Free is good, for Eagle County residents

Allyson Litt
Daily file photo

We’re all tourists; some of us just stay longer. That’s an important thing to remember in this town, where it’s easy to start taking events, even free events, for granted. Word to the wise: Don’t do that. Channel your inner visitor mentality and look at the summer calendar with fresh eyes.

The weather is warm, the flowers are in bloom and the local residents have retired their snowboards in exchange for mountain bikes. As summer gets into full swing in the valley, there are plenty of activities to keep you out of the house. In fact, there’s so much to do, it may seem a little overwhelming. Whether you grew up in the surrounding Vail area or are just passing through, there’s one word that can ease the planning process and its affect on your wallet: Free. Here are a few upcoming free events we think are worth jotting down on your calendar.


It wouldn’t be summertime without live music, and lots of it. Thanks to free weekly concerts provided by the Vail Valley Foundation, you’ll be sure to hear it all, from bluegrass to rock and alternative. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail brings numerous acts to the stage as part of the Hot Summer Nights Series. Held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m., the first concert is slated for June 18, when Chicago’s Freddy Jones Band brings its roots rock and versatile sound to town. Additional performances for this concert series include The Dunwells, Honey Island Swamp Band and many more.

Eagle Town Park is the place to be Thursday nights this summer, where you can lay down a blanket, relax on the field and enjoy concerts beginning at 6:30 p.m. The ShowDown Town Eagle Series kicks off July 11 with Dixie Leadfoot & The Chrome Struts. For the full schedule, visit

If string quartets and classical flutes are more to your style, the Bravo! Vail music festival kicks off June 28. Bravo! Vail celebrates its 26th season this year and brings some of the nation’s finest orchestras to town. Bravo! Vail will put on 14 hour-long chamber music shows at the Valley Interfaith Chapel, The Chapel at Beaver Creek, around Gypsum and throughout the valley. You can catch the first free concert, Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, at 1 p.m. on July 2 at the Vail Interfaith Chapel.

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Wander through the gardens

Vail prides itself on outdoor culture, and with breathtaking views of the mountains from every angle, this lifestyle is easily accessible and even easier to take advantage of for no cost. The Betty Ford Botanical Gardens located in Ford Park is the world’s highest-altitude botanical garden in the world, sitting at 8,200 feet. Like those who have lived in New York City for years and still have yet to venture to the top of the Empire State Building, there’s no excuse for overlooking this majestic assortment of flowers, rock gardens and waterfalls. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk with no admission fee, however donation boxes are scattered throughout the gardens. Although guests are encouraged to take their own journey through the garden’s many scenic paths, for $5 you can take a guided tour. The Betty Ford Gardens also offer yoga for $12 a session in the Alpine Plaza, as well as cooking demonstrations from local chefs. For a full calendar of events, visit

Reading, fishing and biking

Gore Creek Fly Fisherman offers complimentary daily casting clinics to guests in any one of its locations. Clinics start at 10:30 a.m. and are ideal for beginners or those wanting to improve their technique. Fly Fishing Outfitters also offers free casting 101 clinics at Nottingham Lake in Avon, and Minturn Anglers offers free daily fly-fishing lessons at the Vail shop in Solaris from 8 a.m. to noon seven days a week.

If you’re interested in finding something the whole family can participate in, then Vail Sports has free Family Fun Rides going on now through Labor Day. These guided tours are one hour and go through Lionshead Village, Vail Village and Golden Peak; you can bring your own bike or, for $18 (that’s the starting rate for two hours), rent one.

For the little ones, story time provided by the Vail Public Library offers group songs, readings, arts and crafts, and more during its free sessions. Baby story time is held on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., toddler story time is for children 18 to 30 months, which is every Wednesday at 10 a.m., and preschool story time is for 3 to 5 year olds on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

When you need a break from the resort atmosphere of Beaver Creek and Vail, head to the quaint town of Minturn. Nestled off U.S. Highway 24, this old mining town is full of restaurants, shops, art galleries and even a high-end consignment store. Whether you’re strolling, shopping, schmoozing or sipping vino at Minturn Cellars, this historic town is definitely a sight to see.

This summer, vow to take advantage of all that is free in our land of good and plenty. Cheers to summertime!

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