Fun Things to Do with Kids in Vail, Colorado in Summer

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Vail is home to beautiful slopeside and creekside pools like this one at the Antlers at Vail. Photo courtesy Antlers at Vail.

A Vail Colorado summer vacation offers endless outdoor activities. From soaring up or down the mountain or cruising along the river to exploring vistas on foot or on horseback there’s an adventure around every corner. While Vail may be best known for its epic ski slopes, the area has even more to offer during summer. With warm sunny days, cool nights, clear skies and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, summer is the perfect season to enjoy outdoor adventures and nature at its best. As a local Vail area family ranging in age from eight-years-old to 50-years-old, we are happy to share some of our favorite things to do during the summer months.

There will be no shortage of things for you to enjoy during your Vail Colorado summer getaway.

Read More: Other fun things to do in Colorado in the summer.

1. Vail’s Mountain Playground: Epic Discovery

There really is something for everyone of all ages atop Vail Mountain at Vail Resorts’ Epic Discovery. Soaring slowly through the air up a mountain on the Eagle Bahn gondola while watching the green ski slopes and trees go by, surrounded by mountain peaks, is peaceful, relaxing and breathtaking.

Once you arrive at the top of Vail Mountain, the hardest decision will be what to do first. From speeding down the mountain on the Forest Flyer alpine coaster or tubing hill or flying through the air on a zip line, to testing your bravery on one of the ropes courses, there is something for kids and adults of all ages. I’d recommend taking a break from the excitement and challenges to cool off in the Nature Discovery Center while exploring wildlife exhibits.

The views atop Vail Mountain are always spectacular. But in my opinion, fall is the most beautiful. If you can make it up mid to late September, you may just get to take in golden aspen leaves as far as you can see.

This is our top pick of things to do with kids in Vail as you really won’t find many other natural environments that combine an education of wildlife and nature with personal challenges, and just plain fun.

2. Take a Hike

Western Colorado is home to some of the most spectacular hiking trails in the country. There is really a hike for children and adults of all ages and ability levels. Our family has even managed to hunt down a couple that keep young kids entertained with hidden caves and waterfalls.

If you are staying in Vail, you may want to stick close and take a vigorous hike up the mountain. You could also choose to ride the gondola up and take a leisurely hike around the top of Vail Mountain. Or perhaps a stroll through the beautiful Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest botanical garden in the country, if that’s more your speed.

The Vail valley offers many hikes of different levels. I think it is worth a drive over to the Glenwood Canyon, about 45 minutes west of Vail, for a hike up to the popular Hanging Lake. Or, if you have young kids, a drive out to Rifle Falls State Park for an easy loop to the top of the falls may be the ticket.

I don’t believe that there is a better way to slow down, enjoy nature and de-stress than taking a hike. Plus, there is no better time than the present to get your kids outside and into nature. If Vail hadn’t debuted Epic Discovery last summer and managed to uniquely combine nature, education, adventure and fun, we might have made this our top pick of things to do with kids in Vail.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Read these tips from a SheBuysTravel who fights wildfires before visiting Colorado in the summer.

3. Play at the Vail Parks

Visit the local parks! Every town has parks, and many much bigger than Vail’s. But I’d argue that these are special. Not only are they set in an idyllic outdoor environment, but they also encourage imaginary play and activity. Plus, it is one of the FREE things to do that kids will enjoy as much as the expensive activities.

Vail’s Sunbird Park, known as Nest Park by the local kids, was named one of the world’s coolest parks by Travel + Leisure. Located in Lionshead, it features rope bridges, slides, a climbing wall and a spray park keep the kids moving and entertained.

In Vail Village, Pirate Ship Park is another favorite. The centerpiece is a large pirate ship with several levels with stairs up to an eagle’s nest at the top. From rowboats on the ground below to passageways through the ship above, this structure inspires all kinds of imaginary play. The swings and river access are bonuses.

vail colorado summer
Horseback riding on Vail Mountain. Photo credit: VLMDAC/ Jack Affleck

4. Take a Horseback Ride

Coming from someone who was horse crazy as a kid, horseback riding is a special way to take in the mountain views and local flora and fauna on a Vail Colorado summer vacation. What an experience to ride atop beautiful, gentle animals with entertaining knowledgeable wranglers guiding you through the mountains. My daughter, one of her friends and I enjoyed a ride this summer at Beaver Creek Stables. At times we felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere. But then we’d come around a bend to take in miles of beautiful mountain vistas and ski runs.

Horseback riding is one of the things to do in summer but possible even better in fall. The aspen trees turn gold, the dust settles and the air has a hint of crispness. It is the perfect time to enjoy a family horseback ride.

5. Go Mountain Biking

For the more adventurous, get your heart pumping with a mountain bike ride up and then down Vail Mountain. Don’t want to work so hard with the uphill? For an additional fee, you can have your bike hauled up the gondola and just ride down. There are many additional trails spread throughout the Vail valley that could be considered some of the best mountain biking trails in Colorado.

For a scenic ride, take cruiser bikes along the Vail bike path. Take in the river along the way and then stop for a picnic or ice cream in Lionshead or Vail Village.

6. Go Paddle Boarding

This is my favorite new sport. Even if you don’t love being in the water, being on the water is serene. Our favorite paddle boarding location is Piney Lake, a few miles up a dirt road from Vail at Piney River Ranch. The ranch rents canoes, but not paddle boards, so if you’ll need to bring your own. The views of the Gore Range reflecting on the lake are unbeatable.

Nottingham Lake in Avon rents paddle boards. So, this could be a better options for visitors who can’t bring their own gear. You’ll find other water sports and a small beach here.

Photo credit: Tom Fisk from Pexels

7. White Water Rafting

Local outfitters offer white water rafting for almost every ability level. There are age restrictions for many of the tours so be sure to check before you go. Our family likes to take the Father’s Day float on the Colorado River offered by Timberline Tours. This is a very easy float, so children can go.

Woman flyfishing in Vail, CO, one of the fun things to do in summer
Fly fishing in Vail. Photo credit: VLMDAC/ Jack Affleck

8. Try Fly Fishing

The Vail valley offers excellent gold medal fly fishing waters. Many local outfitters will provide the equipment you need and take you to their secret fishing spots on Gore Creek or other nearby rivers.

produce at the Vail Farmers Market
Produce at the Vail Farmers Market. Photo credit: VLMDAC/ Jack Affleck

9. Visit the Farmers Market

On Sundays the Vail Farmers Market offers not just produce, but art, music, food and more. Colorful vendors line the cobblestone streets and offer visitors the opportunity to take home a memento of their vacation.

There are also farmers markets in Minturn and Edwards, just a short drive down the road from Vail Village.

10. Relax in the Nearby Hot Springs

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado boast natural mineral hot springs. Not only does it feel good to soak in warm water, but the natural minerals in the water also have health benefits. Many of these hot springs have quite a history dating back to the 1800s. There’s even an official Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. Head just west to Glenwood Springs for some fantastic soaking options!

aerial view of Vail CO
Vail Pass has a steep bike path leading down into the Vail Valley. Photo credit: VLMDAC/ Jack Affleck

11. Ride Bikes Down Vail Pass

Some of the bike rental companies in Vail will rent you bikes and give you a shuttle ride up to the top of Vail Pass with your bike. Then you ride downhill past streams, through a golf course and back to Vail Village. Talk about an adrenaline rush!

12. Play in a Fountain

All kids will be entertained for hours at the Children’s Fountain in Vail Village. It’s the perfect place to cool down on a warm day. Squeals of delight and laughter are non-stop. But beware, a candy shop is strategically placed right in front of the fountain. It will attract the kids like bees to honey!

aerial view of a Vail CO pool
Vail is home to beautiful slopeside and creekside pools like this one at the Antlers at Vail. Photo credit: Antlers at Vail

13. Splash in the Pool

Vail is home to slopeside and streamside heated hotel pools and hot tubs. There’s no better place to spend the afternoon than splashing around in one of these pools. Ask before you book about the hotel’s pool.

14. Go Ice Skating

While the outdoor ice skating rinks close during the summer, the indoor ice skating rink remains open. Dobson Ice Arena offers both ice skating and ice bumper cars. Be sure to reserve your spot and bump around the ice on these cool carts.

restaurant patio in Vail CO
Outdoor dining in Vail Village. Photo credit: VLMDAC/ Jack Affleck

15. Dine on a Patio

The summer days in Vail are beautiful. Spend as much time outdoors as you can, including dining. Many restaurants offer patio dining. Enjoy good food and company while watching the river or people from your table.

What to Know Before You Go on a Vail Colorado Summer Vacation

  • Vail in Colorado sits at an altitude of 8,150 feet. To help prevent altitude sickness, drink plenty of water. Wear sunscreen as you are very near the strong sun rays.
  • Vail boasts a large number of condos that are run as hotels, perfect for families. Rather than staying in a small hotel room, explore condominium options. Most will have the same services as hotels but with a full kitchen and more space.
  • There are two connected villages in Vail: Vail Village and Lionshead Village.  There’s a bit more going on in Vail Village in terms of restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Lionshead is a little quieter and has the Eagle Bahn Gondola running up to Epic Discovery. As a family, we prefer Lionshead Village.
  • Vail is a two to three hour drive east of Denver. The drive is spectacular but traffic can be bad leading into and out of the weekend. Shuttles are available from Denver International Airport and are a really good option to relax and enjoy the views.
  • If you are staying in either Vail or Lionshead Village you may not need a car, unless you plan on taking a hike a distance away, like Hanging Lake. The only reason you’d have for traveling into West Vail is to buy groceries. Check with your hotel to see what shuttle options are available to take you into West Vail. If they have one available, you probably don’t need a car at all.
  • Explore other areas of Colorado. Vail has so much to offer families but if you have the time it is well worth a day trip to one of the many other beautiful mountain towns.
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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11 responses

  1. I’ve enjoyed Vail in both the winter and the summer. It’s been too long since our last visit, and I’d love to see it in its fall glory. My kids would love Epic Discovery, and I’m not sure that the Nest was built the last time we visited. My one huge tip is to make sure that the gondola is running when you want to visit. I thought I was saving money by booking during the lowest lodging rates of the summer, but I didn’t find out why it was so cheap until we got there.

    1. Michele, Great tip as you are correct that the gondola has limited hours. I think starting next week only runs Thursday through Sunday and at some point shuts down until winter. So important to check if that is important to you, which is should be with the new Epic Discovery. The fall colors are amazing, and might be coming a little early this year!

  2. I haven’t made it to Vail yet, however will make sure I try and do all these things with the kids when I do.

  3. I love Vail! And even though my kids aren’t little anymore – all four of these look like fun things to do for an adult, too!

    1. You are right — they all can be more fun as an adult (or older kid)!

    2. Hope you can make it to Vail. I’d recommend summer over winter, unless your family is really into skiing.

  4. My husband and I drove through Vail a few years ago when we were moving from Utah to Illinois. It looked beautiful passing through. I wish now that we had chosen to stop. #weekendwanderlust

  5. An informative article on the wonderful outdoor activities in Vail. We don’t have kids but still learned about some new ideas. Thanks for sharing. #WeekendWanderlust

    1. All of these activities (except maybe the parks) are as much fun for adults as for kids.

  6. This is a great post! I live here and hadn’t thought of a visit to RIfle Falls and I honestly do forget our wonderful parks. Thanks for sharing these suggestions and our beautiful valley!

    1. Thanks, Stacey! I hadn’t been to Rifle Falls until this summer and then we went twice. It is beautiful and perfect for those who want to enjoy nature without a strenuous hike.

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