Scenic view from the Maroon Lake in Colorado, one of the attractions that makes Aspen the winner of Aspen vs Vail vs Breckenridge

Aspen vs Vail vs Breckenridge (Which is Best in 2022?)

If you’re debating Aspen vs. Vail vs. Breckenridge, I’m a local here to help you understand each of these Colorado mountain towns’ pros and cons. All feature fun things to do, lively downtown areas, and some of the best slopes to ski in Colorado

In this guide, I’ll share information about each town’s accessibility, attractions, places to stay, and general costs. With these insights, you’ll be able to narrow down which of these resort towns — Aspen, Vail or Breckenridge — best fits your budget and interests.

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Which is Better: Aspen or Vail or Breckenridge? 

Comparing Aspen vs. Breckenridge vs. Vail, Aspen is the best overall destination, in my opinion. From world-class skiing to boutique shopping, spas, and luxurious lodging, this mountain town is hard to beat. However, Vail and Breckenridge win points for their affordability and family-friendly attractions.

Advantages of Aspen 

Skiers and gondolas at the Aspen Mountain Ski Resort
(photo: Steve Boice / Shutterstock)
  • World-class skiing at 4 resorts for every skill level 
  • Award-winning restaurants
  • Luxurious ski-in, ski-out lodging
  • Historic buildings and interesting mining history mean there are lots of fun things to do in Aspen
  • Fewer crowds
  • Summer activities include whitewater rafting, biking, and hiking to Colorado hot springs
  • Regional airport in town, or a 3.5-hour drive from Denver International Airport 

Advantages of Vail 

A young woman admiring the mountain view in Vail, Colorado
Vail is beautiful any time of year!
  • Home to Colorado’s biggest ski resort
  • More affordable than Aspen
  • Excellent restaurant options
  • Vail has places to stay near ski gondolas
  • Less formal, more laid-back vibe than Aspen
  • Summer activities in Vail include the ropes course, mountain biking, and hiking
  • 35 min. drive from Eagle Regional Airport, or a 2-hour drive from DIA
  • Easily accessible from I-70

Advantages of Breckenridge 

Aerial view of a mountain town in Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Family-friendly ski resort 
  • Cheaper options for food and hotels 
  • Accommodations in Breckenridge are more spread out
  • Mining history and Victorian-era architecture offer things to do in Breckenridge besides skiing
  • Relaxed atmosphere 
  • Near Frisco Adventure Park with tubing, biking, and more kid-friendly activities
  • 1-hour 25-minute drive from Eagle Regional Airport, or a 2-hour drive from DIA 

Aspen is Best For

  • Upscale travelers
  • Skiers of all levels
  • Serious foodies
  • Longer vacations 

Vail is Best For

Breckenridge is Best For

  • Family trips
  • Outdoor adventure weekends
  • Quick getaways from Denver
Save the Hassle
Breckenridge Ski Rental Package

Save the trouble of bringing along your ski gear and rent it in town instead!

Vail vs Aspen vs Breckenridge – Detailed Comparison 

Vail or Aspen or Breckenridge — it’s a tough call! Each of these three towns has definite perks and drawbacks.

The following table compares how Breckenridge, Vail, and Aspen stack up against each other in a few different categories:

FeatureAspenVailBreckenridge🏆 Winner
Ski Resorts4 ski resorts, least expensive lift tickets, ski-in ski-outBiggest ski resort, most expensive lift tickets, ski-in ski-outLots of beginner-friendly runs, ski-in ski-outAspen
Family FriendlinessSki school, hiking, ropes courseSki school, Children’s Alpine Garden, alpine coaster, hiking, ropes course, playgroundSki school, kids’ ski areas, alpine coaster and slide, downtown playgroundVail
Winter Activities (non-skiing)Snowshoeing, alpine coaster, tubing, snowbiking, snowcat dinner ridesSnowshoeing, tubing, ice skating, fat tire biking, ice fishingSnowshoeing, snowcat tours, dog sledding, snowmobiling, sleigh ridesBreckenridge
Summer ActivitiesHiking, biking, disc golf, Maroon Bells, festivals, paddleboarding, kayakingHiking, biking, alpine coaster, festivals, paddleboarding, kayakingHiking, biking, festivals, paddleboarding, kayakingAspen
Getting Around TownFree public transportation, walking, WE-cycle bikes, rental car, hotel shuttle serviceFree public transportation, walking, rental car, hotel shuttle serviceFree public transportation, walking, biking, rental car, hotel shuttle serviceAspen and Vail
Accessibility from Denver International AirportMinimum 3-hour 45-min. drive; located on CO-82Minimum 2-hour drive; located directly off I-70Minimum 2-hour drive; located on CO-9Vail
Cheap Things to DoJohn Denver Sanctuary, Aspen Art Museum, Conundrum Hot SpringsBetty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall Of Fame, Gore Valley Bike TrailVisit a troll, historic downtown, Edwin Carter MuseumBreckenridge
Indoor ActivitiesAspen Art Museum, Wheeler Opera House, spas, Aspen Brewing Co.Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall Of Fame, spas, Vail Brewing Co.Rec Center, Stephen C. West Ice Arena, Breckenridge Backstage TheatreAspen
Off the Beaten PathDog sledding, summer gondola, Grottos Trail, paragliding, ghost tourGoat yoga, Jeep tour, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, hike with a llamaVisit a troll, dog sledding, fat biking and beer tour, snowmobiling, ice fishingVail

Vail vs Breckenridge vs Aspen: Ski Resorts

Skiers enjoying their day in Vail, Colorado

Breckenridge or Vail or Aspen — when it comes to skiing, it can be tough to choose. All three are home to some of the top ski resorts in Colorado, so all choices are valid! 

However, each one has its advantages. Breckenridge is small and easy to navigate with the entire family. Similarly, the town of Vail was designed to be a great ski town, so everything was built with winter sports in mind. 

When it comes to variety, though, Aspen takes the cake. It’s home to four ski resorts: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Snowmass, and Buttermilk. This allows tourists to spread out, meaning shorter lift lines and trails to yourself. 

Aspen:

  • 4 ski resorts cater to a variety of abilities
  • Least expensive lift tickets
  • Lots of ski-in, ski-out lodgings to get you on the slopes fast (also, great for kids!)

Vail:

  • Biggest ski resort
  • Most acres of skiable terrain
  • Most expensive lift tickets
  • Lots of lodging near gondolas

Breckenridge:

  • Lots of ski areas designed for kids
  • Lots of ski-in, ski-out lodging
  • Great classes & private lessons

🏆 Winner: Aspen

Aspen or Breckenridge or Vail: Family Friendliness

People wandering at a Swiss style resort town in Colorado
(photo: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock)

Traveling with kids can be a challenge. With ski schools and children’s play areas, all of these mountain towns accommodate families wrangling kids. But Vail stands out for its variety of family-focused activities. 

Aspen:

  • Ski school for kids
  • Hiking for every ability
  • Summer ropes course

Vail:

  • Ski school for kids
  • Hikes for all abilities
  • Summer ropes course, nature center, alpine coaster
  • Grassy park with playground, Betty Ford Alpine Garden, and Children’s Garden

Breckenridge:

  • Ski school for kids
  • Ski areas designed for kids with tunnels and areas to explore
  • Summer alpine coaster and slide
  • Downtown playground

🏆 Winner: Vail

Breckenridge vs Vail vs Aspen: Winter Activities (Non-Skiing)

A fire pit and a skating rink in Aspen during winter

If you love a beautiful winter wonderland but don’t ski or snowboard, take heart! Each of these cities offers seasonal activities, though you’ll find the most unique things to do in Breckenridge

Aspen:

  • Snow tubing
  • Snow biking
  • Snowshoeing 
  • Snowcat dinner rides
  • Alpine coaster

Vail:

  • Snow tubing
  • Fat tire biking
  • Snowshoeing 
  • Ice skating rink in Lionshead Village
  • Ice fishing

Breckenridge:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowcat tours
  • Dog sledding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Sleigh rides

🏆 Winner: Breckenridge

Breckenridge or Aspen or Vail: Summer Activities

The author riding a gondola in Vail, Colorado
The Vail gondolas are fun any time of year!

Although these are all awesome ski towns, the fun doesn’t stop in summer. Each one has activities at the top of their respective mountains, plus fun festivals and more in town. In terms of variety though, you’ll find the most things to do in Aspen

Aspen:

  • Hiking for every ability, including Maroon Bells and some of the best trails in Colorado
  • Biking around town or on the mountain
  • Disc golf on the mountain
  • Festivals in town
  • Paddleboarding and kayaking 

Vail:

  • Hiking in the Rocky Mountains for all levels
  • Biking — take the gondola up and bike down the mountain!
  • Alpine coaster
  • Festivals in Vail and Lionshead Villages
  • Paddleboarding and kayaking

Breckenridge:

  • Hiking in the Rocky Mountains for all levels
  • Biking at lots of nearby sites
  • Festivals in town
  • Paddleboarding & Kayaking
  • Mountaintop yoga

🏆 Winner: Aspen

Vail or Breckenridge or Aspen: Getting Around Town

A woman riding a bus on a town in Vail
(photo: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock)

It’s possible to navigate all three of these towns without a vehicle. However, you may want to book a rental car to explore farther from the downtown center. Also, if staying in Breckenridge, a vehicle is especially ideal. Lodging there tends to be more spread out and harder to access via public transportation.

Aspen:

  • Free public transportation to major points downtown
  • Walking — most of the town is easy to reach on-foot
  • WE-cycle bikes
  • Rental car
  • Hotel shuttle service

Vail:

  • Free public transportation throughout Lionshead and Vail Village
  • Walking — both villages are walkable and easy to reach from each other
  • Rental car
  • Hotel shuttle service

Breckenridge:

  • Free public transportation to popular spots
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Rental car
  • Hotel shuttle service

🏆 Winner: Aspen and Vail 

Breckenridge vs Aspen vs Vail: Cheap Things to Do

View of a John Denver Sanctuary signage

All of these destinations are known for being more expensive towns in Colorado. However, it is possible to enjoy yourself on a budget in each one of them — Breckenridge, especially. Along with the inexpensive activities here, you can save money on food, lodging, and skiing by visiting during shoulder seasons. 

Aspen:

  • Picnic at the John Denver Sanctuary and walk through the gardens
  • Hiking — check out Discovery Trail, Grizzly Lake, and Conundrum Hot Springs
  • Visit the Aspen Art Museum
  • Bike the Rio Grande Trail in town
  • Drive Independence Pass, one of the best road trips in Colorado
  • People-watch in downtown Aspen

Vail:

  • Stroll the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens & Children’s Garden
  • Wander through Vail & Lionshead Villages
  • Learn about winter sports at the Snowsports Museum & Hall Of Fame
  • Toss back a cold one at Vail Brewing Co.
  • Bike the Gore Valley Bike Trail

Breckenridge:

  • Visit Isaak Heartstone, a forest troll at the end of a short trail
  • Browse historic downtown
  • Learn about CO civil rights at the Barney Ford Victorian House
  • Browse the local artists’ creations in the Arts District 
  • Bike the Blue River Rec Path
  • Wander the Valley Brook Cemetery for a creepy history lesson
  • Sample a local spirit at Breckenridge Distillery
  • See trains at High Line Railroad Park
  • Ride the Breckenridge Gondola
  • Drive Boreas Pass Road for amazing views

🏆 Winner: Breckenridge

Aspen vs Breckenridge vs Vail: Indoor Activities

The hanging sign of Barney Ford Victorian House in Breckenridge, Colorado

When on your trip, there may be winter days when it’s too cold; and in the summer, plan for afternoon showers. Fortunately, when you want to hang out inside for a while, all of these towns have great indoor activities as well! Aspen especially accommodates every type of interest. 

Aspen:

  • Admire contemporary art at the Aspen Art Museum
  • Take a historic tour at the Wheeler Opera House
  • Relax and enjoy an afternoon at Aspen Brewing Co.
  • Unwind with a treatment at an Aspen spa

Vail:

  • Learn at the Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall Of Fame
  • Enjoy a craft beer at Vail Brewing Co. 
  • Relax with a treatment at a Vail spa

Breckenridge:

  • Use the climbing wall and play in the pools at the Breckenridge Rec Center
  • Ice skate at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena
  • Take in a show at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

🏆 Winner: Aspen

Vail vs Breckenridge vs Aspen: Off the Beaten Path

View of alpacas under the clear blue sky in Colorado

There are lots of activities people expect to do in the mountains — skiing, hiking, and biking, to name a few. But how about some of the more unusual activities? Try one of these fun ideas that’s a little out of the mainstream.

Aspen:

  • Go dog sledding
  • Ride the summer gondola to fun activities at the top 
  • See ice caves along the Grottos Trail
  • Go paragliding 
  • Try your luck at fly fishing 
  • Take an Aspen ghost tour

Vail:

  • Relax (maybe?) with some goat yoga
  • Take a Jeep tour
  • Try fly fishing
  • Spend a day whitewater rafting
  • Hike and lunch with a llama 

Breckenridge:

  • Hike to Isak Heartstone to visit a troll
  • Go dog sledding
  • Try fat biking in the snow
  • Spend a day of adventure snowmobiling
  • See if you catch anything while ice fishing

🏆 Winner: Vail (because who can compete with llamas?)

Final Verdict – Breckenridge vs Vail vs Aspen

Bright stars over the Aspen Mountain Ski Resort at night

Aspen is the big winner when it comes to a luxury ski vacation. You’ll find every amenity imaginable, from spas to fine dining and boutique shopping. In winter, discover amazing skiing at four resorts, plus fun activities for the family in summer. Depending on your home city, Aspen’s airport may also make this the easiest town to get to. You may find yourself sharing a runway with celebrities and other jet-setters! 

Vail wins big for family-friendly activities. Ski-in, ski-out lodging means families won’t have to cart kids and gear very far. Several playgrounds show that not only are kids tolerated in town, they’re welcomed. Gardens and wide grassy areas are great for running off steam, and the creek path is an easy-going stroll. You’ll also find plenty of places to eat for the whole family. 

FAQs About Aspen vs Vail vs Breckenridge

Aerial view of a village in Vail, Colorado during winter season

Which is better Aspen or Breckenridge?

Aspen is better for elegant, upscale lodging and excellent restaurants and bars. Aspen’s four ski resorts also provide a huge amount of terrain with options for every skill level. 

However, Breckenridge has a greater variety of eateries, along with lodging at lower price points. Also, the singular Breckenridge Ski Resort allows you to find everything you need in one place.

Which is better Vail or Aspen?

Vail is better for an easy trip from Denver. The ski resort is the biggest in Colorado, and year-round, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Vail

Aspen has four resorts, so you can choose the one that best suits you and your abilities. Aspen also has award-winning restaurants, bars, and hotels so it’s a better choice for an elegant, more expensive trip.

Which is nicer Breckenridge or Vail?

Vail is nicer, with an overall more expensive vibe than laid-back Breckenridge. The two villages in Vail were designed to look like Swiss alpine villages. You’ll find beautiful hotels, shops, and bars that all fit that aesthetic. 

Breckenridge has lots of throwbacks to the town’s mining history. As you might expect in a historic town, the buildings are more eclectic, with a mix of old and new.

Which is more luxurious Aspen or Vail?

Aspen is more luxurious than Vail. Aspen’s average home price is the second-highest in the state. You’ll find plenty of high-end hotels and restaurants in town. 

Vail also has plenty of upscale accommodations, restaurants, and shops. However, downtown is more charming than modern. 

***

Aspen vs. Vail vs. Breckenridge — hopefully, this post has helped you decide which town is right for your visit! Each destination has amazing attributes and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Colorado to help you plan your trip! 

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate (you can leave feedback after clicking submit)

Help us help you travel better!

Your feedback really helps ...

What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?

One Comment

  1. Exactly answered my questions. I am traveling to Keystone next month, and we also wanted to visit this towns, but not sure if all of them or just Breck & Vail.
    I’m traveling with my husband and two tweens.
    So this is very helpful. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.