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The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Aspen
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The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Aspen

Picture of Michelle Schmid
Updated: 9 February 2017
With a history reaching back into the late 19th century, Aspen, Colorado has grown to be a town that lures visitors with its numerous attractions and beautiful situation in the Rocky Mountains. More commonly recognized as a ski-town, this city has a lot to offer any curious visitor, even in the hot and dry months of the American summer.
The Aspen Mountains
The Aspen Mountains | © michael.stockton/Flickr

Skiing

The most popular activity in Aspen is skiing. With a range of ideal slopes full of powder so close, visitors can’t resist the thrill of coursing down through the alpine air. The area is full of ski resorts; however, Aspen Mountain draws snow-lovers to try their luck on black diamond runs and other difficult routes. Novice skiers tend to drift towards Highlands, which offers a back-country experience and great views at every turn, or Buttermilk, which hosts the Winter X Games. So, whether enrolling in ski-school or taking a cross-country tour through the mountains, skiing at Aspen is a great form of entertainment .

Maroon Bells sunrise
Maroon Bells sunrise | © Ryan Beck/Flickr

Hiking

When the ground is lacking snow enough for skiing, visitors can spend the day navigating the mountain trails in and around Aspen. Notably, some trails such as the Rio Grande trail or the Hunter Creek trail begin in the city; many of these are rated from easy to moderate, though there are a few difficult trails, too. Trails leading to Maroon Lake and Crater Lake attract a great number of visitors despite the more difficult grade, and offer a great amount of dramatic and awe-inspiring scenes characteristic of the Rocky Mountains.

Les Miserables performance
Les Miserables performance | © Chris Parker/Flickr

Theatre performances

World class professionals create a dynamic experience for show-goers who can partake in anything from classic shows during the regular season to special events such as the Aspen Theatre Fest, which happens annually in August. What’s more, the theater in Aspen now also boasts a beautiful outdoor garden just next to its new building. Known for being experimental and trying new things in theatre, this venue offers a unique and thrilling experience for any audience member.

Ashcroft ghost town
Ashcroft ghost town | © John Newton/Flickr

Ghost towns

Get ready to experience the old West by visiting the two ghost towns near Aspen. Ashcroft ghost town, which originally was home to two newspapers, a school, and twenty saloons, grew up because of the discovery of silver close by. Now only a few buildings stand to show what remains of the town. Independence on the other hand was established after a vein of gold was found, although soon the lure of Aspen’s successful silver mining business left this town abandoned. Both towns are open for visits during the summer and are run by the Aspen Historical Society.

Whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River
Whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River | © Zaskoda/Flickr

White water river rafting

An activity that is very much part of the outdoorsy culture in Colorado, white water river rafting is a fun and adventurous way to spend a day in the Aspen area. There are numerous outfitters to enjoy the rolling rapids of the nearby Arkansas River with, both in a guided group tour or individually with a rented kayak. Using any of the various rafting guides, rafters can experience diverse levels of difficulty, including class-three rapids that are still family safe.

an Aspen art gallery
an Aspen art gallery | © Rich Pearce/Flickr

Aspen Art Museum and other galleries

Art lovers can rejoice at the plethora of art venues Aspen has to offer. Dive into the innovative and international art showcased at the Aspen Art Museum, which features new shows that explore the evolution of art. Exhibitions shift on a regular basis, so there is always something new to catch the eye. At the same time, small art galleries are abundant here, allowing guests to view local artists whose cutting-edge and thoughtful pieces are at once interesting and ground-breaking.

Hallam Lake in winter
Hallam Lake in winter | © Jim Kravitz/Flickr

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

Established with a mission to educate the public about the environment, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is a pleasant stop off that’s worth a visit. There are four different centers located around Aspen including Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch, Catto Center at Tolkat, and Spring Creek. Each of these centers has a unique history as well as a variety of activities to engage in. At Hallam Lake, meet the raptors and study the indoor animals before heading on a hike where wildlife is abundant. Or stop by Rock Bottom Ranch, where visitors can interact with farm animals and explore the gardens. Each center is an opportunity to connect with nature.

Beer line-up
Beer line-up | © Nan Palmero/Flickr

Aspen Brewing Company

Since Colorado is a hub for fantastic craft beers, it would not be a true visit to Aspen without first touring the Aspen Brewing Company. Founded in 2008, today, a 20-barrel brew house creates a variety of beer that is pleasing to the taste buds and distinctly Aspen. Tour the brewery and enjoy the variety of beer, including the differing seasonal beers produced, in the intimate setting of the tasting room.

Wheeler/Stallard House/ © Jim Kravitz/Flickr
Wheeler/Stallard House/ | © Jim Kravitz/Flickr

Wheeler/Stallard Museum

Another way to get in touch with historic Aspen is to visit the Wheeler/Stallard Museum. Built in 1888, the house represents an architecture and time period very different from current affairs in the town. Touring the building reminds guests about the work-filled history that helped build the mining town to its current status. The museum now holds various exhibits and is tied closely with the Wheeler Opera House. Learn about the decades that have passed since Aspen’s founding and the lineup of wealthy business owners who have resided here.

Maroon Bells wilderness |© Dave Dugdale/Flickr
Maroon Bells wilderness | © Dave Dugdale/Flickr

Horseback riding

See the mountains in a new way by visiting one of Aspen’s stables for a guided tour of the area on horseback. It’s a great way to get in touch with the history of the land. Visitors can participate in a number of experiences, including two-hour rides, half-day rides that come with food, full-day rides, and even overnight rides where travellers bed down at a local ranch. Rides tend to explore the Maroon Bells area and offer some scenes of breath-taking beauty.