Though it has something of a ritzy reputation as a glamorous see-and-be-seen ski destination and celebrity favorite, Vail, Colorado, also enjoys a down-to-earth side as a tight-knit small-town community, catering to a diverse group of guests of all ages year-round – including families and multigenerational groups.
At Antlers at Vail hotel we’re known for our family-friendly approach and offerings, and our Lionshead Village home has been called a “perfect base camp” for exploring the area. It’s in that spirit that we’ve created this list of 50 things to do in Vail for under $50 – many of them free! (Note: items and pricing are correct at time of publication but subject to change, so check ahead.)
Snowshoeing on the Vail Golf Course. Photo courtesy VLMDAC/ Vail Rec
Things to Do in WINTER in Vail for Under $50
- Sledding: The Vail Valley has multiple options for sledding hills, including the EagleVail Golf Club Putting Green, West Park in East Vail, the Singletree Sledding Hill in Edwards, the East Haystacker Sledding Hill in Eagle, Bighorn Park in East Vail, and the hill next to the Cordillera Nordic Center (Antlers provides complimentary loaner sleds to guests on request). Cost: Free.
- Snowshoeing: Visitors with their own snowshoes can find plenty of powder around the area to jump on, but several known or groomed trails also exist (such as the North Trail system or the Vail Nordic Center in East Vail), and rentals are available from multiple locations – or Antlers guests can request the hotel’s complimentary loaner snowshoes. Walking Mountains Science Center offers guided snowshoe tours, too. Cost: Rentals range from $20 to $29 per day. The one-hour sessions at Walking Mountains are free.
- Ice Skating: For outdoor ice skating, Alderhof Ice Rink in Vail Square is open daily through the winter, and Solaris Ice Skating Rink is also an option. Indoors, the Dobson Ice Arena sets aside certain times for public skating, including Toddler Time on Wednesdays for $10 (skates included). All offer skate rental. Cost: Entry and skate rentals each start at $5.
- Nordic Skiing: Vail Nordic Center offers 17 kilometers of scenic, beginner-to-advanced cross-country trails. Cost: The day pass is $20; rentals of skis, boots and poles run $29 per day.
- Ice Bumper Cars: Kids of all ages – even grown-up ones – get a kick out of sliding across the ice in what look like giant inner tubes on wheels to whack into each other at Dobson Ice Arena. Cost: $10 per person for 15 minutes.
- Tubing: The tubing hill at Eagles Nest runs 900 feet and fast; take the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Adventure Ridge. A magic carpet whisks tubers back up to the top. Cost: $45 for three runs.
- Kris Kringle Market: Featuring more than 40 local artists and artisans, the Kris Kringle Market lines Vail’s streets with tents the second weekend of December each winter. Cost: Free.
- Vail History Tour: This self-guided history tour can be followed as you ski or snowboard around the mountain by following the placards explaining the significance of the stop or the meaning behind the trail names. Visit the website ahead of time to plot your course. Cost: Free.
- 10th Mountain Legacy Parade: On Friday evenings once a month from December to March, the town celebrates the history of the 10th Mountain Division with a parade of skiers dressed in traditional 10th Mountain Division Ski Trooper uniforms in a Torchlight Ski Down to the base of Gondola One, followed by fireworks. Cost: Free.
- Fat Biking: Explore biking in the snow on a fat bike at multiple locations in the area, including Vail Nordic Center, which also rents fat bikes, and the Homestead “L” Open Space in Edwards. Cost: Trail passes start at $20; rentals start at $32 for a half day, including helmet.
- Uphilling: Skiing uphill sounds counterintuitive, but it’s an excellent and peaceful workout. Vail Ski Resort opens up Simba and Riva Ridge when the lifts aren’t running for folks who want to don boots, skis and skins to make the journey. Cost: Uphilling is free; call ahead at 970-754-1023 for conditions and timing. No one in town rents skins, so you’ll have to BYO.
- Vail Snow Days: The acts haven’t been announced for 2022 yet, but past years’ Snow Days over four days in early December have seen the likes of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Dierks Bentley, along with many others, all playing for free at Ford Park, plus in-town and on-mountain events, many at a substantial discount. Cost: Free.
- Revely Vail, formerly Vail Holidays: Revely Vail begins November 11 and runs through the holidays with a focused on the family. Multiple activities are planned, including silent discos, ice skating performances, a tree lighting, the Kris Kringle Market and more. Cost: Free
- Winter Mountain Games: Held annually in February, the 2023 Winter Mountain Games that features amateur and pro athletes will be back for the full program, with free concerts and the ability for spectators to watch the start and finish of races, as well as the whole Skimo competition. Cost: Free.
- Hot Cocoa by the Fire: Many lodges, like the Antlers, offer complimentary delicious hot cocoa in the lobby to be enjoyed by a roaring fire place. Check with your lodging for more info. Cost: Free with a stay.
Riding bikes along Gore Creek in Vail. Photo courtesy VLMD/ Jack Affleck.
Things to Do in SUMMER in Vail for Under $50
- Learn to Fly-Fish: Through the summer, Gore Creek Fly Fisherman offers free fly-fishing casting clinics in Lionshead to help newbies and the more advanced hone their skills. Cost: Free.
- Wednesday Art Walks: Every Wednesday in July and August from 11 a.m. to noon, the Art in Public Places Coordinator guides visitors around Vail Village to view and learn about the more than 60 pieces of art on public display. Cost: Free.
- Alpine Bank ShowDown Town: This series of concerts from local bands is offered free on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. throughout the summer at Eagle Town Park in Eagle; bring a blanket or chair, a picnic and your own wine or beer. Cost: Free.
- Hot Summer Nights: On Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. from June to mid-August at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, the Hot Summer Nights Concert Series brings live music to the outdoor stage. Cost: Free.
- AvonLIVE!: On Wednesdays June-August from 5-8:45 p.m., AvonLIVE! showcases national and regional acts at the Harry A. Nottingham Park & Pavilion in Avon. Cost: Free.
- Bike along Gore Creek: For guests at Antlers at Vail , free bikes can be taken out to explore the beauty of the area right from the hotel, which sits against Gore Creek, where the Gore Creek Path runs an easy 1.8 miles point-to-point. Cost: Free with stay.
- Get Your Skate Stoke On: Bring your skateboard and a helmet (required) to Zeke M. Pierce Vail Skate Park, which is open daily from dawn to 11 p.m., weather-permitting, and features a mini-bowl and full-size half-pipe. Cost: Free.
- The Children’s Fountain: Vail offers quite a few parks and playgrounds that are perfect for kids looking to blow off some steam, but one of the most popular on a hot summer day is the Children’s Fountain next to another kid favorite, Fuzziwig’s Candy Shop. Kids can splash in three fountains and wade in the ankle-deep water. Cost: Free, but you might want to bring a stash of cash for sweets.
- Solaris Plaza Lawn Sports: Solaris Plaza is the site for lawn games throughout the summer, with options such as cornhole and ping-pong strewn about the expansive turf surface. Yoga is also offered for free on Saturdays. Cost: Free.
- Pirate Ship Park: This pirate-themed playground is a popular draw for kids of all ages, withs its climbable wooden ship replica complete with climbing nets, a slide, and even a kid-safe “plank.” Cost: Free.
- Visit Piney Lake: Open to the public from June to the end of September, Piney Lake is a pretty high-alpine lake that features fishing, canoeing, standup paddleboarding and endless hiking trails. Piney River Resort on the lake offers canoe and paddleboard rentals. Cost: Free to visit and hike; canoeing, fishing and other activities that require gear start at $30.
- Paddleboard or Pedal Boat: Nottingham Lake & Beach in Avon offers a wide variety of activities, including the option of simply sitting on the swim beach. Standup paddleboard, pedal boat and kayak rentals are also available. Cost: Free to sit on the beach; rentals start at $35 per hour.
- Vail Farmers Market: With a little something for everyone from food and produce to art and live music, the Vail Farmers Market operates on Sundays from June to October. Cost: Free to wander.
- Take a Hike: There are at least 50 in the area to choose from, including Berry Picker, Booth Falls, Deluge Lake Trail, Davos Trail and North Trail. Download a map of some of the more popular close-in hikes or visit your favorite trail website for more info. Cost: Free.
- Drive Independence Pass: Open summer-only starting in May, Independence Pass is a rite of passage for road-trippers looking for the ultimate high mountain road experience, with climbs to over 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide and spectacular views of the Sawatch Range. Cost: Free.
- 4 Eagle Ranch Western Night: Just a 20-minute drive from Vail in Wolcott, the 4 Eagle Ranch offers family-friendly Western Nights, with organized games for adults and kids, a horse-drawn wagon ride, a buffet, horseshoes and s’mores by the fire. They also do a Country-Western Dance night for adults on Thursdays. Cost: Starts at $25 per person.
- Goat Happy Hour: Vail Stables makes everyone happy by bringing the goats out to play from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-3 p.m. Sundays. A cash bar is available, along with non-alcoholic beverages for kids. They also offer Goat Yoga for $40 per person. Cost: $10 per person.
Feeding goats at Goat Happy Hour at Vail Stables.
Things to Do YEAR-ROUND in Vail for Under $50
- Self-Guided Art Walk: Visitors can wander around Vail anytime to view the more than 60 sculptures, paintings, murals and other pieces. Download a guide ahead of time to plan your route. Cost: Free.
- Take a Scenic Gondola Ride: The Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead that goes to the top of Vail Mountain and Epic Discovery, and Gondola One, which runs from the Vista Bahn base to mid-Vail and features heated seats and Wi-Fi, are both comfortable ways to snag views of the New York, Gore and Sawatch ranges, as well as Mount of the Holy Cross. Cost: $50 per adult; with one paying adult, kids under 18 are free. Note that the pass is good for both gondolas, as well as the gondola in Beaver Creek.
- Use Your Imagination: Adults and kids can explore together at Imagination Station, which offers opportunities to create art, play games, investigate science and interact using virtual reality. Cost: $8 per child, $4 per adult.
- Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame: Inspirational no matter the time of year, the museum is open daily and features the stories and stuff of legends from throughout the history of snowsports in Colorado. Cost: Free, but donations are accepted.
- Take a Flight (of Whiskey): The cozy tasting room at 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits in Vail Village is the backdrop for a flight of locally distilled small-batch spirits. Cost: $35 per person for a choice of 5 of the 7 available spirits; includes a $5 credit for two people and two tasting glasses.
Antlers at Vail creekside pool and hot tub in the summer.
- Hot Tubbing: Antlers at Vail offers two outdoor hot tubs and a heated pool alongside Gore Creek that showcase views of the surrounding landscaped gardens in summer and the snowy mountains in winter, for the ultimate in relaxation after a day on the slopes or the trails. The walkways and changing rooms are heated, too. Cost: Free for guests.
- Bowling: Get that strike at DECA + BOL in Vail Village, where up to six people can split the $75 fee for an hour and a half of bowling in a groovy setting, with the option of having food and drink from the attached DECA eatery delivered to your lane. Cost: $75 for up to six people; $5 per person for shoes.
- Stroll or Bike the Vail Recreation Path: With its numerous soft-surface and mountain biking offshoots from its 15 miles of paved trail, the Vail Recreation Path features multiple points of entry and exit, and gorgeous views along the way. Cost: Free.
- Catch a Movie at the Riverwalk Theater: First-run movies plus tasty snacks like BBQ sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream equals cinematic joy at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards. Cost: Adults $10, kids $8 before 6 p.m.; adults $12, kids $8 evenings.
- Hike with Walking Mountains: From four locations around the Vail Valley, Walking Mountains Science Center offers free hourlong guided hikes from June to September (and in some areas, into October) to explore the flora and fauna. The Center also features natural history exhibits, and free daily snowshoe tours in the winter. Cost: The activities are free, but you must have a lift ticket in winter or buy a $50 per adult Scenic Gondola Pass (one kid can ride free with each paying adult).
- Explore Unlimited Adventure: Throughout the year, the nonprofit Vail Symposium offers free educational and inspiring programs on a variety of diverse topics at different venues around the Vail Valley. In addition to Unlimited Adventure, presentation focuses include Hot Topics, Cultural Arts and a Film Series. Cost: Free, although donations are accepted.
- Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt: Download the Let’s Roam app and click on the At the Top of Colorado Scavenger Hunt to embark on a journey around the Vail Valley, led by clues and riddles that offer insights into the history and secrets of the area. Cost: $13 per person.
- Betty Ford Alpine Gardens & Education Center: Open daily from dawn to dusk, these lavish gardens named for the former First Lady are the highest-altitude botanical gardens in North America, showcasing 39 acres of the local and fragile alpine ecosystem. Cost: Free; $5 donation encouraged but not required.
- Stephens Dog Park: If you have your pup(s) with you, Stephens Park in West Vail is the place to connect with other pooches and let yours run off some energy. Note that the park is not fenced, but obedient off-leash dogs can explore Gore Creek and the expansive grassy and treed areas around it. (Antlers at Vail is a pet-friendly hotel based on availability of pet-friendly rooms, which must be reserved in advance and include a $35/night fee.) Cost: Free.
- Check Out the Newest National Monument: Recently named the country’s newest national monument, Camp Hale-Continental Divide between Red Cliff and Leadville has long been a place to visit to explore the history of the U.S. Army training facility named for General Irving Hale that was constructed in 1942 for the 10th Mountain Division on 53,804 acres of U.S. Forest Service-managed land. Cost: Currently free but check before you go.
- Soak in Glenwood’s Hot Springs: In about an hour’s drive, you can be kicking back in the soothing, mineral-rich hot springs of Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which offers an eatery, restrooms, showers and lockers, and a kids splash area. Cost: Day passes start at $29 for adults and $20 for kids ages 3-12; note that rates are season-dependent.
- Curl Up with a Good Book: With its huge stone fireplace, cozy chairs nestled in nooks and floor-to-ceiling windows, Vail Public Library is a great place to relax and recharge with a book, or check out the extensive roster of activities for kids and adults, including read-aloud story times and book club-like evening events. Cost: Free.
- Get Creative: The Alpine Arts Center offers several adult- and kid-friendly ways to create art, including Cocktails & Canvas (beer and wine costs extra) and Cupcakes & Clay. Cost: $49 per person.