We were recently fortunate enough to be able to take the kids for a long weekend trip to Vail. We typically take beach vacations, so this was the first ski trip for our family. 

I’d always thought that, if we did go on a ski vacation, we’d take a trip to a smaller mountain, but we had the opportunity to visit Vail and flights were very cheap on Southwest. So, Vail, it was! We went on the weekend before Thanksgiving and, surprisingly, it was not very busy and was in fact the perfect time to go. 

You can fly directly into Vail, but flights are usually a little more expensive. So, we flew into Denver on Southwest to save money and rented a car with Hertz. (If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to request an SUV or 4-wheel drive vehicle to handle the weather.) Vail is about a two-hour drive from the Denver airport and, depending on where you are staying, you may not need a vehicle once you arrive. In that case, you can take advantage of the shuttle services that run back and forth from the airport to the mountains.

Westbound & Down Burger

Places to Eat Along the Way

If you decide to drive, there are a few towns to stop at along the way. We stopped in Idaho Springs where we found some great dining options—and we really enjoyed Westbound & Down. The kids loved their burgers, even a gluten-free one! I loved the fried green tomato BLT, and Jason found the best bison burger with a side of green chili. 

Other great places to eat on the drive into Vail include:

Back on the road!

Fortunately, Vail is easily located right off I-70, which makes finding the hotels and town a breeze. It’s divided into Vail Village and Lionshead Village, and both have restaurants and shops as well as a gondola and lifts to enjoy the slopes. 

Where to Stay in Vail

We stayed at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, which was located in Lionshead Village. It was very conveniently located, close to everything, and the staff went above and beyond to make our stay one to remember. The kids’ favorite part was enjoying the hot chocolate bar every afternoon! Lionshead Village also has an ice-skating rink in the center with skate rentals starting at $14. 

Other wonderful places to stay in Vail include:

Where to Eat in Vail

The kids loved the Blue Moose Pizza, where they give the kids dry erase boards to color on while you wait, and I loved their autumn pizza. Other great places include:

  1. Fall Lines
  2. Vail Matsuhisa
  3. Sweet Basil 
  4. Mountain Standard
  5. Elway’s 

What to Do in Vail

There’s so much for the kids to do in Vail. Ours had never put on skis before and they loved ski school. All of the ski instructors were amazing. Think of the best elementary school teacher you can imagine and then add skis—and that is what these instructors were like, full of patience and love for these kids. 

Beckett wanted to learn to snowboard, so we signed him up for a group lesson where there were no other kids in the class, so he basically had a private lesson for the cost of a group one. 

To save money, you can pre-book your lift tickets on Vail Mountain. We also used Black Tie Rental, which was amazing. They brought everything to our room the first day and fitted us for our equipment in the room. They even brought me heated ski boots! 

Heading Home Again

On our last day, we drove back to Denver. We had a late flight, so we spent the day at the Children’s Museum of Denver. The kids loved it! There was so much for them to see and do. Ella was able to take a cooking class while Beckett climbed to the top of the tower. The kids loved painting, playing with bubbles, building things, and playing pretend with the veterinarian clinic, fire station and grocery market. We only had a couple of hours, but it was well worth the kids running around and using up some energy in a fun learning environment.

In short, if you are thinking about making a family ski trip, we highly recommend taking a trip to Vail, Colorado!