Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Vail quite a few times. However, before getting first-hand knowledge of the place, I had preconceived notions. Mainly, I thought of it as a little stuck-up.
On one of my first visits, I was enjoying a glass of wine at a bar when I made friends with the locals next to me. They invited me on the spot to a small house party they were having that evening.
I didn’t go to that house party, we had plans, however, I’ve never forgotten that friendly gesture, and without a doubt, it has colored my opinion of Vail ever since.
Does it have boutiques selling expensive fur-trimmed coats and pricey yoga pants? Yes, it does. I do buy things at the pet store, and I bought my favorite ring ever (now sadly lost) at a store in Vail Village. Also, I do not buy fur-lined anything.
I think, like any place, Vail is what you make of it. If you are expecting to be annoyed by wealth and privilege, you’ll find it. But if you go with an open mind and expect good food and lovely views, well, you’ll be quite content with a visit to Vail.
We were there late last month for a visit to Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC), which I wrote about.
Less than twenty minutes from Vail, in Beaver Creek Village, VPAC is quite an asset to the area, and I’d encourage you to check out what is on the schedule when you visit Vail Valley.
I just learned that one of our favorite bands, The Lone Bellow, will be playing there on January 20. This is the perfect venue for their spine-tingling harmonies and endless energy.
On this recent trip, we visited on the peak color weekend for Summit County. I have little doubt that the wind and the snow that’s currently falling have taken a toll on the gorgeous colors that were clinging to the hills around us during our trip. Fall is a breathtaking time to visit the area, but other seasons are great too. In fact, you do not have to be a skier to enjoy Vail or Vail Valley’s offerings.
This time, we stayed at Lodge at Vail. It was the first official lodge to open in Vail, and Gerald Ford, who was president when I was born, bought a condo here. There are still owner-owned condominiums at this boutique hotel.
Our views were outstanding, and Fritzi agreed. Of course, she got to go. Vail may be one of the dog-friendliest towns in Colorado.
On the first night, we went to our concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. What a night! We truly loved the venue.
On the second day, we enjoyed the luxurious breakfast buffet at Cucina, at Lodge at Vail. I had a lovely eggs benedict, and Ryan enjoyed a made-to-order omelet. The sun streamed in the dining room, indicating another fine fall day in Vail.
After breakfast, we decided a hike was in order. A hike or snowshoe outing is always on my agenda in Vail, as I have retired from skiing (which for me, was a short-lived experience starting at age 27 and ending around age 35). However, Vail is Ryan’s favorite mountain to ski in Colorado. He loves the expanse and the back bowls.
Trails are bountiful around Vail, but deciding against getting in the truck, we headed straight up Vail Mountain on Strawberry Lane. The trail starts from Gondola One.
After hiking, we briefly walked through the second to last Sunday of the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show. A beautiful market, selling everything from art to bread to lunch, it is a nice way to spend a Sunday morning in Vail.
Being a Sunday, we had to watch the Broncos game and decided to do so from our room. At halftime, we headed to the pool for a while, which was a good call. Lodge at Vail has a delightfully hidden pool area with a waterfall and hot tubs. Of course, like other spots in Vail where we have stayed, the landscaping is top-notch.
We ended up watching the end of the Bronco game over a plate of buffalo-style wings and beer at the Bully Ranch bar. Ryan loves the fact that Vail bars always seem to have German pilsner on tap. He prefers a German pilsner over almost all craft pilsners, brewed in the States (and I think he’s tried them all in Colorado).
Dinner that night was hosted by Stoke & Rye, inside The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon (just down the mountain from Beaver Creek & about 15 minutes from Vail Village). I have stayed at this fantastic property several times and knew about this restaurant when it was The Maya. It is still a Richard Sandoval restaurant but no longer specializes in Mexican food.
The restaurant is now a modern American grill. The space is bright and airy and this Avon restaurant may have the best view in Vail Valley. It’s the same view enjoyed by guests of The Westin.
We started the meal with bread, which Ryan declared to be his absolute favorite, eating most of it before his big meal came. Slightly sweet, it’s topped with rosemary & sea salt and served with maple butter.
I enjoyed the local farm trout with grilled zucchini, shaved fennel, avocado purée, trout caviar, and lemon bourbon aioli. Never having trout caviar before, it popped delightfully in my mouth and wasn’t nearly as fishy tasting as other caviar I’ve eaten.
Ryan ordered the beef tenderloin which came with charred lemon, roasted garlic, black pepper sauce, and chimichurri. The steak was perfectly cooked, and we decided that in the future, all steak should be served with roasted garlic.
We ordered the truffle fries to share with our entrees. Always the right choice.
NOTE: Make sure the sound is OFF in this video. YouTube won’t let me mute a video and there’s a baby screaming in this one. Thankfully, it didn’t scream through dinner!
I don’t usually order dessert, as I am not much of a dessert person, however, Ryan is an avid fan of dessert. On our server’s suggestions, we got the Smoked Chocolate Mason Jar, which is for two people.
Let’s just say that this chocolate ganache, brownie crumbs, cacao nib, and salted caramel ice cream served in a large mason jar might be a life-changing dessert. I do know you won’t soon forget it! We absolutely loved it and it was an ideal way to end this decadent meal.
I’ll miss The Maya but long live Stoke & Rye. They serve up a meal to remember.
The next time you’re in Vail, live large at Stoke & Rye, bring the dog, and make sure you play, whether it’s in the pool or on the mountain, Vail never disappoints. And now, with my knowledge of Vilar Performing Arts Center, I know a great concert, play or magical event can be on the agenda too.
Note: When visiting Vail, don’t miss the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. This is a photo opportunity I never miss and I had Ryan stop on the way home from Vail on Monday morning. The gardens did not disappoint.
This was a hosted trip, and Vilar Performing Arts Center is currently a client of HeidiTown.com.