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- Countdown: Our Favorite Winter Family Activities in Vail
- 18. Take a Hut Trip
- 17. Fishing
- 16. Imagination Station
- 15. Explore Historic Minturn or Leadville
- 14. Après Ski
- 13. Explore Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
- 12. Horseback Riding
- 11. Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame
- 10. Guided Winter Hike or Snowshoe
- 9. Snowmobiling
- 8. Snowshoe, Nordic Ski or Fat Tire Bike
- 7. Ice Bumper Cars at Dobson Ice Arena
- 6. Hot Cocoa By the Fire
- 5. Sledding
- 4. Adventure Ridge
- 3. Hot Tubbing or Swimming
- 2. Ice Skating
- 1. Skiing & Snowboarding
- Vail Summer Activities
- Hotel and Vacation Rentals Near Vail
Vail Mountain may be best known for its seemingly endless ski terrain and legendary back bowls, but the Vail area also offers a variety of winter wonderland family activities. From snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating and snow tubing to crazy ice bumper cars, there is sure to be something to please all ages. Here’s an insider’s favorite fun things to do in the quaint alpine town of Vail during the winter.
The Vail valley is a mecca for outdoor activities all year long. Vail in the winter offers maximum outdoor fun for families of all ages – from ice skating and sledding to snowshoeing, snowboarding, snow tubing and both nordic and alpine skiing.
As a local Vail area family ranging in age from 8 to 50, we are happy to share some of our favorite family-friendly things to do in winter with kids. Enjoy this countdown of the 18 best things to do in Vail this winter, plus a few summer activities too.
TravelingMom Tip: Opening days and times and admission rules (capacity limits, masks, etc.) can change without warning. Always check the website or call before heading out for the day.
Countdown: Our Favorite Winter Family Activities in Vail
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.
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.
TravelingMom Tip: Hire a local guide company for a fun and successful outing.
16. Imagination Station
Take the kids 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.
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. While the tradition of hitting the bars won’t appeal to families, 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. Explore Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
The world’s highest botanical gardens are clearly at their peak during the summer with a bouquet of colors shining from the many alpine plants and wildflowers.
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Winter 2021-2022 saw season two of the festive Magic of Vail light display throughout the holidays at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
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. Wednesday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the winter 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 Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m.
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.
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
New in 2019, these ice bumper cars at Dobson Ice Arena take this classic fair ride to a whole new level. Take one of these bumper cars utilizing One Wheel technology out 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.
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.
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 and offers fun activities for the family. 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.
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.
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 with your family 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.
1. Skiing & Snowboarding
This is probably why you have chosen Vail for your family 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 to 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 5317 skiable acres, 195 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 a really fun beginner area, where more advanced skiers can still have fun. We’ve dubbed Beaver Creek Mountain the place where locals learn to ski.
TravelingMom Tip: Download and print our free family ski trip packing list!
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.
Or, browse and shop at one of the many outdoor open air farmers markets.