This Fall Explore the Best of Vail as a Family
G.O.A.T. Day Trip
GOAT Day Trip
“GOAT” has several meanings in Vail, and you’ll get to sample a few of those experiences today.
Welcome to Vail! Park in the Lionshead Parking structure before making your way to the ticket office where you’ll pick up passes for the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the top of Vail Mountain. The gondola operates Thursday to Sunday, September 7 to October 3. As the gondola glides you to 10,259 feet, enjoy the views of the Gore Range’s jagged peaks aglow with fall colors.
At the top of the mountain, take a moment to capture images of Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the area’s 14,000-foot peaks. The stunning mountain is hard to miss with snow that forms a natural cross on the northeast facing slope.
Heading back down the mountain, enjoy a gentle hike through the colorful forest via Fireweed Trail to Mid-Vail, then hike down Eagle’s Nest road to Strawberry Lane, which will get you to Vail Village just in time for lunch. Grab a quick salad or sandwich at Big Bear Bistro before walking to Venture Sports’ Basecamp location in Vail Village to check in for an afternoon Vail Pass bike excursion. The team at Venture Sports will fit your whole family for the right bike before transporting your family to the top of Vail Pass at 10,666 feet above sea level. Whether you choose to glide with a guide or tackle the mountain on your own, this outing is all downhill! Enjoy the 2,516’ elevation drop from the top of the Pass to Vail Village.
Once back in Vail Village, take the bus over to the parking garage where you’ll jump back in the car to drive a mile to Vail Stables for Goats & Wine – a pairing that (you guessed it!) couples wine with goats. The whole family will love interacting with the entertaining goats as they’re released into the beer garden to interact with guests. A photo-worthy moment, for sure!
To end your day, swing through Lionshead for great grab-and-go barbecue from Moe’s Original BBQ. Try the popular Pulled Pork sandwich, Southern Fried Catfish, or a Southern Fried Shrimp Mo Boy, a play on a Po Boy sandwich. It’s the perfect way to top off a full day of Vail adventures!Book Goats & Wine
Picnic in the Park
Get the whole crew checked in, then check out by kicking off your vacation with a hassle-free, relaxing picnic in Ford Park.
Welcome to Vail! As you pull into town, check-in to Manor Vail, one of Vail’s finest full-service condominium properties with all of the amenities of a resort, including two outdoor heated swimming pools, four hot tubs, a spa, fitness center, and The Fitz Bar & Restaurant. Skip the grocery store and have food dropped off at your condominium by Resort Delivery. This convenient service allows you to jump right in to vacation mode, no grocery store stop required.
Once the family’s settled, wander over to the Red Lion to grab a burger, chicken sandwich, or nachos to go for a picnic in Ford Park, where all can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest alpine garden in the world. If you have little ones in tow, they’ll have a blast on the epic treehouse-like playground. Then, run wild along Gore Creek on the Five Senses trail to the Vail Nature Center for a peek into the history, animals, and environment around Vail – an educational experience for all ages.Book Your Stay
Take a Llama to Lunch
Explore Vail’s backcountry with llamas leading the way.
Grab a quick breakfast before heading out with Paragon Guides for a Take a Llama to Lunch hike. Paragon’s knowledgeable guides will select a trail that’s perfect for the whole family’s physical ability and interest, with scenery from waterfalls and wildflowers. Paragon’s helpful “boys,” a.k.a. llamas, will accompany you on your hike, carrying lunch to your appointed spot. Kids can help the guides lead the llamas while you explore the backcountry around Vail. You’ll stop along the way for a classic picnic lunch of meats, cheeses, and more (please share any dietary restrictions) before returning to Vail.
Full of scenery, food, and fun, take some time to relax by one of Manor Vail’s pools before heading to El Segundo for dinner overlooking Gore Creek. El Segundo’s patio has one of the best views in Vail as you watch kayakers and rafters float by the restaurant. The popular Mexican restaurant’s menu features street tacos, burritos, and bowls – don’t miss the chorizo queso fundido! Mom and Dad can enjoy a cocktail (single or fiesta size) – try Friend of the Devil with Maestro Dobel Diamante tequila, cucumber, jalapeno, and fresh lime or Smoke on the Water with Mezcal Unión, Fever-Tree ginger beer, fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of cayenne.
Once dinner is wrapped up, a post-supper saunter around town or next to the creek is a wonderful way to cap off your second day in Vail.Reserve A Llama Date
Epic, On-Mountain Adventure
Experience team building at its best with family adventures on Vail Mountain.
To fuel up for the day of adventure ahead, swing by Yeti’s Grind on your way to Lionshead for a grab-and-go breakfast or coffee from this locally-owned hot spot. Kids might enjoy a hot cocoa or steamer.
Grab your tickets and board the Eagle Bahn gondola for a views-filled day of adventure on Vail Mountain. At the top, ask the family to pose over on the Simonton Observation Deck for a quick family photo. One of the best picture-taking spots on the mountain, this deck offers an amazing view of Mount of the Holy Cross – a holiday card showstopper!
Ready to keep exploring? Stop by the Nature Discovery Center operated by Walking Mountains to meet a naturalist for a guided hike. Your guide may take you on one of Vail Mountain’s popular trails such as the Ptarmigan Loop, Ridge Route, or Grand Escape.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, return to Eagle’s Nest at the top of the gondola for great barbecue with amazing views at Talon’s Deck. Take some time to savor lunch before heading out on a family team-building activity sure to get everyone excited: the ropes course at Epic Discovery! Don’t miss taking a quick run on the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster before calling it a day.
Your action-packed alpine day wraps up with dinner at the European-inspired Alpenrose for classic Bavarian fare on a beautifully decorated deck. For the kids, order one of Alpenrose’s fan-favorite German Pretzels, served dangling from an elk antler. You might sample the classic “Rockies and Roses” – Bavarian pork schnitzel with spaetzle and cream sauce. And of course, the Apfelstrudle is not to be missed for dessert. Prost!
Your action-packed alpine day wraps up with dinner at the European-inspired Alpenrose for classic Bavarian fare on a beautifully decorated deck. For the kids, order one of Alpenrose’s fan-favorite German Pretzels, served dangling from an elk antler. You might sample the classic “Rockies and Roses” – Bavarian pork schnitzel with spaetzle and cream sauce. And of course, the Apfelstrudle is not to be missed for dessert. Prost!Grab Your Tickets
Vail’s European roots are evident when guests stay at the award-winning Sonnenalp Vail.
Who’s ready for the fall vacation of a lifetime? Check-in at the award-winning Sonnenalp Vail – the property was recently listed as the No. 4 Resort Hotel in the American West by Travel & Leisure magazine. Known for its European hospitality, Sonnenalp’s owners bring a true Bavarian experience to Vail, Colorado. After getting settled, stop by Bully Ranch downstairs for one of the restaurant’s famous burgers, truffle tots, or a salad. (If you have the option, we suggest dining outside on the deck!)
Ask the concierge to point you in the direction of their favorite family nature experience – they’ll even provide Polaroid cameras for kids 5-11. Wander around the creek, forest, meadows, or stick close to the Villages – a nature walk is a low-key way to get acquainted with the altitude and natural beauty of your new surroundings.Book Your Stay
A Horse of a Time
Enjoy a European-style buffet breakfast at Sonnenalp before heading out with Sage Outdoor Adventures for a two-hour horseback ride through colorful aspen and pine groves. You’ll have massive views of Castle Peak Mountain and the Vail Valley as you meander through fields of sage and juniper.
Upon returning to Sonnenalp, clean up and head over to bol for more family fun. After you’ve knocked down some pins, take your dinner outside where you can enjoy the lively atmosphere of Solaris with outdoor games like cornhole, soccer, and more to keep the kids entertained while you finish up your meal. Menu favorites include the Buffalo Chicken Wings and Short Rib Sliders with entrées such as flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads. On the rare occasion there’s rain in the evening, opt to dine inside and bowl another round with the whole family.
Everyone should sleep well tonight!Pick Your Adventure
Playing it up at Piney
Play in the backcountry at Piney River Ranch with a plethora of outdoor adventures.
Enjoy a morning walk through Vail Village before it comes alive for the day. Swing by Solaris for a quick grab-and-go breakfast and coffee from locally owned and operated Yeti’s Grind.
Today, you’ll round up the family for a scenic drive to nearby Piney River Ranch for a full day of leaf peeping and mountain adventures. Located at the base of the Gore Range, Piney offers an array of family adventures, food, and even overnight accommodations. We suggest starting your day with a family hike to the nearby Piney Falls. The six-mile round trip hike meanders up the valley through fall color of aspen groves and craggy rock formations with the Piney River flowing below. A favorite!
Back at the ranch, enjoy a casual barbecue lunch before heading to Piney Lake where standup paddleboarding, canoeing, and beautiful views await. If anyone needs quiet time, wander the banks of the lake or up the creek to fly fish. Or, get the kids saddled up for a scenic horseback trail ride. You can’t go wrong with any of the options at Piney!
On the drive back to Vail, stop along the way to admire the colors of the changing forest. Don’t miss this favorite photo op: Just as Red Sandstone Road turns from dirt to pavement, you’ll have an astounding view of Vail Mountain.
Follow up your evening of music under the crisp stars with a slice of pizza at Pazzo’s before you call it a night.Vail Events
Activities for Everyone
“Divide and conquer” is the mantra of the day, with everyone enjoying something on their own.
Today contains a smorgasbord of activities as the family divides and conquers!
After breakfast, Dad can head out with Sage Outdoor Adventures to access the holy grail of fishing in Colorado: the Piney River. To access prime private water along Piney River, Sage Outdoor Adventures will take him on an ATV excursion to the remote location.
Younger kids can enjoy a day of play and programming offered through Sonnenalp’s award-winning kids’ camp that range from arts and crafts to cooking classes and outdoor adventures.
Older children can try their hand at the physical and mental challenges of rock climbing with Paragon Guides. They’ll experience a rush of adrenaline when they get to the top of a climb as they build their confidence and their skills!
While the rest of the family is out adventuring, Mom can relax and enjoy an afternoon of shopping in Vail Village – starting with lunch on the deck at Sweet Basil overlooking Gore Creek. Enjoy a glass of Flowers Chardonnay from California’s Sonoma Coast while noshing on the restaurant’s popular Whipped Feta appetizer and Ceasar Salad with salmon.
Experience a leisurely afternoon in Vail Village popping into popular shops such as Gorsuch for high-end women’s clothing, home goods, and outdoor gear, or check out clothing outfitter Fjällräven to pick up classic backpacks for the whole family in every hue. For a last stop: swing by Grappa on your way back to Sonnenalp for a bottle of wine to enjoy on your patio while recapping with the family later.
Once the family is back together, swing over to Lionshead for dinner at Vail Chophouse in Lionshead and swap stories and pictures. Select from the restaurant’s menu of great steak and seafood items while listening to the smooth tunes of owner Phil Long, who entertains throughout the week.Make A Reservation At The Vail Chophouse
Entertaining & Adrenaline Activities
A choice of contrasting activities that provide entertainment and adrenaline – no matter what you pick!
Today, half your group gets to enjoy a relaxing morning at Vail Stables, while the rest experiences an adrenaline-pumping ATV tour at Camp Hale.
But first, start your day all together with Goat Yoga at Vail Stables. This fun and entertaining activity not only allows for a good stretch, but earns smiles from ear to ear as small goats jump on participants, bump heads, sleep, and play around during the class. (Participants must be eight years old and older to take part in a goat yoga class.) After yoga, keep the zen going with a relaxing brunch at Vintage.
From here, those opting for a horseback experience will head over to the stables to saddle up. And the Camp Hale group will head out for a half-day ATV tour with Nova Guides. Explore where the 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained for World War II while enjoying spectacular views of the Continental Divide and four surrounding mountain ranges. You’ll even get a little history lesson along the way!
Regroup at the Sonnenalp before dinner at Swiss Chalet for classic fondue fare!Book A Table
Pack It In
Let llamas carry your gear for this backcountry hut trip.
Although vacation usually starts with a check-in, your week is about to begin with a serious check-out: taking your adventurous family on a backcountry hut trip along with Paragon Guides and their pack crew of llamas.
You’ll be able to work with the team at Paragon to custom-design a trip to one of the area’s many 10th Mountain Division Huts. Paragon’s own llamas will carry your gear so you can enjoy the hike as you travel through the backcountry to huts with names like Uncle Bud’s, the 10th M
ountain Memorial Hut, or Estin Hut. Once you’ve found your lodging, enjoy a prepared display of cheese and crackers before your guides fix dinner for the whole group. Everyone will be in wonder as the stars twinkle out and light up the sky – optimal stargazing is a backcountry benefit. See if your kids can spot the Milky Way!Reserve Your Guides
Hike Up, Pack Out
Explore the backcountry before hiking out and checking into a condominium resort in Vail.
You’ll wake up to the smell of a home-cooked (er, “hut-cooked”) breakfast prepared by your guides before setting out for another day with the llamas. Depending on your hut’s location, you might opt to summit a 13,000-foot mountain peak, hike to a backcountry lake, or go fly fishing in a seldom-explored creek.
Late afternoon, you’ll hike out of the backcountry and drive to Vail to check in to Antlers at Vail, a creekside condominium resort in Lionshead. (A shower might be the first order of business…) Once everyone’s cleaned up, walk about 150 yards to the Lionshead base area for a relaxing dinner at Tavern on the Square, featuring casual American cuisine everyone will enjoy.Book Your Stay
Stretch & Relax
Explore the many ways to relax during your Vail vacation.
Give yourself a break after two days in the backcountry with a little rest and relaxation. Enjoy breakfast in the comfort of your condominium before driving over to the Vail Stables to stretch out your body during Goat Yoga. Both entertaining and impactful, this yoga session includes poses, head butts, nibbles, and more!
Stop at Vintage in Vail Village for a leisurely brunch for the whole family before relaxing the day away at The Antlers pool, located along the banks of Gore Creek.
In the evening, wander Lionshead and Vail Village or check out the schedule at Ford Amphitheater (“The Amp”) to see if any live acts are performing.
Either way, we suggest a casual barbecue dinner from Moe’s Original BBQ in Lionshead. Serving Alabama-style pulled pork and other meats, this local’s favorite can be taken back to your condominium to enjoy poolside or in the comfort of your unit.
Then, get ready for an early departure tomorrow morning: Fly fishing on the “Upper C”!Find An Event
Floating & Fishing
Fly fishing float trip on the Upper Colorado River.
After your day of rest, head out early for a walk and wade fly fishing trip on the Upper Colorado River (a.k.a. “Upper C”) with Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, pending water conditions. You’ll be picked up at The Antlers and driven approximately 45 minutes to the put-in. Along your drive, you’ll pass towns such as Avon and Edwards that dot the Vail Valley before turning north at Wolcott to access the river.
Once you put in, your experienced guides will go through various casting techniques that you can use while floating down the river. They’ll tell you just where to aim your rod to catch some of the species of fish found in the river – brown and rainbow trout are plentiful.
While you float, you’ll enjoy some of the friendly wave trains along the way. And don’t forget to look up! There are several birds of prey that call the Upper C home (keep an eye out for the bald eagles).
Although you can’t bring your catch home to cook, keep the fish theme going for dinner by making a reservation at Russell’s in Vail Village for their great steak and seafood options. Try the Rocky Mountain Trout or order the classic New York Strip. Don’t forget a side of Russell’s Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin – popular with all ages!Reserve Your Fishing Spot
Explore Playgrounds & Picnics
Take the day for a self guided tour of Vail parks while packing a picnic lunch.
Today you’ll be exploring Vail on two wheels. Pack a picnic lunch or stop by Les Delices De Frances (“the French Deli”) for a sandwich to go before swinging by Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead to rent bikes for the day.
From there, you’ll jump on the Gore Valley Trail (located behind the shop) and point your handlebars toward Vail Village – kids will enjoy hopping off along the route to sample the area’s popular playgrounds. Travel & Leisure even named Vail’s Sunbird Park among the best playgrounds in the United States! From Sunbird’s cocoon-like bird’s nests to Pirate Ship Park at the base of Vail Village, there’s something fun for kids of all ages.
Continue on Gore Valley Trail past Ford Park and the Vail Golf Club to Bighorn Park in East Vail. Relax and enjoy a picnic in Bighorn Park, then enjoy an assist from gravity as you cruise downhill back toward Vail.
Your journey’s not over yet! Ford Park awaits. You can lock your bikes near Betty Ford Alpine Gardens or The Amp before hiking along Gore Creek to discover the Vail Nature Center, which feels like an oasis in the middle of town. The 1940s homestead is located between a mountain meadow and the banks of Gore Creek, and the 7-acre facility offers exhibits and programming that will help your whole crew connect to the unique, natural surroundings of Vail. There’s even a Native American teepee where you can learn about the original settlers of the region, the Ute.
Before jumping back on your bikes, make a point to wander through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest alpine gardens in the world.
Once you’ve returned your bikes to Double Diamond, hit the deck at Garfinkel’s, which overlooks the Lionshead ski yard. Parents can enjoy a beer outside while kids might enjoy a snack of nachos, quesadillas, or mozzarella sticks.
Don’t eat too much, though! Tonight is a treat with traditional Bavarian fare at Almresi in Vail Village. Start with a classic pretzel that everyone can enjoy before ordering the classic Resi’s Schnitzel or sampling a fan favorite, the Schweizer Rosti, featuring crispy Swiss potato pancakes and smoked salmon. And of course, the whole family will enjoy the dessert options! Choose from the traditional Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce or opt for the Austrian Kaiserschmarrn, a pancake-like dessert with powdered sugar and cherry compote. After your day full of fresh air and fresh discoveries, you’ve earned it.Rent Your Bikes
An “Epic” Day
Spend the day on Vail Mountain at Epic Discovery for family team building and bonding.
Fill up with breakfast at The Little Diner in Lionshead before a day of play on Vail mountain. Located in Concert Hall Plaza, The Little Diner is known for its traditional, hearty breakfast menu featuring options such as Jim Little’s Famous Eggs Benedict, a selection of omelets, and the Biscuits & Gravy Platter.
After fueling up, head over to the Eagle Bahn Gondola to purchase passes for a day packed with epic adventures at Epic Discovery at the top of Vail Mountain. The Eagle Bahn Gondola is open Friday through Sunday, Sept. 7 to Oct. 3. Kids of all ages will get to experience big-time thrills, challenging themselves, exploring, and creating lifelong memories.
Start with some screams on the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, a gravity-based alpine coaster that puts each person on their own sled. You’ll descend 3,400’ on a raised track through the forest with each person in full control of their speed. Talk about a thrill!
From the Forest Flyer, walk to the west to explore the expanded trail system on top of the mountain. This educational walk includes a series of installations that each resembles a different animal ability, such as vision, stride, agility, and strength.
Speaking of strength, re-fuel with lunch before tackling one of the adventure courses! On-mountain, Talon’s Deck features casual barbecue with a view before you embark on a family team-building activity: the Gore Range Adventure Course. This ropes course features bridges, swings, ladders, and more suspended over the ground to challenge your balance and coordination (and comfort with heights) before you rappel back down to solid ground.
After the challenge of the ropes course, parents can take a breather and enjoy a cocktail on the deck of Bistro Fourteen while the kids work off additional energy on the summer tubing hill, bungee trampoline, or climbing wall.
Still have energy to burn? Hike down the mountain on Berrypicker Trail, which this time of year is aglow with golden aspen trees! Or, opt for the more popular option after a day of activities on the mountain: the gondola.
Back at the Antlers, freshen up before dinner at La Bottega in Vail Village. One of the area’s most popular Italian restaurants, La Bottega features classic fare such as spaghetti carbonara, linguine, and fettuccine “alla puttanesca.” If you need a pick-me-up after dinner, we suggest the affogato – a perfect combination of hot espresso over gelato with a dollop of whipped cream.Experience Epic Adventures
That’s a Wrap! Or, a Ranch
End your vacation with a guided mountain biking ride and dinner on a working ranch.
End your trip as you started, with Paragon Guides – this time for a half-day guided morning mountain bike ride. The team at Paragon will make arrangements for a full-suspension mountain bike rental and work with you on the type of experience you would like to have: easy, intermediate, or difficult, and loop or out-and-back ride. Experienced guides can ride along to give you tips and point out landmarks along the way as you explore some of the area’s most popular mountain bike trails.
Once you’ve gotten your legs back under you after the ride, grab a quick lunch at Big Bear Bistro. But save room for dinner, as the last night of your trip to Vail will truly be a special experience…
After relaxing poolside or picking up some last-minute souvenirs, saddle up and drive to 4 Eagle Ranch just 30 minutes from Vail for a memorable wagon ride dinner. This authentic ranch property reflects the region’s western heritage – complete with trail rides, Jeep and ATV tours, ziplining, wine tasting, and more. The wagon ride features musical entertainment, horse-drawn wagon rides, and a dinner buffet. You can also play cornhole, horseshoe, and practice your roping skills on a steer head!
After dinner, laughs, and cheers, all will settle in to enjoy s’mores by the campfire – a perfect end an action-packed week in Vail.