Summer Road Trip to Vail – Tips and Sights to See

Summer Road Trip to Vail – Tips and Sights to See

When you hear the term “family vacation,” you probably envision kids whining about being bored and fighting in the backseat of the car, just like in the movie “Vacation”, but this doesn’t have to be you.  Instead, as we approach the Summer vacation season, we want to alleviate that stress by sharing some tips on how to enjoy a pleasant and enjoyable “road trip” to the Vail Valley including some key sights to check out as you make your way out of Denver and through the mountains.   There are many delightful and historic towns along the way where you can discover everything from an operating steam locomotive that chugs over a 100-foot-high trestle and old deserted gold mines to hundreds of historic Victorian buildings, breweries, and some of the best riverside shopping in Colorado!

Getting Here

Vail is about 100 miles west of Denver, Colorado via Interstate 70.  As you cruise along, you’ll eventually go through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which runs under the Continental Divide in the Rockies, and is the highest vehicular tunnel in North America at an elevation of 11,013 feet at the East Portal and 11,158 feet at the West Portal. I-70 can be congested if you travel at peak times from Denver (between 2 and 6 p.m. on weekends), so, if possible, opt for off-peak travel times. (mornings or evening hours)




Before You Go

Don’t head out the door without making sure your vehicle is road-ready. A tire rotation and oil change are a great start, but you’ll also want to ensure that your auto insurance is up to date and that you have an emergency kit handy. A few things to pack, especially for high elevation driving, include bottles of water, oxygen, granola bars, a flashlight, and flares. A standard first aid kit may also come in handy. Make sure that someone knows where you are and what time you are expected at your destination.


Leave Early…or Late

Do you want to make a trip as pain-free as possible? Pack the kids in the car and set out early in the morning, preferably before sunrise. The kids will be so tired that they’ll sleep for a good portion of the journey. You’ll avoid traffic, saving you from rush-hour headaches. If you’re more of a night owl, leave for your vacation at night. This technique works extremely well with kiddos 2 years old and under. They’ll snooze away while you and your significant other enjoy some peaceful driving time.

Healthy Car-Friendly Meals

One of the pitfalls of long car trips is falling prey to fast food and convenience store snacks. But just because you’re on the go doesn’t mean you have to eat junk. There are plenty of healthy kid-friendly snacks and meals you can pack for your trip. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers and veggies with hummus, protein boxes and sandwich wraps are all smart choices. Fresh fruit and bottled water are family-friendly essentials, too. suggests packing your healthy munchies in small Tupperware containers with forks or spoons taped to the lid. Another smart way to pack healthy snacks is to nestle them inside pillboxes, perfect for your kids’ small hands.

Keep Them Entertained

Long car trips can drive parents insane if they don’t plan ahead. Before beginning your trip, pack some fun activities that will prevent your kids from complaining of boredom. USA Today recommends you bring car-friendly items such as books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, crayons, small dolls and cars, colored pencils and notebooks. Teens may want to do word searches, crossword puzzles or Sudokus. Let teens take turns using car bluetooth and their cell phones to act as DJ and play music for everyone to hear. Download audio books so the kids can listen to interesting stories as you travel.

 Helpful Resources

Need more resources to help you plan a smooth car trip with the kids? Scholastic provides a list of fun car activities for your children. AAA provides resources for parents planning road trips with the kids, and you can always access your destination’s official tourism website to get more information about fun places for your family to visit.

Taking a long road trip with your kids can be a wonderful time to bond with your loved ones, but it can swiftly turn into a nightmare if you don’t properly plan. Providing entertaining activities, leaving for your destination while the kids are sleepy, and packing healthy snacks are three ways you can enjoy a relatively stress-free trip. So before you get into the car to travel across the country, carefully plan your vacation. It just might keep you and your kids from going crazy!




Idaho Springs (Mile Marker 240)

This is the first real mountain town from Denver.  Colorado’s first major gold strike was discovered here and today the town’s historic main street is lined with Victorian buildings that have been converted to bars, breweries, restaurants and mountain gift shops. Beau Jo’s Pizza is a town institution. At the other end of Main Street, Tommyknocker Brewery has been turning out award-winning brews for 20 years.  Right in town, the Argo Gold Mine processed more than $100 million of gold in its day. Today, it’s a steampunk’s dream of mining equipment, shafts, belts, wood ladders and stairs.  After the tour, they’ll teach you the fine art of gold panning.

Georgetown (Mile Marker 228)

Home to one of America’s most beautiful main streets, silver made Georgetown rich and led to elaborate mansions and beautiful homes painted a rainbow of colors.   Because Georgetown never had a major fire, most of the original town is all preserved and today is a part of a National Historic District. There are Western book stores, rock shops, railroad stores, galleries, Native American artworks, cute little restaurants – and of course, the Western staple – saloons. You can also tour the 1867 Hamill House, the home of a former Colorado governor, or stop in to see the Hotel de Paris, one of the West’s most opulent hotels that served French champagne and oysters in the 1870s.  Finally, go for a ride on the Georgetown Loop, a short but thrilling – steam locomotive ride to Silver Plume, once a booming mining metropolis, but now a ghost town with dirt streets and old and empty false front buildings.

Silverthorne (Mile Marker 205)

Before 1967, Silverthorne was nothing more than a gas station and a construction camp for workers building the Dillon Dam. Today, it is home to over 4,000 people and offers one of the most beautiful shopping experiences in the nation – the Outlets at Silverthorne. There are more than 50 brands here, offering savings of up to 70 percent on Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Columbia, Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer, Under Armour and Levi’s just to name a few.  The shopping is split into three villages on both sides of the Blue River, which flows right through the center of town and is designated as a Gold Medallion Fishing Stream.  Ironically in Colorado, which was filled with gold and silver mines, Silverthorne’s name has nothing to do with the shiny metal. It was named after a local, Judge Marshall Silverthorn. Someone added the “e” along the way.

Frisco (Mile Marker 201)

Frisco was founded in 1870 as a mining town and had two railroads, a slew of saloons, shops and hotels.   However, by 1930 the depression hit hard leaving and only 18 people remained in town.  But, in the 1960’s, Colorado’s ski industry was born with Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain all just a short drive away. The town boomed again with the new “white” gold.  Today, there are over 3,000 full-time residents and 34 bars and restaurants.  From I-70, Frisco looks like a roadside collection of box stores, motels and fast food, but if you drive a mile off the highway to the historic downtown, you’ll see one of the prettiest main streets in Colorado.  These days, the main attraction is the Frisco Marina, which sits on the shores of 3,300-acre Lake Dillon. There are 25 miles of shoreline surrounded by mountain views, offering kayak and paddleboat rentals, sailboat regattas, boat tours, paddleboards, canoes, sailing lessons and waterside dining.




Buffalo Overlook at Genesee Mountain Park (Exit 254)

This 2,413-acre mountain park, the largest in Denver’s parks system, was acquired by the city in 1912 and was home to the first reestablished herds of bison and elk in the state. As you drive on I-70, take Exit 254 to the Buffalo Overlook to watch the grazing bison herd as you’re making your initial ascent into the mountains from the Denver metro area.

Buffalo Bill’s Grave (Exit 256)

Buffalo Bill Cody remains the ultimate Old West icon. One of his final wishes was to be buried on Lookout Mountain above Denver, and his grave site at Lookout Mountain Park is free to visit.  As part of the Denver Mountain Parks system, the park offers an engaging museum dedicated to the life and times of Buffalo Bill and his internationally known Wild West show.  Only 12 miles from Denver.  Overlooking the Great Plains and the Rockies with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, an observation deck is open to the public free of charge, picnic areas abound and a 1-mile hike connects the museum to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center. Inside the museum, you’ll also find firearms and Indian artifacts like Sitting Bull’s bow and arrows.

Sleeper House (Exit 254)

Located just west of Denver in Genesee Colorado, The Sculptured House – its official name – is visible to passing motorists heading west on Interstate 70. If you are a Woody Allen movie buff, you will also know this house from its appearance in the quirky 1973 sci-fi comedy Sleeper. Indeed, science fiction and comedy collide in this one-of-a-kind Colorado landmark built in 1963 by architect Charles Deaton. Locals have long referred to the structure as the “Flying Saucer” house or the “Jetson” house. It is probably the most iconic architectural landmark in Colorado, and certainly one of the most beautiful and exotic homes in the state.



 Make a point to visit the area during one of the many events happening this summer or choose for yourself by checking out our events calendar.  For kids, the GoPro Mountain Games June 6 -9) as well as the Vail Family Fun Fest (June 22 – August 8) and the Kids Adventure Games will easily grab the attention of children of all ages.   The Eagle County and Beaver Creek Rodeo’s are also good bets.


Blog Credits

Daniel Sherwin

Rich Grant


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