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Vail travel guide: Where to stay, what to eat, and more

Your guide to everything Vail

A view of the top of Blue Sky Basin
Heath Alseike / Openverse

When it comes to ski resorts, there’s something about Vail Resorts that’s unique and distinct from any other winter destination in the U.S. Vail, located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, is known for having one of the longest ski seasons on the continent. With a top elevation of 11,570 feet, it’s no surprise that people from all over the world travel to experience the adventure and beauty of the Vail ski resort. Get the most out of your Vail Resorts vacation with our guide.

The Lancelot Restaurant in Vail
Marko Forsten / Flickr

Where to stay in Vail Resorts

When selecting a place to stay in Vail, you want to keep in mind a variety of questions about the ski resort, such as: Does the hotel have activities? An on-site ski rental facility? What restaurants are available at the hotel?

Vail is a small village, and you may not be inclined to venture out every moment of the day, so you’ll want to be sure the hotel you choose has everything under one roof. Therefore, we recommend the Grand Hyatt Vail.

A view of Grand Hyatt Vail in winter
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Grand Hyatt Vail

Nestled at the base of Vail Mountain and along picturesque Gore Creek, Grand Hyatt Vail’s ski-in/ski-out resort with Vail’s only resort-side chair lift makes it an ideal place to ski and snowboard.

You can head over to Chair 20 at Grany Hyatt Vail which is located on-site, within a stone’s toss of the resort’s ski rental, valet, and concierge services. In the lobby of this welcoming resort, guests can partake in a champagne sabering and toast and help themselves with hot cocoa and fresh-baked cookies.

Beyond the resort’s convenient skiing and snowboarding facilities, it offers an array of amenities and activities for skiers and non-skiers alike. The resort is home to its own Cascade Village Square, which features an ice rink, an alfresco ice bar, a food truck, and outdoor fire pits for daily s’mores roasting. Guests also have access to the heated creek-side infinity-edge pool and two outdoor hot tubs. The resort features a spa, restaurant (in addition to a pop-up restaurant), lounge, and a café.

Grand Hyatt Vail completed a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2018, recreating the space to showcase incredible artwork and design. Featuring wood, stone, and leather textures, the design is influenced by the surrounding mountains and history. The local artisan artwork around the hotel pays homage to the Southern Ute Native American tribe.

  • Nearest airport: Eagle County Airport
  • Time: 37 minutes via car
  • Distance: 33.9 miles

Roasting s'mores over a fire pit
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Activities at Grand Hyatt Vail

Moët imperial yurt: This chic and cozy winter haven is available to rent and is perfect for après-ski. It includes two private fire pits, a Champagne sabering, a s’mores kit, and a house-made charcuterie spread. The Moët Imperial Yurt can accommodate up to ten guests.

Topgolf swing suites: Guests are treated to comfort food and beverages while enjoying virtual golf or other interactive games such as soccer, zombie dodgeball, and hockey. Each Topgolf Swing Suite accommodates parties of up to twelve people, with inviting lounge seating.

Wellness studio: The 1,045-square-foot wellness studio offers fitness classes such as sunrise yoga, restorative yoga (ideal for pre-and-post skiing), and barre classes. Guests also have access to compression boots from Theragun, providing decompression of weary limbs after a long day on the mountain.

Axe throwing: Test your hand and arm strength, and coordination, by throwing an axe at a wooden plank target.

Yoshimi pop-up restaurant: New this December, guests can enjoy an exclusive sushi pop-up, featuring Sapporo on tap, Suntory Highball whiskey draft, and premium sake flights. Highlights include signature Maki rolls and specialty handmade Nigiri.

Pork belly sliders and a margarita from Fireside Lounge Vail.
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Where to eat in Vail

Fireside Lounge (American)

Located within the Grand Hyatt Vail, the lounge offers inventive après everyday food and drinks with live entertainment from local musicians. Its Bavarian pretzel bites and burrata and corn salad are not to be missed!

Food at La Tour restaurant in Vail.
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La Tour Restaurant (French)

Showcasing classic French entrees from black truffle-miso marinated Alaskan halibut to seared duck breast. And for dessert, Crème Brûlée Flambé.

Sushi, soy sauce, and chopsticks on platter.
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Matsuhisa (Japanese)

From the same chef as world-renowned Nobu restaurants, Chef Nobu’s specialties at Matsuhisa include yellowtail tataki and sea bass with black truffle.

An appetizing dish at Leonora restaurant.
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Leonora (tapas)

Taking inspiration from the French Alps, Spanish Pyrenees, and the Rockies, Leonora offers guests enticing tapas and creative entrees. Other delicious locally sourced, alpine ingredient-filled dishes include bone marrow and elk.

Homemade pasta beside utensils on a table from La Nonna Vail.
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La Nonna Vail Ristorante (Italian)

La Nonna is Italian for grandmother, and the name reflects the restaurant’s passion for food, wine, and making memories with family and friends. Menu highlights include homemade potato dumplings with meat ragú and homemade mushroom ravioli with white truffle oil.

Friend enjoying après ski in a ski lodge
Hero Images / Adobe Stock

Where to après at Vail Resorts

The only thing better than a powder day is the après that follow (maybe). Whether you’re looking for a raucous place to get your drink and music on or a calm place to sip a warm drink, we have the info you need to make this après skiing the best après skiing.

Los Amigos

Los Amigos has to be the first stop for anyone fresh off the hill and looking to catch a little buzz along with tasty appetizers. Located right off of Gondola One, Los Amigos offers margaritas by the pitcher and an extensive beer menu, and is the perfect spot for people-watching and taking in views of the mountain. This spot is cheap and quick, making it the perfect spot to get the afters started.

Red Lion

Red Lion is the crowd favorite for live music. Built in 1963 and originally used as a ski hospital, Red Lion “medicates” patrons using a wide variety of beer, liquor, finger foods, and entrees. Red Lion keeps the vibes high with a calendar packed with live entertainment.

Vail Brewing Co.

If you’re gonna be in Vail anyway, why not give the local brew a try? The local brewery offers a wide variety of hand-crafted beers with live music and great vibes. It’s the perfect spot to relax and get in touch with Vail’s local culture.

Elway’s at the Lodge at Vail

For those who prefer something a bit more upscale, Elway’s at the Lodge at Vail is the place to be. The bar, which pays homage to the hall-of-fame Denver Broncos QB, offers a fantastic happy hour deal on specialty drinks and small plates while doubling as an excellent place to have dinner with its delicious list of entrees.

Pepi’s

Truly inspired by the Alps, this Austrian pub and guesthouse was originally home to one of Vail’s first settlers, Pepi Gramschammer. The pub is usually packed with live music and guests still dressed in their ski attire.

El Segundo

El Segundo is the perfect place to end the après before getting ready to hit the town. Renowned for its taqueria vibe, El Segundo also offers a long list of tasty margheritas, a spacious outdoor deck with fire pits, and a chic interior atmosphere.

Snowmobiling in Vail.
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What to do (besides skiing) at Vail Resorts

Snowmobiling with Nova Guides

Top of the Rockies snowmobile tours include endless miles of open meadows and spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of four surrounding mountain ranges, including the Continental Divide. Operating tours in the White River National Forest at Historic Camp Hale, guests will reach elevations of 12,500 feet.

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A snowcat and two snowmobiles in front of a cabin.
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Snowcat tours with Nova Guides

The snowcat tour is the perfect alternative for those who do not want to ride a snowmobile but want to experience the same scenic views of the surrounding area.

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A man ice fishing.
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Ice fishing with Vail Valley Anglers

Ice fishing offers guests a unique opportunity to fish during winter. Ice fishing is coupled with a fire or warmth from a portable fishing hut.

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Dog sledding at sunrise.
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Dog sledding with Mountain Musher

Calling all thrill-seekers! Dog sled through trails that are snowmobile-free and offer views of the surrounding scenery.

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A group of people snow tubing.
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Snow tubing at Adventure Ridge

Located at the top of Vail Mountain, the 900-foot-long, multi-lane hill that features music, also has a covered carpet to transport tubers to the top.

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Horse-drawn sleigh rides in Vail.
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Horse-drawn sleigh rides with Bearcat Stables

Tour the grounds of a historic homestead in a horse-drawn sleigh or sleigh ride with dinner at a historic and rustic homesteader’s cabin.

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Snowboarder doing a tail butter through deep powder at Vail Resort
Zach Dischner / Openverse

What to ride for the best snowboarding experience at Vail

Vail is a special place for skiers and snowboarders. From stunning bowl sections and fantastical glades to blistering steeps and picturesque easy riders, even the pickiest of shredders will leave the hill hungry for more.

If you’re an intermediate to expert rider, Blue Sky Basin is the place to be. As the furthest back of Vail’s seven bowls, Big Sky Basin offers snowboarders the bowl shredding experience without the hassle of slugging your board across a catwalk.

Riders highly recommend hitting the terrain around Skyline Express Lift and Pete’s Express Lift, with the tree runs beneath Skyline considered to be nothing short of epic. Big Rock Park is another one of Blue Sky Basin’s signature runs. While graded as moderately difficult, many riders of a variety of skill levels often shout it out as one of the best runs for snowboarders anywhere on the mountain.

So, while it may be a journey to get to, Big Sky Basin is a must-shred for riders looking to get the best Vail snowboarding experience.

A view of a village in Vail at dusk.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Getting to and around Vail

Arriving at Vail usually requires a flight and a bit of driving. Vail is also a stop on some Amtrak routes. We’ve listed the best options for getting to and around Vail.

  • Eagle Regional Airport (EGE): Eagle Regional Airport is located 30 miles west of Vail and is around a 40-minute drive. Shuttles are available at the airport to transport you to your hotel.
  • Denver International Airport (DIA): Denver International Airport is located 120 miles east of Vail and is around a two-hour drive. If flying into DIA, we recommend taking a bus (approximately 2.5 hours) or renting a vehicle

If you find yourself in Vail without a vehicle, the best way to get around the village is via the village shuttle service — a reliable, timely, and free option.

Nate Swanner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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