If you want to escape to a friendly town at the top of the world, where the food is great, the snowpack settles every year, and the scenery is stunning, Aspen is your kind of town.
There are plenty of reasons why this upmarket resort destination in the Colorado Rockies is so appealing. For one thing, the beauty of its red brick Downtown architecture sets it apart from other more conventional ski resorts. Then there are major events like the Aspen Music Festival in the summer and the X Games in the winter.
But there's so much more. Where else can you shop for handmade boutique jewelry in the morning, see world-class contemporary art exhibits before lunch, dine at gourmet French restaurants like Cache Cache and be out on the slopes in mid-Afternoon?
It doesn't matter whether it's summer or winter, Aspen charms anyone who visits, making it the perfect destination for your next getaway.
Aspen is located over 8,000 feet above sea level and receives a reliable blanket of snow every winter. This, and the dramatic Rocky mountain scenery, make it one of the country's finest ski resorts, so if you love to slalom or show off your snowboarding tricks - it's a great place to visit.
When summer comes, Aspen doesn't shut down. Far from it. Actually, there may be more for ordinary visitors to do in the summer, and nothing beats a round of golf at the area's fine courses, including Maroon Creek and the Snowmass Club.
The center of Aspen is a hive of artistic activity, with small galleries like the Pismo, the Baldwin and Gallery 1949 jostling for attention and showcasing Colorado's talented crop of contemporary painters. However, the artistic scene-stealer is definitely the Aspen Art Museum, which often features world famous contemporary artists in its rotation of exhibits.
Aspen is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Whether you visit in the middle of winter or the height of summer, the town's location beneath Mount Aspen is unforgettable. Even the clumsiest photographers will come away with amazing images after a stay in the city.
Aspen is also just plain fun. From the annual program of free outdoor concerts to the chance to take part in activities like hot air ballooning, white water rafting and fly fishing, the area is packed with entertainment options.
The slopes around Aspen may be small by American standards, but they are one of the best places for skilled skiers to challenge their abilities. There aren't any Green runs (for novices), just miles of steep, winding routes. However, if you aren't an experienced skier, don't worry. Nearby Snowmass has plenty of easy runs to build up your confidence.
Aspen is a great place to rent a snowmobile and hit the mountain trails. There's no better way to experience the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountains than on your own vehicle and local companies like T-Lazy-7 Snowmobiles make renting simple.
Aspen isn't all about snow. It's also a fantastic summer destination, particularly if you have the pedal power to deal with demanding mountain trails. Try beginners' trails like Verde or head to Snowmass on the gondola service to descend the 2.75 mile Valhalla route. Alternatively, just take a leisurely ride through the valley.
Summer is also Aspen's musical season, with a packed schedule of classical, rock and bluegrass events. The best thing about the Aspen music season is that most of the events are free of charge. Just bring a bottle of wine, a blanket, and some glasses and enjoy the show. Alternatively, book tickets to the internationally famous Aspen Music Festival, which draws classical music performers from all over the world.
If the snow hasn't come yet and you aren't into hiking or mountain biking, there are always the excellent golf courses around Aspen. From the 7,000 yards long Maroon Creek to the exclusive Snowmass Club, golfers will find a course they love. Even better, thanks to the altitude, their drives will soar like never before.
Aspen basically has two seasons. Between late November and late March, it's all about alpine sports. If you want to enjoy a week of skiing, snowboarding or skating, visit in February and March for cheaper accommodation and excellent weather conditions. If mountain biking, golf, hiking and outdoor concerts are your thing, make a date to visit between June and August.
Flying into Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is an easy way to reach the resort, with regular connections by American Airlines and United. To get into town, you can either take the buses operated by Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RTFA) or join a shuttle bus to your hotel. Car rental outlets are also present at the airport, including Budget, Alamo, and Avis. The Colorado Mountain Express (CME) company also runs daily shuttles from Denver Airport to Aspen, which can be a handy alternative as it has far more daily flights than Aspen's airport.
You can also arrive at Aspen via Denver's Amtrak station. The CME also operates shuttles from the station to major hotels in Aspen and the city center, and the journey will take around 3 hours.
Driving from Denver is simple. Just take I-70 westwards and switch onto the road to Aspen at Glenwood Springs. I-70 also links the resort to destinations in California, while those coming from the north or south should take I-25.
Aspen itself does not have a Greyhound stop, but interstate buses do stop at nearby Glenwood Springs. From there it's just an hour's taxi ride to the major hotels.
When you visit Aspen, you have a choice of staying in the town itself or spending your trip in one of the ski resorts in the surrounding area. In the city center, the Little Nell Apartments provide comfortable lodgings in a convenient location, while other excellent hotels include the Limelight, the Aspen Square, and the Residence Hotel. If you just want to stay in a mountain resort, try the St. Regis Aspen Resort, which is housed in a beautiful 19th-century mansion a short distance from world-class slopes.
Downtown Aspen – Aspen isn't a large city, and the vast majority of its cultural institutions, restaurants, and entertainment hubs are located in the Downtown neighborhood. Home to the Aspen Art Museum, with its constantly changing contemporary art selection, Downtown is also the place to shop for paintings, beads, clothing, and ornaments produced by the town's population of artisans.
West End – A tidy, luxurious, residential neighborhood, Aspen's West End is the place to rent a home or apartment if you want a peaceful getaway. It may feel sleepy, but the western half of the city isn't without attractions. For example, you'll find the fascinating Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum here as well as historic homes like the Wheeler Stallard House.
Snowmass Village – High up in the Rockies, but actually just a few minutes' drive from Aspen, you'll come across Snowmass Village - one of the finest ski resorts in the USA. A small town in its own right, Snowmass is centered around skiing, but it's also home to attractions like the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
There are 8 useful (and free) bus services within Aspen and the surrounding countryside, making life easy for skiers and sightseers. Most of them cover the city grid, but some also head out of town to locations like the Aspen Club and Spa or Aspen Highlands Village.
In such a small town, getting around by taxi often isn't necessary, but cabs can be handy to reach mountain hotels, spas, and restaurants. Expect to pay around $20 to get from Aspen to Snowmass Village, and for journeys within the city to cost between $10 and $15.
Picking up a rental vehicle at the airport gives you the freedom to explore the Rockies in the summer and make trips to Denver if you should feel the need. However, you can get around Aspen via the free shuttles, cable cars and ski lifts, walking or cycling, so having a car isn't essential.
If you are looking for unique, handcrafted jewelry, ornaments, kitchenware or clothing, Aspen city center should have something for you. If you want to find antique items, try Gorsuch on Cooper Avenue. For boutique fashions, check out Club Monaco or Burberry in the city center, while you'll find hand-made jewelry at Kodi and Pame Designs. If you just need to shop for ski equipment or hiking boots, some of the best stores in town include Pomery Sports, Incline, and Ski Butlers - but there's a huge amount of choice for all your outdoor needs.
If you are self-catering, Aspen isn't the cheapest city to visit, but there are a few supermarkets in town. Clark's Market and City Market are places to pick up everyday items, while between June and September, the city brings together regional food producers at the Aspen Saturday Market. Prices can be relatively high. Expect to pay $4 for a gallon of milk and $14 for a good bottle of wine.
Aspen is a fantastic destination for gourmet food fans. Part of the charm is the physical location of eateries like the Ajax Tavern, right at the foot of Aspen Mountain. The food's pretty good too. Writer, Hunter S. Thompson, used to frequent Woody Creek Tavern, which remains a great place to grab a beer and burger. Jacob's uses wholesome local ingredients to cook delicious American dishes, while Cache Cache is the city's most stylish French restaurant. Expect to pay $20 for a mid-range meal and much more at the best places in town.