Vail is a more affordable Doubletree.
There are some lovely independent Vail hotels too. The Sonnenalp is one with a long history in Vail and excellent reputation. They also have a couple of fantastic restaurants. The Sebastian hotel is another with a great reputation and residences available as well. The Sebastian has some fun offerings such as a unique hot cocoa experience. The Arrabelle in Lionshead, run by Vail Resorts, is about as close as you can get to the ski lifts. Though the Lodge at Vail is very close too.
Insider Tip: Use Google Hotels to identify the exact location of the different hotels in the area.
Is a Car Needed for Vail Family Vacation?
Guests are easily able to fully enjoy the resort without a car. If you are flying in you can take a shuttle from the airport or rent a car and park it at your hotel. Many of the Vail hotels provide free parking. The only thing you may need to access outside of the villages are the larger grocery stores. Some of the hotel properties will provide free grocery shuttles.
When should your family visit Vail?
The best timing for your visit depends on the experience you want to have on your Vail vacation.
Winter Vail Family Vacation
Are you an avid skier or snowboarder? Of course then you will want to visit during the winter. Vail is truly an alpine winter wonderland with lights twinkling in the snow covered evergreen and aspen trees all winter long. With majestic snow covered mountains, plentiful outdoor activities and creative culinary offerings Vail has something for everyone.
The holidays in Vail and spring break are the obvious popular times to visit the resort. But those time frames are also busier and more expensive. Very often early December offers fantastic snow, as can April late season. Last April, Vail Mountain actually extended operations to a week after their planned closing date after receiving almost two feet of snow the last week of March. Early December and April offer the best ski season lodging rates and often great dining specials as well.
Vail Family Vacation During Summer
Do you love hiking or biking? Then you will want to visit anytime between May and October. With warm sunny days, cool nights and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, summer is the perfect time to visit. Families will enjoy outdoor adventures, cultural events and nature at its best. During July you will have a difficult time deciding between the many world class cultural offerings. But in May, June and the fall you can better enjoy connecting with nature. You will also have your choice of dining reservations and specials.
So, where is Vail located?
Vail is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains a short 2 hour drive from Denver International Airport or eve shorter half hour drive from Eagle Vail Airport. I-70 cuts right through the town, making it easy to get to, at least in summer. Snow in the winter can make driving tricky.
There are several shuttle services from either airport. Once you arrive to Vail village, you don’t really need a car. A shuttle is a great way to go, especially in the winter.
The main Vail exit of of I-70 is exit # 176. This is the exit you will take to get to either Vail or Lionshead villages.
Insider Tip for Your Vail Family Vacation
Stays of 30 consecutive days or more at a Vail lodging property are exempt from lodging taxes. That can add up to some significant savings! On top of that some of the lodging properties offer discounts on month-long stays.
Vail may be our favorite Colorado ski town, but each Colorado ski town has its ow personality and charm. Be sure to check out our guide to Colorado’s ski towns to find the perfect one for you!
This is an updated version of a post originally published in February 2017.