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Most visitors naturally gravitate to the town center to stroll, window shop and take in everything that is Aspen. Here you’ll find the galleries, museums, hotels, bars and restaurants that make Aspen – Denver excluded – the primary cultural center in Colorado. Expect to share the sidewalk with mink coats, cowboy hats, leather pants and North Face down jackets. Access the slopes by heading to the south side of downtown and hop on the Little Nell Lift or the Silver Queen Gondola.
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Locals and expert skiers and riders avoid the crowds and head directly to this fantastic area located about two miles from town. The highlight here is Highland Bowl. You can hike up or you can hail a free snowcat. Once there, it’s all about the hardcore terrain and the hardcore views. Those in search of even more of a rush can try to book a reservation at the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. You’ll find more on that decadent scene in the Where to Eat section below.
Source: Aspen Snowmass Facebook Page
Snowmass is the largest and most varied mountain of the four in terms of terrain. There are plenty of greens, blues and blacks to keep everyone happy. It is about nine miles west of downtown Aspen and features terrain parks for both summer and winter activities. In summer, the area becomes a mountain bike paradise with a unique bike park and purpose-build downhill trails. Although it lacks the cultural appeal of Aspen, there is enough of a village here with good lodging and food choices that you can make Snowmass your base if necessary.
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Located just two miles from Aspen, Buttermilk is a dream for beginner skiers and a mecca for snowboarders looking to catch some air. The best riding parks in the area are located here and it is home to the 22-foot Superpipe and Big Air Jump that are the cornerstones of the ESPN Winter X-Games. Even if you’re not hitting the mountain yourself watching the legions of shredders practicing their tricks can be a blast.
Source: Aspen Art Museum Instagram Page
This stunning 33,000-square-foot facility was designed by Pritzger Prize winner Shigeru Ban and is a three-story glass cube surrounded by a wooden woven screen. The museum is non-collecting so the works on exhibit across the three floors of gallery space are usually new pieces commissioned by the museum from top national and international artists. The sculptures, mixed media, paintings and photographs are edgy and provocative. Once your senses have been suitably stimulated, head up to the rooftop café for a relaxing coffee with views of the surrounding mountains.
This grand old lady opened in 1889 and remains a focal point of the town. The building itself is an excellent example of Victorian architecture. And it’s not just about opera here. There are festivals, movies, concerts, lectures and all types of community events year round at the Wheeler.
The 2,050-seat Benedict Music Tent, the Wheeler Opera House and the Harris Concert Hall play host to this summer series of more than 300 events that covers all genres of music. Some of the musicians who come to town even gather on street corners to perform. For the larger events, there is free lawn seating at the Benedict Music Tent; bring a blanket and anything else you might want to enhance the evening and you’re all set.
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These striated peaks (North Maroon Peak and South Maroon Peak) about 10 miles outside of town are the most photographed in North America and it’s easy to see why. Set majestically above reflective Maroon Lake and fields of wildflowers, the vibe here is tough to beat. Sadly, that magic can mean crowds and access restrictions are often in place during summer and fall. Note that you cannot drive to the mountains between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. but bus service is available during that period. You can also hike up.
The Shrines are a key element of what makes Aspen unique. There are tours available (ask a Mountain Ambassador) but the best way to find some of them is to go exploring amongst the trees on Aspen Mountain. The Shrines are hidden DIY altars that have been constructed over the years to pay homage to celebrities such as Bob Marley, Jerry Garcia, Hunter S. Thompson, John Denver and Marilyn Monroe. They epitomize Aspen’s independent spirit.
Beautifully designed with natural wood accents and mid-century modern furniture, Silverpeak Apothecary is a lovely place to go to satisfy your weed needs. The weed you see comes from Silverpeak’s state-of-the art warehouse located about 20 minutes from the store. The warehouse allows plenty of fresh air and sunlight to hit the plants, resulting in some incredibly delicious flower. Their proprietary 3:1 CBD/THC coconut oil-based tincture drops are especially attractive. Founded by a veterinarian, Silverpeak was one of the first licensed cannabis dispensaries in the state (2009). Address: 520 E. Cooper Ave, Aspen, CO
Source: Roots Rx Instagram Page
Roots Rx has six locations across the state. The Aspen branch is their flagship store and is perfectly located downtown close to the Limelight and Hotel Jerome. Open seven days a week, Roots has a solid selection of flower, edibles, tinctures, extracts and vapes. They carry Willie’s Reserve products and also have several topical options including CBD/THC balms and lotions. Address: 400 E. Hyman Unit A102, Aspen, CO
Source: The Green Joint Instagram Page
The Green Joint is a family-operated dispensary conveniently located one block from the base of Aspen Mountain. It is known for its friendly atmosphere, huge selection of products and excellent price-to-quality ratio. The store was recently voted “Best Of” by Aspen residents. Address: 20 E. Durant Ave, Aspen, Co
Source: Aether Apparel Instagram Page
Two guys who live in the city but love the outdoors created this Los Angeles-based clothing company in 2009. Its stores in L.A., New York, San Francisco and Aspen sell high-end mountain wear that will also do just fine in the city, thank you very much. Their aim is to be modern yet classic and remain aloof of any trends.
Source: Baldwin Gallery Facebook Page
Wear whatever you purchase at Aether to the next opening at Baldwin Gallery and you’ll fit in swimmingly. This high-end modern galley regularly hosts events for nationally known artists and gets packed with similarly high-end clientele. The modern works on offer are simply stunning. Past exhibitions include Robert Mapplethorpe, Marilyn Minter and Gavin Turk.
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This mom-and-pop establishment is the place to go for those in the know looking for skateboards, snowboards and related lifestyle apparel. The shop also runs a skate camp in the summer and offers private lessons.
Explore Booksellers stocks more than 20,000 books throughout the cozy rooms of the historic Victorian house it calls home. This independent bookstore specializes in politics, travel and literature but stocks books on every subject. There is a café on the top level that features a wonderful array of vegetarian options.
If you’re looking for 19th- and 20th-century paintings, prints and sculptures you’ve come to the right place. This is contemporary and modern art at its finest. From Cassatt to Chagall to Calder to Close, from Picasso to Hurst to Hockney, Galerie Maximillian has it covered when it comes to a who’s who of artists from the last few centuries.
Cloud Nine is a must…but – and this is a strong but – only if you are up for a temporary suspension of fiscal responsibility or you are lucky enough to have no financial limitations. Get your reservations far in advance for the 2 p.m. seating and expect things to get nutty around 3. A-listers and jet setters crowd this chalet in season (open in winter – ski or snowcat access only) for Swiss staples like fondue and raclette. But the real attraction is the copious amounts of Veuve Clicquot consumed and sprayed by all the partygoers.
This casual spot doubles as a store with specialty food items and housewares available. Select cheeses and Colorado-sourced meats dominate the menu. Choose from the selection of boards that includes a larb mu option with spicy thai-style ground pork with fresh herbs and chilis or grab a fresh salad or sandwich with house-smoked pastrami or harissa braised lamb.
Source: Hotel Jerome Instagram Page
Stroll right into the Wild West at this saloon located in the legendary Hotel Jerome. Featuring Aspen’s best burger, the J-Bar served as Hunter S. Thompson’s de facto office during his ill-fated run for sheriff in 1970. According to local legend, Thompson almost drowned Bill Murray when he duct-taped the actor to a sun lounger and threw him into the hotel pool. Besides the burger, patrons can dig into salads featuring local lettuces and Colorado beef short rib tacos. The Big Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup hits the spot after a long day on the slopes. Be sure to save time to wander around the hotel’s public areas to check out the art and soak up the history.
Source: East Aspen Facebook Page
If you’ve visited one of the cannabis dispensaries in town and find yourself with the munchies, Big Wrap has a cure. Massive wraps of all types (Greek, Mexican, Thai) are on the menu at this local favorite. Be sure to save room for a smoothie and bring cash. They don’t take credit cards and there is no seating. Big Wrap also features free downtown delivery.
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The Aspen iteration of this global empire sits in a cozy house on Main Street and easily maintains (or exceeds) the exacting standards set by Matsuhisa Nobu for his chain of high-end sushi spots. Highlights include uni shooters, miso black cod and toro tartar with caviar.