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              vail snowscape

              Family Travel

              What To Do in Vail With Kids

              Kristin Ruud, Michigan mom of four and the founder of outwear company Northern Classics, shows us how to spend a few perfect days in Vail with kids. Whether you're looking to ski, sled, ice skate, or sit back with a hot chocolate, it's the place to go for cold-weather adventures.

              Written By
              Kristin Ruud

              When Kristin Ruud couldn't find a snowsuit she loved for her newborn twins, she decided to design her own. Northern Classics makes high performance children's outerwear that looks Insta-worthy in vacation snaps. She's all about helping kids stay cozy so they can explore through outdoor play. So we asked her to let us in on her tried-and-true things to do with kids in Vail.

              Vail really offers something for every age so it’s a great destination the whole family can enjoy. It's best if you're down for a trip brimming with action and adventure (Think: skiing, sledding, ice skating, sleigh rides) but a Vail itinerary can be customized for any age.

              Have a baby? Bring them on a stroller walk through the village, which is brimming with lights and people to watch. Or, hire a sitter and enjoy a parents night out. Often the hotel can recommend a reputable babysitting service if you ask in advance.

              Bringing a preschooler? Introduce them to skiing through a half-day lesson that can be customized to an individual’s skill level, starting at age three. Wrap up a day on the hill with some delicious hot cocoa.

              Elementary-aged kids? Spend the day tubing at Adventure Ridge, and then dine at one of their family-friendly restaurants. End the day with a swim in the hot tub. Challenging them to hop out for a roll in the snow is always a hit with my kids!

              Teens on tow? Try skiing, snowboarding… or snow biking if your family is really looking for adventure!

              aspen trees on the slopes in Vailaspen trees on the slopes in Vailheading to Vail with kidsheading to Vail with kids

              Where to Stay With Kids in Vail

              We love staying at The Hythe. When you arrive the alpine-themed décor instantly sets the scene for a charming ski vacation. There are multiple restaurants and bars within the hotel, whether you want to warm up with hot cocoa (and complimentary s’mores!) and après ski after a day outside, or have a full dinner conveniently located within the hotel. We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite that included a living room and a small kitchen, which was a perfect setup for families traveling with lots of kids. Also, the Well & Being Spa is on-site and a lovely indulgence if you have a little downtime.

              A Perfect Day looks like…

              Our family loves to ski – we love the connection that is created through conversation on the chair lift and the bonding of all sharing in the same sport. On top of that, you get fresh air and exercise (& the kids burn SO much energy!), which is always a win. So we’d start the day skiing, and afterward all head down to the hot tub for the adults to relax and recharge, while the kids continue to burn energy. Then we’d head to après ski, where the kids indulge in delicious hot cocoa and mom and dad have a well-deserved cocktail. We end the day with a dinner at Mountain Standard with vibrant, energetic scene and wood-fired food that manages to still be family-friendly.

              Kid-Friendly Activities in Vail

              Vail is all about outdoor adventures and while skiing is the main event there are lots of things for kids to do outside beyond practicing that pizza slice. 

              Vail Mountain Ski School. If your kids are new to skiing we loved their half-day classes - instructor Elliott was the best!

              Skating at Alderhof Ice Rink which is owned by Arrabelle Hotel is a fairy tale experience! Head to Rimini for hot cocoa and a treat afterwards.

              ● A Gondola Ride at Eagle Bahn based in Lionshead is free in the winter after 3:30pm.

              Vail Public Library is an insider indoor escape that’s perfect for young kids. Our kids loved the train table set, and the library also offers story and craft times for kids.

              Pirate Ship Park located near the base on the mountain in Vail village is a hit for kids as it’s a huge ship they can climb on. At times the ship can be icy, so make sure to scope it out before letting kids loose.

              ● Sunbird Park is a local favorite - they call it onion park! Located in the heart of Lionshead Village close to The Hythe hotel we frequented this park almost every day on our trip as it has tons of climbing activities that catered to both toddlers and older kids.

              Well and Being Spa (for mom)

              Pirate Park in VailPirate Park in Vailski class with preschoolersski class with preschoolers

              The Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Vail

              ● The Little Diner for Breakfast/Brunch! The restaurant is a legendary breakfast spot in Vail and is only open until 2 pm each day. The restaurant has traditional diner-vibes with built-in booths and red vinyl seats. It has super kid-friendly food and a vibrant atmosphere so you don’t have to worry about kids being a little noisy. Recommend arriving early to put your name in, as there is generally a wait.

              ● Bully Ranch for the variety of Southwestern and American menu options. We were greeted with a snowman outside and loved looking at the Western décor inside.

              Mountain Standard for the “fancy” experience, between the upscale mountain ambiance and the menu. The menu is loaded with local Rocky Mountain ingredients and many dishes are prepared over an open wood fire.

              El Segundo for the best Mexican food. The restaurant is high-energy and family-friendly.

              Margie's Haas for a convenient breakfast as it's located with The Hythe hotel, with vibes of a home-cooked meal.

              Gorsuch has the best slope-side hot cocoa along with Yeti’s Grind for warm drinks.

              Parents Night Out in Vail

              If you're there with the grandparents or managed to swing a sitter, there our our favorite places to head after bedtime. When its cold, its hot, so try to make a reservation or two when you book your hotel. 

              Montauk for seafood and steak highly recommended by locals. Along with delicious cocktails. 

              Slope Room for the ambiance and experience. The focus is on locally sourced food prepared in creative dishes.

              Matsuhisa for amazing sushi and sashimi along with a full Japanese-inspired dinner menu.

              La Tour Vail for French fare. During COVID, La Tour introduced outdoor/social-distanced igloo dining that many are hoping they bring back. 

              Sweet Basil for a Vail favorite with a rich history and trendy menu.

              10th Mountain Whiskey for après ski. 10th Mountain bar located in The Hythe lobby and partners with the local 10th Mountain Whiskey distillery. They offer fabulous cocktails in an upscale rustic experience.

              Four Seasons for a luxe experience. Our favorite of the several in-house restaurants is The Remedy lounge for a lively après scene.

              The best time to go to Vail is….

              This year we visited during opening weekend in November. With young kids it was a great time to visit as everything was less crowded and the kids could have a little more freedom running around. Also, the excitement of the mountain opening and the winter season ahead was pulpable! Vail generally opens earlier than many resorts in the country so it was fun to experience the buzz. That said, the town was still opening up and some things weren’t yet available during our visit (e.g., some of the ski runs were still closed, sleigh rides weren’t available, some restaurants hadn’t yet opened, ski school was on a walk-in basis, etc.)

              In the past, we’ve always visited in peak-season and the energy and comradery is unmatched, along with having all activities fully available – as long as you plan ahead. That said, peak-season brings a lot more crowds so there are pros and cons to each time of year.

              I always pack…

              For kid's winter snow outfits, we recommend a base layer of merino wool, which is excellent for keeping in warmth while also repelling water/perspiration. Then layer on a fleece or sweater – we recommend something made with wool or synthetic material that allows for breathability and moisture resistance (cotton is not a good option!). Of course, we would finish the look with a pair of Northern Classics bibs and winter coat, along with NC mittens and a hat! When skiing, we switch to a balaclava and helmet, as well as ski goggles. I designed Northern Classic coats with skiing in mind. They have Primaloft insulation which provides warmth without the bulk and allows for a full range of motion for kids, high waterproof and breathability ratings, soil-repellent coating on the shell to keep the coat clean, and built-in mitten clips to secure mittens directly to coat.

              With kids, always pack (a lot of!) snacks and some simple arts and crafts/activities for kids to engage with while out to eat.

              PS. Use our ski trip packing list if you're hitting the slopes soon.

              on the slopes in Vailon the slopes in Vailkids skiing in Vailkids skiing in Vail

              We love to bring home…

              My kids saved their lift tickets which are printed to small plastic cards and include a picture of them, so it feels like a very personalized souvenir (and so easy!) For older kids, we would recommend giving them a journal at the start of the vacation and having them write about their experience while there, which is a good activity to do when out to eat or unwinding before bedtime. If you’re looking for a little more splurge on your souvenirs, you can’t go wrong with some new western attire like a pair of cowboy/cowgirl boots and hat.