When you think of Vail, Colorado, you think of skiing, snow, and hot drinks by a fire. Well, it’s time to change your way of thinking about Vail. With the newly opened Epic Discovery, numerous hiking trails, and some of the best restaurants in Colorado, Vail Summer is giving Vail Winter a run for its money.
Tyler and I landed in Denver for our “last getaway before the big day” and hopped on the Colorado Mountain Express to Vail. I had never been to Colorado, so I was in for a surprise when they told me it would take two and a half hours to get to Vail from the Denver airport, but the shuttle was comfortable, it had wifi, and our driver was a great host, so I settled in for the journey.
We reached the Sonnenalp, a family owned hotel and resort that mixes luxury with alpine adventure and European elegance. The staff is warm, accommodating, and from around the world. While we waited for our room to be ready, we explored the charming hotel including their library/lounge area, the pool that sat right next to a river, and the spa with a fitness room and a sitting area with an oxygen bar. We stayed in the Mill Creek Suite which featured a large bathroom, fireplace, balcony looking over the pool, and a lofted area for the bed. It was cozy, comfortable, and everywhere you looked there was charm. Each suite is unique in its design, but all of them are perfect for a family or a couple to stay in.
For dinner that night, we visited Elway’s, which is owned by (you guessed it) retired NFL quarterback of the Denver Broncos, John Elway. This fancy (you can still go in jeans) chophouse serves hearty steaks and delicious wines in a laid back mountain atmosphere. We munched on grilled artichoke and tuna tartare before feasting on a bone-in filet and the best lamb chops I have ever had. Everything was cooked to perfection and they were happy to accommodate my dietary requests. The staff was friendly and even went over the top to bring out a cake that said congratulations (since we mentioned we were getting married soon).
On our way back to the hotel we stopped in Root and Flower, Vail’s wine bar and then made our way to Sonnenalp’s Library Bar, which had live music. The Sonnenalp also has Bully Ranch, which is a casual, western-style restaurant serving a Southwestern and American menu. Known for their Mudslides, they also serve up chicken wings, artichoke dip, Bully Burgers, and live music on the patio.
The next morning we started off with breakfast at Ludwigs, where you will find any breakfast dish you could dream of. Their buffet has something for everyone and something for every dietary need. Fueled up and ready to go, Epic Discovery is a new summer experience that has the Forest Flyer, Game Creek Aerial Adventure, ziplines, and adventure courses. You can choose all different ways to experience this adventure. There are all day access passes, tours, and Little Explorer Passes with includes climbing towers, bungee trampolines, mini tubing, and more! Whether you’re a big adventurer or a little adventurer, there is something for everyone.
We explored Vail Village before dinner, which is filled with extremely friendly vacationers and happy shop owners. We literally made friends wherever we went. It was refreshing break from Los Angeles (and wedding planning). Some of my favorite shops were Kemo Sabe, Vail Brewing Co., The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (I needed my fix), and Wild Bill’s Emporium.
Dinner that night was at one of Vail’s longest standing restaurants, Sweet Basil. It was a beautiful restaurant with some of the best service I have ever had. Although upscale, the servers were relaxed, fun, and knowledgable. They made the dinner ever more fun. We started with the Lump Blue Crab Salad, which was my favorite starter. It was savory with hints of sweetness from the cherry tomatoes. We also ordered the Rabbit, which was served with spaghetti, borden’s zucchini, poached egg, and parmesan. From there we stayed with fish (since we had such delicious steak the night before). Tyler had the Steelhead Trout with smoked potato, spinach puree, petite celery, black garlic, and pickled mustard, while I ordered the Alaskan Halibut with creamy Carolina gold rice, cherry tomatoes, local cucumber, and fennel agrodolce. Both dishes were gorgeous and equally delicious. Full of spectacular food and wine, we headed back to the hotel since we had a morning of hiking ahead of us.
The next morning I met with my Paragon Guide, Nick, and we headed to Big Horn Trail. Nick was in touch before to discuss what I was looking for in a hike and he was prepared with snacks, water, and the perfect hike for my level. With only one other human on the trail, we were completely secluded and the trail was absolutely beautiful. Nick was extremely informative about the foliage on the hike and explained to me what areas of Vail were great for hiking and skiing. I highly recommend having a guide from Paragon to lead you on a beautiful hike so you get a little taste of what Vail is like for the locals.
Before heading back to Denver, we walked around the farmer’s market where you can find food vendors, local produce, and booths from all the shops in the Village. It was a great way to take in the local flavor and atmosphere.
Vail may be well known for it’s skiing, but with the newly opened Epic Discovery, some of the best hiking in the country, and tons of shopping and restaurants, Vail Summer has something for everyone. With its casual aesthetic and outdoor activities (that aren’t over crowded), Vail is a breath of fresh air from Los Angeles (and a much needed break when you are planning a wedding).