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Best Vail Nightlife

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Locals and visitors in Vail work hard during the day—the mountain air and altitude can take it out of you—and, as a result, the party starts early in Vail. Après-ski cocktails and happy-hour specials begin at 4PM and the town tends to shut down after dinner. There are some notable exceptions, though, as most bars are open until about 1:30AM. Several bars offer live music in the form of cover-song singing troubadours (Phil Long is a Vail icon), but the opportunities to bust a move on the dance floor are limited. Don’t be discouraged, though: dance skills are not what attract attention in Vail. Instead, a description of the impressive line you skied or trail you rode earlier in the day will usually suffice to start a conversation.

The George

Neighborhood: Vail Village
Located underneath the Mountain Haus near the Covered Bridge in Vail Village, The George is a hidden gem of a bar. It takes a bit of fortitude to navigate the dimly-lit corridor to find the entrance, but once you arrive, it’s worth it. With a longer-than-usual happy hour (3-7PM), The George combines an extensive bar menu with some serious specials like crab legs and steak for $16. With comfy leather couches and portraits of famous “Georges” dotting the walls, The George is a pub with a fervent locals (don’t worry—though they make a look a bit intimidating at first, these folk won’t bite) following and a rising reputation with visitors in the know. Play your cards right (and perhaps buy a round) and you could gain valuable insight into secret spots to explore in Vail.

Samana

Neighborhood: Vail Village
With a vibe mimicking that of a European dance club, Samana’s candlelit interior attracts a late-night crowd looking for techno tunes and martinis. You’ll see people wearing just about everything in Vail (jeans, snow pants, uber fur), but the best opportunity to break out the fun party clothes is at Samana. The club hosts a wide variety of parties for events such as the Teva Mountain Games and Spring Back to Vail; it’s the only place in town with VIP tables for special occasions. While Samana is one of the few places to really dance in Vail, the vibe can run a bit “cooler than thou” at times. Samana is closed on Sunday and Monday nights, so hit up the club for live music on Tuesdays or visiting DJs Thursday through Saturday. Samana opens fairly early, but doesn’t get hopping until at least 9PM.

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Loaded Joe's

Neighborhood: Avon
It’s a brilliant idea: A coffee shop during the day morphs into an entertainment lounge at night. Loaded Joe’s was so popular in Avon that it opened another location in Vail near the Covered Bridge, but the original is superior in its programming and vibe (the Vail location is a bit cramped). The leisure diversions at night range from open mic nights, bingo parties, karaoke and trivia to DJs spinning dance tunes. A bit off the beaten path (it’s in a nook off of the second main roundabout), Loaded Joe’s is hipster cool without taking itself seriously. A great place to grab a cup of coffee (be careful sinking into the couches—you may stay longer than planned) in the morning, the space changes mood in the evening as the curtain is pulled back to reveal the pool tables and stage.

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The Red Lion

Neighborhood: Vail Village
With its glass doors thrown open wide, you can hear the sounds of Phil Long’s melodious voice echoing through the streets of Vail. A staple of Vail’s nightlife scene for more than 20 years, Phil entertains the crowds with renditions of crowd favorite songs ranging from Bob Dylan to Train for two shows in the winter (après ski and 9-11PM) and one during the summer (7:30-11PM). Snag one of the high-top tables for you and your friends or venture out to the deck in the warmer weather—it’s not as crowded and you can still hear just fine. Shots are the drink of preference for this crowd, with a variety of bombs available: jager bombs, car bombs, cherry bombs.

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Garfinkel's

Neighborhood: Lionshead
Known affectionately as “Garf’s” by the locals, this ski bar is covered with memorabilia and detritus of the past 18 years (look around carefully to find the portrait of 15 nude skiers). The sunny deck provides plenty of space to relax after a hard day of skiing or mountain biking, and the beer selection is thoughtful with drafts from Deschutes Brewery as well as the usual suspects (Coors Light, Blue Moon). While Garf’s is a fantastic après ski location, don’t count on it for late-night antics—by 9PM the crowds clear out.

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