So famed is the high-altitude oasis of Aspen, Colorado, that the biggest A-list celebrity is the place itself. Since the late 19th century, the boomtown in the Rocky Mountains has been home to silver miners and ski bums, CEOs and celebrities. But at its heart, the community revolves around the one thing that never changes—its mountains. Framed by 14,000-foot peaks, Aspen winters center around skiing, snowshoeing and uphilling, but there’s much to do off the snow, too.
On the eastern edge of town stands the Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museum, a four-story building that exhibits international contemporary artists. Admission is free. Take a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain, where skiers and non-skiers alike can take in breathtaking views of the Elk Mountain Range. You can also meet with naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) for a guided snowshoe tour. As night falls, head downtown and take in a performance of music, comedy or theater at the historic Wheeler Opera House.
Venture into The Red Onion, Aspen’s oldest saloon, for a beer from local breweries Aspen Brewing Company or Roaring Fork Beer Company. Another beloved, longstanding institution, Jimmy’s An American Restaurant & Bar boasts one of the country’s most extensive Tequila, mezcal and Japanese whiskey selections, not to mention an outstanding wine list that highlights lesser-known American producers. No trip to Aspen is complete, however, without an afternoon by the fireplace at The Little Nell hotel, complete with a 20,000-bottle wine cellar curated by Carlton McCoy, MS. Wine lovers should inquire about McCoy’s “Red Light Lounge” cellar experience.
Chefs Club at The St. Regis Aspen Resort offers great entrées from world-renowned chefs like Eric Ripert and Alain Ducasse, a wine list created by Jonathan Pullis, MS, and the best cocktails in Aspen. Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop sells cheese and charcuterie, and its integrated café offers some of the freshest, farm-to-table plates in the country. Top steakhouses include The Monarch and Aspen Kitchen, the latter beloved for its pink Himalayan salt room where beef is dry aged.
Trek into Ute Mountaineer, where you can buy everything you need for mountain living. On Main Street, the independent Explore Booksellers is a local treasure: Books, gifts and the town’s creative output are nestled into an old brown-and-white Victorian, with Pyramid Bistro serving healthy meals on the second floor. For women’s wear, visit Gray Aspen, where designer Sarah Gercke’s private label is the go-to for original Aspen fashion.
Four Hour Getaway
A little more than two hours from Aspen is Palisade, an agricultural town in the heart of the emerging Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which comprises 19 wineries. Rent a bike from Rapid Creek Cycles and cycle along the Fruit & Wine Byway. Its three scenic routes, which range from five to 25 miles, weave through vineyards, orchards, lavender fields and past local market stands. Settle into the Palisade Wine Valley Inn, built in 1906, explore historic downtown Palisade or venture into the surrounding mesas on the Palisade Rim Trail for hiking and mountain biking.