Whitewater rafting and kayaking are two of the main activities that draw people to the area during the summer months. The whitewater park at the end of East Main is the longest one in the nation and continues to have features developed. A new river walk that parallels the river is a great addition. The Arkansas River provides up to Class V rapids.
Hiking and mountain bike trails abound throughout the area, and four wheeling and exploring historic mining towns are other favorite pastimes. Soaking in hot springs is available all year. Hunting begins in August and goes through early winter. Winter allows for snowmobiling the Continental Divide, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing at nearby locations. A full calendar of events including rodeos, concerts, car shows, motorized events, footraces, bicycle events and even burro races keep the community active. Artist receptions and shows, and concerts in the park are available on a regular basis or can be set up for special groups. There are several new “live music” venues that add to the nightlife in Buena Vista. A variety of lodging businesses from campgrounds to dude ranches and resorts offer something for everyone. Fast food to fine dining is also available.
Buena Vista is a favorite area for history buffs. Buena Vista Heritage, the local historic association, is at the heart of the Heritage Tourism in Buena Vista. Four properties provide a backdrop for “historical” experiences – from old-fashioned celebrations to settings for wedding and reunions. The Buena Vista Heritage Museum was the original Chaffee County Court House and houses a model railroad that depicts the area around 1900. The Historic Turner Farm opened in 2005 where people can step back into 1910 and experience life on an apple farm. The Railroad Depot and historic caboose have been relocated to McPhelemy Park and house a railroad and transportation museum. The old school house in St. Elmo (one of the best preserved historic mining towns) and the St. Elmo Town Hall are also Buena Vista Heritage properties.
Buena Vista is part of the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway. This runs from north of Buena Vista along Highway 24 to South of Salida along Highway 285 and Highway 50 and connects to other Scenic Byways.