a little town called aspen
Aspen: the place where luxury, style, private jets, fur coats, amazing food and even better champagne come together to give you one of the best times of your life.
It would be surprising if you didn’t spot a celebrity (or ten) on the slopes or wandering the snow covered streets, clad head to toe in fur, some complete with entourage. (I once saw someone following Mariah Carey around brushing her hair, no joke.)
Gay Ski Week is known for some serious ski-side fun (mid-January each year), but we all know a girl’s long weekend is pretty good too! Ski season runs from November to April each year, with Aspen Mountain officially closing on the 15th of April. But, in saying that, if there's snow, they've been known to re open it!
Aspen isn't just exclusive to skiing, though. Summer is just as busy as the winter, with a kick-ass annual Food & Wine Festival in June and a Music Festival running from June through to August. There's also plenty of hiking you can do all year round with Autumn and it's symphony of colours engulfing the landscape being a particularly special time for it.
Aspen holds a special place in my heart; it's the place I married my husband, the place I started skiing again after many years off, and a place i've been to so many times that it’s practically a third home, each time getting better than the last. So, below, i present to you the best of the best that this tiny town offers. From someone who's almost a local. (no chance i could ever claim that btw. haha)
FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL - HELD ANNUALLY IN JUNE
One of my favourite events of the year, Aspen’s annual food and wine festival welcomes summer with a bang. The most accomplished chefs, winemakers and foodies from all around the world assemble at the base of Aspen’s beautiful mountains and celebrate all things to love about food and wine (in style, of course). The festival runs from a Friday-Sunday in June each year; but make sure to buy a ticket early to secure your spot as tickets sell out fast!
ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL – HELD ANNUALLY JUNE-AUGUST
If classical and jazz music are your thing, then the Aspen Music Festival is for you. This prestigious event is regarded as one of the top classical music festivals in the USA. Each summer they run an eight-week course for classical music and over 400 concerts are performed throughout. It's the perfect time to grab the picnic blanket, load up the picnic basket with some delicious cheese and wine, sit back and enjoy the finer things in life, Aspen style.
ASPEN ART MUSEUM: TUESDAY-SUNDAY 10AM-6PM
Designed by one of my favorite Japanese architects, Shigeru Ban, this newly constructed contemporary museum houses a variety of exhibitions and artists from all over the globe, and it's completely free to visit! It also boasts a pretty fab rooftop café with killer views of Aspen mountain. Serving local, innovative cuisine. And wine, of course.
aspenartmuseum.com | 637 E Hyman Ave
WHEELER OPERA HOUSE
The Wheeler Opera House welcomes some big names in entertainment to this small mountain town (Oprah Winfrey has even paid a visit). From comedy to magic shows, film to musicals, it's the perfect place to experience something a little different.
wheeleroperahouse.com | 320 E Hyman Ave
FOR MORNING COFFEE
VICTORIA’S ESPRESSO: MONDAY-SUNDAY 7AM-9PM
I'm a coffee at home kinda gal, but on the days when I need an extra pick-me-up, Victoria’s is the place to be. The Australian/New Zealand owned café attracts a large crowd for their warm roast on a cool morning and their beautiful wine selection of an evening. Be ready to wait in line, half of town is lining up for their morning flat whites.
aspenespressobar.com | 510 E Durant Ave
INK!: MONDAY-SUNDAY 6:30AM-5PM
The coffee from ink is roasted in Colorado, so you know it’s always a fresh blend making its way to your coffee cup. They started out as a lone coffee cart near Snowmass mountain and have expanded to 16 locations in Aspen and Denver. The also sell my favourite RX bars, which are great for popping into your pocket for mid mountain snack time!
inkcoffee.com | 520 E Durant Ave # 110A
FOR FOOD - ON ASPEN MOUNTAIN:
SUNDECK: MONDAY-SUNDAY 9AM-3PM
When you’re busy exploring the mountains by day and drinking champagne by night, your body is going to crave some self-love and healthy food. Sunrise yoga on the mountain followed by a brown rice veggie bowl? Yes please! Sundeck has both, and in the most breath-taking location, too. Yoga classes run through both the winter and the summer season and are only $5 on arrival (you’ll need to purchase a gondola ticket to make it to the top of the mountain too). Worth it for the zen you’ll feel afterwards.
Even if you're not a kale salad kinda person, once you’ve tried the one at Bonnie’s I swear you’ll be a convert. Their menu is the perfect combination of healthy and homey and if you're hungry a little earlier than lunchtime? Glide off the mountain and into this cute little restaurant for a cheeky piece of cake and a coffee to warm yourself up again before spending the afternoon ripping it up in the snow.
FOR FOOD - ON HIGHLANDS:
MERRY-GO-ROUND: MONDAY-SUNDAY 9AM-3PM
Set in the perfect location atop Aspen Highlands mountain, right as you get off the Exhibition lift, Merry Go Round offers daily healthy lunch specials and there is usually an abundance of vegetarian and vegan options to warm you up. They also make the best 'it's-ok-i've-been-skiing-all-morning' sweet potato fries... that you might not want to share. But the best part about this mountain top restaurant? Sitting on the outdoor deck in the Aspen sun overlooking the snow-covered peaks.
Ever dreamt of a Veuve Clicquot shower? Well when the clock strikes 2pm at Cloud 9, dreams really do come true. What begins with cheese, charcuterie, salmon, and hazelnut tiramisu, ends in champagne dripping from the ceilings and people dancing on tables in nothing but ski boots. It’s so good you’ll need to book about a month in advance to secure a spot, but I assure you it’s worth it. Just FYI, come 4pm when service is finished you’re given a pretty rushed send-off by the staff who tell you to 'be safe' (after they've plied you with booze!) as you take to the slopes again and ski back to reality. A must-do spot in Aspen, you will have the (shortest but best) time of your life.
FOR APRÈS SKI
AJAX TAVERN: MONDAY-SUNDAY 11:30AM-10PM
Drinking rosé on the terrace on a sunny afternoon surrounded by mountain views after an epic morning ski, is pretty much my idea of a perfect winters day. Throw in a salmon niçoise and a side of parmesan truffle fries and i am in heaven. This place also gets super busy so make sure to book in advance. Or you can try you luck at the few seats they have at the bar. Another must do while you're here.
thelittlenell.com | 685 E Durant Ave
CHAIR 9 AT THE LITTLE NELL: 3.30-7.30PM DAILY
The après spot almost everyone ends up at after a day of skiing, some with perfectly blown out hair (let's face it,they didn't ski) and some (like me) in ski boots and thermals. Glasses of Verve are flowing, DJs are cranking, and they’ve got an electric violinist gracing the stage on the odd occasion. Lots of fun.
thelittlenell.com | 675 E. Durant Street
FOR FOOD- IN TOWN
This longstanding French restaurant continues to serve the best local, authentic and unbelievably delicious dishes in Aspen. The sommelier, Alex, is well versed in wines from all over the world – which is helpful considering they have a 100-page wine list. Start off with some oysters, caviar or some of the most delicious smoked salmon you'll ever eat. Round it out with a cacio e pepe or even a cheeky filet mignon with a side of brussel sprouts and finish it off with the best apple tartine you'll ever eat. I'm salivating just thinking about it! After just one more drink? Their bar is one of the best in Aspen.
cachecache.com | 205 S Mill St
MATSUHISA: MONDAY-SUNDAY 5:30PM-9PM
Hidden away in a 120-year-old Victorian house in downtown Aspen is this quaint little Japanese restaurant, the sister to chef Nobu’s original restaurant in Beverly Hills. Downstairs amongst the bamboo ceilings and cocktail bar is the sushi bar, and it's where you'll find me ordering my favorite dishes like the jalapeño yellowtail sashimi and the tuna tartare, with a side of cold sake of course.Get there early (5-530pm) to score a seat, otherwise you might be waiting a while.
matsuhisarestaurants.com | 303 E Main St
MEAT & CHEESE: MONDAY-SUNDAY 11AM-9PM
You can never go wrong with cheese! And the selection they have at Meat & Cheese is hands down the best in town (yep, i'm aware that rhymed!). Coupled with their artisan baked bread, fresh seafood, and meats from Western Colorado, it’s the perfect afternoon on a plate. Their produce is locally and sustainably sourced and if you're eating in, the chef draws on traditions from across Asia, Europe, and the Americas to deliver an eclectic dining experience. They also have a great selection of chocolates and gourmet foods like pickles, coffee and even freshly laid eggs!
meatcheese.avalancheaspen.com | 319 E Hopkins Ave
MONARCH: MONDAY-SUNDAY 5:30PM-11PM
Think old school London gentleman’s club set amongst the luxe of a mountainous village and that’s Monarch. The sleek interiors match their well curated menu which includes classy cocktails, steak (of course), pan seared scallops and even a caesar salad which is assembled right in front of you at the table (my personal fave). It’s the best place to enjoy a cosy evening with your loved one, or just your best mates.
monarchaspen.com| 411 S. Monarch Street
RUSTIQUE: MONDAY-SUNDAY 4:30PM-LATE
You'll feel like you're being transported to a provencal bistro when stepping into the candlelit charm of Rustique. Start off by enjoying their award winning 'Aspen Fresh' vodka martini at the bar before settling down for a dinner of home-style French cuisine. Truffle fries included, of course. It is Aspen after all!
www.rustiquebistro.com | 216 S Monarch St
FOR HEALTHY FOOD
JUS JUICE BAR: MONDAY-SUNDAY 8AM-5PM
The only place in town to offer homemade, unsweetened nut milks for your turmeric or matcha latte, this relatively new juice bar is THE place to start your day. If you’re craving a green, orange or blue, yes blue!, juice or smoothie then this is the place to get it. They offer a range of vegan salads and wraps, too.
jusaspen.com | 501 E Hyman Ave, Aspen
PYRAMID BISTRO: MONDAY-SUNDAY 11:30AM-9:30PM
Tucked above a quaint little bookstore on the edge of town is one of my favourite places to enjoy a healthy meal. It’s the first ever ‘nutritarian’ restaurant, which means the cooking style is based on clean, fresh, mostly plant based ingredients to heal your body. Try the sweet potato gnocchi or the rainbow quinoa stir fry and maybe follow with the dark chocolate pot with sour berry compote (it is healthy, I promise)!
pyramidbistro.com | 221 E Main St, Aspen
SPRING STREET CAFÉ: MONDAY-SUNDAY 7AM-5PM
How can you go wrong with a 100% organic menu that’s vegan and vegetarian friendly? At Spring Street, they only use cold pressed oils, almond and oat flours, fresh herbs and locally sourced eggs and dairy products. Even the interiors are au naturale, with a building crafted from non-toxic materials. Winning.
springcafe.org | 119 S Spring St, Aspen
CLARKS MARKET: MONDAY-SUNDAY 7AM-10PM
City Market is where most out-of-towners go to shop but i much prefer Clarks. Offering a bigger selection of organic produce and healthy groceries for those nights you’re craving a home cooked meal.
clarksmarket.com | 300 Puppy Smith St, Aspen
One cannot go to Aspen without enjoying all the activities mother nature has on offer. If you're not hitting the slopes to ski, this incredibly beautiful part of the world has some of the best hiking (or running) through some pretty spectacular mountain terrain. Not to mention the fresh air that your lungs will be rather thankful for!
There’s four mountains surrounding the Aspen township: Aspen, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. For seasoned skiers, Aspen is the mountain for you, Snowmass is great for the massive terrain, whereas beginners should lean towards Buttermilk and Highlands.
Hiking can be done in both the summer and the winter, you just need to know where to go! In winter, my fave trail is the Smuggler Trail. It’s walking distance from town and makes for a perfect morning workout, just don't forget to take plenty of water. I like to walk up and then run down after enjoying the views from the top. If you’re around during the summer, the Ute Trail is pretty fab, taking you to the top of Aspen mountain on a challenging 2+ hour hike with views that are certainly worth it. It’s best to head out early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Both trails are dog friendly, too!
Last but not least, is one of the most photographed places in the Rocky Mountains and just a short 10-mile drive (or walk) from Aspen. The Maroon Bells mountains, which sit perfectly next to a clear blue lake, are the ultimate hikers dream. The area has over 300 million years of geological activity, meaning the beauty is ever-changing and a must see when you’re in the area. From June to October, the area is only accessible by bus from 8am-5pm. Around these hours you can drive in for a $10 fee. There are a range of hiking trails, from beginner to intense, and overnight camping is available if you’re up for a night in the wilderness... with the bears. Eek!
FOR A NIGHT OUT
BELLY UP: MONDAY-SUNDAY 10AM-12AM
For live music lovers, Belly Up brings both the attitude and names to Aspen. This tiny venue is always packed with people listening to the best musicians from across the country and the world. Artists like John Legend, Seal and Pitbull have taken to the stage. The like of Janes addiction and Damien Marley too. They have over 300 live concerts a year, so there’s plenty of opportunity to grab a drink and enjoy the scene.
bellyupaspen.com | 450 S Galena St
HOOCH: MONDAY-SUNDAY 5PM-1AM
Well hidden under the Meat & Cheese Restaurant lies this NYC style speakeasy cocktail bar. Think low light chandeliers, rows and rows of quality spirits, comfy couches and good tunes. Bespoke cocktails are crafted before your eyes, with only the freshest ingredients, of course, which makes it the perfect pre or post dinner location. Note: Happy hour happens every day from 5pm-7pm.
hooch.avalancheaspen.com | 301 E Hopkins Ave
CARIBOU CLUB: MONDAY-SUNDAY 6:30PM-2AM
You never know who you might be sitting next to on a chairlift in Aspen. There's a chance that on one of your rides up the mountain you might get chatting to a beautiful billionaire (male or female!) and find yourself sipping cocktails and champagne with the who's who of the world in the membership only Caribou Club that night, if you're lucky...
caribouclub.com | 411 E Hopkins Ave
ST REGIS REMÈDE SPA: MONDAY-SUNDAY 9AM-9PM
A vacation in Aspen is hardly complete without a trip to the beauty salon, and if it’s luxury you’re looking for then St Regis has you covered. There’s everything including steam caves, cold plunges, a fitness centre and my personal favourite, the oxygen lounge. Ask for Michael-Ann and you’ll have the best massage of your life.
stregisaspen.com | 315 E Dean St
A1 MASSAGE: MONDAY-SUNDAY 10AM-7PM
If there ever was a place to embody the phrase ‘don’t judge a massage parlour by its door’ then this is it. You may be surprised to learn this quirky place is nearly always booked out, but there’s a reason everyone goes here. The reflexology foot massages are the best of the best – your feet will love you after long days trapped in ski boots, and, it's relatively affordable.
300 S Spring St #101 | 970-925-9755
SUPER RELAX SPA: MONDAY-SATURDAY 9:30AM-7PM, SUNDAY 12PM-5PM
This cheap and cheerful nail salon is my go-to spot for a mani/pedi. Because once those gloves come off, one must have nice nails when sipping champagne!
434 E Cooper Ave #202 | 970-925-2277