Vail Oktoberfest: Head to The Hills For Some Family Fun

“Yah, yah, yah, yah” robustly sings the lively—but not rowdy—crowd gathered around an oom pah band during Vail’s Oktoberfest. Robust smells of grilled bratwurst and spit-roasted pork blend with lively strains of Bavarian music, while visitors dance to the lively beat on the Vail streets.

Vail is a famous ski destination in the winter, but this scenic Colorado mountain town also boasts one of the best family-oriented Oktoberfests in Colorado. My grandchildren love the children’s play area and the strolling clowns who twist balloons into whimsical shapes.

Vail really roll out the welcome every year during its Oktoberfest. This year the festival is held September 9-11 in Lionshead Mall and September 16-19 in Vail Village. The fun starts on Friday night and continues through Saturday and Sunday.

Activities include bratwurst eating contests, Beck’s adult keg bowling and the fun run of varying lengths for children and adults. All Oktoberfest festivities are free except for the fun run to benefit Children’s Garden of Learning. The run starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept 18 in Vail Village. For more information on activities and to register for the fun run, visit

A Culinary Capital

Vail continues to gain recognition as a small but impressive Colorado culinary capital. Whether you dine in town or on top of the mountain, visitors enjoy a delightful mix of culinary attractions from grilled burgers to organic entrees prepared by world-class chefs in both casual and elegant settings. From hip spots to cool classics, Vail also blooms with nighttime activity when the sun goes down.

For German food in Vail, we walked to Pepi’s, which is located in the Gastof Gramshammer hotel in the heart of Vail Village. Owned by Pepi, an Austrian ski racer and his wife Sheika, the restaurant has been part of the local dining scene since 1964. The sun deck is a good spot to watch the local action.

Lingering Longer

After the Oktoberfest crowds are gone, we sometimes linger another day to stroll through picturesque Vail. My husband and I remember visiting a very different rustic Vail in the 60s when this Colorado town had only one ski lift. Now I like to just sit on a comfortable wooden bench in the golden autumn sunshine and observe the people passing by.

It’s easy to explore the town by foot or by using the free shuttle bus. The shuttle connects Vail Village and Lionshead Mall and also connects East Vail to West Vail, but it’s faster to drive between these two points and park in the big garages.

Near the covered bridge in Vail Village is the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, 231 S Frontage E, which highlights the history of skiing, especially the influential role of the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale during World War II. Located at the top of the Vail Village parking structure, it is the keeper of great skiing heritage and history, including the Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Exhibits include a timeline about Colorado skiing, Olympic and World Cup memorabilia, the 10th Mountain Division, the Evolution of Snowboarding, and the Spirit of America’s Champions.

Even though it’s already fall during Oktoberfest, the wildflowers still bloom in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, 530 S Frontage Road in Ford Park, and the highest public alpine gardens in North America. We took a guided walking tour and learned more about these magnificent flowers and plants that thrive in Vail’s high altitude climate.

Before leaving Vail, I like to feel the early snow crunch under my shoes when I ride the gondola to the top of Vail Mountain and walk the ski trails. This reminds me that winter is not far away and that soon these resorts will be bustling with skiers. But for now, I savor the quiet beauty of a golden fall day after an exhilarating weekend.

If You Go

For information on Vail’s Oktoberfest and attractions, visit or

Margaret Malsam is a Colorado freelance writer who has written numerous books.