Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Aspen is a world-renowned destination for outdoor enthusiasts, culture aficionados, and those seeking a luxurious mountain retreat. Known for its stunning natural beauty, world-class skiing, vibrant arts scene, and upscale dining and shopping options, Aspen offers something for everyone throughout the year. In this comprehensive travel guide, we’ll explore where to stay, what to see, and how to get to this picturesque mountain town.
Getting to Aspen
The most convenient way to reach Aspen is by flying into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE). The airport is located just three miles from downtown Aspen, making it extremely convenient for travelers. Several major airlines offer direct flights to ASE, including American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. These flights typically connect through major hubs like Denver, Dallas, and Atlanta.
Alternatively, you can fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and take a scenic drive or hop on a shuttle to reach Aspen. The drive from Denver to Aspen takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on weather and traffic conditions.
If you prefer the flexibility of driving, you can rent a car and make the journey to Aspen. The drive from Denver to Aspen offers stunning mountain vistas and is a great option for those who want to explore the surrounding areas. Make sure to check weather and road conditions, especially during the winter months, as some mountain passes may require snow chains or four-wheel drive.
Another convenient option is to take a shuttle from Denver International Airport directly to Aspen. Several shuttle companies offer daily services, and the journey provides an opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery without the stress of driving.
Where to Stay
Aspen offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. From upscale resorts to cozy boutique hotels and vacation rentals, you’ll find plenty of choices to make your stay comfortable and memorable.
The Little Nell: Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, The Little Nell is the epitome of luxury. With its ski-in/ski-out access and renowned dining options, it’s a favorite among discerning travelers.
St. Regis Aspen Resort: This elegant resort offers a world-class spa, fine dining, and a prime location in the heart of Aspen, just steps away from shopping and cultural attractions.
Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection: A historic hotel with a modern twist, Hotel Jerome boasts a rich history and offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. It’s a great choice for those looking for a blend of luxury and character.
Limelight Hotel: The Limelight Hotel is known for its vibrant atmosphere and excellent location. It’s a short walk from the Aspen Mountain gondola and offers complimentary breakfast and après-ski events.
The Gant: This family-friendly resort features condominium-style accommodations with full kitchens, making it an ideal choice for longer stays or families.
Aspen Square Condominium Hotel: Located right in the center of town, Aspen Square offers spacious condominiums with fully equipped kitchens, perfect for those who prefer a more independent experience.
If you’re traveling with a group or seeking a home-away-from-home experience, consider renting a private vacation home or condo. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide range of options in Aspen, from cozy cabins to luxurious estates.
What to See and Do
Aspen offers a diverse array of activities and attractions, regardless of the season. Here are some must-see and must-do experiences in and around Aspen:
Skiing and Snowboarding: Aspen is world-renowned for its exceptional ski resorts. The Aspen Snowmass area offers four premier ski resorts, including Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk, catering to skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing: Explore the serene winter landscape on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Trails and guided tours are available for all skill levels.
Après-Ski: After a day on the slopes, unwind with après-ski activities at various bars and lounges in town. The Ajax Tavern and Chair 9 at The Little Nell are popular choices.
Aspen Art Museum: Discover contemporary art at the Aspen Art Museum, which features rotating exhibitions and stunning architecture.
Hiking and Biking: In the summer, Aspen’s mountains transform into a hiking and mountain biking paradise. Trails like the Maroon Bells and Aspen Mountain offer breathtaking vistas and outdoor adventures.
White-Water Rafting: Experience the thrill of white-water rafting on the Roaring Fork or Colorado River, with guided trips suitable for all experience levels.
Aspen Music Festival and School: If you’re a music lover, don’t miss the renowned Aspen Music Festival, featuring world-class classical music performances throughout the summer.
Farmers’ Markets: Visit one of Aspen’s vibrant farmers’ markets to sample local produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts.
Maroon Bells: Often referred to as the most photographed peaks in North America, the Maroon Bells offer stunning views and hiking trails. In the summer, you can take a shuttle to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area.
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES): Learn about the local environment and wildlife at ACES, which offers educational programs, guided hikes, and nature exhibits.
Aspen Historical Society: Discover the history of Aspen through exhibits, walking tours, and visits to historic sites like the Wheeler Opera House and Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum.
Aspen Food and Wine Classic: Foodies will want to plan their visit during the annual Aspen Food and Wine Classic, a premier culinary event featuring celebrity chefs and tastings of world-class wines.
Dining in Aspen
Aspen’s culinary scene is a delightful mix of fine dining establishments, casual eateries, and local favorites. Whether you’re in the mood for international cuisine, farm-to-table fare, or classic American comfort food, you’ll find it here. Some notable dining options include:
Element 47: Located in The Little Nell, Element 47 offers an exquisite dining experience with a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
Matsuhisa: If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, don’t miss the world-famous Matsuhisa, where you can savor dishes created by renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Cache Cache: Known for its French-American cuisine and extensive wine list, Cache Cache is a popular choice for a romantic dinner.
Meat & Cheese: This charming spot is a great place to enjoy a charcuterie board, sandwiches, and a selection of artisanal cheeses.
Hickory House Ribs: For a taste of classic American barbecue, head to Hickory House Ribs, where you can savor ribs, brisket, and other mouthwatering dishes.
Altitude: Aspen’s high altitude (7,908 feet or 2,410 meters) may cause altitude sickness for some visitors. Drink plenty of water, take it easy on the first day, and consult your doctor if you have concerns.
Weather: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, especially in the mountains. Layers of clothing are essential, and sunscreen is a must, even in the winter.
Reservations: Make reservations for popular restaurants and activities well in advance, especially during peak seasons.
Transportation: Aspen offers a free shuttle service that makes it easy to get around town and visit the nearby ski resorts.
Local Culture: Respect the local environment and culture by practicing Leave No Trace principles and adhering to any specific guidelines at natural attractions.
Aspen, Colorado, is a year-round destination that beckons travelers with its breathtaking scenery, outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, and culinary delights. Whether you’re hitting the slopes in the winter or exploring the trails and festivals in the summer, Aspen promises an unforgettable experience. Plan your trip to this mountain paradise, and you’ll soon understand why it’s a destination cherished by visitors from around the world.
Aspen, Colorado, offers a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, cultural richness, and culinary excellence that makes it an exceptional destination for travelers of all interests and backgrounds. From the adrenaline rush of skiing down pristine slopes to the serene beauty of hiking through the Maroon Bells, Aspen has something to offer every visitor. Moreover, its vibrant arts scene, historical charm, and culinary delights add layers of depth to the Aspen experience.
When planning your trip to Aspen, remember to take into account the season you’ll be visiting, as each season brings its own set of activities and attractions. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or a bit of everything, Aspen has you covered.
Don’t forget to make the most of your journey by booking accommodation well in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the peak ski season or during major events like the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. Additionally, stay informed about weather conditions, and be prepared for the high-altitude environment to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Aspen’s allure extends beyond its picturesque landscapes; it’s a place where outdoor enthusiasts, art enthusiasts, and food enthusiasts can all find their own slice of paradise. So, whether you’re gliding down the slopes, enjoying a symphony under the stars, or savoring a gourmet meal, Aspen welcomes you with open arms and promises memories that will last a lifetime. Plan your trip to this mountain gem and discover the magic of Aspen for yourself.