WHAT AK PRODUCTS TO BRING?Of course the covered Havaianas! I brought every pair and it's all I wear if I'm not in hiking shoes.
A Dakota tote in alligator for the carry-on plane ride over!
The French Market Tote is great if you're running to the club for a swim or if you're downtown walking the weekly Saturday Farmer's Market (which is a very popular weekend activity for anyone in Aspen. That's where you find all local foods, products, art, etc)
Any of the crossbody bags are great for shopping thru town or riding a Townie bike.
And if you're adding a "fanny pack" to the collection, this would be the place to bring it! That way, you can take it straight from the hiking trail into town for lunch afterward : )
WHAT TO DO?
Hiking is the ultimate daily activity in and around Aspen. There are probably 50 different trails that offer easy, moderate or difficult experiences. Some you can pick up right in town and gain 1000 feet in elevation within 45 minutes, some you drive out farther and hike the same amount of elevation for three hours. Every trail offers something different, depending on your level or your mood. Some have expansive "Sound of Music" views, some are through thick forests or Aspen tree groves. Some have water elements like rivers or waterfalls, some have lakes at the top!
My Favorite Hikes:
Hunter Smuggler Loop is a beautiful 2 hour hike in the middle of town with a beautiful rive and waterfalls! Not so difficult, but very pretty.
American Lake & Cathedral Lake are two more advanced hikes up Castle Creek Road with stunning views that end at the top with pristine mountain lakes. (Probably a 3-4 hour hike)
But, for a quick "stair master in the rockies" work out, Ute Trail is also right in town. I takes about 40 minutes to get up but your heart is racing! It is straight up about 1000+ feet and the view at the top overlooks the entire valley.
Lastly, and probably my favorite, is taking the back side of Aspen Mountain to the top. Then after a solid two hours straight up the back country, I can have a nice lunch at the top and take the Gondola down rather than slamming my old knees on the descent.
Biking is also huge in Aspen. You see extreme mountain biking up and down trails that are scary to even walk on! You see cyclists riding from Aspen all the way down valley and back, or better yet, straight up the road to Maroon Bells or Independence Pass (in other words, a constant uphill road for hours!). And you see people like me who take a Townie everywhere just to enjoy the ride rather than the destination!
There is quite a yoga community here for such a small town. King Yoga is the bomb. It's hard core with loud music, but somehow you can still find your zen. O2 is a beautiful in-town spot with a lovely boutique and spa as well as their list of yoga classes. And for the true outdoorsy practitioners, you can head to the top of Aspen Mountain and pick up a class overlooking the stunning Rocky Mountains from 11,000 feet.
There are festivals galore in Aspen. Just pick your fancy! Food & Wine Festival is an annual weekend event that packs the city with the world's most incredible chefs, as well as wine and food exhibitors. These world-famous chefs host cooking classes and demonstrations if you're interested in learning from the best. Or, you can walk through the tasting tent and sample wines from around the world. Just be ready to be drunk by 10am!
Another huge summer draw is the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is a full week of conversations and lectures from world leaders in a variety of fields including health, education, science, medicine, spirituality, etc. Other festivals include the Aspen Music Festival, Aspen Writers Festival, Aspen Arts Festival, and a Health & Wellness Festival.
If you're feeling philanthropic, there are plenty of fundraising and social events that are fun to attend and are worthy causes. There are plenty of races, whether they come in the form of a 5k run or a 100 mile bike ride.
Some of the best fly fishing in the country is on the Roaring Fork River.
Rock climbing is big here. If you're a beginner, don't fret. Grab a guide and they'll have you safely scaling the beautiful rocky cliffs like Spiderman within an hour!
River Rafting is also a blast in Aspen. When the snowmelt is causing high rivers early in June, it's exciting to be on the Roaring Fork. And the great thing about it is you can drop in 15 minutes from downtown.
WHERE TO EAT?
Matsuhisa Hands down, one of the best sushi restaurants in the country!
Campo Dei Fiori
Hoppin' Italian restaurant with one of the most lively bars of beautiful people in town.
French American bistro where you always find the movers and shakers of Aspen.
The daytime hotspot at the base of Aspen Mountain. Perfect spot for a bottle (or two) of wine and lengthy outdoor people-watching lunch.
This has become quite a staple over the last couple of years. It's a Miami-based Italian restaurant and private club. Downstairs has a public restaurant with a fabulous outdoor dining area. Upstairs is a private dinner club.
WHERE TO STAY?
Little Nell is still the most sought after place to stay. But I must say that Hotel Jerome has made quite a comeback once they underwent a fabulous renovation. I haven't seen the rooms, but if the common spaces and restaurant are any indication of the accommodations, it must be giving the Nell a run for their money!
If you want to spend a little less but still be in town, the Sky Hotel is great option. It's next door to The Little Nell, just at the base of Aspen Mountain. It's a chic Kimpton boutique hotel with a lot of personality. And speaking of personality, the pool and bar scene can be quite an attraction for 20 somethings!
FAVORITE BOOK ON ASPEN?
I love the coffee table book called "In the Spirit of Aspen," but my favorite books to buy are the children's books. There are so many local authors that publish books about Aspen. One of my favs is " The Furry Mountain Monkeys of Aspen Colorado."
Where to shop?
Shopping in Aspen is pretty "over the top" for such a small town. That's probably one of the reasons Aspen is so special. No other Colorado city or town has the vast array of options that range from consignment shops to the highest-end designers in the world. And shopping categories are wide in range: women's, men's, and children's clothing, antiques, home décor, sporting goods, art galleries, book stores, pet stores, cosmetic stores, hardware stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores. You name it, it's here!
My personal favorites:
This is going to be my top choice in any city!
Pitkin County Dry Goods
Totally local Aspen shop with great casual clothes, jeans, and fun jewelry. Also the best casual shopping for my hubby!
A new antique store to Aspen. I love moseying through to see what's new.
A staple where you can find home décor, gifts, high end clothing and ski clothes.
This place has EVERYTHING.
It's not just a pharmacy as the name suggests. Upstairs you can find art supplies, games, toys, useful household items, seasonal decorations...it's the BOMB!
WHAT TO SEE?
Best Kept Secret about Aspen is....the Fall. Everyone flocks to Aspen in July and August for obvious reasons, some which I have listed here. But very few people realize that late September in Aspen is magical. The leaves begin to change colors and it is spectacular here. It's quiet, but the town is still open everywhere and not yet ready for "off-season". The weather is still gorgeous and perfect for outdoor activities. You'll just be wearing a lightweight fleece over your t-shirt. There is a calm sense here that is hard to explain. It's my favorite time of year. And if you catch the exact right week where the colors are in full change, you won't ever miss a Fall visit again.
WHAT TO DO AFTER DARK?Caribou Club It is the first club people think of when they hear the word Aspen. After decades, it's still a fun place to go (but only if you don't mind seeing the occasional octogenarian on oxygen with a 20 year girl hanging on his arm!).
This is the newest hot spot out of LA. It is rumored to be the Hollywood night club of the Rockies.
A multi-bar complex where everyone seems to end up late night. You can pop in to the Cigar Bar for some drinks and smokes. You can head to the billiards section for a game or two of pool. Or you can dance the night away with local DJ's.
The upstairs is a sexy place to end up late night if you can sneak in with a member.
The premier live music venue of Aspen (as you know, it's Brady Knight's home away from home, when he's here!).
WHY DO I LOVE ASPEN SO MUCH?
Aspen feeds my soul. When I wake up in the morning, I literally cannot wait to open the windows and smell the fresh air. Healthy living here in Aspen begins the moment those windows open.
I love that the primary decision of my day is "What form of exercise am I going to do first?" Sometimes it's yoga on the deck overlooking the river below, or sometimes it's a bike ride into town with my son for a picnic at the park. Sometimes it's an easy one-hour walk with my dogs, or sometimes it's a four hour hike up a mountain. Sometimes that hike is alone with my husband and kids, sometimes it's with a posse of eight girlfriends.
Every day is different, depending on my mood and my desires. But there is always a healthy and mindful foundation to the day.
Then there are the evenings.... sometimes they are spent cooking alone for my family and having an intimate quiet dinner. Sometimes it's a chef-cooked dinner for six close couples. Sometimes it's a rowdy dinner out on the town with loads of wine at a high end restaurant, sometimes it's at a pizza joint with eight year olds.
Life here is rich and full. This is the time of year that I completely re-charge my battery and enjoy every ounce of my days. This is my living yoga! I am blessed to be able to spend my summers here. I highly recommend a visit!