Best Things to Do In Aspen
We realize it might be a bit subjective, and perhaps even a little presumptuous, to try to list the best things to do in Aspen, but we are confident that all of the following activities would make many people’s top 10 list.
We’ve listed a few outdoor activities available in the area here to whet your appetite:
- River Rafting
- Jeep Tours
- Horseback Riding
- Rock Climbing
- Stand-up Paddle Boarding
- Fly Fishing
Take in a live music, theater or dance performance:
The Aspen Music Festival is one of the premier classical music festivals in the nation. The festival draws top musicians and students from around the world and holds more than 300 musical events per season. Well-known past and current guest performers include Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Itzhak Perlman, Edgar Meyer, Alisa Weilerstein and Yefim Bronfman.
The Belly Up live music venue regularly features concerts and events from the “biggest and best in the entertainment industry,” along with popular local acts as well.
Featuring nationally-known actors, as well as local performers, Theatre Aspen is a professional theater and school that presents quality, theatrical productions in the intimate and scenic setting of Rio Grande Park downtown, next to the Roaring Fork River.
The nationally acclaimed Aspen Santa Fe Ballet brings classical ballet and American contemporary dance performances to town year-round.
Learn about Aspen’s History
One of the best known of Aspen’s historic treasures, the Wheeler Opera House was built in the late 1800’s, during the height of the Colorado silver boom by former Macy’s co-owner, Jerome B. Wheeler. It was among the first buildings west of the Continental Divide to feature electric lighting. In 1972, it became the first property in town to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Aspen Historical Society’s Wheeler / Stallard House Museum was also built by Jerome B. Wheeler in the late 1800’s. After World War II, this former Victorian residence was purchased and renovated by well-known Chicago industrialist and local cultural icon, Walter Paepke. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the museum currently hosts various historical exhibits and maintains archives of Aspen’s interesting history and pre-settlement past.
Speaking of interesting history, we think that another one of the best things to do in Aspen is to explore the legendary Smuggler Mine. This still-operating mine once produced nearly twenty percent of the world’s total silver. In 1894, the largest silver nugget ever mined was found here. The mine was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Another local attraction listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the nearby ghost town of Ashcroft. Located 10 miles up the Castle Creek valley south of Aspen, Ashcroft briefly boomed as a mining town in the early 1880’s but quickly died out as richer ore deposits were found elsewhere. Today, several restored buildings remain as an interesting reminder of Colorado’s rich silver mining history.
Take in the Scenic Beauty
Just 12 miles outside of the city limits sit the majestic Maroon Bells. These 14,000 foot peaks, and the picturesque alpine lake that lies nearby, have the reputation as one of the most photographed places in all of Colorado.
For a fabulous view of the town of Aspen and of the grandeur of the surrounding area, ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain. The 18 minute ride from town to the summit typically runs from 10am – 4pm during the summer months. If the weather’s nice, you might even choose to walk back down the mountain if you have time.
For more incredible scenery, drive over Independence Pass to Twin Lakes. This scenic highway takes you over the Continental Divide, past Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, to two of the state’s largest glacially formed lakes.
On your way over the divide, stop at the Grottos ice caves and the historic ghost town of Independence. Be aware that this route across the Continental Divide is open only during non-winter months.
Go for a Casual Hike near Town
If you would like to explore the surrounding area on foot but aren’t into overly strenuous activity, a hike up Hunter Creek might be the answer. This popular trail begins in town and offers a gentle climb into the beautiful Hunter Valley nestled above.
See Local Wildlife and Learn About Our Environment
Visit the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ (ACES) Hallam Lake Center to learn about the local flora and fauna. Located right in the middle of town, this non-profit environmental science education center offers tours around the lake and an introduction to their “education” animals, including their majestic resident birds of prey.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include some Snowmass Village activities in our list of best things to do while you are here.
During the summer, Wednesday night is Snowmass Rodeo night. Feel the excitement as real cowboys compete in such events as bull riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, bareback riding and barrel racing. Arrive before the show to enjoy various kids’ activities and a pre-rodeo cowboy dinner.
Float above it all and enjoy amazing views of the local mountains and valleys with a Snowmass hot air balloon ride. The ride includes a post-flight champagne brunch, souvenir pin and a personalized flight certificate.