An Autumn Getaway to Vail, Colorado

by Brittney

A cozy weekend in Vail, Colorado is the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate! The charming little mountain town is the ultimate autumn destination for beautiful weather, great food and outdoor adventure!

Unable to escape to Europe to visit friends and family this year, we recently took a spontaneous trip to a beautiful mountain town with a very Bavarian vibe: Vail, Colorado!

Home to a massive ski resort with stunning views, it’s no wonder that Vail is an incredibly popular winter destination. But if skiing isn’t your thing, I would argue that autumn is the best time of year to visit this lovely town! With less crowds and beautiful weather, Vail is gorgeous in late September and early October as the aspen leaves begin to change.

vail village

autumn in vail

Although some shops and restaurants close in the off-season, it still seems like there’s always something happening in Vail! From farmers markets to festivals, there’s something for everyone. During our visit, the town was just gearing up for an Oktoberfest weekend with live music and traditional German fare!

Because our trip to Vail was short and sweet, we found hiking and wandering around the town to be more than enough to fill our days and still get in some rest and relaxation. But if you’re looking for a more active experience, you can check out all the adventures that Vail has to offer here.

what to bring to vail

With crisp mornings and sunny afternoons, it can be challenging to pack for Vail in the autumn. My main piece of advice is to bring layers — lots and lots of layers! The mornings and evenings can be quite chilly so I always made sure to have a sweater on hand, but the afternoons were around 75 F (24 C) and sunny so you can also get by with your summer outfits during the day! Because Vail is such an active town, most people dress pretty casually (even at the upscale restaurants). But you will still see a few people dressed to the nines. So you really can’t go wrong!

Since we spent one of our days hiking (we did the Booth Falls Trail), we also made sure to pack hiking shoes, sunscreen and quite a few snacks. Because Vail is so expensive and we didn’t want to spend time grocery shopping, we brought along our favorite on-the-go treats: dried fruits, trail mix and jerky. Having a good supply of snacks also turned out to be a great way to cut down on costs between meals in the expensive town!

vail, colorado

where to stay

Trying to find a place to stay in Vail during the winter months might, quite honestly, be out of our price range. Not to mention I really don’t think our little car would make it up those mountain roads if there was even a bit of snow! But we were pleasantly surprised to find that spending a few days in Vail was much more affordable in the off-season.

For this getaway, we were looking for something central to shops and restaurants with comfortable rooms and a relaxing environment. The Sonnenalp Hotel ticked all of those boxes. Modeled after its sister hotel in Bavaria, staying at the Sonnenalp was one of the highlights of our trip.

Our incredibly spacious room featured a fireplace, soaking tub and heated bathroom floors — the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking! And while spa services weren’t in our budget for this trip, we were still able to enjoy the sauna and spend some time in the heated outdoor pools with breathtaking views of Gore Creek.

food on a budget in vail

Cheap eats in Vail can be hard to come by — the breakfast alone at our hotel cost what we might normally pay at an upscale restaurant back home! To keep this trip affordable, we decided to find cheaper options for breakfast and lunch and only splurge a bit on dinner.

Even though we definitely made use of our hotel’s nespresso machine, by late morning we were already on the lookout for our second coffee of the day. It seems like you really can’t go wrong with coffee in Vail, but if you’re looking for an affordable option, we found Yeti’s Grind to have reasonable prices and quality coffee.

One of the nicest parts about visiting Vail in fall is that it’s still warm enough to enjoy outdoor cafes during the day. Our two favorite lunch and brunch spots both had outdoor seating: 

  • Westside Cafe: This little gem is actually located in West Vail and was a three mile drive from our hotel, but I definitely recommend making the short trip (even if parking in Vail can be a hassle). They have an extensive menu with quite a bit of variety and everything we ordered was delicious!
  • The Blü Cow: I wasn’t sure if I was going to love this place, but it turned out to be one of my favorite afternoons. They have swiss hot dogs (veal brats) which are covered in a curry sauce on a toasted baguette and topped with arugula. An incredibly simple lunch, but the flavors were amazing and it was absolutely wonderful with a cold glass of beer!

Other honorable mentions for a quick snack?

  • Joe’s Famous Deli: Great for deli sandwiches, delicious homemade ice cream and baked goods.
  • Delizioso: Coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and ice cream in the afternoon!

restaurants worth the splurge

There were also a few restaurants that made our list that definitely did not fit into the cheap eats category. Here are two restaurants that we felt were worth the experience (and the price tag):

Alpenrose is a cozy little restaurant that serves authentic Austrian and German cuisine. It’s actually quite reasonably priced, especially for Vail, but it can still add up if you want a pretzel appetizer, schnitzel dinner and strudel for dessert (and you probably do)!

Our other favorite dinner came from Slope Room, which actually opened less than a year ago. Using local ingredients to make creative dishes, this was definitely the most mouthwatering stop of the trip! Saffron arancini and colorado lamb loin were our favorite dishes from the fall menu.

For these restaurants, make sure you make reservations as soon as you can as they often fill up a day or two in advance in the fall (and much sooner in the winter)!

vail, colorado

a few practical tips

Parking and transportation in Vail: Parking in Vail is much easier in the autumn. Although many hotels charge around $50 a day for valet parking, we used a free overnight parking garage — you can find more info on that here. Vail also has a free bus system that runs regularly and is wonderful for getting anywhere you need to go. We used it to get to and from the hiking trail we took, but it’s also great for getting between villages or even to your car if you parked in one of the garages on the outskirts of town.

Plan ahead: If you decide to travel to Vail in the off-season, make sure to check activities and restaurants before you go. While a good number of restaurants remain open yearlong, there are quite a few that close. And if you’re interested in taking a scenic ride on the gondola, you’ll want to check the hours and days as they can be quite limited.

Planning a visit to Vail? Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to answer!

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