Wandering through Vail Village – a quaint morning journey through town

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not the fanciest gal in the gang. My travel style borders on vagabonding, and my adventures are always executed on a fairly frugal budget. However, my trip to Vail, Colorado was a glaring exception, thanks to my phenomenal parents who spoiled me with three days of indulgent mountain vacationing.

After a gnarly day of skiing in a mild snowstorm left me too exhausted and sore to hit the slopes again, I joined my mother for a morning spent exploring the charming (read: expensive) area of Vail Village.

We strolled through the cobblestone streets, admiring enticing window displays with exquisite clothing, not daring to enter the shops for fear of the inevitably outrageous price tags attached to everything. Alongside the exclusive boutiques sat restaurants, gear rental shops, and a handful of lodging establishments. 

As two women who pride ourselves on bargain bin finds and snagging swag during sales, we didn’t even bother stepping inside the ritzy shops – a 10% discount on a $200 jacket doesn’t quite tickle our fancy. Instead, we played with our cameras and searched for a tempting eatery as we planned the evening’s dinner.

Aside from the absurdly priced shops that line the quaintly designed streets, Vail Village is a great little area to spend a few hours meandering around, taking in the snowy sights, and ogling crowds of bundled-up skiers and snowboarders heading towards the slopes. 

Some of my favorite stops included the pedestrian covered bridge in the heart of the village, the Colorado Ski Museum (which is FREE), and the two ice rinks that sit in the middle of the shopping areas.

Okay, so maybe the Colorado Ski Museum is more of an extensive giftshop with a lot of really cool ski and snowboard memorbilia – and maybe it’s attached to the middle of the giant Vail parking garage – but check it out, it’s pretty cool!

To be fair, not every shop is loaded with overpriced clothing; we went into a few little stores that were pleasantly full of unique items and gifts. My favorite encounter was as my family during the morning before we jetted out of the mountains. My father realized something he’d forgotten and loudly said “Crap!” An eccentric woman standing in on of the shop doors, and proceeded to inquire if my dad planned on coming into her shop, since it was the least he could do considering he said “crap” in front of it. We all laughed, and proceeded to get lost in the beautiful ornaments and little decorations she housed in her shop. I’ve generally found that the folks who live and work in Vail are always in good spirits – and it’s no wonder why.

While I won’t likely return to Vail on my own dollar, it was a wonderful experience to spend a few days there with my family. Any occasion when I can share adventures with my parents is always thoroughly enjoyed, and it was great to finally try skiing in the Rocky Mountains before I left for Florida.

The five best joints to grab a great meal while visiting Vail, Colorado

There is only one thing I do better than exploring the outdoors, and that’s stuffing my face with tantalizing food. I’m partial to local eateries, but can easily be swayed by any savory wafting scent.

During my visit to Vail, CO, I honestly spent more time gorging my gut than I did burning off those calories on the slopes. My skiing may have only made it to the bunny slopes, but my dining experiences were certainly epic adventures.

Here’s a look at the best places to grab a bite while visiting the luscious mountainside at Vail:

Pazzo’s Pizzeria

Don’t let the restaurant name fool you; I munched on nary a thin-crust nor pepperoni during my visit to Pazzo’s Pizzeria. My mother and I stumbled upon this gem while wandering through Vail Village very, very early in the morning. I had worked up an appetite, so we randomly stumbled into this shop since the idea of a slice of pizza before 10:00 AM somehow sounded fantastic to me.

Of course, there was no pizza to be had. Apparently this place cooks up breakfast, and since I was starving, I decided to nix my early bird pizza fantasies and ordered a breakfast burrito. Holy mother of tortillas – this thing was unreal. I can’t even imagine how large the flour tortilla really was, nor do I understand how all the fillings fit inside the perfectly wrapped giant. The monster was stuffed with scrambled eggs, green pepper, onion, tomato, ham, and refried beans – then slathered with a spicy red chili, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

I think the picture speaks for itself, but this was hands down the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I would drive back to Vail solely to munch on it again – and I’m dying to try their pizza, because it must be phenomenal if their breakfast is this good.

The Little Diner

I already blogged about my adoration for The Little Diner, but this quaint spot deserves mention while talking about the best places to eat in Vail.

The tiny countertop seating area is jam-packed by 8:30 AM, a testament to this little joint’s big servings of awesome. You watch the cooks prepare each meal in the very small kitchen area, and I didn’t see a single thing roll out of there that I didn’t want to dig my face into.

On any other day, the bursting amount of food consumed during a visit to The Little Diner would have left me napping all afternoon with a seriously bloated belly, but it’s the perfect way to begin your day when you’re planning to spend an entire day traversing a mountain with two skis strapped to your feet.

My advice? They open up shop at 7:30 – so set your alarm early if you want to snag a seat without waiting.

Vail Chop House

Sitting directly across from the gondola at the bottom of the mountain, the Vail Chop House provides pristine views of the slopes, and offers a great outdoor patio that is surprisingly pleasant during a sunny day – even if it’s only 30 degrees outside.

My mother and I set up shop at one of the outdoor tables while we waited for my dad to finish up his morning ski runs. At first, we decided to only order drinks. We each ordered an ‘adult’ butterscotch hot chocolate – and it was lip-licking, belly-warming, sticky fingers wonderful. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and with liquor perfectly masked by the sweetest of butterscotch liquor combined with the smooth taste of chocolate and Bailey’s; this beverage was divine.

My father finally showed up at the bottom of the run an hour, and four hot chocolates, later. At that point, my belly had digested the massive breakfast burrito from earlier, and was ready to gorge again. We sampled the miniature sliders with a side of fries, and weren’t disappointed.

This place is slightly pricey, but still doesn’t even compare to the majority of expensive eateries found in sophisticated Vail.

Sushi Oka

With two drunk parents leaving dinner plans up to me, I did my usual research on Yelp before deciding to venture to Sushi Oka for our last night’s dinner. I’ve been on a bit of a sushi kick lately, so I wanted to see what Vail had to offer.

We made our way to Vail Village from our Marriott Lodge room via the complimentary shuttle service that runs throughout the vicinity, and quickly found the sushi shop, which I had noticed earlier in the day. We started the meal with edamame and sake, score.

I must admit, while I am smitten with sushi, I’m not the biggest raw fish fan – blasphemy, I know. I ordered a fat roll topped with baked halibut and stuffed with all manner of tasty ingredients like fresh crab and creamy avocado. It was fantastic, as was my mother’s order of pad thai. Unlike the traditional flavors of pad thai, this batch had a unique hint of tomato sauce that we all enjoyed – but be warned, it is extremely spicy.

Moe’s Original BBQ

This place deserves an honorable mention, not so much for their food, but for the atmosphere.

We sauntered over to Moe’s after the first day of skiing, totally exhausted, pretty drunk, and very hungry. Much to my delight, there was an excellent bluegrass band jamming out near the bar. +100 points for the banjo music.

I’ve eaten at a Moe’s BBQ in Denver once, but never got the chance to try their version of my two favorite barbeque stapes: mac-n-cheese and baked beans. Hats off to this joint for totally satisfying my taste buds with thick, sweet beans and hearty mac that filled my belly.

Another +100 for the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys. My parents and I had a blast munching on ribs, sipping our tall boys, and taking in the great music.

This is admittedly not the most amazing place to eat while you’re in Vail – but if you’re looking for comfort food, no-frills service, and a hospitable atmosphere, you’re in the right place.

I didn’t come to Vail for the food, but the tasty eats I enjoyed before and after my skiing quickly became some of the highlights of the trip. Where’s the joy in spending a day burning calories if you can’t refuel afterwards?

Looking for a casual, chummy stop for an après-ski libation? Check out Garfinkle’s at the bottom of the main slope, a few shops to the right of Vail Chop House. I didn’t eat here, so it didn’t have a place on my list of the best bites in Vail – but I downed my fair share of beverages with my ski lesson buddy Kelsey after our class ended. Strong drinks, reasonable prices, and a great atmosphere for us everyday folk.