The Festival Scene

The summer season's big cultural event is the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, from late June through early August. Established in 1988, the festival features a variety of classical music, from orchestral to chamber music to vocal, with performers such as the New York Philharmonic, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and the Dallas Symphony. Tickets range from $23 to $84; contact the festival office at P.O. Box 2270, Vail, CO 81658 (tel. 877/812-5700 or 970/827-5700;

The Vail International Dance Festival features both classes and performances. The World Masters Ballet Academy at Vail teaches the Russian style of artistic expression and other techniques, and presents a series of performances each summer. For information, contact the Vail International Dance Festival, P.O. Box 309, Vail, CO 81658 (tel. 888/920-2787 or 970/949-1999; Tickets are $17 to $85. The Vail Valley Foundation also hosts Hot Summer Nights, free concerts of contemporary rock, jazz, or blues, on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm from mid-June through early August at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre near Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

A Float on the Wild Side: Rancho Del Rio

Rancho Del Rio is a former hippie commune that's now one of the last remaining river communities of its kind, a haven for oddballs and river rats who live in the assorted cabins and trailers here. The slow waters of the Upper Colorado River in this area are perfect for beginner rafters and families; even first-timers will be comfortable paddling the river solo. The Colorado River Center (tel. 888/888-7238 or 970/653-7238; offers rentals, shuttles ($25 to $50), lessons, and guided rafting trips. I recommend renting a "duckie" (an inflatable kayak) and paddling it to State Bridge, and then getting a shuttle back to Rancho. A few other rafting companies run guided trips out of Rancho Del Rio.

After a river trip and a shuttle ride back, it's time for a bite and a beer at K.K.'s BBQ, also known as the "Center of the Universe." An outdoor bar and grill with jars of homemade pickles and pots of homemade sauce and slices of homemade pies, this is the most fun you can have at a meal in the Northern Rockies. Eponymous proprietor K. K. is quite the character and a one-woman act, cooking burgers, ribs, and sausages; making sundaes and change; telling jokes; and generally entertaining everyone within earshot. I can't resist the 4K, a burger with a split Italian sausage on top and a heap of fresh jalapenos under molten cheese, or the aptly named Little Beauty. K. K. fires up the grill at 11am and closes around 5pm Saturday and Sunday between Memorial Day and the last Sunday in September.

For more information, contact Rancho Del Rio, 4199 Trough Rd., Bond, CO 80423 (tel. 970/653-4431; Beyond the rafting and barbecue, there is a campground ($3 per person per night), four rental cabins ($70-$80 a night), and fly-fishing guides. There is a day-use fee of $1 per person and $2 per vehicle.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.