Things to Do in Aspen, Colorado, for First-Timers

Aspen, Colorado, is known for its stunning landscape and as a destination for outdoor activities. However, taking to the slopes is not the only thing that you can do in this beautiful location, as it is a place that offers something for everyone. If it is your destination of choice for your vacation, then you can enjoy a vast array of activities. Here are some of the best things to do in Aspen for first-timers to help you plan the itinerary for your trip.

Have Fun on Aspen Mountain

Regardless of when you visit Aspen, there are activities to enjoy on Aspen Mountain. It was first open to the public in 1947, and it is this mountain that made Aspen one of the world’s most popular skiing destinations. There are approximately 64 miles of runs within 675 acres of skiable terrain. The mountain offers a different experience in the summer months when people enjoy hiking, mountaintop yoga, and nature walks.

Enjoy the Beauty of the Maroon Bells

One of the most iconic landmarks in Aspen is the twin peaks of Elk Mountain, which are known as the Maroon Bells. The peaks are the backdrop to Maroon Lake, and seeing the reflection of the peaks in the lake is a magical sight. The peaks are so magnificent that they have become one of the most photographed mountains in the world. One of the best times to view the peaks is at sunrise or sunset, as there is a magical glow across the mountains.

Experience an Adrenaline Rush at Aspen Highlands

If you have a lot of skiing or snowboarding experience, then one of the best places to advance your skills on the slopes is at Aspen Highlands. The majority of the runs at Aspen Highlands are either intermediate or advanced. Some of the trickiest runs that enjoy an adrenaline rush are Olympic Bowl, Highland Bowl, the Steeplechase, and Golden Horn.

Take the Kids on Buttermilk Mountain

Many of the slopes in Aspen are best-suited to experienced skiers. If you are a novice or have children with you, then a fantastic alternative is Buttermilk Mountain. Many of the runs and slopes at Buttermilk are easier than in the area’s other ski resorts. It also has a school for novices to take private lessons in skiing and snowboarding. There is a kids’ center called the Hideout, and a restaurant called Cliffhouse that serves Mongolian barbecue.

Ride the Silver Queen Gondola

While the gondolas in Aspen serve the practical purpose of getting you to the top of the slopes to go skiing, they also offer an amazing experience, as it is from the gondolas that you can enjoy some of the best views. The Silver Queen Gondola embarks on its ascent from Aspen’s center, then travels 2.5-miles to the summit of Aspen Mountain, which is 11,000-feet above sea level. The views you can enjoy during the ascent are nothing short of breathtaking. When you disembark from the gondola at the summit of the mountain, there is a restaurant with a sun deck where you can grab a bit to eat while admiring the stunning surroundings.

Have Some Fun at Snowmass

A great place for everyone to visit is Snowmass, the largest ski area in Aspen. It has ski slopes to suit all ages, along with miles of biking and hiking trails. It also has a village, which has an abundance of shops and restaurants. Two of the best restaurants at Snowmass are Elk Camp Restaurant and Lynn Britt Cabin.

Visit Aspen Brewing Company

There are many other options for ways to spend your time in Aspen other than skiing, and one of the area’s most popular attractions is the Aspen Brewing Company. The brewery first began producing beers in 2008, and it has made a significant impact on the craft beer scene in Aspen. Not only is the Aspen Brewing company a great place to sample some delicious craft beers, but it is also a fun night out as they have live music most weekends.

See a Performance at Wheeler Opera House

If you want to see a performance during your Aspen vacation, then one of the best places to do so is at the Wheeler Opera House. Even if you do not watch a performance at this venue, it is worth taking a peek at the impressive Victorian architecture and the gorgeous décor inside the building.

View the Exhibits at Aspen Art Museum

Another excellent venue to visit away from the slopes is the Aspen Art Museum, which is the top attraction in the area for art enthusiasts. Unlike many other art galleries and museums that collect art, the Aspen Art Museum merely creates a link between artists and the community and provides them with a space to showcase their work. Therefore, the exhibits frequently change and bring new developments in the art world to the public.

Enjoy the Peace at the John Denver Sanctuary

A peaceful place to spend time in Aspen is at the John Denver Sanctuary. John Denver was a singer-songwriter who loved to spend time in Aspen and lived in the area for a while. A memorial park paying tribute to the singer since his death in 1997 sits close to the Aspen Art Museum along the Roaring Fork River banks. Although it is usually a tranquil park, it hosts various musical events throughout the summer.

Take a Tour with the Aspen Historical Society

If you are interested in Aspen’s history and want to learn more, then the best way to do so is to take a tour with the Aspen Historical Society. This society’s mission is to preserve local history and educate visitors to the area in fun and compelling ways. They offer various tours that highlight the area’s landmarks. Along the way, the tour guides deliver fascinating information about Aspen’s past and present.

Hike the Rio Grande Trail

Although there are many hiking trails to enjoy in Aspen, you should not miss the Rio Grande Trail. One reason that this hike is so popular is that it one of the most accessible. It is an 8.4-mile trail that runs alongside the Roaring Fork River, then follows the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The trail takes you over two bridges and through several small canyons.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Grottos Trail

Another fantastic trail for all the family is Grottos Trail, where you can also take along your canine family members. It is a relatively easy trail as it is predominantly level. It takes you past an area of the Roaring Fork River with grottos formed by rushing water, which are fun for the kids to explore. Take along a picnic, as there are several pretty picnic areas along this trail.

See a Show at Theater Aspen

The Theater Aspen offers a different entertainment experience to most theaters. Set within Art Park, the theater is in a tent called the Hurst, which is open to the stars in the summer months. There is a fantastic program of performances throughout the year, so check what is on before visiting Aspen. Theater Aspen is also the host venue for the two-week Aspen Theater Festival that promotes lesser-known musical groups and playwrights.

Enjoy the Activities at Aspen Recreational Center

If you prefer to spend some of your time indoors, then the Aspen Recreational Center offers various activities to enjoy. The center has separate areas offering different activities, including a swimming pool, weights rooms, a rock-climbing wall, a fitness center, and an ice skating arena. The Aspen Recreational Center also runs music and art classes.

Play Tennis or Golf During Your Visit to Aspen

Aspen is not only about skiing, as there are various other activities you should enjoy. Two other activities that you can enjoy during your visit are tennis and golf. The Aspen Golf and Tennis Club offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy both activities. There is an 18-hole golf course at this club in an elevated position on the mountainside, which means you can enjoy fantastic views while playing golf. Also, there are two hard tennis courts and six clay tennis courts open from June to September. The club offers instruction for both golf and tennis, and there is an on-site restaurant.

Try a New Activity

A trip to Aspen is an opportunity to try a range of new activities that you might not have tried before. One option is paragliding, which is an exciting way of seeing Aspen’s sights from a bird’s eye perspective. Another fun activity to try is white water rafting.  Most white water rafting expeditions take place on the Upper Roaring Fork River and take you over rapids such as Toothache and the Snowmass Hole.

Drive Through Independence Pass

If you have traveled to Aspen in your car or you have hired a car for your vacation, then you should drive the Independence Pass. It is a 20-mile scenic road that, at 12,095 feet above sea level, is one of the highest roads in North America. The route runs through high cliffs and thick forests and then opens out to offer spectacular views. A hiking trail takes you from the road to a viewing platform to enjoy the views from a different perspective.

Visit Glenwood Springs

While you are in Aspen, you should travel outside the city’s perimeter to the surrounding area, and one of the area’s top locations to visit is Glenwood Springs. It is a town approximately 40 miles northwest of Aspen, and it is known for its hiking trails. Other popular activities in this area include whitewater rafting and fishing. Greenwood Springs also has a good collection of shops and restaurants.

Go to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies

The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ primary aim is to educate visitors about nature, wildlife, and Aspen’s environment. It has various exhibits, and the center runs wildlife workshops and children’s arts and crafts sessions. The center also offers free guided hikes around the area.

Aspen, Colorado, is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year, although it is best known as a winter vacation destination. Although most people visiting this location spend most of their time on the slopes enjoying skiing and snowboarding activities, there are plenty more activities you can enjoy. There are just some of the most popular activities to enjoy on this list, but there are many more attractions to visit in Aspen and the surrounding area


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