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Vail, Colorado, is a premier winter ski destination. But in summer when the snow is gone and the ski runs are closed, Vail becomes an ideal family summer vacation destination. Whether family members are active outdoors people or just appreciate the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, there is something for everyone in Vail Colorado in summer. Below are ten things to do in Vail in summer that are sure to make your family vacation fun and memorable.
The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Take part in daily children’s activities at the highest botanical gardens in the world. Go on a treasure hunt, make nature-themed crafts, or do some gardening with child-appropriate garden tools. Open daily through September from dawn until dusk.
Hot Summer Nights Free Concert Series
Show me one family that does not love free stuff! These concerts take place on Tuesdays (June 19-August 21) at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The style of music each week ranges from country to funk and everything in between.
Vail Family Fun Fest
It may be summer vacation but every day is still a school day! At Vail Family Fun Fest, kids learn through interactive activities in the most beautiful natural setting. The fun fest takes place on Saturdays (June 23-August 4) and is set up like a festival with stations for the kids to visit. There is the Science Tent, Creation Station, Play Town, and so on. New in 2018 is the addition of the Kids’ Stage which will feature local family entertainers.
Vail Summer Bluegrass Series
Vail hosts a number of music series and festivals throughout the summer but, perhaps selfishly, I am giving special attention to bluegrass. As a banjo player myself, I can say with confidence that bluegrass is probably the most family-friendly music genre. And it’s just fun to dance to bluegrass. There are four performances scheduled for the 2018 bluegrass series at the Arrabelle at Vail Square (all on Wednesdays): June 27; July 4; July 11; and July 18.
Vail Kids Adventure Games
Open to kids ages 6-14, the Vail Kids Adventure Games is said to be one of the coolest kids races on the planet. In teams of two, kids go river tubing, zip lining, rappelling, hiking, biking and more. For spectators, there is a Family Adventure Zone run by race sponsors that features climbing walls and slack lines. The 2018 Vail Kids Adventure Games are taking place August 8-12 (registration opened March 1).
Touted as the ultimate playground, Epic Discovery is a collection of adventure activities for the whole family. Since it is situated at the top of Vail Mountain, everyone needs to take the scenic gondola ride to get there. Then it’s all about the thrills and the fun. There is zip lining, tubing, mountain climbing (a climbing wall, actually), adventure courses, and even an alpine coaster. Epic Discovery was designed in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Nature Conservancy to promote environmental education and forest stewardship through these fun, outdoor activities. So, yes, Epic Discovery is wildly fun and adrenaline-pumping, but it’s also educational. Be sure to check age, height, and weight requirements for each activity before setting your and the kids’ hearts on any of them.
Vail Nature Center
Located in the heart of Vail, the 7-acre Vail Nature Center features walking trails, bird watching, and hands-on activities. Venture on your own or join a guided walk with a trained naturalist. Vail Nature Center also holds classes like stargazing, fly fishing, and photography every week during summer. Last but not least is Camp Eco Fun for children ages 4-11 to explore and make discoveries.
Just like skiing in winter, you can’t visit Vail in summer and not go fly fishing. The area rivers and streams are some of the best in the west. Even if you have previous fly fishing experience, your best bet is to hire a guide who is knowledgeable about those specific streams. Gore Creek Fly Fishermen and Vail Valley Anglers offer half-day wades and full-day floats and will also customize your outing to suit your skill and preferences.
Hiking with llamas
Hiking might be fun enough for some families but add in some llamas and you’ve got a party! Paragon Guides offers “Take a Llama to Lunch” hikes for families and groups. Hikes can range from easy to hard and Paragon Guides will tailor your family’s hike to match everyone’s age and ability. Half-day and full-day hikes are offered and include water, snacks, picnic lunch, and, of course, the llamas.
Rafting and kayaking
Families, regardless of experience, will definitely need a guide for rafting and/or kayaking. The waters near Vail range from Class I (easy floats) to Class V (experts only). There are a number of river guide services in and around Vail; start here to find the right one for your family’s adventure.
Visit vail.com for more on planning your family’s summer vacation to Vail, including information on lodging and Vail Village.
*All photos property of Vail Mountain Resort.