Magical Experiences in Three Resort Towns That you Can’t Miss

As temperatures rise, head to Vail, Aspen and Steamboat to see what’s new and cool
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Master winemakers and wine enthusiasts gather in the Rockies for the annual Vail Wine Classic. | Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox Photography

Summer is in full swing, and realizing that your “must-do” list is woefully incomplete only makes it feel shorter. To help with the FOMO that ar- rives during these fleeting bucolic months, we’ve compiled what’s new and drive-worthy in three distinct mountain towns: Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs. From adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures to innovative culinary delights and cultural attractions, these destinations are perhaps even more at- tractive in the warmer months. From cowboy chic to just plain chic, this is just a small preview of what Vail, Aspen and Steamboat have to offer this summer. From the rivers (fly-fishing) to the sky (hot-air ballooning), there are myriad reasons to escape to the mountains before the leaves turn.

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Ethos/Opus is one of Vail’s most luxurious properties available for rent. | Photo courtesy of Triumph Mountain Properties

Bavarian vibes and elevated experiences in Vail

Vail is known for its picturesque Bavarian-inspired town center and world-class ski slopes. In the summer, mountain bikes and trail runners head for the hills, but there is plenty to do beyond the slopes, too. Soak up the sun at nearby Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, designated as such by President Biden in October 2022. The former training grounds for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II, this area offers mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and more at 9,200 feet above sea level.

After working up an appetite, head to Vail Village for a taste of the Black Forest at AlpenRose, which serves seasonal cuisine on a deck that encourages a leisurely meal. Looking for some modern flair? Chasing Rabbits is Vail’s newest social destination, featuring a restaurant, theater, library lounge, arcade and a speakeasy, all in one venue. Time your visit for Aug. 10-13 and enjoy a wine weekend with the Vail Wine Classic. This annual festival combines tasting events, live music and outdoor activities with fabulous wines from around the world.

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Fish Creek Falls in all its summertime glory with fresh alpine water cascading 280 feet, just minutes from down- town Steamboat. | Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber

If cultural activities are on the menu, soak up a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic during Bravo! Vail or new pieces during the Vail Dance Festival. Both take place in the incomparable Ford Amphitheater, which seamlessly enhances the beautiful outdoor setting in every performance.

For a truly unforgettable getaway, grab a few friends and reserve the Ethos and Opus homes. This ultra-luxurious property, located at 99-100 Vail Road, features six stories (15,000 square feet) of living space including two pools, two outdoor hot tubs, multiple fire pits, 360-degree views and bespoke design elements throughout. Rates start at $24,950 per night.

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Photo courtesy of Vail Wine Classic

Classic chic reigns in Aspen

A mining town turned iconic destination, Aspen is a cultural hub that offers a perfect blend of outdoor exploration and artistic pursuits—and though there are plenty of swanky shops and world-class dining options, don’t eschew this area’s funky side.

Begin your exploration at the Aspen Art Museum, a contemporary institution that showcases thought-provoking exhibitions like everybody rise, the first in- stitutional solo exhibition by Florian Krewer in the United States, on display through Sept. 24. Looking for a taste of the past? Wheeler Opera House, which opened in 1889, offers a variety of performances from concerts to comedy shows as well as history tours.

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Photo courtesy of Vail Wine Classic

Aspen and its environs are also a haven for foodies. If you missed the annual Food & Wine Classic in June, make a point to visit one of the many James Beard nominees who call the area home. Chef C. Barclay Dodge holds court at Bosq in Aspen, serving up seasonal cuisine that may have been picked that morn- ing. In Snowmass, chef Mawa McQueen combines African and Latin flavors at Mawita’s. For a lively brunch option, be sure to catch Drag Queen Bingo, hosted by the magnificent Kendra Matic, at The Collective Hall in Snowmass Base Village on select Sundays through September.

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival (Sept. 1-3) is the quintessential Labor Day party. This world-class music event brings together renowned artists from var- ious genres for unforgettable performances surrounded by stunning mountain vistas. This year’s lineup includes Foo Fighters, The Lumineers, Billy Idol and Old Dominion.

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Kendra Matic, one of Aspen’s most famous drag queens, hosts Drag Queen Bingo Brunch at The Collective Hall at Snowmass Base Village on select Sundays this summer. | Photo courtesy of Dave Clifford

Old West Spirit with New World Charm in Steamboat

In Steamboat Springs, the dress code leans more toward Carhart than Chanel— but that doesn’t detract from the wide range of cultural offerings on tap. Start at the Steamboat Art Museum, which showcases a diverse collection of Western and regional art that captures the essence of this vibrant region.

Though there are plenty of man-made wonders in Steamboat, it’s the natural beauty that attracts so many visitors. Fish Creek Falls, immortalized on the label of Coors Banquet beer, has various viewpoints for admiring the water- fall—choose from mild to more strenuous hikes. For amateur ornithologists, the 12th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the sight of greater sandhill cranes during fall staging, when the majestic birds gather in large numbers to feed and gain energy for their migration south. The festival includes guided crane viewing and bird walks along with exhibits, workshops and educational programming.

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With the goal of bringing fine art that reflects the culture and heritage of Northwest Colorado, the Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) exhibits give rise to unique programming for all ages. | Photo courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber

After working up an appetite, there are plenty of creative culinary options in and around town. Aurum, which now has three locations, is credited with elevating the dining scene in Steamboat—don’t miss the daily happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m. to sample some of its best-selling dishes. For adventurous eaters, The Periodic Table at Catamount Ranch golf club (10 minutes from the resort) changes menus (and concepts) seasonally; guests can get a taste of the Mediterranean this summer. Can’t decide? The Commons, Steamboat’s first-ever food hall, recently opened and overlooks Butcherknife Creek. Other stalls in the food hall offer poke bowls, wood-fired pizzas and Jamaican fare.

Katie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Eagle County. She’s written for a variety of newspapers and magazines including, and Hemispheres. When she’s not on her paddle- board, you’ll find her catching a show at the Ford Amphitheater or on a sunny patio during the fleeting days of summer.

Categories: Features, Travel