Some may say that winter is prime time to be in Aspen, and though they certainly wouldn’t be wrong, it’s my personal opinion that summer is the Colorado town’s shining season. For starters, there’s the perfect weather. The air is clear, the skies are spectacularly blue, and the temperatures hover between the high 70s and low 80s. (The temperatures alone are reason enough to get this Texas girl on a plane headed north.) Throw in the town’s endless outdoor experiences (hiking, biking, paddle boarding, fishing…), kid-friendly camps and activities, fabulous shopping, and, outstanding culinary offerings…and, well, there you have all the makings of an idyllic summer getaway.
Planning a summer stop in Aspen? Read on for a guide filled with all the tips and tricks – from where to stay and what to do, to the best kid-friendly activities and can’t-miss restaurants.
WHERE TO STAY
Housed in the historic Aspen Times building, this Auberge Resorts Collection hotel is a major hot spot. The interior design is classic Western with a chic spin (think: Ralph Lauren but slightly shinier), giving way for one of the coziest, see-and-be-seen cocktail spots (and dining locations) in town. As to be expected with an Auberge property, the rooms are delightfully luxurious, with thoughtful details – heated bathroom tiles, oversized tubs, and exceptionally roomy closets, to name a few.
This hotel is always first on my list when friends ask where they should stay in Aspen. It checks all of the boxes – great service, great location, and beautiful accommodations. The Little Nell manages that perfect balance of feeling luxurious without being fancy, maintaining that come-as-you-are vibe that is synonymous with Colorado ski towns. It’s worth noting that Ajax Tavern (one of two restaurants located on site) has one of the best burgers in all of Aspen.
RENT A HOUSE
If you’re planning a longer stay in Aspen, I highly recommend seeking out a rental home. It’s much more cost-effective than a hotel and offers more flexibility. VRBO has some spectacular homes in the area, whether you’re looking for something cozy and close to town or an over-the-top chalet to accommodate a large group. It’s worth noting that a number of the homes are “agent-to-agent” only so finding an agent who specializes in rentals can be highly beneficial. Hot tip: Call Grayson Stover. She has all the scoop and access to great home you won’t find online.
WHERE TO EAT
If I was really forced to pick a favorite Aspen restaurant, this would be it. What’s not to love? With a vibe that is elegant and intimate, the restaurant is a go-to for a post-hike (no need to change out of your leggings and sneakers) lunch with girlfriends or a romantic dinner for two. The menu features classic Italian dishes, including delicious antipasti, house-made pastas and steak and fish dishes. Don’t miss: Miky’s Salad (my go-to nearly every day for lunch), the Trofie pasta, and the Branzino for two.
A longtime favorite by locals and visitors alike, this restaurant is a must-go for an elegant – and delicious! dinner. The perfectly-sized (in my opinion) menu has something for everyone – from lighter, vegetable-focused dishes and fresh fish (the crispy trout is a must-order!) to come-hungry NY Strips topped off with French Fries. Don’t miss: the Salmon Tartare appetizer. Ask for extra potato chips – trust me.
Famed Austin-based hospitality group McGuire-Moorman-Lambert answered every Texan’s prayer with this recently-opened Tex-Mex concept. With a great patio, a bar that’s open late, and a menu filled with crowd-pleasing classics – think: chips + queso, fajitas, homemade tortillas – it’s no surprise that this hot spot has a waiting list at the door. Take it from me: it’s worth the wait. Tip: Order the Caesar salad. It’s a surprise hit and tastes even better with a margarita.
If you’re looking for comfort food, this is where you’ll find it. The Hillstone-owned restaurant has all the favorites you know and love from the hospitality group – think: the Macho salad, Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich, the Dip Duo, and, of course, their epic cheeseburger. It’s worth noting that the restaurant is always jam-packed and they don’t take reservations so you either need to be an early bird (i.e. 5:00 pm) or plan to wait. I like to put my name on the list and walk around town with a cocktail until they buzz me to let me know my table is ready.
With a menu that includes everything from sandwiches and hearty salads to tacos and dumplings, this casual eatery is always a crowd-pleaser. And while the restaurant is delicious, it’s actually the specialty food shop inside that makes this place a shining star. I love browsing around the shelves, always discovering a new-to-me favorite. Hot tip: if you’re entertaining at home, stop by and pick up fresh pizza dough and all of the ingredients, along with ready-to-go cheese boards.
Open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour, this restaurant oozes charm and – most importantly – serves delicious food. The seafood is what brings you in – fresh oysters, caviar, lobster rolls, and more. Don’t sleep on the carbs: the shoestring fries and homemade sourdough bread are not to be missed.
This restaurant has that come-and-stay-awhile vibe that makes every table in the joint a good one. It’s super cozy (and even more after a martini or two), making it an ideal spot for a date night or lively choice for a big group. The menu is what one might expect from a steakhouse (various cuts of steak, delicious fish, and hearty sides) but certainly not forgettable. Hot tip: do not leave without order a side of onion rings.
Located inside The Ute Building, this tiny juice bar is easy to miss – and you certainly don’t want to because it’s delicious. Serving fresh-pressed juices, milks, and smoothies along with a small assortment of sandwiches and salads, this counter-room-only spot is great for a quick breakfast or snack, or to fuel up post-hike. Hot tip: call and place your order ahead of time to avoid the line.
WHAT TO DO
The easiest way to get around Aspen is to walk or bike. Depending on where you’re staying, the walks can get pretty long so having a bike is the best choice. This was the first year we rented e-bikes and we will never be the same. A game-changer! In a nutshell: more speed, less effort. They turned what used to be long hauls to town for provisions into easy-breezy jaunts. For rentals, give Velo a call.
Who doesn’t love a reward at the end of a long workout? That’s what you’ll get after a hike (or e-bike!) to Woody Creek Tavern. Find the Rio Grande Trail and follow the signs from there. The trail itself is simple and it’s a fairly easy hike or bike, suitable for all levels. Depending on where you start in Aspen, it’s about seven-miles (one way), making that ice-cold margarita awaiting you at the end, a well-deserved treat.
From mid-June to early October, spend your Saturday morning at the Aspen Farmer’s Market. With so much to see – from fresh produce to other unique products (including the chicest straw hats!) made by local artisans – it can easily take up an entire morning.
Pine Creek Cookhouse offers a delicious meal with unparalleled vistas. And that’s not all. You can also reserve horseback riding, guided hikes, and more. My recommendation is to sign up for the guided hike to the restaurant and then enjoy a boozy lunch with your crew. The restaurant will arrange for your transportation.
Need a little pampering after all of that hiking? O2 offers treatments ranging from deep-tissue massages to amazing facials (hot tip: ask for Jody!) using Biologique Recherche products. Arrive a little early for your appointment and you can browse through O2’s boutique, which has the best selection of activewear in town.
shop ’til you drop…
There’s no shortage of shopping in this town. There’s a long list of designer destinations (think: Prada, Dior, and Gucci, to name just a few) along with some fabulous smaller boutiques that are worth a stop. My personal hit list: Miron Crosby, Max, Humanity, Etc., Nuages, Paris Underground, and Amen Wardy.
ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Offering sensory play and hands-on art classes to children as young as 9 months (!), this is a great way to fill an hour (or more!). The female-led team handles everything from set up to clean up – all you have to do is sign up and show up!
Offered weekly from mid-June through mid-August, this day camp features a mix of environmental science education and outdoor exploration.
With class offerings ranging from on-stage performing and singing to designing and playwriting, there’s a variety of options to fit the bill for any creative kiddo, K-12.
This 113-acre wildlife preserve and education ranch is located just 15-minutes outside of Aspen. During the summer, they offer farm tours for all ages along with educational experiences, including “Farm Animal Connections,” “Inside the Beehive,” and egg collections on Fridays.
WHAT TO WEAR
I’ve decided that Aspen is really the best place to be pregnant. The active Aspen lifestyle bodes well for an all-day uniform consisting of activewear – leggings, sneakers, and not a single button waistband in sight (the magic words for this pregnant lady). I spent the majority of my days wearing Beyond Yoga’s matching sets, Lululemon shorts, and sneakers. At night, the overall vibe remains casual, but polished. I usually opted for white denim or a dress topped off with a cardigan.
SUNGLASSES • HAT • TANK • LEGGINGS