Vail on foot
The city invites walking, since, like many Alps ski towns, its heart is a pedestrian-only village that's well worth exploring. Park in the village lot off North Frontage Road, then stroll west across the covered bridge. To check out the shopping, head up Bridge Street to Gore Creek Drive. One good stop is Gorsuch, but skip the store's swanky resort clothing. Instead, head downstairs to browse the classic German-style housewares, like antique cuckoo clocks, pewter candlesticks, and staghorn-handled knives. If you're looking for some sturdy furnishings to bring back to your own mountain haus, visit Menzel Wood & Iron. Owner Dieter Menzel carries hand-carved decorative woodwork in the Bavarian style, made using antique pine from Alpine farmhouses.
When you're ready for lunch, grab a sidewalk table under an umbrella at Pepi's. It's part of the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, a Vail mainstay since 1964 and one of the first hotels in town. If you want a taste of Austria, this is the place, with jägerschnitzel and sauerbraten on the menu. Pepi's Bar is a lively nightspot, and you might bump into the hotel's Austrian-born owners, Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer.
Spend the afternoon wandering on up through the village ― but watch your footing if you find yourself on one of the cobblestone byways. Or emulate the fitness-minded Swiss and take a longer walk: Head back to the covered bridge, where you pick up the Gore Creek Trail. A short walk east brings you to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, edged with turning aspens, rock gardens, and waterfalls. Take the trail back to East Meadow Drive, passing burbling Gore Creek along the way.
Time your walk along East Meadow right and you can watch and listen to the glockenspiel on the tower of the Village Center D Building. Its 19 bells, cast in Germany, play music daily, and a dirndl-clad figurine strikes the biggest bell hourly.
If you've worked up an appetite, head over to the Sonnenalp Resort ― a spectacular setting in Bavaria inspired the theme of the hotel and its name, which means sun on the mountains--for a luxurious dinner at Ludwig's Restaurant. The decor is Bavarian, but the menu is contemporary American with French influences; don't miss seasonal desserts like the warm macadamia-nut chocolate cake. Then, as the sun sinks behind Vail Mountain, move over to the Sonnenalp's King's Club for after-dinner drinks in front of the roaring fire.