Vail is like a second home. It was the first place I lived as an adult, outside of my college town, and every time I drop down into the valley from the pass it feels like I am home. Which, these days is more true that not. My husband has worked in Vail for years, off and and on, and I spend most weekends in the valley. The locals always say they come for the winter, but they stay for the summer and that is so true. Let me tell you about this place, this home.
… FYI, this is just a work in progress…
…skiing. If it’s winter and you’re in the Vail valley, you definitely are going to want to go skiing (or snowboarding, if you’re into that). Sure, Vail mountain is great – it’s huge. Huge huge huge. The bowls are amazing and there is just tons and tons and tons of space. However, I’m completely partial to Beaver Creek. Maybe it’s because Vail is so big that I’ve never really found my way, or maybe it’s because Beaver Creek is so, comfortable. Their motto for years was “not exactly roughing it”, and that absolutely describes this ski resort.
That said, you’d probably rather ski Vail. By that, I mean that I would rather you ski Vail because Beaver Creek it best kept quite and unknown. I’m not even sure why I’m recommending Beaver Creek. Go to Vail. The cool kids all go to Vail.
…hiking. Or biking. Or relaxing. If it’s summer, then there are actually tons and tons of things to do in Vail. First, you should definitely take the Gonadal up and participate in Friday Afternoon Club (which, also happens on Saturday). The live music and amazing views make up for the overpriced drinks and food. Don’t eat at FAC – you can get much better food in town for the price – just grab a drink and a seat and relax.
Summer day? Bike from Edwards to the Vail Village – there’s a bike path most of the way – and hit up the Farmers Market (Sundays). It’s up hill to get into the village, so you’ll feel like you earned all the fresh food the vendors are selling – after your exercise it will be basically irresistible. Once you’ve eaten your fill, wander over to the 10th Mountain Whiskey tasting room for a quick drink (see below). Or, you can coast back (it’s all downhill) across town. Need a mid-ride break? Stop at the Vail Brewing Company in Eagle-Vail. Be sure to bring a backpack, you’ll definitely want to buy something to take back with you from the Farmers Market (or from 10th Mountain Whiskey…). If may end up riding home a night – you know, after a few more drinks than planned – be sure you have a good headlamp or bike light. We learned that one the hard way.
Moe’s. Los Amigos. The Rose.
…Drink, And Be Merry
When I first started spending time in Vail I was 21 and lived off Coors Light and energy drinks. If that sounds like you (or like the person you’re pretending to be on this trip), then start your night at the Red Lion (live music and excellent people watching) before moving to Vendetta’s (ski-grunge pizza) or the Shakedown Bar (don’t fall down the stairs). You may end up at The George, which you may or may not wake up to regret. One google review calls The George the “worst service in town very bad employees”. This review is spot on – you get the local treatment at The George and the locals are only interested in the fresh pow-pow. Getting your order on time or correct? Meh. As soon as walk into any of these bars you’re going find yourself trying to pretend to be a local. Just know, the locals only like locals and they will will definitely know that you’re not one of them. That said, they’ll usually forgive you – especially if you buy a round of PBRs for your new friends. Just be sure not to make too many new friends, you are in the Vail Village and even the cheap drinks aren’t that cheap. Best of luck.
These days I prefer a nice, quite, well decorated atmosphere with a respectable wine list. If that sounds like you, then start at the 10th Mountain Whiskey’s tasting room (no, they don’t have wine). If it’s your first time, try their tasting flight. Remember, you’re at altitude so drink your alcohol slowly and your water frequently. Once you’ve finished at 10th Mountain Whiskey, walk over to Root & Flower. The first time we walked into this bar, self described as approachable elegance (and my all time favorite bar), they told us they were a wine bar with a cocktail problem. They have a wonderful wine selection, but I recommend asking the bartender for help selecting a cocktail – their recommendations are always on point and their hand crafted cocktails are just amazing. I mean that, I never order cocktails, but theirs… love! Though, if I was rich I would definitely have a basement cellar curated with their entire wine list (also, love!). My only world of caution is to go slowly, everything goes down so easily that it’s easy to forget to pace yourself. Water, water, water. That disclaimer aside, be sure to ask about their shot – it’s a local specialty. Then – water, water, water.
Of course, these places are all in the Vail Village. In Lionshead (still in Vail), there is Garfinkels. Garfs is a classic bar, definitely worth visiting after you finish skiing (at Vail, remember, you’re skiing at Vail because the cool kids ski at Vail). In the summer, their patio overlooking the gonadal cannot be missed. This is an easy place to meet people, everyone knows where Garfs is and their wide selection – of alcohol and american food – can keep most people happy.
In Eagle-Vail, there is the Vail Brewing company.
If you’re in the area for more than one night, then you should definitely make your way over to Minturn and visit the Minturn Salon. Good Mexican food, better small town ambiance.