Whether you’re here to ski or skip through summer meadows, use this gilded Gravity Haus address as your spoiling base in the Centennial State.
Soaring snow-capped peaks, blistering blue skies, perfect-powder pistes – Colorado winters are skiing nirvana. Then, with the thaw, a new landscape of pine-scented trails, white-water rivers and wildflower meadows is revealed. In the heart of the Rocky Mountains sits Vail, gateway to one of North America’s most popular ski resorts. Fresh for the season with a prime creek-front position is Gravity Haus, the second from the eponymous hotel-cum-member’s club group after a debut in Breckenridge. With its snazzy grown-up vibe, super snug rooms and stellar wellness offering, there’s no better base for taking on Vail.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
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Housed in the former Vail Mountain Lodge, a major refurb has elevated this spired landmark hotel to loftier heights of style and sex appeal. At its heart is The Slope Room, where blue velvet banquettes and crystal chandeliers set the tone, enhanced by handcrafted cocktails and local drafts. The food here is Old West with a modern twist, placing a strong emphasis on local, seasonal produce. A cafe roasts small batches on a zero-emission roaster. Rooms crank up the cozy with gas fireplaces and bathrooms with deep tubs and heated stone floors. Topping it off is a superb recovery-focused spa complete with organic oils and outdoor hot tubs, perfect for après-ski soaking.
Just a couple minutes’ stroll from the hotel, this free-to-enter museum takes you on a journey through the history of the mountains. Learn how Vail evolved from a remote area only accessed by the native Ute people as a summer retreat, to its role in the Gold Rush and to becoming America’s top ski resort. It also tells the story of the 10th Mountain Division – America’s elite WWII mountain soldiers – who trained here. You can jump on a guided tour for a small fee.
For a full-on Austrian-Alpine experience, there’s only one place and that’s Pepi’s. Built in the style of a traditional European chalet by acclaimed ski racer Pepi Gramshammer, this has been a Vail landmark since its early days as a resort. Dining mixes American classics with hearty Austrian cuisine, the likes of schnitzels and bratwursts, which can be enjoyed on the popular covered and heated terrace. Inside, choose from a range of Austrian beers at Pepi’s Bar while you peruse the wall of fame and Pepi’s collection of racing medals.
For a wholesome stroll through nature without having to don your hiking boots, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens distills a wonderful array of mountain flora – both native and from around the world – into immaculately landscaped grounds. They’re the highest botanical gardens in North America and showcase more than 3,000 species of high-altitude plants. Even over winter, it’s a lovely place to while away an hour or two but return in summer to see the gardens explode into color.
No self-respecting Colorado town is complete without a brewery and this veteran- and ski-bum-owned outfit is Vail’s best-known and multi-award-winning brewer. You can choose from around a dozen own-brews at the fun and friendly tap house, from their quaffable Hot Mess Blond Ale to the punchy, hoppy Gore Creek IPA. There’s a tasting flight if you want to try a selection, plus their excellent kombucha if you’d rather keep your mountain head clear.
If you favor the grape over the grain, then this refined wine bar is just the spot to sample from over 50 labels in a sophisticated-yet-unpretentious ambiance. There’s a tightly curated wine-by-the-glass menu, or a more extensive choice by the bottle, with prices ranging from accessible to blow out. Pair with cheese or share a small plate or two while you quaff. Oysters are flown in daily from the West and East Coast, so you can’t get fresher in Vail.
A real locals’ favorite, this unfussy restaurant has been serving up a menu of Tex Mex and authentic Mexican flavors since the early Seventies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a friendlier restaurant to chow down on sizzling fajitas or bulging burritos. It scores highly for location, too, with a terrace affording views over Pepi’s Face – a spectacularly steep ski run. If you’re still feeling chilly, you can pick from dozens of tequilas or their double-shot margarita, dubbed ‘The Troublemaker’.
Known as ‘The Amp’, this fabulously intimate-yet-open amphitheater treats audiences to a packed program of summer shows, live music and dance. You can choose from reserved (and covered) seating or a spot on the sloping grass, surrounded by pine woods and dramatic mountain scenery. Food and snacks are available on-site, or pack yourself a picnic, blanket and umbrella (just in case) and really make an outdoor experience of it.
Keen to immerse yourself in mother nature, but don’t want to get lost in a forest? The Vail Nature Center is housed in a quaint, 1940s homestead, set in seven acres of picturesque scenery between mountain meadows and the forested bank of Gore Creek. Inside, you’ll find exhibits to help you swot up on local flora and fauna, plus you can arrange guided walking tours including wildflower hikes, beaver pond tours and stargazing excursions.
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meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.