In terms of winter wonderland status, few destinations can compare to Aspen. This scenic mountain town is straight out of a snow globe, featuring picturesque mountain chalets hugged by the soaring Colorado Rockies. Of course, the main draw here is skiing and there are four premier ski areas nearby that cater to powder hounds of all levels. But there's more to Aspen than winter sports: With high-end shopping, fascinating museums, funky galleries and fun festivals, it might be a struggle to make it to the slopes. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, it will be a vacation you'll never forget.
For several decades now, this village has been the diamond in the Roaring Fork Valley, and we're not just talking figuratively. This small ski town has long been a respite for the rich and famous, with high-end resorts like The Little Nell and Viceroy Snowmass luring celebs with the promise of luxurious privacy. But don't let the possibility of sticker shock keep you away; instead, you can offset the high cost of deluxe lodging by simply enjoying your surroundings. Some of Aspen's most popular sites – like Maroon Bells – come to us from Mother Earth, who doesn't charge admirers a cent.
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The best time to visit Aspen is from December to February. The town sparkles when it's buried under fresh powder, and its slopes are ready to be taken by storm. Keep in mind that this is the most popular time to visit, so prices will likely be elevated, but you can find some deals if you plan a few months in advance. Aspen's second high season occurs between June and August, with temperatures in the high 70s – the perfect atmosphere for a mountain hike. To save money, consider visiting in the spring or fall, making sure to plan a few weeks ahead to secure a hotel that's open in the offseason.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Aspen is home to one of the world's premier culinary festivals (the Aspen Food & Wine Classic held every summer), so it should be no surprise that this ski town boasts a plethora of dining and drinking options. If you're a self-proclaimed foodie, you may want to splurge for a ticket to the festival to sample the wine and food and attend seminars with celebrity chefs, master sommeliers and more. If you're not looking to spend a fortune but still seeking an upscale (and quality) meal, residents and visitors alike have positive things to say about Japanese eatery and sushi haven Matsuhisa, snack- and sandwich-centric The White House Tavern, Aspen institution Jimmy's, rustic farm shop-meets-restaurant Meat & Cheese, and the unpretentious hotel hot spot Ajax Tavern (located in The Little Nell).
More casual eateries include Zocalito (lauded for its Latin cuisine and creative cocktails) and L'hostaria (which gets kudos for its tasty Italian fare, cozy atmosphere and generous wine pours). Looking for cheap eats in Aspen? Try Main Street Bakery & Café for breakfast or lunch (think: breakfast sandwiches, specialty eggs benedicts, deli sandwiches and salads) or HOPS Culture for a beer and bar food.
And then there's après-ski. After a long day of shredding the slopes, what better way to kick back and relax than with some après-ski (aka happy hour) drinks and snacks? Spots like Ajax Tavern, Limelight Lounge and Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro win favor with locals and travelers for their mix of affordable specials, fun vibes and live music. And if you're looking to sample the local craft beer, head to the Aspen Brewing Company.
The best way to get around Aspen is on foot or by bus. Bringing your own car will prove to be a headache, particularly with the limited parking and the challenges of driving in winter weather. Instead, consider getting acquainted with the town on foot. When it comes to getting to and from the slopes, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has you covered, offering regular and affordable service to the major ski areas (the ride from Aspen to Snowmass is free). RFTA also provides free service from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE) to central Aspen; service from the airport to Snowmass will cost you a few dollars. If you are flying into Denver International Airport (DEN) or Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), service to Aspen is offered by Colorado Mountain Express (fees vary).
You can rent a car in Denver or at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. From Denver, take I-70 to Aspen's Route 82, the town's main thoroughfare.See details for Getting Around
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