12 Amazing Things to do in Aspen, CO: Must-See Attractions

by Reyna
Amazing things to do in Aspen
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Ahh Aspen, Colorado. When most travelers hear that name, their minds instantly drift to images of celebrities, luxury ski resorts, and high-end winter getaways. But, if you ask me, Aspen offers so much more than just its glamorous reputation. Yes, it boasts world-class skiing, but that’s merely a fraction of its charm.

Situated in the heart of the Rockies, Aspen is a true gem for adventurers, irrespective of the season. Winter brings pristine snow-covered slopes, while summer unveils miles of hiking trails, each offering breathtaking views. And for those who think Aspen is all about splurging, think again. There are countless ways to enjoy this town without emptying your pockets.

Beyond the slopes and luxury boutiques, Aspen’s vibrant arts scene and rich history beckon. The streets, alive with character and stories, offer a blend of experiences that cater to every kind of traveler. So, let’s embark on this journey together, peeling back the layers of Aspen, and discovering the myriad of reasons it’s a destination worth every traveler’s bucket list. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Aspen, Colorado.

Amazing things to do in Aspen right now

Best Places to Visit in Aspen

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Aspen? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this exhilarating vacation spot in Colorado. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best places to live in CO. So keep reading to discover all these unique Aspen places to visit.

Are you looking to go skiing, mountain biking, and white-water rafting? Or would you prefer to visit art galleries, join music festivals, and experience a vibrant dining scene? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Aspen can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Aspen that you should know about.

1. Aspen Mountain Ski Resort

When you think of Aspen, skiing probably tops the list, and for a good reason. Aspen Mountain Ski Resort, locally known as Ajax, stands tall right next to the town, making it one of the most accessible ski destinations. With over 675 acres of skiable terrain, it caters to both beginners and seasoned pros. The slopes here are a delightful mix, from gentle groomed runs to challenging black diamonds.

But what truly sets Aspen Mountain apart isn’t just its top-notch skiing. It’s the ambiance, the vibe, and the unparalleled proximity to the heart of Aspen. After a day on the slopes, you can easily transition to the town’s vibrant scene, with its array of restaurants, bars, and shops. Imagine finishing a day of skiing and being just steps away from a warm meal or a refreshing drink.

It’s this seamless blend of skiing and après-ski activities that makes it one of the best things to do in Aspen. Whether you’re carving down the mountain or sipping a hot cocoa in town, Aspen Mountain offers a thrilling experience. It captures the essence of what Aspen truly provides, making every moment memorable.

Few experiences are as thrilling as taking the cable car or skiing down the mountain at the stunning Aspen Mountain ski resort
Few experiences are as thrilling as taking the cable car or skiing down the mountain at the stunning Aspen Mountain Ski Resort

2. Maroon Bells

Just a short drive from Aspen, the Maroon Bells are often dubbed the most photographed peaks in North America. And once you see them, it’s easy to understand why. These twin peaks, set against the backdrop of a glacial valley, offer a sight that’s nothing short of breathtaking. In the summer, the alpine meadows here are vibrant with color. They burst into a riot of wildflowers as the season progresses. When fall arrives, it brings a beautiful display, as the aspens turn a stunning shade of gold.

Hiking is the activity of choice for many visitors. Trails range from easy walks around Maroon Lake to more strenuous hikes up into the mountains. Maroon lake is one of the best lakes in Colorado. Each path offers its own unique perspective of the landscape, ensuring that every adventure feels fresh and new. For photography enthusiasts, early morning offers optimal lighting. Late afternoon, on the other hand, casts the peaks in a soft, ethereal glow.

Beyond its undeniable beauty, Maroon Bells offers a chance to disconnect and immerse oneself in nature. This place serves as a reminder of the raw, untouched beauty nearby. Just beyond Aspen’s busy streets, it’s a must-visit for those seeking both adventure and tranquility.

Maroon Bells is a hiker's paradise with fun trails and one of the most picturesque views in Aspen
Maroon Bells is a hiker’s paradise with fun trails and one of the most picturesque views in Aspen

3. Aspen Highlands

For those who crave a skiing experience that’s a cut above the rest, Aspen Highlands is the place to be. This ski area, located just a few minutes from downtown Aspen, is often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts. However, those in the know will tell you that it offers some of the most challenging terrains in the region. With its steep slopes and deep powder, it’s a haven for advanced skiers and snowboarders.

The highlight here is the Highland Bowl, an off-piste area that promises an adrenaline-pumping descent. But it’s not just about the thrill. The panoramic views from the top are worth the trip alone, offering a sweeping vista of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including some of the best mountains in Colorado.

For those who prefer a more relaxed pace, there are plenty of groomed runs suitable for intermediate skiers. And if you’re new to the sport, the ski school here is top-notch, with experienced instructors ready to guide you. Visiting Aspen Highlands is undoubtedly a top activity in Aspen. Especially if you’re seeking to escape the crowds, it offers skiing in its purest form.

Aspen Highlands is one of the most challenging ski terrains in the region, making a trip there a thrilling adventure
Aspen Highlands is one of the most challenging ski terrains in the region, making a trip there a thrilling adventure

4. Wheeler Opera House

In the heart of Aspen sits the historic Wheeler Opera House, a testament to the town’s rich cultural heritage. Built in the late 19th century during the silver boom, this iconic venue boasts a rich history. It has seen performances ranging from vaudeville acts to modern-day concerts and film festivals. The building showcases Victorian-era architecture, with intricate woodwork, plush seating, and a grand stage. 

Today, the Wheeler is more than just an architectural gem; it’s a hub for the arts in Aspen. Whether you’re catching a live performance, attending a lecture, or simply marveling at its ornate interiors, there’s always something happening here. The acoustics are impeccable, making every show a memorable experience.

Beyond its walls, the Wheeler Opera House has played a pivotal role in fostering Aspen’s vibrant arts scene. It’s home to the Aspen Filmfest and hosts a myriad of events throughout the year, drawing both locals and tourists alike. If you’re a culture enthusiast, the Wheeler is a must-visit. For those just looking for a night out in town, it should be on your Aspen itinerary. It’s a blend of history, architecture, and top-tier entertainment, all wrapped up in one stunning package.

Few joys compare to catching a show at the renowned Wheeler Opera House
Few joys compare to catching a show at the renowned Wheeler Opera House

5. Independence Ghost Town

One of the coolest things to do in Aspen is taking a step back in time at the Independence Ghost Town. This historic site offers a glimpse into the life of miners during the late 1800s. Founded in 1879 during the Colorado silver boom, Independence was once a bustling mining town with over 40 businesses and 300 residents.

Today, visitors can explore the remnants of this once-thriving community. Wander through the dilapidated buildings and observe their aged structures. Check out the old mining equipment and take time to read the informative plaques detailing the town’s rich history. The scenic backdrop of snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows adds to the town’s eerie yet beautiful atmosphere.

Visiting Independence Ghost Town is an educational experience. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the fleeting nature of boomtowns and the lives of their former residents. The town presents a stark contrast to Aspen’s modern luxury. It serves as a reminder of the rugged pioneers who initially settled in this demanding mountain landscape. If you’re a history enthusiast or just looking for a unique outing, don’t miss this hidden gem in Colorado.

Independence Ghost Town gives visitors an exciting glimpse into Aspen's rich mining history
Independence Ghost Town gives visitors an exciting glimpse into Aspen’s rich mining history

6. Silver Queen Gondola

One of Aspen’s iconic experiences is taking a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola. This isn’t just any gondola ride. It’s a journey that takes you from Aspen’s heart to the peak of Aspen Mountain. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Elk Mountains, the Roaring Fork Valley, and the town below.

Once at the summit, there’s more than just the view to enjoy. The Sundeck restaurant at the summit provides a unique dining experience. With its large outdoor deck, visitors can enjoy their meals while soaking in the majestic views. Depending on the season, you can embark on nature walks, enjoy outdoor yoga sessions, or even attend mountaintop concerts. For families, there’s a play area for kids, making it a versatile destination for all ages.

While the gondola ride is a must-do in winter for skiers and snowboarders, it’s equally popular in the summer months. The cooler mountain air and the plethora of activities available make it a favorite among visitors. Whether you’re keen on hiking, eager to dine, or just want to enjoy the views, the Silver Queen Gondola is essential. It offers a fresh perspective on experiencing Aspen.

Silver Queen Gondola provides incredible views in the summer months when the mountains are covered with verdant greenery
Silver Queen Gondola provides incredible views in the summer months when the mountains are covered with verdant greenery

7. Rio Grande Trail

Stretching over 42 miles from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, the Rio Grande Trail is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Originally a railroad corridor, this trail has been transformed into a scenic route that’s perfect for biking, hiking, and even horseback riding. As you traverse the trail, the natural beauty of the Rockies envelopes you. Often, the Roaring Fork River will be your companion along the way.

The trail is well-maintained and offers various entry and exit points, allowing visitors to customize their adventure. Whether you fancy a short, relaxed walk or a lengthy biking adventure, the Rio Grande Trail is versatile. It accommodates all fitness levels and interests.

The trail guides you through diverse terrains. You’ll pass through dense forests, meadows, and even arid zones, highlighting the region’s varied ecosystems. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, including deer, elk, and various bird species. The trail offers a unique opportunity to observe these creatures in their natural habitat.

Among the myriad of Aspen things to do, this trail stands out for its accessibility and the unique blend of nature and history it offers. Along the way, interpretive signs provide insights into the region’s past, making your journey both educational and invigorating. If you aim to experience Aspen’s natural splendor and get some exercise, consider the Rio Grande Trail. It deserves a top spot on your list as one of the top fun things to do in CO.

Rio Grande Trail makes for an exhilarating and beautiful bike ride
Rio Grande Trail makes for an exhilarating and beautiful bike ride

8. Red Brick Center for the Arts

The Red Brick Center for the Arts isn’t just another spot on the map; it’s the heartbeat of Aspen’s art scene. Nestled in the city’s core, it’s the gathering place for creatives eager to share their vision. If you’re serious about art, this is your playground.

Inside, it’s a whirlwind of activity. Workshops, exhibitions, events – there’s always something happening. And the best part? With its ever-evolving collection of contemporary art, every visit offers a new experience. For those who crave variety, the Red Brick Center ensures you’re never seeing the same thing twice.

But this place is more than just about its interiors. The center is a community champion, rolling out a range of outreach programs and classes designed for all ages. Whether you’re an up-and-coming artist seeking inspiration, the Red Brick Center has something for you. If you’re a student hungry for artistic knowledge or a traveler eager to absorb Aspen’s cultural essence, this place caters to your needs.

In a nutshell, the Red Brick Center is more than just an art hub; it’s an Aspen institution. With its unwavering commitment to the arts, it’s clear why it’s a favorite among art enthusiasts.

Art and Music lovers can enjoy wonderful performances and stunning views at Red Brick Center for the Arts
Art and music lovers can enjoy wonderful performances and stunning views at Red Brick Center for the Arts

9. John Denver Sanctuary

When you think of Aspen, the first things that might come to mind are its ski slopes and luxurious resorts. But nestled within this bustling town is a serene spot dedicated to the memory of a music legend: the John Denver Sanctuary.

Among the unique things to do in Aspen, a visit to this sanctuary offers a peaceful respite. It’s a place where nature and music come together. Lyrics from Denver’s songs are etched into the rocks, offering a perfect union of art and nature. The sanctuary boasts beautiful landscaping featuring native plants. Winding paths crisscross the area, making it a top spot for contemplation and unwinding.

While John Denver’s music touched the hearts of many worldwide, his connection to Aspen was profound. He called this place home and often drew inspiration from its breathtaking landscapes. The sanctuary stands as a tribute to his legacy and love for the environment. Whether you’re a fan of his tunes or simply want a serene spot, the John Denver Sanctuary is the place to be. It provides a unique experience, truly reflecting Aspen’s spirit.

John Denver Sanctuary's is a pristine natural oasis that is fun for the whole family
John Denver Sanctuary’s is a pristine natural oasis that is fun for the whole family

10. Aspen Art Museum

For art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike, the Aspen Art Museum is a must-visit. Located in the heart of downtown Aspen, this non-collecting institution is dedicated to contemporary art. It showcases the latest and most significant developments from the international art scene. With its rotating exhibitions, you’re guaranteed a fresh experience with every visit.

The museum’s architecture itself is a work of art. The building was designed by the renowned architect Shigeru Ban. It boasts a woven wood screen and a grand staircase, providing panoramic views of Aspen and the nearby mountains. Inside, the spacious galleries showcase a diverse range of mediums, from paintings and sculptures to digital installations.

Beyond the art, the museum hosts a variety of public programs, including artist talks, workshops, and educational activities for all ages. And if you’re looking to relax after exploring the exhibits, head to the rooftop café. Here, you can enjoy a bite to eat while taking in the stunning mountain vistas.

Additionally, the museum’s gift shop is a treasure trove for art lovers. From exclusive exhibition catalogs and art books to unique artisanal crafts and souvenirs, it’s the perfect place to find a memento of your visit.

From the building's unique architecture to its many curated exhibits, Aspen Art Museum is one of the city's top sites to visit
From the building’s unique architecture to its many curated exhibits, Aspen Art Museum is one of the city’s top sites to visit

11. Buttermilk Mountain

Known for its family-friendly slopes and world-renowned terrain parks, Buttermilk Mountain is a favorite among both novice skiers and professional snowboarders. While it might not have the steep drops of some of Aspen’s other mountains, Buttermilk stands out in its own right. It offers a more relaxed skiing experience, making it an ideal choice for beginners and families.

The mountain is split into two areas: the main Buttermilk area, ideal for those new to skiing, and the Tiehack area, which offers more challenging runs and fewer crowds. For snowboarders and freestyle skiers, the terrain parks here are top-notch, with the X Games Aspen being hosted here annually.

In addition to winter sports, Buttermilk Mountain is a hub for summer activities. Hiking trails crisscross the mountain, offering stunning views of the surrounding Maroon Creek Valley. Mountain biking is also popular, with trails designed for all skill levels.

Whether you’re strapping on skis for the first time or looking to catch some air in the terrain park, Buttermilk Mountain provides a diverse range of activities for all seasons. It’s a testament to Aspen’s reputation as a year-round outdoor playground. This is also one of the top places to stay in the state!

Buttermilk Mountain is a thrilling location for skiing and snowboarding lovers
Buttermilk Mountain is a thrilling location for skiing and snowboarding lovers

12. Ashcroft Ghost Town

A short drive from the bustling streets of Aspen lies the eerily quiet Ashcroft Ghost Town. Once a booming silver mining town in the 1880s, Ashcroft is now a well-preserved window into Colorado’s Wild West past. With its wooden buildings, old saloons, and deserted streets, it’s one of the unique things to do in Aspen for history enthusiasts.

The town’s rapid decline began in the late 19th century when the silver mines were depleted. By the 1930s, Ashcroft was virtually abandoned. Today, the Aspen Historical Society maintains the site, ensuring that visitors can step back in time and experience the town as it once was.

Guided tours are available, offering insights into the lives of the miners, their families, and the challenges they faced. For those who prefer to explore at their own pace, interpretive signs provide context to the buildings and their former inhabitants.

Visiting Ashcroft Ghost Town offers a deep dive into Aspen’s history. It also serves as a reminder of the fleeting nature of boomtowns and the lives of their past residents. 

Ashcroft Ghost Town offers a unique dive into Aspen's rich history
Ashcroft Ghost Town offers a unique dive into Aspen’s rich history

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Aspen

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Aspen? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Aspen:

When is the best time to visit Aspen?

The ideal time to visit Aspen really depends on what you’re after. For winter sports enthusiasts, December to February offers prime skiing conditions. However, if you’re keen on hiking and outdoor activities without the snow, summer, particularly July and August, is perfect. Fall brings stunning foliage, making September another favorite for many travelers.

Is Aspen only for the wealthy?

While Aspen has a reputation for luxury and attracting celebrities, it’s not exclusively for the rich. There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodations, dining options, and activities. With a bit of planning, travelers on a budget can still enjoy all that Aspen has to offer.

How do I get around Aspen without a car?

Aspen is quite pedestrian-friendly, and many attractions are within walking distance. Additionally, the city offers free public buses that run frequently, connecting key areas. For destinations a bit further out, renting a bike or using ride-sharing services are convenient options.

Are there activities in Aspen for non-skiers?

Absolutely! While skiing is a major draw, Aspen offers a plethora of other activities. From hiking trails, historic sites, and museums to festivals, shopping, and dining, there’s something for everyone, regardless of whether you hit the slopes.

Aspen's hiking trails and natural sites are a thrilling adventure for visitors
Aspen’s hiking trails and natural sites are a thrilling adventure for visitors

Is Aspen worth visiting?

Absolutely! Aspen is more than just a ski destination. It’s a year-round haven offering a blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and cultural events. From its world-class ski slopes in the winter to hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer, combined with a vibrant arts scene and historic charm, Aspen provides a unique experience that caters to a wide range of interests.

What activities in Aspen make it a major tourist destination?

Aspen is renowned for its world-class skiing and snowboarding, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The town boasts a rich cultural scene with events, music festivals, and the Aspen Art Museum. In warmer months, visitors flock to its hiking, mountain biking, and fly-fishing spots. The Maroon Bells, often dubbed the most photographed peaks in North America, are a must-visit. Additionally, Aspen’s vibrant nightlife, luxury shopping, and gourmet dining options further solidify its status as a top tourist destination.

Concluding Thoughts on Exploring Aspen

Exploring Aspen isn’t just about hitting the ski slopes or rubbing shoulders with the elite. It’s about diving deep into a town that’s rich in history, culture, and outdoor adventures. From the ghost towns that whisper tales of the past to the buzzing après-ski scene, there’s more to Aspen than meets the eye.

Whether you’re hiking the scenic trails in summer, attending one of its world-class festivals, or simply wandering its charming streets, Aspen offers experiences that are both authentic and unforgettable.

So, pack your bags, bring an open mind, and get ready to discover the many layers of one of Colorado’s best mountain towns.

Amazing things to do in Aspen for all types of travelers
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