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Old 06-13-2011, 12:27 PM
 
26 posts, read 14,900 times
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Default 10th Wedding Anniversary in Vail, Help me make it special!

Hello,

My wife and I live in the Houston, TX area and will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary on 8/18/11. I have made arrangements through priceline to fly into Denver at 10:30AM on 8/18 and take a rental car to the Vail Cascade resort and spa which I understand to be a little over 2 hours west. I did upgrade to the "deluxe mountain view" room which I hope will be money well spent.

We are hoping to remain in vail and the surrounding area for Thursday, Friday, and leave Sat. around noon to head back to the airport.

I wanted to do a few activities but still have adequate time for lounging, looking around vail village. I spoke with the people at Sage Outdoor adventures and thought about doing tubing on Thursday afternoon and just walk around vail village that night..then paragliding friday morning and horseback riding early friday afternoon with the rest of Friday afternoon/evening open.
saturday would be sleep in and enjoy the last bit of mountain scenery before driving to the airport and back to flat Houston .

My questions are:
1) Is there enough going on in Vail village to fill an afternoon or 2..is there something else I just MUST see/do while I'm there?
2) Any nice romantic restauraunts that won't hurt my already crying wallet too much?
3) Is Vail still crowded this time of year (mid august) or are the crowds "thinned out". I like quiet areas with minimal crowds but I realize I am going to a RESORT and tourist town .

Anyways..I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the area to make it as enjoyable a trip as possible. We haven't had a vacation of this scale since our honeymoon 10 years ago! I'm trying to make it as much of a surprise for the wife as possible and value your input if you have any experience with the area around mid-august.

Thanks for your time!
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:53 PM
 
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August is still "high season" for the summer tourist crowd in Vail.

Don't know what your interests are, so advising "must do" activity may be problematic.

The main attraction of Vail at this time is the outdoor activities in the mountains.

You might want to check the Vail Music schedule to see if there's a performance at the amphitheater that would be of interest to you ... and it's best to buy tickets in advance as they sell out almost every performance. Even if you can only get seating on the lawn (bring your own blanket), it's a wonderful way to spend an evening outdoors there.

I'd not want to miss the Betty Ford Gardens, either. But I have an interest in the high altitude horticulture ... so this may or may not be your cup of tea to visit. For me, it's a couple of hours to spend and there's lots of isloated benches and rocks and places to sit and contemplate the gardens.

Wandering around VailVillage for shopping doesn't do much for me ... but there's a number of high end shops, art galleries, and such to explore if that interests you. If you are a skier, you may find pre-season specials at those shops where they're trying to blow out last year's merchandise before stocking up for this year's ski season.

A bicycle rental gives you a lot of mobility along Gore Creek to explore the area ... if you are in shape to handle the exertion at altitude. You can ride all the way East to Vail Pass from your location on the West side of Vail .... if nothing else, ride through the various neighborhoods on lightly traveled streets.

I urge you to check out tripadvisor and similar restaurant ratings review sites, especially for more recent reviews that have been posted. There's a lot of flux in the restaurant scene in Vail ... some of the pricey places aren't necessarily so great anymore, and some of the less expensive places are ... in a word, horrible. I was in Vail a couple of weeks ago and my food experiences ranged from food poisoning to simply terrible food at any price, to a very good experience at the Westside Cafe (close to where you are staying in West Vail, in the Holiday Inn). Going back this week again, and I hope to do better with different choices this week. I'll try Russell's again, but I'll skip the Ore House. Probably head over to Blu's for a meal or two, but it's an unusual menu and you need to check it out (posted outside, like many places in Vail) before you head in ... it may or may not appeal to your taste, and the latest reviews suggest uneven service (although I've always had good service there ... love the outdoor seating overlooking the creek). Over the last 30 years, I've had some wonderful romantic meals ranging in price from $$ to $$$$ in Vail ... but again, I'll caution you to read the latest reviews because my experience of years ago in a place is not necessarily what you'll find there today.

You may want to consider some of the down-valley restaurants. Typically less expensive than the core VV places, and sometimes a better value. Don't forget to get a copy of the Vail Daily and check the ads for local's specials/discounts on dining. They offer discounts on the whole tab or a bottle of wine or a similar promotion. Places like the Minturn Country Club ... a cook your own entree place ... can be fun and a good value.

If you have a full condo with a functional kitchen, you may want to consider heading over to City Market or Safeway and buying much of your food for the duration of your stay. Prices are pretty comparable to the front range of Colorado, and City Market does a good job with fresh vegetables/produce and main entrees. I like this option for the freedom it gives us while staying in Vail ... we're not tied to finding a restaurant for every meal, especially if we're outdoors during the day away from town. I look forward to a lot of that, so it's part of the trip for me ... I know some people look upon a trip like you're doing as a vacation from that, but I prefer the freedom and the quality of food choices I can make this way. To each their own ....

Have fun and enjoy Vail. With all the moisture in the mountains this season, it should be greener than normal even into August this year.

Oh ... don't forget there's the golf and tennis in the valley, too ... if that's your pleasure.

Last edited by sunsprit; 06-13-2011 at 01:06 PM..
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Old 06-13-2011, 01:45 PM
 
26 posts, read 14,900 times
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sunsprit,

thanks for the detailed review and helpful information. My wife would definitely enjoy the Betty Ford Gardens so we could definitely do that Friday night. I'll be careful about the restaurants as well . We'll be in a regular hotel room (they call it a Deluxe Mountain View room) so we won't have a kitchen. I do like the idea of making your own stuff though .

Now my next questions is probably VERY subjective and requires a crystal ball, but is "high season" generally elbow to elbow crowds and lines to get in the stores or more moderate crowds/waits? I can always adjust my activities accordingly

ooh and one more question, how is the drive from Denver to Vail? It's I-70 all the way..just wondering if it's very scenic/busy/etc. I'll be traveling from Denver to Vail at about 11AM-1PM Thursday, August 18 and from Vail to Denver at about 12-2PM Saturday, August 20th.

thanks again for your help!

Last edited by dlvonde; 06-13-2011 at 02:54 PM..
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:50 PM
 
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I love The Vail Cascade, on of my absolute favorite hotels, the service is incredible and the setting lovely. The Atwater on Gore Creek, the restaurant in the hotel is pretty good. I would definitely skip Sweet Basil's, I was there in December and thought it was medicore and way over priced. Russels Steakhouse in Vail Village is good and not as expensive as other restaurants. If you mind a drive to Edwards, Juniper is really good and DISH is a fun tapas restaurant.

We did horseback riding at 4 Eagle Ranch Outdoor Activities Vail Colorado. It was great! Beautiful scenery and great horses, not your typical trail horses. We did the cattle round up, what blast. The pool at The Vail Cascade is lovely, it's right on the creek with a great bike/walking path that runs behind it all the way into Lions Head and beyond.

Have a wonderful trip, you picked a great location. And by the way, it won't be elbow to elbow.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:15 PM
 
Location: CO
2,320 posts, read 3,825,328 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlvonde View Post
. . .
ooh and one more question, how is the drive from Denver to Vail? It's I-70 all the way..just wondering if it's very scenic/busy/etc. I'll be traveling from Denver to Vail at about 11AM-1PM Thursday, August 18 and from Vail to Denver at about 12-2PM Saturday, August 20th.
. . .
Barring accidents or unusual circumstances, travelling at those times I-70 will be moving at over the speed limit for your whole trip.

Is it scenic? You'll be in the midst of extraordinary scenery, but it's an interstate highway. You'll find it scenic if you've never been to the area before.

If you have the time, pull off the highway at some of the scenic turnouts and enjoy the view.
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Old 06-13-2011, 07:43 PM
 
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thanks everyone for taking the time to chime in on your Vail experiences. your input is greatly appreciated! There were some activities I was really interested in but wanted to limit my driving to 30 min. away at most. Call me lazy but I'd like to be able to go from one thing to the other without a lot of time/driving. This is just a personal preference however. I was thinking of using Sage Outdoor adventures and going tubing shortly after getting there, then maybe renting some segways from them to zip around the village (I've never ridden on one of them and thought why not on vacation :P). I was going to use them for their paragliding but I found another company called vail valley paragliding that is signifigantly cheaper. The horseback riding will be local and I haven't really made a decision on that yet..there seems to be lots to choose from!

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging words as well..it helps to hear from others that this location is a good choice! Yes I'm sure I'll be thrilled with the scenery on the drive there..we can take it slow as we'll get to denver at 11 and hotel checkin isn't until 4
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Old 06-13-2011, 07:47 PM
 
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"high season" in the summer is still fairly relaxed in the Vail Valley, certainly not elbow-to-elbow crowds and it's easier to get into most restaurants ... although it's reasonable to expect a bit of a wait during the main dinner hours in the evening. I think the longest I've waited was 15-20 minutes for a table, so it's not terrible. Of course, reservations if you're looking at a higher end restaurant are a help ...

Interesting comment above re Sweet Basil's ... I'd written them off years ago after a couple so-so pricey meals. Can't say how many times I've walked past their place, checked the menu/prices ... and walked on. It simply wasn't calling me to try them again.

Your mid-day drive times will be avoiding the crush of Denver's rush hour traffic. Once past Evergreen, you're into the mountain travelers of further destinations and much less traffic.

I'd figure on taking some time to enjoy the drive into the hills ... you may find Idaho Springs or Georgetown of interest. Both old mining towns, with shops ranging from tourist trap souveniers to some antique shops with a lot of the old mining history and related items for sale. I can spend hours browsing in some of those due to my interest in the mines and mining of the area. There's a few decent restaurants in those towns, too, so it may be timely to stop enroute to Vail. The Georgetown Loop railroad is worth checking into if you are in to narrow gauge working rail of the mining era ... I'm partial to Shay locomotives and they have one there. Even if you don't take the rail ride, it's worth the time to visit the yard and the display they've got.

Keep your eyes open for the wild big game animals in the high country along I-70. No way to predict right now if they'll be in the area for your visit, but they do appear along the ridges and mountainsides along the highway. You will sometimes see a number of cars parked along the side of the road ... so scan ahead and see if you too can spot what they are looking at. Officer's Gulch ... the area from Frisco to Copper Mountain, is where I've seen a lot of wildlife through the years.

I'm hoping Wannero has some input on your planned travels. IIRC, he also was in Vail recently for a stay and had some comments about places to stay ... things to do, etc
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Old 06-13-2011, 09:53 PM
 
9,703 posts, read 12,026,104 times
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Well a lot of ad hoc stuff to toss in to add or support what has already been written.

1. I-70 travel should not be a problem at those particular times, unless there is a rock slide, accident or road work. The likelihood of that happening to slow you down for a long time is not high but it can and does happen. On the way up in Idaho Springs, Beaujo's Pizza is my common stop for lunch.

2. The trip up on I-70 doesn't have much scope for variation on the route as any diversions such as US 285 or US40 can add hours to the trip. One little diversion you can take is US 6 over Loveland Pass instead of the tunnel, if you want to stand at near 12000 ft. Exit at MM216 and go over the pass and stay on US 6 until it joins back up at I-70 MM205. Takes 30 minutes to an hour to do that. Just be prepared to gear down and don't burn your brakes up.

3. The Cascade is a nice place overall. I've been there a 1000 times. It's nearly 30 years old now and was once one of the most popular places but is now getting overshadowed by the mega luxury places built for the mega rich. For some the main drawback with the Cascade is the location, 2.5 miles to Vail Village.

The paved bike trail runs right past the Cascade. All you gotta do is walk out the back behind the pool or another exit and you should bump right into it. If you ride uphill, Vail Village is 2.5 miles and Lionshead Village is about a mile. You can walk it too. Nice path. It ran in front of my apartment complex a few miles below the Cascade and I used to ride it up to East Vail and back down for exercise.

The Cascade sometimes runs a shuttle bus up to the village.

3. Something that must be seen in Vail Village? Um.... Mostly it's just nice shops and some restaurants that cater to tourists. It's a nice village to walk around and nice atmosphere, but it's just a tourist area, an upscale one at that.

In Lionshead Village there is the gondola which you can ride up to the top of the mountain if you want to check that out.

4. Nice romantic restaurants that wont hit the wallet? I'm not much of a romantic anymore, so I don't look for things like that, but some of my old favorites in my recent trips have fallen off the wagon or on hard times. Vail has a lot of what I call "artistic dining" where presentation is most important, not the heartiness of the food, so often you need a Sub or Pizza later to actually fill you up.

A lot of the better restaurants are down valley.

In the villages, a lot of people either have a love/hate feeling for places there, not much in between.

If having a romantic dinner is important then I'd research it well.

I will say Sweet Basil is the most overrated place in the valley and I've talked to hundreds of people about it, most don't like it at all and only a few think it's just incredible. Kelly Liken is another over hyped place that ends in a lot of disappointed people.

5. Crowds? Summer is very relaxed in Vail. There will be people, but as someone that doesn't like crowds, I never had an issue and I lived in Lionshead at one point as well and I had tourists underneath my living room every day. Didn't bother me.

In winter time, I always found the tourists were like possessed people hellbent on skiing, skiing, skiing. In summer it's an opposite contrast.

6. Weather should be good, but I always noticed the first twinge of fall around August 15 with shorter days and cooler nights. Day temps will be anywhere from 65-85. Just be aware that Vail can get thunderstorms or rain showers occasionally in the afternoon. Depends on the year, sometimes it can be an every day thing, sometimes it's dry as a bone for weeks on end.
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Old 06-13-2011, 09:58 PM
 
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The Vail Cascade has a free shuttle that runs every 15 minutes to Lions Head and Vail Village
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Old 06-13-2011, 10:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlvonde View Post

Now my next questions is probably VERY subjective and requires a crystal ball, but is "high season" generally elbow to elbow crowds and lines to get in the stores or more moderate crowds/waits? I can always adjust my activities accordingly

ooh and one more question, how is the drive from Denver to Vail? It's I-70 all the way..just wondering if it's very scenic/busy/etc. I'll be traveling from Denver to Vail at about 11AM-1PM Thursday, August 18 and from Vail to Denver at about 12-2PM Saturday, August 20th.

thanks again for your help!
Tourist traffic starts to wind down as kids go back to school and Labor Day weekend is the last big bump until it peters out by the end of September.

Vail is not the scope and size of something like Disney World or set up that way.

The only thing is that some of the better restaurants on Friday or Saturday night might require a wait or a res, but that isn't different from anywhere really.

Scenic I-70? That is purely subjective. I have driven I-70 around 1800-2000 times between Denver International Airport and Vail. For me I'd say that yeah it was a nice road to drive and has some scenic spots. The most incredible road around, no. But still decent. For a flatlander they might find it completely spectacular and many do.
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