When you travel as much as I do, you’re always surprised when you land in a place that your pals go to regularly and it’s your first time – like Vancouver, which I only hit for the first time last summer and Vail, which I only visited for the first time this month.
I used to spend more time in Colorado ten or so years ago when I had a client in the area and most of my extended trips were in the winter so I could ski. Breckenridge was always on the list and I used to like to hang at the cafes and bistros in Boulder. I had forgotten just how beautiful Colorado was, a state where you can get breathtaking views of deep mountain divides within thirty minutes of Denver.
The drive between Denver and Keystone which is where I started my trip was as stunning as the passes between Keystone and the Beaver Creek/Vail region. If only I had more time to get into those mountains with hiking shoes and camera.
The other odd thing about heading to resorts primarily known for its winter activities, particularly the ski mountains, is that you feel like a duck out of water, or a penguin without his snow when you’re on a ski lift and there’s nothing but green forest and rolling hills below you. What people may not realize is just how much there is to do in the area during the summer months: hiking, kayacking, river rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming and taking in the natural beauty of the place.
The food is also out of this world – see my write-up on a Taste of Vail event held in Keystone where I sampled over a dozen dishes from nine different restaurants in the greater region. Since I’m a lover and collector of art, I always make a point of going into the local art galleries and trying to get a sense of the style of the area and some of the up and coming favorites.
The above left photo is the bottom half of a large structure in the downtown area of Vail itself, which extends up like a cone towards the ski – beyond it of course as you can probably see are the mountains, the chairlifts to the top of the resort in the distance. (see small image to the right)
Art is plentiful in the greater Vail region and its not just paintings inside galleries. Art in Public Places offers exhibits such as The Singing Trees by Ben Roth and Brad Watsabaugh and Steelroots by Steven Tobin. I noticed a number of bronze and weathered steel sculptures throughout Beaver Creek, Vail and Keystone, the material chosen no doubt because it can handle the harsh weather conditions that its winter brings. The bronze and weathered steel sculptures were created especially forVail by Colorado artist James G. Moore. Take a look at Einstein lounging in the sun.
A fun thing to do is rent a bike and meander through the town. Worth stopping at is the Pirate Ship Park, The Children’s Fountain where kids are encouraged to freely splash about in the middle of the fountain (wish I had a chance to do that when I was 5), The Solaris and of course the umpteen incredible restaurants and cafes for food, wine, coffee and desserts.
This adorable toy store is definitely worth a stop as well. Its called of all things, The Toy Store.
I love this shot that shows the juxtaposition of Vail – high end fashion in the window with Haley in the background in sporting attire who is out for a bike ride and paused to take a look. Vail offers high-end shopping, adventure sports, fabulous restaurants, five star resorts and hotels, fabulous skiing in the winter and countless outdoor activities in the summer.
And then there’s this window shot of a dress I’d love to own with an Alpine-designed house in the background.
Another interesting structure in the center of town.
Because I wanted to see some off the beaten track things in Vail, I went to the Lionshead Parking Structure which has several levels of street art and murals painted by artist Randy Milhoan. See my write-up on his project including a series of photos I shot ‘underground.’ One of the images is below to give you an idea of his style – each level is painted in a different color.
There’s a host of places to eat and stay in Vail….and, no shortage of hotels and restaurants in the high to mid-range across all categories. See my write-up on The Sebastian, where I stayed in Vail. I stopped off at Sweet Basil, Terra Bistro and Alpenrose – see my write-up on these three places, including photos. The latter specializes in Austrian/Swiss desserts, but if you’re not in the mood for sweets, stop by for a coffee and sit in their lovely outdoor terrace which is centrally located and a great place to people watch.
There’s also Pepi’s, a classic and renowed restaurant and hotel which has been around since 1964. Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer embraces true European style created by the original Austrian owners,Pepi a famous Austrian ski racer and his wife Sheika.
Beaver Creek Resort is literally a 10-15 minute drive away, so if you’re stopping by one, why not take in the flavor of the other. The ambiance of each is a little different. While they’re both ‘ski’ and summer resort towns, Beaver Creek is quieter than Vail and has a much smaller village of shops, restaurants and bars. That said, like Keystone, the feeling is more intimate as a result and it also feels a bit more remote if you want to get away from shop and bar activity that the more popular and crowded Vail has to offer. It largely depends on your mood and if you’re heading there with a family, your significant other on a romantic weekend getaway or simply to ski or hike. I liked all three resorts for different reasons.
Also a town full of bronze statues, they are largely scattered in the center of the town.
An absolute must do, yes, even in the summer, is take the chairlift to the top where you’ll see breathtaking views. There’s also a lodge at the top and you can do various hikes from a number of trails that leave from the lodge.
In Beaver Creek, I stayed at The Charter which was centrally located and a hop, skip and jump from the Hyatt around the corner. Check out my post to learn more about my experience there. A great resource for dining in the area can be found here. Also see my write up on The Black Diamond Bistro, a fun restaurant that has some fabulous full entree choices as well as burgers, pizza and sandwiches.
In Keystone, you can also opt for the hotel and resort route aka The Keystone Lodge & Spa or rent a condo, which is what I did with two other travel writers. More statues too of course, not to mention picturesque views even from the center of the town.
The lake at Keystone, which our condo overlooked, was peaceful since we had a nice balcony you could sip your morning tea on and take in the serenity of the water.
For more posts on Colorado, go to our Colorado page here.