Fun Things to Do in Vail this Winter

Liana Moore Avatar

Photo courtesy Walking Mountains.

While Santa might advocate for the North Pole, our vote unequivocally goes to Vail as the ultimate winter wonderland. Vail has gained its reputation for its boundless ski terrain and iconic back bowls, but it also boasts a diverse array of delightful activities away from the slopes. Whether it’s snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, snow tubing, or even the laughter-inducing ice bumper cars, Vail offers something to enchant visitors of all ages. Below, you’ll find a selection of the top winter activities in the charming alpine town of Vail, from a seasoned Colorado insider.

This local Vail area family ranging in age from 8 to 50, is happy to share a countdown of their favorite things to do in winter. Plus, we’ve included some of our top summer activities too, ’cause you’ll be back. Guaranteed.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Opening days and times and admission rules can change without warning. Always check the website or call before heading out for the day.

snow tubing atop vail mountain is a favorite vail winter activity
Snow tubing at Adventure Ridge activities on Vail Mountain. Photo courtesy Vail Resorts/ Daniel Milchev.

18. Take a Hut Trip

Truly get away into nature and into the backcountry with an overnight to one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts. As a visitor to Colorado’s high country, you will be best served to arrange this through a local guide company like Paragon Guides.

Different huts have varying degrees of difficulty to reach.

17. Fishing

Did you know that you can fly fish year-round? Though more common spring through summer, you are sure to see people fly fishing on Gore Creek, which runs right through town. And, of course, there’s also ice fishing.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Hire a local guide company for a fun and successful outing.

16. Imagination Station

Traveling to Vail with young kids? Take them to Imagination Station in the Lionshead Parking Structure for a morning or afternoon of play. Ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, this is a thoughtful play space featuring a Thoughts Flow to inspire experimental play.

There’s also a Play Wall to integrate physical and cognitive learning, a light table and builder boards that inspire problem-solving, and a hyperbolic funnel that models planetary motion. Check their schedule for a pottery-making or art class.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Vail’s one of the 10 Best Places to Visit in February. Check out the article for more travel inspo!

15. Explore Historic Minturn or Leadville

While the town of Vail is one of the newest towns in the United States, nearby Minturn and Leadville are brimming with history and quirky charm.

14. Après Ski

Après ski is a tradition in ski towns that can take many forms. If the bar scene’s your thing, Vail’s got plenty to hit. But if you’re in town with littles, there are other ways to ring in the end of the ski day. Be sure to check out all of the fun and relaxing ways to wrap up your ski day.

13. Tour the Art Galleries

Vail is home to unique art in public places, as well as several outstanding art galleries. Take an art walk to explore the art in public places or just browse the galleries.

12. Horseback Riding

Yes, you can horseback ride in the winter too. 4 Eagle Ranch just west of Vail offers winter horseback rides, as well as sleigh rides. Bundle up and see the winter landscape via horseback.

11. Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame

Formerly known as the Colorado Ski Museum, the Colorado Snowsports Museum offers both exhibits and events. Here you can learn about the famed 10th Mountain Division, as well as Colorado’s other ski and snowboard industry icons.

10. Guided Winter Hike or Snowshoe

Walking Mountains offers hour-long free guided educational tours on snowshoes through the forest on Vail Mountain. Participants over 10 years of age can learn about winter ecology and animal adaptations. Check the schedule and meet outside the Nature Discovery Center atop the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead.

If you prefer an easy, educational walk through aspen forests to learn about mountain ecology and animals visit the Walking Mountain campus in Avon.

Or, if you have littles, the Earthkeepers preschool programs may be more your speed.

Read all of our tips for having fun snowshoeing with kids.

9. Snowmobiling

One of the more popular Vail area snowmobiling tours starts at the historic Camp Hale and takes riders through the pristine White River National Forest. Guide companies will pick guests up at their hotels.

8. Snowshoe, Nordic Ski or Fat Tire Bike

If you have ever wanted to try Nordic classic skiing or skate skiing, the Vail Nordic Center is the place for you. In addition, there are snowshoeing trails and fat bike trails. You can rent whatever equipment you need, or even take a lesson. Then head out on 17 kilometers of groomed trails.

7. Ice Bumper Cars at Dobson Ice Arena

Love a classic carnival ride? Don’t skip the ice bumper cars at Dobson Ice Arena. Take one of these bumper cars utilizing One Wheel technology out on the ice rink for a spin in 15-minute increments. See who can bump whom as you glide along the ice in these colorful sled-like cars.

6. Hot Cocoa By the Fire

Many of the Vail hotels offer complimentary hot cocoa in the lobby or s’mores by an outdoor fire. Take advantage of this or make your way out to a local spot known for its yummy hot chocolate after a day of outdoor adventures. Rimini in Lionshead Village next to the skating rink is known for having delicious hot cocoa.

Take your s’mores game to a whole new level with these 15+ s’mores recipes.

5. Sledding

There are many fantastic Vail sledding hills that the whole family can enjoy together on your Vail family vacation. Some Vail hotels offer loaner sleds for guests to use. Ask a local where their favorite sledding hill is. Many of the Vail Valley area golf courses and neighborhoods offer hidden gems.

4. Adventure Ridge

Picture this: snow tubing, ski biking and flying down the Alpine Coaster. You can do it all at Adventure Ridge. Adventure Ridge sits atop the Eagle Bahn Gondola out of Lionshead at the top of the mountain and offers fun activities for the family.

Take in the alpenglow behind the mountain or a spectacular sunset as you take a scenic gondola ride to the top of the mountain. The views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains are unbeatable.

The Forest Flyer alpine coaster winds its way 3,400 feet down the mountain, following the natural contours of the landscape through the forest. Fun adventures of tubing, ski biking and more are also offered from Adventure Ridge.

https://youtu.be/tZuvCZHNDe4

3. Hot Tubbing or Swimming

Hot tubbing (or swimming) in warm water in the midst of winter is something everyone should try. Most Vail hotels have a heated pool and hot tubs. There’s something special about soaking in a hot tub by the river with snowflakes falling after a fun day on the mountain.

Up for a day trip from Vail? Take a short drive over to Glenwood Springs for relaxing and healing in one of the natural mineral hot springs.

Best Things to Do with Kids in Vail: Hot Tubbing or Swimming
Most Vail hotels have heated outdoor pools and hot tubs. There’s something special about soaking in a hot tub by the river with snowflakes falling after a fun day on the mountain. Photo credit: Antlers at Vail

2. Ice Skating

Vail has two scenic outdoor ice skating rinks, one at Solaris in Vail Village and one in Vail Square next to the Arrabelle in Lionshead Village. Gliding on the ice is a fun way to spend an afternoon in Vail. However, if you are a more serious skater you might want to spend some time at the Dobson Ice Arena.

# 2 of the Best Things to Do with Kids in Vail: Ice Skating
Vail boasts two charming outdoor ice skating rinks. Gliding on one of these outdoor skating rinks is one of our favorite things to do with kids in Vail. Photo credit: Jack Affleck/ Vail Resorts

1. Skiing & Snowboarding

This is probably why you have chosen Vail for your winter vacation, so this is already a part of your plans. But we can’t leave it off the list – in fact, it tops it! Vail Ski Mountain has designated 63 acres for family learning and designated slow zones. All zones are located on beginner green runs and progress across the mountain from Eagle’s Nest to Game Creek. With 5,317 skiable acres, 193 runs and 31 lifts, there’s a variety of terrain for skiers of all abilities.

Beaver Creek is just a short ten to fifteen-minute drive from Vail. It is worth spending a day on the mountain there while in the area. The new McCoy Park is an entertaining beginner area, where more advanced skiers can still have fun. We’ve dubbed Beaver Creek Mountain the place where locals learn to ski.

Visiting a different ski resort than Vail this winter, check out highlights for other SheBuysTravel-approved best ski resorts for families. And here’s where kids ski free this winter.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Download and print our free family ski trip packing list!

ski trips - skier and snowboarder on vail mountain
Photo credit: Vail Resorts

Vail Summer Activities

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Vail’s many summer activities. While Vail is best known for winter and its ski slopes, summer in Vail is the locals’ favorite time of year. The White River National Forest surrounds the town, offering an incredible array of outdoor adventures and hiking trails.

There’s hiking, camping, white water river rafting, mountain biking, road biking and wildlife spotting. Ride your bike up the mountain. Or, have the gondola haul your mountain bike up and ride down.

Ride an alpine coaster, zip line, take on one of the adventure courses or summer tube at Epic Discovery.

Take in a show at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater or Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.

Or, browse and shop at one of the many outdoor open-air farmers markets.

Whatever the season, Vail is an outdoor and culture lover’s paradise.

Hotel and Vacation Rentals Near Vail

Looking for Vail hotels or vacation rentals? Use this interactive map to find the right accommodations for your family!

 
Liana Moore Avatar
Liana Moore lived overseas growing up, attending British public school for kindergarten in London. She then moved to Stavanger, Norway for nine years until age 15, growing up with friends of different cultures. Summers involved camps in Switzerland and Wales, plus USA time in East Texas and Minnesota. Liana sees things from others’ viewpoints, believing those experiences shaped the woman she is today. She’s instilling that empathy in her children, having fun along the way. Currently based in the mountains of Colorado, much of her time is spent exploring the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not marketing a resort property professionally, or traveling and writing, find her trying out new sports with her kids, like BMX biking, or debating with her teenager (and occasionally winning). Follow Liana’s adventures at Insider Families.
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