I see a very large fan-base and hear a lot (especially here on retrocomputing) about how great the Commodore 64 was. Growing up in the Windows 95/98 era, I seemed to have missed a great era for computing and was wondering what might be the best way to experiment with the Commodore 64. I honestly don't see myself finding a physical one (unless that's what needs be), so how would I use an emulator (such as VICE) and start programming for the Commodore 64?
As an example of minimalistic IDE for C64 development, you'll need just cross-assembler like ACME and your favourite monospace text editor. Quite useful and detailed C64 doc is this one. VICE emulator you've mentioned has some extensive debugging capabilities and is also cross-platform. There are also myriads of C64 programming resources around, as there are some complete cross-IDEs for the development. I won't mention any specific ones since I've never dug that deep.
The absolutely minimalistic approach would be to just start the Commodore 64 emulator, the C64 then greets you with its starting message and a blinking cursor. Here, you can already start programming in BASIC. There are many tutorials out there for programming the C64 in BASIC, for example here.
When you want to write more performant programs, you either need to learn 6502 Assembler or use C. Please note that with C you will be still a bit limited on what you can achieve, but if you already know C programming, it is probably a good compromise. For programming in C, look out for cc65, which is a cross-development tool: you write and compile your code on the PC and then open the compiled program with the emulator.