vail summer evening at dusk

What a strange past few months of life, and travel. Over the past few months our family explored the wide open spaces of our home state instead of wandering afar. We always love Colorado in the summer. So, the past few months just gave us the best excuse ever to enjoy where we live. Vail in Colorado is our hometown. In 2020 Vail summer was busy. But it was very different from usual. In 2021 it is going to look more like previous years with events in full swing.

Header image courtesy Town of Vail and Jack Affleck.

best family travel destinations
Your Vail summer family vacation really needs to include a ride up the gondola for the views!

A Safe Vail

As of May 2021 more than 60% of the local residents were vaccinated and the county lifted all health orders and emergency declarations. That doesn’t mean that caution has been tossed to the wind though. State and federal regulations are still in place. And, local businesses and event producers have the authority to implement their own safety precautions. But you will see events returning to full capacity and navigating preferences of their attendees. We just attended an outdoor event at the Gerald R Amphitheater where no masks were required. But the event producers were clear that if you wanted to wear one or be in an area where others were social distancing they would accommodate that.

Vail Concerts and Festivals Return

Vail valley festivals and concerts are returning in just about full swing for summer 2021. GoPro Mountain Games will kick off summer events June 10th. It likely won’t have as large of crowds as usual simply because the producers had to plan for a scaled back event.  And, that is probably the biggest difference that visitors will notice as summer begins. The earlier summer events won’t have had as much time to plan for full capacity and so may still be smaller that usual. But visitors can expect the same level of quality and fun as past summers.

Why Vail Summer

There is a saying that the locals in Vail repeat incessantly, “We came for the winter but stayed for the summers.” I promise you that this has nothing to do with the big concerts or festivals. It is because summer is the most beautiful time of the year in the Colorado Rockies.

Vail Weather

Sunny days and cool evenings can be found whether you are walking the path along Gore Creek, hiking or biking Vail Mountain, rafting on the river or simply having an outdoor picnic at an alpine garden. Vail locals have always valued their space, the fresh mountain air and the ability to easily access an outdoor activity. That is still the case this summer.

Vail Dining

The Vail village dining experience moved outdoors in 2021. You will see some of that carry over to this summer. Patios were expanded. Dogs were more welcome than usual. Live music will likely continue to be abundant. There is never any telling what Colorado weather will do. So, planning may be out the door. But worst case scenario you can order dinner to go and enjoy it on your hotel balcony.

There are also some really great family-friendly Vail restaurants.

Fourth of July 2021

Colorful fireworks light up the night sky for 4th of July Colorado
What 4th of July celebration would be complete without fireworks lighting up the night sky?

Fourth of July won’t quite be back to previous operations. But perhaps close. Vail America Days was re-imagined and modified to provide patriotic exhibits spaced throughout the villages rather than the moving parade that attracts large crowds last summer. The parade will remain as exhibits that visitors can peruse at their leisure. Vail will likely once again provide a fireworks display that can be viewed from most areas of Vail. And, the largest fireworks on the western slope of Colorado, in Avon, will once again happen with most of the regular festivities.

Vail Summer 2021 Activities

Worried that there might not be enough to do? Don’t. It really may get you to experience something you’ve not thought to try before. There never has been a shortage of Vail summer activities and there won’t be this summer either. But you might want to book in advance. Demand continues to be strong and some activities may have limited capacity for reasons other than the Pandemic.

Bike Vail Pass

A couple of local companies offer a Vail Pass bike ride. They take you up to the top of Vail Pass. Drop you off with a bike. And, you ride down.

Go River Rafting

Floating on the river
Father’s Day float with Timberline Tours out of Eagle on a calm stretch of river.

Have you ever been river rafting? I really don’t like cold water. But there are many different levels of rapids. Every Father’s Day we take a river float with Timberline Tours. There are about three small rapids. No wet suits needed and you possibly could even avoid getting splashed by water if you really wanted to. Our guide actually pulled this off, even after acquiescing to the kids demands to go backwards through the rapids.


Just go hiking. Use your own feet to take you somewhere green that you’ve never been before. It is refreshing. You can go easy and interesting like Rifle Falls, or get your heart beating with a hike up Vail Mountain. Up to you.

Hint: Here are our favorite Vail area family hikes.

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Vail has the highest botanical gardens in the United States, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. On a walk to the gardens you are likely to discover some unique art. There’s also a very fun park right next door for the kiddos. And, picnic tables down by the river.

Piney River Ranch

Our family fishing at Piney Lake Vail
Fishing at Piney Lake Vail. Fishing rods are available for rent at the pier. Something that absolutely should be on your list of things to do with kids in Colorado!

Up for a drive? Check out one of he most beautiful landscapes in the area — of the Gore Range at Piney Lake. A few miles up a dirt road on the north side of the highway is Piney River Ranch. This is a popular wedding destination because of the unmatched beauty. The Gore Range reflects on a pristine lake. There are cabins and tents available for rent. Beautiful hiking trails, canoes and fishing rods for rent. Horseback riding. And, a delicious casual restaurant.

Vail Farmers Market

The Vail Farmers Market will return in full swing.

Visit Beaver Creek

Want a smaller alpine experience? Check out Beaver Creek! While you may not have quite as much at your fingertips, it is all very accessible. There are plenty of restaurants with outdoor patios. The lifts open June 19. And, any of the tour companies will pick you up at your hotel to do any of the many things available in Vail and throughout Eagle County.

Play at Epic Discovery

Tacking a ropes or challenge course atop Vail Mountain at Epic Discovery.

Visit Epic Discovery Vail. Gondola One and Eagle Bahn Gondola will once again take you to the top of Vail Mountain starting June 19. Following a reduced operating footprint last summer, guests can look forward to more activities on tap at on Vail Mountain for the upcoming summer season. Epic Discovery summer operations including the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, Eagle’s Nest Tubing and Gore Creek Mini Golf will all be open.

Fly Fish

Have someone who likes fishing. Vail is an idyllic spot for fly fishing. If you have the equipment, you may be able to just catch some fish on your own. If not, there are plenty of outfitters ready to show you their favorite fishing spots and provide equipment and guidance.

Experience Art and Music

Love art? There’s plenty of art in public places. You might even find some unique installations in your hotel. And there are also lots of galleries to meander through. While large concerts have been postponed, you are sure to be able to find live music as you wanted the village.

Just Explore the Outdoors

Explore. Use this summer to get lost. Whether on a hiking trail, bike trail or just wandering through the village. There’s no better time than the present to discover Vail on your own.

Vail Summer 2021 Lodging Deals

One of our favorite condominium hotel, located in Lionshead village, the Antlers at Vail, is offering lots of fun specials and packages. With packages with value adds such as picnics and gelato there’s sure to be something to make your visit to Vail special.

Pool at the Antlers at Vail sits creekside with mountain views. Photo courtesy Antlers at Vail.

Insider Tip: Antlers at Vail is home to one of the pools on our list of best winter pools in Colorado. It is pretty great in the summer too.

hiking vail summer 2020
Photo courtesy Town of Vail/ Jack Affleck
Mountain biking Vail summer 2020
Photo courtesy Town of Vail/ Jack Affleck

Visitors should plan to bring their mask along in their pocket or purse so that they have it handy should the come across a situation where it is requested, or choose to ride public transit such as the free in town bus. But other that that we think you can expect this Vail summer to look more like those of 2019 and prior. Maybe there will also be a few of us locals even more grateful that usual to have you once again enjoying our beautiful home.

Mountain views in Vail summer 2020
What Vail Summer 2021 Looks Like

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