Travel Guide, Colorado: Visiting Vail in the Summer

At the end of summer, Adam and I spent a week (an entire week vacay!!) in Colorado with his family. Last summer, we went to Tahoe, but somehow, I had never been to Colorado before (crazy, right?!), so this was my inaugural trip out West.

SUMMER IN COLORADO

Okay, no surprise from this winter lover, I definitely would like to go to Colorado in the winter at some point. But, I totally get why people flock to the mountains in the summer. You can’t beat the respite from the heat and humidity. Leaving behind 95 degrees and 80% humidity is a no brainer — particularly at the end of the summer when I’ve about had it (jk, it’s October and still feels like summer…).

Expect crisp mornings, warm days, and cool nights. The range of temperatures is impressive. You’ll be hot in the sun at times, for sure, but those early morning walks and post-dinner strolls are a delight as you throw on a sweatshirt.

When it comes to packing, you’ll want to go laid-back and casual. Jeans, jean shorts, easy dresses, chambray, athleisure. Don’t overthink it (I did).

VISITING VAIL IN THE SUMMER

If you’re visiting Vail from the East Coast, it’s a little bit of a hike, but 100% worth it. You can fly directly into Eagle County airport, but we were booking with our Southwest Companion Pass, which meant we had to fly into Denver. From Denver, we rented a car and drove roughly an hour and 45 minutes to Vail. Honestly, it was not bad at all and worth it to save the $ you’d otherwise spend flying into the local airport.

Plus, you’ll want a car while you’re in Colorado so that you can explore beyond Vail.

 

summer in vail - berry picker trail

summer in vail - vail farmers market - vail village

WHAT TO DO IN VAIL IN THE SUMMER

As I mentioned, we were in Vail for a week — and we never ran out of things to do. Each morning, we’d wake up early (time change working in our favor), work out, and then get out and about by 10 AM. Adam’s family has been going to Colorado during the summer for years, so they know their way around and kept us on a varied itinerary.

Here are a few of the things we did during our summer week in Colorado:

  • Vail Farmers Market: Adam and I always love exploring a farmers’ market, but this was a farmers’ market on steroids — in a great way. With food, drink, artisan goods and more, we spent hours wandering the booths, sampling snacks, and buying goodies. The market occurs every Sunday, June through October.
  • Minturn Market: This small town market is every Saturday, June through September. You’ll find food, artisans, and live music in this humble former railroad turn.
  • White Water Rafting: Okay, white water might be a slight exaggeration, but only because the time of year! The rapids are mostly gone by the end of summer. Regardless, it was a fun trip with wonderful scenery and a super knowledgable guide. 
  • Hiking: Y’all, I’m not a hiker. Adam promised me a walk to a brewery and somehow I ended up on the Berry Picker Trail, which I’d like to think was a grade 10 mountain. But, we did it. Also, in looking it up just now, I see that it was rated as both “hard” and “difficult.” I FEEL VINDICATED. It runs along Vail Village.
  • Breckenridge Top of Mountain: While we didn’t do Vail Top of Mountain (next time!), we did go down the Alpine Slide at Breckenridge, which was a blast — even if I took it at a scenic speed.
  • Betty Ford Alpine Garden: It must be because of the weather, but the flowers in Vail are insane. They are so colorful, plentiful, and perfect, particularly when you’re strolling through the Betty Ford Alpine Garden, a short walk from Vail Village.
  • Hot Summer Nights Concert Series: Every Tuesday, there’s a concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater.
  • Shopping: I’m not a huge shopper unless it’s secondhand or vintage, but I found some of my best-ever finds in CO. From a $20 LK Bennett blazer to a $7 Southwestern belt, CO brought it with the secondhand items. There’s also high-end shopping all over Vail Village.

 

summer in vail - vail farmers market - vail village

vail village - summer in vail - vail brewing - 10th mountain whiskey

summer in vail - vail village - vail flowers

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN VAIL

To be 100% honest, I wasn’t blown away by the food in Colorado, but  I think that was because I was on a run with misordering. Adam would rave about his meal in the same restaurant where I was just meh. But, regardless, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few recommendations — almost all of which were walkable from our hotel.

  • Cheese Shop of Breckenridge: Honestly, this might have been my favorite meal of our trip. This quaint little shop had freshly made sandwiches in the most delectable flavor pairings.
  • Westside Cafe: A great brunch spot with stick-to-your-ribs kind of food. The brunch and lunch dishes were all home runs, but I’d steer clear of the Bloody Marys unless you like them watery (whenever a restaurant goes in with over-the-top presentation, there’s a good bet that they’re not putting enough into the actual flavor).
  • Leonora: With small plates that ran the gamut of cuisines, this was hands down my favorite meal of the trip.
  • Mountain Standard: The owners of Mountain Standard also own Sweet Basil, the restaurant you’ll about again and again in Vail. But, Mountain Standard offers equally delicious food — rustic, Southern, comfort food (is Southern food just American now? Maybe?)
  • Up the Creek: I majorly misordered here, but everyone else had scrumptious dishes. Skip the gnocchi, but don’t miss the truffle fries with bleu cheese fondue.
  • Butterhorn Bakery: They make cinnamon roll french toast. Do you need to know anything else?
  • Vail Brewing Co.: I enjoyed a thick, rich coconut stout while watching a couple of yogis do acrobatic moves in the park below. You can’t beat that for happy hour.
  • Root and Flower: I had my first ever ocular migraine as soon as we walked into this cocktail bar…which meant no way was I drinking. They were so accommodating and made me two different non-alcoholic cocktails — but, everyone who did get a true cocktail said they were on point.

 

breckenridge, co - summer in colorado - miner statue breckenridge

summer in breckenridge - cheese shop of breckenridge

breckenridge top of mountain - breckenridge alpine slide

OTHER CITIES TO VISIT NEAR VAIL

Almost every other day we took a quick day trip to visit another city near Vail. There are several within a half hour to hour drive and each has a distinct personality. From mining towns to railroad towns to a city modeled after a Swiss skiing village (Vail), you’ll get a little taste of everything in CO.

  • Frisco: We went over to Frisco for breakfast, but then spent a few hours popping in shops (I loved the Frisco Mercantile and its array of vintage dealers!), stopped by Highside Brewing, and then ended our day with a walk around Frisco Bay.
  • Breckenridge: Probably my favorite of the cities where we stopped, Breckenridge had gorgeous views, restaurants, candy shops, cookie shops, shopping, Breckenridge Distillery, and, of course, the Alpine Slide. There was also a historic home there that I was sure Adam would want to stop in — maybe next time?
  • Minturn: There’s not a ton in the quaint town of Minturn unless you go on a Saturday morning for the market — and then it’s absolutely worth a stop.

We also stopped by Beaver Creek, but I’m thinking I need to give that a fair shot in the winter.

 

summer in colorado - summer in frisco - frisco, colorado

summer in colorado - frisco bay summer in vail - summer in colorado - hiking gore valley trail

summer in colorado - colorado river runners

A FEW FINAL NOTES ON VAIL IN THE SUMMER

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m a winter person and someday I would love to visit Vail when it’s snow-covered and charming, but I can’t deny the appeal of the gorgeous mountain views and the lack of humidity. You’ll never run out of things to do, even in the summer, and the diversity of the landscape is incredible. I’ve already got a growing list of things I can’t wait to do next time…

 

summer in colorado - summer in vail - aspens in vail

summer in vail - berry picker trail

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