I had the rare privilege of growing up in Aspen, Colorado. To answer your questions: Yes, Aspen has a school district (Aspen High School—go Skiers!); yes, I ski; and yes, I’ve seen Dumb and Dumber. It’s a strange thing, living in a vacation destination. For a good portion of the year, our little mountain town grows from under 7,000 to people to over 25,000, flooding the streets with visitors, thought leaders, brilliant chefs, and visionaries. Sure, parking becomes a bit of a challenge, but it also makes for the best people watching, and is the reason why Aspen is one of the most culturally rich cities in the country.
From outdoor adventures to intellectual explorations, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Aspen—read on below for a few of my favorite places to eat, stay, and explore.
Where to Stay
The Little Nell
For ski-in, ski-out access, check into The Little Nell, a ritzy, award-winning hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain. It's a celebrity favorite, and boasts fine dining options as well as a hot bar scene. Slip right off the mountain and into The Little Nell’s hot tub for a soak and aprés-ski cocktail.
675 E Durant Ave; thelittlenell.com
If you’re looking for something a bit more budget friendly, book a stay at the recently rennovated Limelight Hotel, which was eco-friendly and only a five minute walk from Aspen Mountain.
355 S Monarch St; limelighthotel.com
Where to Eat
Mathew Whittier Photography
Chefs Club by Food & Wine
Make a reservation at Aspen’s Chefs Club by Food & Wine for a stunning ambience and delectable bites courtesy of celebrated chef and Aspen local Todd Slossberg. Named one of the 100 Best Restaurants in the country by our friends at TIME Magazine, the rotating, seasonal menu features dishes dreamed up by talented gourmands from all around the country.
315 E Dean St; chefsclub.com
Meat & Cheese
In the mood for a more casual dining experience? Head over to Meat & Cheese, a cozy eatery and farm shop located on East Hopkins Avenue. Expect craft artisan goat cheese, seasonal salads, and the best Thai coconut soup ever (you can get the recipe here). Be warned: the soup is only served at lunch. I learned this the hard way.
317 E. Hopkins; meatandcheeseaspen.com
The Big Wrap
For picnic fare (or a quick post-ski lunch, depending on the season), grab a bite from The Big Wrap, a local staple serving…well, big wraps. My personal favorites are the Chopstix, a hearty combination of white rice, chicken, and teriyaki sauce, and the To Thai For salad with braised tofu. I don’t know what it is about that tofu, but I think I could fully embrace vegetarianism if I had access to the recipe.
520 E Durant Ave
And for those of you in need of a hot cocoa fix, pop by the iconic Paradise Bakery. Go for the toasty drinks and mouthwatering baked goods, stay for the unparalleled people watching.
320 S Galena St; paradisebakety.com
What to Do
If you’re visiting during the winter months, strap on a snowboard or pair of skis and take advantage of one of Aspen’s four mountains: Aspen (also known as Ajax), Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Some of you might shred the pow from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and others might take two runs before heading inside to eat French fries all afternoon. Both are perfectly acceptable options, in my opinion.
In the event that you opt for a summer getaway (my favorite season in Aspen), lace up your hiking boots and prepare to be blown away by the stunning views. There are trails for everyone—try a 30-minute incline up Smuggler Mountain, or the more challenging climb up Aspen Mountain. If you choose the latter, enjoy lunch at the Sundeck and a ride down on the Gondola as your reward. But be warned: everyone responds to altitude differently, so take this into consideration before embarking on a strenuous hike. Alternatively, you could get your fill of Mother Nature by hopping in the Roaring Fork River for a fly fishing session.
Aspen Art Museum
Maybe the outdoors isn’t your thing—that’s okay! Indulge in some good ol’ fashioned retail therapy, or visit the gorgeously designed Aspen Art Museum for contemporary exhibits and beautiful rooftop views.
637 E Hyman Ave; aspenartmuseum.org