Families will love this guide to visiting Vail this Winter with kids! Located in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, this family-friendly ski town is home to the Vail Ski Resort. As the largest ski mountain in Colorado, it has beginner and advanced slopes, over 5,289 acres to explore, plus four distinct base areas connected by free buses and heated walkways. No wonder skiers and snowboarders worldwide travel here to find terrific terrain for all abilities! When you don’t want to ski, Vail also has five-star lodging, dining, shopping, more fun activities for families. With so much to do or see, you may be wondering: how do I start planning my family trip to Vail? With our guide to visiting Vail in the Winter with kids! We cover everything from transportation to ski schools, information about Vail Villages, and more. Keep reading to plan your perfect family vacation to Vail!
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How to Reach Vail with Kids
Wondering how to reach Vail for your family vacation? Despite being located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this Colorado ski town is fairly easy to get to! Travelers usually fly into Eagle Regional Airport, located 30 miles west of Vail. Or, Denver International Airport, around 120 miles east of Vail (a two-hour drive). Once you’ve reached the airport, you can take a shuttle to Vail. We suggest the High Mountain Taxi, ECO Transit Bus, or the Epic Mountain Express from Eagle. The Epic Mountain Express, MPG Express, and Peak 1 Express also run from Denver. Vail is also accessible with a road trip from other nearby Colorado destinations, including Aspen, Breckenridge, and Steamboat Springs. Remember to bring along some snow tires when traveling by car during winter, especially on Interstate 70.
Also, read: Guide To Skiing in Aspen With Kids This Winter
Transportation in Vail with Kids
Next on our guide to visiting Vail in the Winter with kids is transportation. Getting to and from your hotel should be easy because most major resorts offer shuttle service. Vail also has great public transportation options, with a reliable village shuttle to get around. There’s also a regional bus service connecting Vail to other nearby towns like Beaver Creek, so you can explore too! Families can also rent a car, though you’ll have to look for parking.
Where to Stay in Vail with Kids
Parents planning a vacation to Vail in the winter with kids should decide where to stay. You’ll find lots of convenient options around town, depending on the type of stay you’re seeking. For example, Vail offers a variety of ski-in/ski-out resorts, making it even easier to hit the slopes with your family. Just a two-minute walk from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, families can stay at The Arrabelle at Vail Square. This alpine-themed, European-inspired resort has everything you need for a wonderful ski vacation, from gear storage to a pool to warm up in. Featuring ski-in/ski-out access to Vail Mountain, the Grand Hyatt Vail is another great option. Or, stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, at the foot of Vail Mountain. The Ritz-Carlton Club, Vail, is also within walking distance to the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Try Antlers at Vail or Manor Vail Lodge if you prefer condo-style accommodations.
Where to Rent Ski Equipment in Vail with Kids
Skiing is surely one of the best things to do in Vail during the winter with kids. But before you hit the slopes, you need to gather your gear first! If you don’t own ski equipment, there are many places in Vail where you can rent some. First, contact your resort or hotel, since some of them offer rental equipment to guests. In case yours doesn’t, you can try Christy Sports, located just steps away from Gondola One. Families who want the convenience of having rental equipment delivered directly to their hotel can also rent from Vail Ski Resort. This is a particularly important tip on our guide to visiting Vail in the Winter with kids!
Skiing in Vail with Kids
Of course, a family guide to visiting Vail this Winter with kids would be incomplete without some information on skiing! Families visiting here ski at the Vail Ski Resort, famous for its diverse trails and other amenities. More specifically, Vail Ski Resort has two terrain parks, Golden Peak and Avanti. Designed particularly for beginners, Avanti focuses on small jumps, wide rails, and extra small boxes to let little ones get the hang of it. Meanwhile, Golden Peak has a variety of medium to large rails, with a 13″ mini-pipe.
When it comes to specific runs, you’ll have over 5,289 acres of terrain to choose from. Beginners can head to slopes like Flap Jack and Sourdough off Chair 14, the Sourdough Express. Lost Boy in Game Creek Bowl is another easy option. Or, try the variety of green runs from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, like Eagle’s Nest, featuring a magic carpet area and a beginner lift for convenient access. Kids Adventure Zones are also across the Mountain, with runs like Chaos Canyon, Magic Forest, Porcupine Alley, and more for young skiers. Intermediate skiers can check out the Northwoods, accessible from Chair 11, or the runs off Chair 2, the Avanti Express. Meanwhile, advanced skiers can get their thrills on Vail’s longest run, Riva Ridge! Lift tickets are available online to help you skip the line.
Best Ski Schools in Vail for Kids
Kids planning to ski in Vail this winter may need lessons. Families staying at the Vail Ski Resort can take advantage of the Vail Ski & Snowboard School, featuring world-class instructors and lessons for all ages. Kids between ages three and fourteen can participate in group ski or snowboarding classes, divided by age into smaller groups. Teens between thirteen and eighteen can also take group lessons for skiing or snowboarding. Adults are welcome to take classes as well, or the whole family can book a private lesson together. Younger kids can visit the Golden Peak Children’s Ski School. More advanced skiers may prefer the Vail Nordic School, which offers backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and more thrilling fun. Finally, a professional can guide you through Vail’s wilderness on your epic adventure!
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Things to Do in Vail with Kids besides Skiing
If you want to experience Vail beyond the slopes, your family will find lots of other best things to do with kids during your trip. Keep reading for our guide to visiting Vail in the Winter with kids!
Enjoy an Early Season Winter Event
Starting in early November when Vail Mountain opens, families can enjoy a variety of seasonal events around town. Kick-off the holidays with Revely Vail, which offers pre-Christmas activities such as ornament making, tree lightings, and outdoor ice shows. Throughout December, there’s also Vail Holidays, featuring events like the Kris Kringle Market. You can also see Vail aglow from mid-November to early January, thanks to Magic of Lights. In addition, families can walk a scenic one-mile loop at the Ford Lower Park Bench and Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, decorated with fun light installations! Music lovers will love jamming out at Vail Snow Days on the first weekend of December or the Powabunga Music Festival on the second one. Plus, acres-ski kicks off daily at 4 PM, with lots of family-friendly places to celebrate around the resort and Vail Village!
For more information on seasonal events for your upcoming vacation to Vail in the winter with kids, look at the events calendar.
Explore Adventure Ridge
Adventure Ridge is Vail’s premier destination for family fun! Not to mention, a must-stop when visiting Vail in the winter with kids! Accessible via a scenic gondola ride up the Mountain, this kid-friendly adventure park offers endless entertainment for all ages. Here, kids can take a break from the slopes to enjoy other winter sports such as ski biking. There’s also a kid’s snowmobile track, plus chances to go tubing. Adventurous kids will especially enjoy the thrilling mountain coaster! Once you’re done exploring, head back to the lodge to warm up with some hot chocolate and cookies.
Play a Friendly Game of Bowling
For a unique dining and bowling experience, be sure to visit BOL. Located inside the Solaris Residences, an upscale ski condo, this hybrid bowling alley, and restaurant is the perfect combination of fantastic food and family-friendly fun. Reservations for bowling sell out fast, so be sure to grab yours ahead of time. Only six people are allowed per lane. And, when you get hungry, you won’t have to travel far! Families really appreciate how BOL goes beyond the typical bowling alley food to offer genuinely delicious meals. Kids can order a pepperoni pizza, chicken fingers, or even mini-burgers while parents feast on steak, mahi-mahi, or shrimp fettuccine. Don’t forget the banana bread pudding for dessert! Certainly, delicious end to a fun night while visiting Vail in the winter with kids.
See Vail in Style
Skiing isn’t the only way to explore Vail. If you have a non-skier in your family or simply want to mix it up, check out these other winter sports. Teens or older kids may prefer cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, available at the Vail Nordic School. Snowmobiling is another popular way to tackle Vail’s mountain terrain, with various tours available. Try local outfitters such as Vail Backcountry Tours, Nova Guides, and Vail Extreme Rentals, among others. Or, let adorable snow dogs be your guide on a sledding adventure! This incredible experience is available through Alpine Adventures or Mountain Mushers. Of course, nothing beats the magic of encountering Vail via a sleigh ride with 4 Eagle Ranch or Bearcat Stables!
Learn Something New at the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame
Avid skiers and snowboarders should save time to visit the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. Adjacent to Vail Village’s Covered Bridge, it’s located on the 3rd level of the Vail Village Parking Structure. Inside, you’ll find a variety of exhibits about the history of snowsports in Colorado and beyond, perfect for adventurers of all ages! Learn about the Mountain Troopers of WWII, the Olympic Winter Games, and the story of how Vail became a world-famous ski destination. Kids can also visit the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame or see the evolution of skiing and snowboarding in Colorado and beyond. It’s not a huge museum, but there’s a gift shop inside, so it’s a nice way to spend the afternoon in Vail in the winter with kids.
Burn Some Energy at a Playground
If you want to burn some energy off the slopes, head to one of Vail’s playgrounds. You’ll find many within walking distance of Vail Village, including unique options like Pirate Ship Park. Located just steps away from Gondola One, it features its very own pirate ship for kids to climb on! Then, Ford Park has a big grassy area for kids to run, kick a ball, or play frisbee. Kids will also love hanging out in the pods in Lionshead’s Sunbird Park and Playground. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Vail during Winter with kids!
Listen to Storytime at the Vail Public Library
Switch up your family ski vacation by visiting the Vail Public Library. Not only will it be an educational experience, but it’ll be entertaining for kids too! From toddler storytimes to Harry Potter Book Nights for teens, the library hosts a variety of events to appeal to all ages. Of course, the most popular is storytime, which happens every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 11 AM. Even without storytime, it’s a perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon with your face buried in a book! Check out the schedule for more information on what events are happening during your visit, as they tend to rotate.
Go Ice Skating
Kids who love ice skating are in for a real treat. After all, it’s one of the best things to do in Vail this Winter with kids! There are three ice skating rinks across town, including one open all year. If you want to ice skate outside, check out the Vail Square Ice Rink at Lionshead’s Arrabelle. It’s surrounded by shops, restaurants, and other cool spots for families to visit. Or, families can enjoy the Solaris Ice Rink in Vail Village, offering amazing views of Vail Mountain. There’s the Dobson Ice Arena when the weather is too cold or you want to spend time indoors. The biggest ice skating rink in Vail also offers hockey, bumper cars, and more family fun. Rentals are available at all Vail locations!
Indulge in a Sweet Treat at Fuzzwig’s Candy Factory
Anyone who has a sweet tooth can’t miss Fuzzwig’s Candy Factory. With a location in Vail Village, it’s easier than ever to indulge in candy, chocolate-covered strawberries, and other delicious treats! Choose between popular candies, foreign goodies, and even some lesser-known items parents may recognize from their childhood, like English Toffee. Kids will love filling up their bags to mix and match whatever candy they want. There’s even a baked goods section with cookies, pretzels, cake, etc. Aside from tasty candy, the store also sells plushie toys and other fun collectibles to take home. What a fun way to remember your vacation to Vail in the winter with kids!
Challenge Your Creativity at the Imagination Station
Little ones can watch their creativity blossom at the Imagination Station. Located in the Lionshead Welcome Center, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Vail with kids! Hours vary, but this hands-on, unofficial children’s museum is open all-year-round for little ones to enjoy. Inside, you’ll find interactive games and activities for kids two and over, ranging from science to art and more. Children will love the sensory play wall and even the art studio where they can make crafts. Projects range from painting paper to sand pendulum art or other daily guided activities. Plus, the Imagination Station isn’t just for little kids. Pre-teens will love the virtual reality station! Every year, they even host a special meet-and-greet with Santa, including a glimpse inside his workshop!
Where to Eat in Vail with Kids
Need somewhere to eat in Vail? In the morning, stop by Vintage for a classic French breakfast, The Little Diner for American comfort food, or Ludwig’s Restaurant for a European brunch. You can also enjoy European fondue, among other delicacies, at Alpenrose, Swiss Chalet Restaurant, and Almresi Vail. For a casual dinner, try Blue Moose Pizza, Vendetta’s, or pasta at La Nonna Ristorante Vail. Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard offer New American in cozy, upscale settings. Though some consider it overrated, La Tour Restaurant is popular for fine dining. Matsuhisa is also popular for delicious sushi. Families with younger kids can make the experience fun by eating at Bol, a bowling alley and restaurant! Leonora Vail, inside the Hotel Sebastian, has great tapas and chocolate bombs. Stop by Sundae-Vail for homemade ice cream or the Remedy Bar at Four Seasons for signature hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies for more dessert.
More to Know About Vail
Before planning your family vacation to Vail, it’s important to know more about the town. Beyond the Vail Ski Resort, you’ll find the Vail Villages, which consist of Vail Village, West Vail Village, Lionshead, East Vail, and Cascade. All are connected by pedestrian streets, as well as a free, in-town shuttle system. A lot of families find themselves spending the most time in Vail Village, since it has a lot of restaurants, shopping, and other fun things to do with kids. A lot of kids also love Lionshead, a Bavarian-inspired village completely closed off to cars. Check out the ice skating rink or just walk around the charming, cobblestone streets! Beyond the core villages, there’s the lesser-frequented East and West Vail. They both offer family-friendly lodging, dining, and shopping.
Get a Change of Scenery & Take a Trip Outside of Vail
Families who want to see something new in Colorado can also take a trip outside of Vail. Here are our favorite suggestions!
RELATED ARTICLE: A Guide To Breckenridge In The Winter With Kids
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Families willing to venture a little outside of Vail will love Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Located in Glenwood Springs, it’s about an hour outside of Vail, but definitely worth the trip! Kids who love a good thrill will feel right at home here, with rides that take you to new heights. Little ones can ride the Alpine Coaster while older adventurers tackle the Giant Canyon Swing. And, if you have time, be sure to book a Cave Tour, where you can descend underground to explore one of Colorado’s largest caves. Starting November 12th, families can also enjoy Winter on the Mountain, a season-long holiday extravaganza! Marvel at the park illuminated with twinkling lights, featuring a giant Christmas tree, coordinated light shows, and fire pits to roast marshmallows. Other non-seasonal family attractions include laser tag, the 4D Motion Theater, and more.
Want to escape Vail for the day? Take a trip to Beaver Creek! Located around twenty minutes from Vail, this family-friendly destination is slightly smaller than other nearby ski spots. It also houses the Beaver Creek Ski Resort, with multiple terrain parks for skiers of all skill levels, from freestyle parks to beginner bunny slopes. Parents who have younger kids especially favor Beaver Creek for its accessibility and easy runs. If you want to take a lesson while in town, visit the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School. Head to the Beaver Creek Village for shopping, dining, and more family fun!
We hope you liked this Guide To Vail In The Winter With Kids! Whether you’re an advanced skier or just love the ambiance of Colorado in the Winter, we’re sure you’ll enjoy this vacation too. Have a wonderful time in Vail with your kids!
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. Vail is welcoming guests in adherence to COVID-19 protocols. Learn more here.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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