A Springtime Colorado Road Trip

Where to make the most delicious stops on a weekend trip from Denver to Vail

Once temperatures start rising, destinations like Vail, Colo., seem to fall off the radar. But the much-loved ski town has plenty to offer travelers year-round, and with its communal, resort-like feel, it makes for the perfect weekend retreat. Denver to Vail is a drive that most Coloradans make regularly, and now that the roads aren’t as icy and the skiers and snow-bunnies are starting to head home, it's prime time to take a weekend to get away from it all.

No matter what your budget, Vail resorts can accommodate, and the town has something for every trip style — full-service spas and mountain biking, gondolas for hiking and water rafting, golfing and horseback riding. Or, plan a road trip around the upcoming Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, which starts in June. So, here are the places we’d stop in Denver to stock up (especially since you never know how long you’ll have to endure the I-70 West), and where we’d stop along the way, with a few tips for eating once you get to Vail.

First, grab a coffee and pastry from Stella’s Gourmet Coffee and Such before you hit the road. You’ll be tempted to stay awhile, lounging at one of their outdoor tables, but stay focused. Call and order a boxed lunch from Tony’s Market, where they’ll pack up a sandwich, fresh-baked pastry, and salad to go, perfect for the car ride ahead.

No road trip would be complete without securing mainstays like fantastic cheese, homemade chocolates, and fabulous bottles of wine. Pop into Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, a Colorado staple, to pick up a signature box of their assorted chocolates; No one will ask "are we there yet?" if you quiet them down with some of these. Then, make your way over to St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop to stock up on a few well-chosen cheeses from their enormous selection of French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Swiss varieties. The cheeses can only benefit from homemade breads purchased from the Denver Bread Company, so a pit stop there is vital. Try some of their seasonal loaves and save some for an impromptu weekend picnic.

Of course, what would a weekend away be without a few bottles of wine? Pop into Marczyk Fine Wines for enough wines to last the weekend — they have nearly any bottle you could ask for, from Chilean reds to whites from Washington.

Now that you have bags packed more full of food than clothes, it’s time to hit the road. There’s not much to do for the first hour and a half, beyond turning up the volume on your carefully curated road trip playlist. But if you’re feeling hunger pangs around Dillon, pull over for a pit stop at the DAM Brewery. The designated driver may want to lay off the pale ales and stouts, but the DAM burger and brewery pretzels are more than worth it. 

Pulling into Vail, throw your bags down and stroll through town until you hit Bart & Yeti’s, where grilled portobello sandwiches await. Find a table at Minturn Country Club, Sweet Basil, or Mirabelle for dinners while you’re there. On the way back home, stop for coffee at Loaded Joe’s and the Vail Gourmet Cookie Company for a box of Summit cookies.