What are the five best things to see and do in Aspen?

Answers from Our Experts (3)

Aspen is a snowy wintertime playground, but the city offers a flurry of things to do all year round. Though if you are planning a trip here, the available activities depend on the season. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors' suggestions for the five best things to see and do:

1. Skiing and snowboarding. In winter, the answer is obvious: Skiing or snowboarding at one of four ski areas tops the list. While locals prefer the steeps and deeps of Highlands Bowl, visitors are drawn to the gentle slopes of Snowmass, or the convenience of Aspen Mountain to all the happenings downtown. If you’re traveling with the kids, Buttermilk is best for families with youngsters because of its easy slopes.

2. Ashcroft Pine Creek Cookhouse. A visit to the Ashcroft Pine Creek Cookhouse, a luxury backcountry lodge up the Castle Creek Valley, can be accessed by horse-drawn sleigh or cross-country skiing. It is a must for anyone with a taste for adventure and wild game and mountain-inspired food.

3. X Games. The annual X Games bring a young, hip vibe into town. With this massive live television production, the circus-esque atmosphere all over Aspen is both exciting and bursting with activity.

4. The festivals. Summer is all about culture, and can’t-miss events include the annual Food & Wine Classic in early June; the Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute in late June; and the ongoing Aspen Music Festival and school concerts at the Music Tent.

5. Fall foliage. Starting in mid-September, the Aspen leaves turn yellow and fall foliage abounds, adding a mosaic of color to the majestic scenery. This time of year is idyllic for biking, hiking and taking a scenic drive. It’s considered “off season,” so the rates for airfare and lodging are cheaper, too.

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Aspen. Here are five of our favorites:

Snow Sports: Aspen is lucky to have not just one but four resorts nearby. In addition to Aspen Mountain in town, Buttermilk is great for beginners and Snowmass is perfect for families. Aspen Highlands is sometimes called “the local’s resort,” and in addition to its draw-dropping double blacks, it has a great variety of terrain. If downhill winter sports aren’t your thing, there’s a variety of cross-country trails, ice skating and snowshoeing to get you outside and enjoying the snow.

Get your culture fix: From art galleries to the acclaimed Aspen Music Festival, Aspen is swimming in culture. With lectures at the Aspen Institute, along with films during the Aspen Film Fest, music at the Wheeler Opera House and late-night acts at the Belly Up, there is no shortage of entertainment. Other favorites include the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the popular “theater in the park” at Theatre Aspen.

Hiking: Aspen is surrounded by the White River National Forest, and within moments of stepping outside the Little Nell, you can be hiking on one of hundreds of miles of trails. The iconic Maroon Bells is a perfect place to start your hike.

Shopping: Aspen has no shortage of shopping. It’s home to luxury brands like Dior and Prada, as well as a variety of unique specialty shops. From independent bookstores to secondhand shops, Aspen has something for every budget.

Dining: With over 80 eateries to choose from, Aspen has a big appetite for such a small town. Sushi, farm-to-table, BBQ and more are available to suit any palate, and the après ski scene features fun cocktails, lively music and delicious nibbles. Don’t be surprised if you’re still in your ski pants at 8 p.m. - après can sometimes last well into the night in Aspen.

Photo for Jimmy Yeager

1. Ski and Snowboard. Being in the mountains and having fun is what living in Aspen is all about.

2. Hiking. For the same reason as above, plus when you are hiking you have the freedom to explore much more of the natural environs.

3. Music. Aspen Music Festival in the summer draws the highest levels of classical music in the world. The local venues and other festivals complete the spectrum of music.

4. Lecture series. The Aspen Institute, Aspen Center For Physics and other think tanks hold interesting lecture series.

5. Events. There are tons of amazing events all year, including the X Games, snow polo, film festivals, hot air balloon festivals, Ruggerfest and more.

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  • Dean Weiler,
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