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Skiers head to Vail, Colorado from all over the world, but did you know it’s also a fantastic Fall destination? My family had an amazing stay at a European style resort, the Sonnenalp Hotel. How family friendly was this posh, 5-star hotel with an extensive spa area? What makes Vail Village such a unique and fun place to visit? And where can you find Swiss fondue to complete your Colorado-version-of-Germany experience?
Is this Germany? OrVail, Colorado? The autumn colors in Colorado are spectacular, but who knew that this mountain town also offered a German-style hotel? We recently discovered luxurious, family-friendly accommodations in Vail with a charming European feel at the Sonnenalp Hotel.
It’s easy to fall in love with Fall season in Vail, Colorado. Temperatures are pleasant, none of the typical crowds are around, and the area is packed with hiking trails through blindingly golden Aspen trees. Plus as an added bonus, many of the resorts and restaurants extend an off season discount.
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This 5-star, family owned resort is found in only two locations in the world: Vail, Colorado; and Ofterschwang, Bavaria, Germany. “Gemütlichkeit”, the warmest European hospitality, awaits you right in the Rocky Mountains.
With German-speaking staff from Austria and Germany, a Swiss Chalet fondue restaurant on site, and window boxes hanging from every room balcony (which had been changed to lovely pine foliage for the season), our Colorado getaway took on an exotic, foreign feel.
What Works for Families
- Sonnenalp Kids Club – This recreation program for children is FREE with your stay. It includes 2-hour sessions for kids ages 3-12, featuring organized activities, outings, and art projects. It was instituted about a year ago in an effort to make Sonnenalp one of Vail’s most kid-friendly resorts. The program is run by a former art teacher named Kara. Even my 11-year-old thought the activity list sounded really fun.
- Indoor/Outdoor Pool – What kid doesn’t love swimming? And it’s even more exciting in an indoor/outdoor pool. There’s also three hot tubs to get warmed back up, and lots of thick-cushioned patio furniture to lounge if parents don’t feel like getting wet.
- Thick terry robes for everyone to use, even the kids – The massage and spa treatment rooms, fitness center, steam rooms, saunas, yoga room, fireplace lounge, oxygen bar, and indoor/outdoor pool are all located within the Sonnenalp Spa area. Although none of the four adult-sized robes in our suite fit my 6-year-old son, upon our first visit to the spa, he was immediately issued a lush, child-sized robe.
- Spacious, comfortable rooms and connecting suites – A variety of different sized suites, or even connecting suites, are available to suit a range of family space and budget needs.
- Extensive, delicious breakfast buffet at Ludwig’s Restaurant – Sonnenalp has three on-site restaurants. Dining at Ludwig’s Restaurant for the extensive European-style, breakfast buffet and sitting in the sunny glass terrace are both musts. Views were spectacular, as were the selection and food.
TravelingMom Tip: The hotel’s breakfast buffet is $21 for adults and $14 for children, if you walk in. Or you can include it up front with your reservation and save money. I highly recommend you add it on to your room, for the additional $10 per person as it’s well worth the cost.
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- No gift shop store or vending machines on-site – My kids like to drink milk when they first wake up in the morning, and we had to locate and purchase this elsewhere. Look for deliZioso directly across the street, a small deli coffee shop that sells any toiletries, medicine, drinks, and snacks you may need.
- Quiet preferred at the spa – Although management described a specific time period in the afternoons between 3-6 pm when they try to keep the spa at a low-noise level, we heard a slightly different story from the spa staff. They were very friendly, and assured us they wanted the children to have fun. But upon each visit we were immediately asked to have the kids swim in the outdoor portion of the pool. The pool area has beautiful floor to ceiling windows, which unfortunately echo any and all sound directly to the massage rooms area.
A nice selection of accommodations are offered, from hotel rooms (1 king or 2 double beds), to four different sizes and layouts of suites. Prices range from $$ to $$$$$$. See details below on the money-saving Fall special, which includes 20% off regular rates.
Sonnenalp Hotel Vail ~ The Details
Valet parking is available for $32 per night. Free parking is available at the city parking ramp, 2 blocks away. The parking valets helped us with our luggage on both check-in and check-out time, and we utilized the free parking option. We walked everywhere during our 2-night stay (aside from one hop on the free city bus), and did not need our vehicle – so this worked fine.
If you do visit during ski season, it’s just a short 4-minute walk to hop onto Gondola 1 of Vail Mountain. The Sonnenalp has a ski valet to transport and store your gear at the base of the mountain for you, so you do not have to tote them back and forth.
You can’t beat the Sonnenalp location, right in the heart of Vail Village. We strolled directly from the resort down a brick-lined street where we were quickly absorbed in the charming Colorado ski town experience. High-end outdoor clothing shops abound (my weakness!), where I found and purchased my very first piece of Icebreaker merino wool base layer.
We loved the Vail Village open area plaza covered in AstroTurf where our kids played tag and gymnastics. With a waist-high railing circling it, I suspect this area is converted into an ice skating rink in the winter. In the morning, I grabbed a latte from the Yeti’s Grind local coffee shop and watched my kids play. In the evening, we were drawn again to this plaza by festive music and the gorgeous sculpture light show.
The town of Vail sits at 8,000 feet altitude. This is nothing to shake a stick at, and even we Coloradan’s noticed the effects of thinner air. More than once my active 6-year-old paused to rest, and declared, “Mom, my heart is beating!” It helped to drink lots of fluids. My husband even bellied up to the Sonnenalp spa’s oxygen bar to try out a 10-minute session ($2 per minute).
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Sonnenalp Hotel Vail ~ The Hotel
The Sonnenalp Hotel property backs up to an alluring mountain stream. They currently offer 217 available rooms, of varying sizes and layouts. I was told that it used to be 218, but they have taken on a permanent resident – a 90-year-old man who skies 100 days out of the year. He has apparently found his true home at the Sonnenalp Hotel. Especially during ski season, families often reserve adjoining suites for additional space.
On the Saturday night of our off-season stay, we stumbled upon some extremely talented live entertainment in the King’s Club lounge. I had to stop and listen to the guitarist for a few minutes, as I initially thought they were playing a Gordon Lightfoot track. The local talent they have brought in is definitely impressive.
Aside from how unique and beautiful the resort itself is, we found the warm and personalized service from the staff to be outstanding.
From the concierge giving helpful advice and making our dinner reservations, to the parking lot valet inquiring where we planned to hike… then recommending a more practical trail… and then driving us directly to the trailhead. When he dropped us off, he handed us his card and said to please call if we needed a ride or ran into any trouble. I was impressed by and appreciative of this authentic, sincere engagement.
Sonnenalp Hotel Vail ~ The Rooms
We stayed in the Vail Mountain Suite, which was so spacious that I joked we had to go searching for each other. Aside from leaving to go on a hike, or just do a little Vail shopping, we really didn’t even want to leave the Sonnenalp. The cozy fireplace and inviting views from our three balconies made our room incredibly relaxing.
Two down comforters on each bed provide you the option of sleeping with your windows open for that crisp mountain air while staying cozy warm. I quickly adjusted to having heated marble floors in the master bathroom. We utilized the four sets of terry robes and new terry bath slippers which were provided. Closets are spacious, and the shelf cubbies so convenient that we felt compelled to unpack.
This is one of those beautiful, comfortable spaces that will make you wish you could just move in.
Sonnenalp Hotel Vail ~ Amenities
Upon arrival, it took me about 90 seconds to detect the lack of coffee maker in our suite. I did panic at first. But breathed easier when I discovered darting downstairs to complimentary coffee service laid out the King’s Club every morning wasn’t too much of a hassle.
The website stated “refrigerator available upon request.”,but we had one already in place in our room. Personally, I like having that option for drinks and restaurant leftovers.
Each evening we received turn down service, to hoist those giant comforters out of your way. The turndown fairy also left us a large bottle of water and some oatmeal raisin cookies.
Spa, spa, spa! I can’t stress enough how lovely the spa area was, and how enjoyable that we could all go together as a family. Entrance to this area is included in your $35 daily resort fee.
Several times per day we’d throw on our swimsuits and robes, and head down to the spa. No need to worry about hydration. You can take your pick from numerous icy dispensers of cucumber basil or citrus water. My kids decided they were also fans of hot tea, I think primarily because they were intrigued by the fancy, complimentary tea station.
Don’t miss sneaking back into the women’s (or men’s) steam room area. Scented wet washcloths are chilled in a bowl, on hand for your post cool down session. Pure bliss! I also took advantage of the lounge chairs set up next to the babbling stream, running along the back of the resort near the pool area. It was just an incredibly relaxing experience.
Sonnenalp Hotel Vail ~ Dining
Three restaurants are available at the Sonnenalp Hotel Vail. We tried them all, and I can recommend two.
- Bully Ranch – most casual of the three, with a nicely done western décor. They will tell you it’s won the “Best Burger in Vail” award, but don’t be too quick to rush in and order one. We found the burgers a bit dry, and mediocre at best. If you do eat there, my recommendation is the fajitas (which smelled spicy and amazing, as they went sizzling by on a platter to another table) or the fish tacos (which the woman next to me said were delicious).
- Ludwig’s Restaurant – incredible breakfast buffet that is not to be missed. They are also open for dinner service in the winter.
- Swiss Chalet – A nod to the Sonnenalp’s Bavarian sister resort. They serve a house specialty of fondue and complete the Sonnenalp experience. My husband selected the cheese fondue, served with cooked potatoes, vegetables, and bread bites to dip. I chose the broth fondue, served with meat, raw vegetables, and dipping sauces. It was quite an experience for the kids, and we highly enjoyed this meal. Service was friendly and impeccable.
TravelingMom Tip: If you aren’t visiting in the slower off-season, make sure to secure reservations at the Swiss Chalet ahead of time. Most nights this restaurant is completely booked.
Fall Package Special at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail