Over the past couple of summers 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 couple of years just gave us the best excuse ever to enjoy where we live. Vail in Colorado is our hometown. In 2020 and 2021 Vail summer was busy. But it was very different from usual. In 2023 it is bigger and better than ever with events in full swing. And thanks to a snowy winter and wet spring even greener than ever. This wet and green start to summer also means that wildflowers will be brighter than ever, and rivers are running higher than ever.
Header image courtesy Town of Vail and Jack Affleck.
Vail Concerts and Festivals Are Back in Full Force
Vail’s summer season kicked off with another busy Mountain Games. Vail Mountain operations began this past weekend with the gondolas running daily from 9:30 am to 4 pm. The Vail Farmers Market also began this past weekend. Bravo! Vail’s opening night was June 22nd.
Fourth of July is around the corner with a return of Vail America Days, and for the first time in several years, real fireworks (subject to weather and fire restrictions)!
August heats up with the Vail Dance Festival, Vail Wine Classic, Vail Jazz Festival and more.
But don’t overlook the smaller events and activities. One of our favorite events last summer was the farm to table dinners produced by Taste of Vail. And, happy hour with the goats at Vail Stables is so much fun.
Why Vail Summer
There is a saying that the locals in Vail repeat incessantly, “We came for the winter but stayed for the summers.” This has little to do with the big concerts or festivals. It is because summer is the most beautiful time of the year in the Colorado Rockies. Here we have nature at our fingertips and we like to make the most of it. Whether rafting the whitewater of a river, soaring down the mountain on a bike, or just sitting on the lawn at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater, beauty surrounds us.
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.
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.
Reservations continue to be recommended for restaurants. At least one new restaurant opened in the village. That is Barrio Social, serving Spanish and Portuguese wines, ciders and ports to complement pintxos, tapas and planchas.
There are also some really great family-friendly Vail restaurants you won’t want to miss.
Fourth of July 2023
Fourth of July, known as Vail America Days is back in full force with real fireworks (weather permitting). The popular parade will fill the streets of Vail with patriotic floats, dancing, music and vehicles making their way from Vail Village to Lionshead Village. Likely the largest fireworks on the western slope of Colorado, Salute to the USA in Avon, is also back on (weather permitting) as are the fun activities surrounding it.
Vail Summer 2023 Activities
Even though all of your favorite things to do will be back, you might still want 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. Our one tip here is 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
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.
There are several options for larger waves just a short drive from the area on both the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers.
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. Or, make reservations to see on of the most beautiful waterfalls in Colorado at Hanging Lake. Up to you.
Insider Tip: 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
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. Here you can meander the cobblestone streets of Vail village. Shop for fresh Colorado produce. Or use your senses to take in the art and music of this Bavarian alpine village.
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 are open. 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
Visit Epic Discovery Vail. Gondola One and Eagle Bahn Gondola will once again take you to the top of Vail Mountain startin. 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, which should all be open.
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. Large concerts are back but you still may be able to find live music as you walk through 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 2023 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.
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.
A Warm Welcome
I for one, look forward to welcoming you to our home here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.