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 activities, fabulous shopping (Hermès has entered the picture!), and outstanding culinary offerings…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.
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.
This New York favorite is perhaps my favorite new addition to the Aspen scene. The food is great (delicious paninis and salads!), don’t get me wrong, but it’s the pastries and the coffee that takes the shiny star for me. Hot tip: this is where you’ll find the best iced coffee in town.
After years of walking past this restaurant, I finally decided to give it a try. Tucked away on Mill Street, this hidden gem boasts a menu focusing on Italian classics with a fresh spin – think: crudo, antipasti dishes, homemade pastas (the Bolognese is divine), and fresh seafood and meat entrees. The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely, too, making it a great place for a date night.
You’ll find all the usual suspects at this bakery, including coffee, muffins, and truly delicious cookies, but it’s the homemade gelato that has me coming back multiple times per week. It’s truly the best gelato I have ever had and that’s no small statement. The lines are always out the door, but don’t let that deter you because this double-scoop is totally worth waiting for.
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.
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.
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.
HAT • VEST • SUNGLASSES
WHAT TO DO
Open every Wednesday night from June – August, visiting the Snowmass Rodeo has become a tradition of ours. With lots of activities for kids, it’s the perfect family outing. Book a driver as there is limited parking available and make a stop at Taster’s Pizza on the way. This hole-in-the-wall spot offers delicious ‘za and so much better than waiting in the long lines at the rodeo.
T-SHIRT • JEANS • SUNGLASSES • CUSTOM BOOTS • VINTAGE BELT
Located in the heart of Aspen, Belly Up is a must for those looking to enjoy live music. Known for its intimate setting, the small venue has attracted some big names – think: John Legend, Widespread Panic, Snoop Dog, and Vampire Weekend, to name just a few.
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.
HAT • SHIRT • LEGGINGS • SNEAKERS • SUNGLASSES
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.
Need a little pampering after all of that hiking? Yarrow is just the place for it. Located at Hotel Jerome, the newly-renovated boutique spa offers a curated selection of services, including facials, body treatments (the Lymph Stimulation sounds amazing!), and massages. If your skin gets super dehydrated like mine, the Mountain Moisture facial is the ticket. Using Clé de Peau Beauté products, this relaxing (and productive!) treatment was like a big drink of water for my skin.
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.
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, and Paris Underground.
ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Located at the corner of Mill and Hopkins, this wooden stand is certainly nothing fancy but it’s where you’ll find the best shaved ice in town. The servings are enormous (read: two hands necessary) and therefore take a long time to actually eat, entertaining your kid for at least 20 minutes.
Located at Elk Camp in Snowmass Village, this roller coaster is essentially a two-person, luge-like sled that zips you down the mountain, through the forest. The entire ride is about 10 minutes, and the speed of each “sled” is self-regulated with a brake, allowing parents to control speed for younger kids who may not be quite ready for a super fast ride just yet. My three-and-a-half-year-old thought this was such a blast. Tip: Grab lunch at Elk Camp and then head over to the roller coaster. It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
The Pitkin County Library offers all kinds of activities for kids – from lap-time reading to art and more. One of our favorites has been the weekly story time which takes place every Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 am – 11:00 am. It’s quick and a great way to break up the morning, before you head to lunch.
Located at the Rec Center, this became one of my son’s favorite places. With a two-story water slide, a lazy river, a climbing tower, and an ice rink (!), there is no shortage of activities for kiddos.
Offered weekly from mid-June through mid-August, this day camp features a mix of environmental science education and outdoor exploration.
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
What I love about Aspen is that no matter what time of day it is, the overall vibe remains casual. This means that when the sun goes down, you have a choice whether you want to dress up or not. After being in activewear all day, I’m always ready for a change. The majority of my nighttime looks consist of dresses worn with sandals or some sort of cropped pant or denim with a light sweater. I rarely wear a pair of heels in Aspen. The closest I get is a pair of espadrilles. It does cool down at night so don’t forget to pack a wrap or two.