The Top Things to See and Do in Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is brimming with activities and delicious grub year-round
Aspen is brimming with activities and delicious grub year-round | © Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo
Michelle Schmid

Dating back to the late 19th century, Aspen, Colorado, has grown to be a popular destination, enticing visitors with its numerous attractions and beautiful location in the Rocky Mountains. Usually thought of as a ski town, it has a lot to offer any curious visitor, even in the hot and dry months of the American summer.

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Ski down Aspen Mountain

The most popular activity in Aspen is skiing, with a range of slopes full of powder so close it’s hard to resist the thrill of coursing down through the alpine air. While the area has many ski resorts, Aspen Mountain draws snow lovers to try their luck on its black-diamond runs and other difficult routes. Novice skiers tend to drift towards Aspen Highlands, which offers a backcountry experience and great views at every turn, or Buttermilk, which hosts the Winter X Games. Whether enrolling in ski school or taking a cross-country tour through the mountains, skiing in Aspen is great entertainment.

In the warmer months, when most of the snow has melted, you can spend the day navigating the mountain trails around Aspen. Some paths, such as the Rio Grande Trail or the Hunter Creek Trail, start in the city, with many of them rated easy to moderate. However, there are also a few difficult trails. Those leading to Maroon Lake and Crater Lake attract many visitors, despite the more difficult grade, and offer dramatic and awe-inspiring scenes characteristic of the Rocky Mountains.

Enjoy theater performances

In Aspen, world-class professionals create a dynamic experience for theater lovers, who get to watch anything from classic shows during the regular season to special events such as the annual Solo Flights. What’s more, Theatre Aspen also boasts a beautiful outdoor garden next to its new building. This venue, known for being experimental and trying new things in theater, offers the audience a unique and thrilling experience.

Creep around ghost towns run by the Aspen Historical Society

Get ready to experience the Wild West by visiting the two ghost towns near Aspen. Ashcroft Ghost Town, once home to a couple of newspapers, a school and 20 saloons, prospered when silver was discovered close by. Now only a few buildings stand to show what remains of the town. Independence Ghost Town, on the other hand, was established after a vein of gold was found, although the lure of Aspen’s successful silver mining business soon left this town abandoned. Both places are open for visits during the summer and are run by the Aspen Historical Society.

Try white-water rafting on Arkansas River

An activity that is very much a part of Colorado’s outdoorsy culture, white-water rafting is a fun and adventurous way to spend a day in the Aspen area. You can enjoy the rolling rapids of the nearby Arkansas River in a guided group tour – there are many companies in the region – or individually, with a rented kayak. Using any of the various rafting guides, you can experience varying levels of difficulty, including class III rapids that are still family safe.

Explore Aspen Art Museum and other galleries

Art lovers can rejoice at the many art venues Aspen has to offer. Dive into the innovative and international art showcased at the Aspen Art Museum, which features regularly changing shows that explore the evolution of art and always has something new to catch the eye. Small art galleries are also abundant here, allowing you to view the works of cutting-edge local artists.

Learn at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

With a mission to educate the public about the environment, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is well worth visiting. It has three centers in the area: Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch and Catto Center at Toklat. Each of these centers has a unique history and a variety of activities to engage in and offers an opportunity to connect with nature. At Hallam Lake, meet the raptors and study the indoor animals before heading on a hike where wildlife is abundant. Alternatively, stop by Rock Bottom Ranch, where you can interact with farm animals and explore the gardens.

Drink craft beer after touring Aspen Brewing Company

As Colorado is a hub for fantastic craft beers, a visit to Aspen would not be complete without touring the Aspen Brewing Company, founded in 2008. The 20-barrel brewhouse creates a variety of beers that are pleasing to the taste and distinctly Aspen in character. Tour the brewery and enjoy a brew or two, including seasonal beers, in the tasting room’s intimate setting.

Delve into history at the 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 a style of architecture and a time very different from the present day. Touring the building teaches you about the work-filled history that helped transform the mining town into what it is today. The museum hosts various exhibits and has close ties with the Wheeler Opera House. Learn about the decades that have passed since Aspen’s founding, and the line-up of wealthy business owners who have resided here.

Witness the landscape on horseback

See the mountains in a new way by visiting one of Aspen’s stables, such as Horse Ranch Drive, for a guided tour of the area on horseback, and get in touch with the history of the land. Various experiences are available, including two-hour rides, half-day rides that come with food, full-day rides and even overnight rides during which travelers bed down at a local ranch. Excursions tend to explore the Maroon Bells area and offer breathtakingly scenic beauty.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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