Any time you travel to Vail is guaranteed to be pleasant, but there is something to be said about the pre-ski calm and glorious changing of the leaves that happen in fall. These days, things are a bit quieter, so you can really absorb all that the mountain village has to offer, as well as take advantage of deals on winter sports gear. Also, keep Vail’s plethora of activities for kids in mind. With tons of neat playgrounds, a river and green spaces to run around in, it’s the perfect all-weather destination for families, too.
Cocktails at the Four Seasons
After a $2.5 million renovation, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Resort Vail has revealed its latest bar concept, The Remedy. And for craft cocktails, it’s the best place in the whole village to go. The bartenders there whip up a mean Corpse Reviver, the cleverly named Heir of the Dog and a dangerously drinkable cocktail on tap called the Medicine Cabinet (bourbon, Chartreuse, citrus and vermouth). Order from the zinc-and-leather-lined bar while you take in a game on the 165-inch screen or simply sit back and wait for the Drink Doctor, aka beverage director Steven Teaver, to come by with his cart full of cocktail fixings. The new spot also serves locally minded food, including a pizza with housemade bison pepperoni, spicy tuna huarache, elevated bar snacks and a fun dessert list of items like red velvet ding dongs and a strawberry-balsamic ice cream float.
The top of Vail Mountain
Aside from skiing, one of the foremost draws about Vail is the alpine scenery. Heading up is how you can get a stunning visage. You can do this three ways: either by hiking, taking one of the two gondolas or opting for both. When you hike up the Gore Range, for example, you can go over to Gondola One, take it down the slope or keep going and catch the Eagle Bahn Gondola at Lionshead — and vice versa. At Gondola One, grab a drink or bite to eat at The 10th; it has the best meal with a view in the whole valley. Named after the historic 10th Mountain Division that fought in World War II, the spot highlights chef Vishwatej Nath’s mountain-style dishes like molasses-spice-rubbed elk loin, Summit Creek lamb with port-braised slaw and herb-smoked buffalo carpaccio.
An alpine botanical garden
Take a quick jaunt outside of Vail Village and walk along Gore Creek toward The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the world’s highest botanical garden. It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the attraction on foot. Once you make your way, gander at the stunning view of Vail Mountain and make sure your party takes in all of the various flora and fauna that only grow at this altitude. There is a meditation garden surrounded by Colorado blue spruce; an alpine rock garden that showcases ground plants and what grows on rocky landscapes; an aspen grove; and various pools, streams and waterfalls that break up the different areas. The best time to head here is between May and early October, but even if you wander around in the winter, you will still find it a serene break from town.
Local craft beer
Colorado is known for its craft beer scene and, in Vail, you find the Vail Brewing Co. and Crazy Mountain Brewing. The latter has a tasting room in Edwards, a quick 15-minute drive from Vail Village while the former is about an eight-minute ride outside the village. For a beer-centric meal, Atwater on Gore Creek offers beer pairings with each of its Colorado-themed dishes. For example, the Boulder chicken goes with most any of the saisons; a salad made of farmhouse greens and vegetables sings with a glass of Avery White Rascal. But if you want to take your appreciation for hops and barley beyond the tap, try a beer massage, beer foot soak or beer bath at the Four Season’s Five-Star spa. Not only do you get to drink a Crazy Mountain brew while you relax, but the sweet, earthy and citrus notes of the ingredients permeate the room. It turns out that beer has a lot of healing properties for your skin, which you can truly notice after you’re slathered with hop oil and custom-blended lotions and have had your muscles rolled out with heated beer cans. It’s a Colorado experience to a tee.
Dinner at Terra Bistro
Located in Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa, this top-notch dining establishment dishes out new American cuisine with the best of them. Managing partner and chef Kevin Nelson has always had an eye for wholesome food, so when he came to work at Terra Bistro in 1993, he really drove that concept home. More than 20 years later, it’s still the focus of executive chef Shawn Miller. In fact, 90 percent of the food is certified organic, with a lot of the ingredients growing right in the kitchen. When you stop by for dinner, make it a priority to order the black-tea-smoked Rocky Mountain trout and baby kale salad with housemade Caesar dressing; the hanger steak with chive-whipped potatoes, chimichurri, crispy asparagus and white anchovy-cashew aioli; or the tempura-battered maitake mushrooms with coconut green curry, yuzu-scented sticky rice, jalapeños and baby bok choy. But no matter what you pick, you really can’t go wrong.