Located 170 miles west of Denver, Aspen offers travelers outdoor adventures combined with a vibrant arts scene. In the late 1940s, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke helped transform this former Colorado mining town into a skiing destination with a creative soul. Because the surrounding mountains provided many options for exercise and inspiration, it quickly became a hotbed for those looking to escape the daily grind.
Skiing is the top attraction in Aspen, and the resorts draw the famous and not-so-famous alike. The city is home to four ski resorts, and one ski-lift ticket gives access to all four mountains. Novice skiers visiting Aspen for the first time often start at Buttermilk Mountain, the smallest of the four. Snowmass Mountain has several types of terrain, with ski courses appropriate for every skill level. Aspen Highlands is the mountain resort to head to for both skiing and hiking. In addition to an 11,675-foot summit, this resort has six restaurants. Aspen Mountain has more than 20 ski runs rated for use by experts. The summit is home to a restaurant, Sundeck, where visitors can relax before heading back to the bustling village below.
Art lovers visiting Aspen can break from outdoor activities at the Aspen Art Museum. This museum, located just north of downtown on North Mill Street, offers free admission, along with a combination of works from locally renowned artists and contemporary nationally acclaimed artists, including Jeanne Liotta and Morgan Fisher.
From the art museum, travel about two minutes to Main Street, where travelers and locals mingle at Aspen Brewing Company. This Aspen attraction allows patrons to sample a variety of beers in their tasting room starting at noon. On summer weekends, the tasting room buzzes with live music.
Just around the block from the brewing company is Pinons Restaurant, which specializes in locally sourced cuisine and new takes on the classics; the roasted, free-range chicken is a favorite, and wine selections are plentiful (try the 2006 Chateau Lagarde, hailing from Saint-Emilion).
On the corner of Hyman Avenue and Mill Street, the Wheeler Opera House holds a number of artsy events. This venue features live theater, literary, and music happenings, and also screens independent films. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs here year-round and produces the annual Aspen Dance Festival, held in the summer. Likewise, the Aspen Music Festival and School is headquartered at the Wheeler Opera House, and every year in June and August, the organization presents an eight-week summer festival focusing on classical music. Theatre Aspen is an active company, producing a variety of plays and holding theater classes for children.
Also located downtown, Wagner Park is a local favorite, and a must-see Aspen attraction. It's the home for the annual Food and Wine Magazine Classic, which features three days of cooking demonstrations, food sampling and wine tastings. During summer months, this downtown park features live music.