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Aspen, CO City Guide {UPDATE}

by Stephanie

Aspen City Guide Photo by Jim Lawrence

Today’s Aspen City Guide gets an update from part-time resident, Katie Shapiro. A public relations consultant and freelance writer for the likes of Departures Magazine, Denver’s 5280 Magazine and Curbed Ski, she stylishly splits her time between mountains and metropolis as principal of Katie Shapiro Media. She’s also the gal who brought us an update on our Denver Guide in 2012 and is a serious supporter of local business. When she’s off the clock, she can be found hiking with her Goldendoodle, skiing, traveling and watching documentaries. Thanks, Katie for sharing the best of this glamorous resort town with us! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

When in Aspen, it’s all about indulging in the good life. Yes, there’s the “glitz and glam” reputation for luxury shopping, gourmet dining, happening arts scene, world-class skiing and wild nightlife. Luckily, there’s also a more mellow side to this former mining town to perfectly balance its charm. Surrounded by four ski resorts (Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass), our backyard playground is pretty much unparalleled. But the locals secret of summer in Aspen has gotten out – when adventures are endless, culture thrives and life slows down. There are still plenty of summer days left to discover the many colorful and (mostly) local businesses that give Aspen its allure. Tip: skip the usual designer suspects sprinkled along Aspen’s cobblestone streets – you can do that anywhere!

Check out the Google Map of Aspen with the below listings!

The Little Nell
The epitome of Aspen luxury and the only five-star, five-diamond hideout in town. Staying here – especially during the holiday season – is just about as good as it gets.

The Hotel Jerome
It’s Aspen’s oldest hotel and in December of last year, unveiled a stunning renovation that has already won awards. Even if you don’t spring for a stay here, it’s worth ducking into the Living Room for a cocktail or few.

The St. Regis Aspen
Here you’ll find the familiar opulence from the luxury chain that recently received a beautiful redesign in 2011. Its in-house Remède Spa is my favorite place to relax and recharge – especially in the Oxygen Lounge.

Hotel Aspen & Molly Gibson Lodge
These sister hotels share a prime Main St. location across the street from each other and are more affordable alternatives to the luxury resorts. Both have a pool and hot tubs with complimentary bikes, breakfast and happy hour.

Viceroy Snowmass
Only about 20 minutes from the heart of Aspen, the newish Viceroy resort is a true alpine escape. Ski-in/ski-out accommodations on Snowmass Mountain with oversized, gorgeous residence style guestrooms. The pool scene and spa here are also stellar.

O2 Aspen
A Pilates and yoga studio with a spa and boutique in-house…I could live here. There’s also a retail-only second location in the center of town stocked with casual cool ready-to-wear and accessories.

Explore Booksellers
An independent bookstore in a quaint Victorian house? In Aspen, it does still exist.

The Gallerie
This former storefront recently transitioned to a private, by appointment only specialty store. Here customers can shop brands like Lela Rose, Ports 1961, Mackage and Cynthia Vincent in the most private of settings. Owner Sarah Gercke also features timeless pieces from her own label, Gray Aspen.

Isabel Marant, Marni, Lanvin, Missoni, Balmain…need I go on? After 25 years in business, Max Martinez is totally in tune with Colorado fashionistas and caters to their unique style during frequent trips to Paris, New York City, and Milan. Two additional locations in Denver and Boulder.

The Thrift Shop of Aspen
Only in Aspen will you find discarded designer duds and wares up for thrifting. Proceeds from all sales at this volunteer-run treasure trove benefit the area’s non-profits.

Carl’s Pharmacy
If you forgot it, they’ll have it. So much more than a place to fill the Rx’s…it’s also a liquor/convenience/general store. Head upstairs for “everything you didn’t know you needed” like kitschy souvenirs, housewares, games, toys, sporting goods and crafting supplies.

Meridian Jewelers
Cartier, Rolex, Harry Winston, IWC, H. Stern, Hermès, Kwiat…you get the picture.

Little Bird
A designer consignor that’s almost too-good-to-be-true.

Aspen Art Gallery
An eclectic collection ranging from Aspen trees and wildlife to abstract and mixed media. Animated owner Damien Guillot makes shopping for pricey pieces seriously fun and seemingly guilt free!
Kemo Sabe
Stock up on authentic western wear from ornate boots and big belts to custom hats and leather goods to find your inner cowboy.

Performance Ski
408 S. Hunter St.
*no website
This husband and wife duo knows their ski stuff. Here’s you’ll find dream worthy (and pricey) designer skiwear plus the best of the best in equipment. FYI: they’re moving locations down the street come November.

“Bright & shiny things” from diverse designers like Adel Chifridi, Jolie B Ray, Giles & Brother, Maria Lightfoot and Lika Behar.

Barton Perreira
Here you’ll find eyewear that makes a statement.

Ute Mountaineer
The best place to gear up for any of the outdoor adventures you choose to pursue.

34 E. Cooper Ave.
*no website
An Aspen staple, here you’ll find the best selection of jeans in town (or anywhere) plus a great selection of Splendid tee’s and Frye boots. Once you’ve done some damage, head upstairs for a burger and a shake in the classic 50s diner.

212 Gallery
Here you’ll find the vigor and sophistication of a New York gallery, but with an Aspen address. Renowned fashion photographer Russell James’ solo exhibition is on view through September.

Jet Set
Over the top sportswear for the real life jet setter (think tight and bright ski pants with gold lamé stars down the side. Opened in 2011, it’s the brand’s first US outpost since it’s St. Moritz beginnings in 1969.

Two Old Hippies
Filled with funky finds from guitars, 2OH private label threads and denim to memorabilia, greeting cards and jewels.

Rocky Mountain Pet Shop
A one-stop shop with all natural food and anything else you might have forgotten if you’re traveling with your pup. There’s also a self-service dog wash in the back for a quick bath.

Everything you don’t need lives in this funky gift store like iPhone accessories, home goods with humor, magnetic lighters and giant jewels. Even so, I can’t ever leave KOTO without buying something. Aspen is the original with additional locations in South Beach, Newport Beach and Las Vegas.

Head to either of its two Aspen locations for everything you’ll need to adopt the luxurious mountain lifestyle you’ve seen in the catalogue.

It’s where the uber-successful luxury cosmetics franchise all began. If you need more than just a new lipgloss or mascara, seek help or even a makeover from one of their super knowledgeable sales gals.

Pitkin County Dry Goods
An Aspen original and still family owned and operated today. Alice + Olivia, DVF, Joie, Vince, Elizabeth & James and Rebecca Taylor overflow the racks for the ladies and Paul Smith, Rag & Bone, Zegna Sport and John Varvatos are on hand for the guys.

All of your favorite shoes, bags and ready-to-wear in one location. Here, I’ve splurged on Free City sweats, Golden Goose sneaks, Rag & Bone jeans and Lanvin flats. Also be sure to pick up a piece from The Woods Fine Jewelry by locally based sister design duo Shawn Hecox and Samantha Hitchcock.

Taylor and Tessier
I discovered this jewelry line just a few weeks ago at the Aspen Saturday Market. I’m obsessed with the leather wrap bracelets adorned with chunky charms that also double as necklaces. Launched in 2010, co-owners and super cute couple Taylor Dewine and Adam Tessier have something special and national retailers have already taken note.

Daniels Antiques
This family owned antiques business was established in 1969 and operates locations in both Aspen and Miami. The local outpost specializes in Black Forest works like carved sculptures, furniture and clocks. And those big eye binoculars and vintage Louis Vuitton in the window are almost impossible to walk by.

Wrap yourself up in this celebrity favorite cashmere line that’s hand loomed in Portland – where their other boutique is located.

b. Casillas Gallery
Fine art photography by up and comer Brooke Casillas. Go here to find that perfect picture of Aspen trees to take home as a souvenir with style.

Baldwin Gallery
Big names in the contemporary art world adorn the walls giving this premier gallery international acclaim.

Paris Underground
Architectural Digest dubbed it as one of the best five shops in Aspen for its unique stock of midcentury modern French antiques and accessories.

Ravenheart Gallery
An eclectic mix of paintings, jewelry, glass art and gifts of nature including stones, minerals and wood from North American and local artists.

Gonzo Museum
Just recently shut its doors, but recognized internationally as one of the finest collections of gonzo art in the world. Look for them at the Aspen Saturday Market or online for political posters by activist Thomas W. Benton, shotgun artwork by Hunter S. Thompson and signed prints by the illustrator Ralph Steadman

Recycle Aspen Art
Vintage bikes turned into ride-able works of art.

Honey Bee Organic Juice Bar
Hit the Honey Bee after your morning workout for fresh pressed juice and light 100% organic snacks. And if you’re into detoxing whilst on vacation – owner and local gal, Kate Linehan, will create a custom cleanse delivered right to your door. Her chia seed pudding with fresh berries and cacao chips is also slightly addictive. It’s not on the map, so look for it inside the Ute City Building on S. Galena St.

Pyramid Bistro
Housed upstairs of Explore Booksellers, head here for nutrient-focused fare that promotes a mission of optimum health. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, healthy tastes really, really good here.

Woody Creek Tavern
Aspen’s anti-establishment and Hunter S.Thompson’s old haunt. It’s a bit out of town, so in summer months rent a bike and hit the Rio Grande trail for a scenic ride to a super casual lunch or dinner. FYI: it’s cash only.

Creperie du Village
Authentic French crêpes in an cozy sub-street spot.

Peach’s Corner Café
Peach’s has turned its corner into the most happening morning spots with its outdoor patio and stellar organic, fresh and locally sourced menu. There’s no better way to start the day than their quinoa bowl with poached eggs. And as of this summer, they are now open on Sundays…finally!

Victoria’s Espresso
Victoria herself serves up strong coffee, farm fresh eggs and even vegemite on toast in this true Aussie coffee shop. A favorite among the local laptop crowd, the afternoon “grazing” menu features soups, curries, sandwiches and salads with an extensive wine list.

Main Street Bakery
201 E. Main St.
*no website
A breakfast favorite with a cute collection of cookie jars filling the shevles of the historic house it lives in. The classic menu has everything you need for fueling up before a day on the mountain. Try the community table in front to mingle with locals or meet fellow visitors.

Louis Swiss
400 Aspen Business Center
*no website
Off the beaten path, hit this European bakery for pastries straight out of the oven on your way to or from the airport.

Butchers Block
424 S. Spring St.
*no website
Fresh seafood, steaks, poultry, cheeses line the cases along with a solid selection of gourmet items on the shelves above. There’s also a full-service deli-counter perfect for a picnic in the park or a sandwich for the ride up in the gondola. Splurge for a special night on caviar with their homemade egg salad.

Ajax Tavern
Come for the truffle fries (and really anything from their menu of elevated bar fare) and stay for the après party on the patio. Located at the base of Aspen Mountain on Gondola Plaza, it’s also one of the best spots for people watching in town.

Chefs Club by Food & Wine
The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is probably the best event of the year and in 2012, a new concept was launched to compliment its prestige. One of the more sophisticated dining experiences you’ll have here, it’s your chance to sample a menu from a rotating roster of esteemed Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs.”

Cache Cache
Perfecting French bistro fare since 1987 and one of Aspen’s most coveted tables. Steal a seat in the blue-lit bar to see and be seen.

As in Nobu Matsuhisa…enough said. Reservations are required, unless you dine in the upstairs bar or al fresco (with an abbreviated menu).

I love this traditional French brasserie for its ambiance…and its lobster carbonara.

Go here for a relaxed neighborhood vibe with great food, big covered patio and fun bar. Order from the top shelf and you’ll find a BFIC in your glass (use your imagination).

Campo de Fiori
Hot Italian cuisine and a scene. Later on, the bar gets packed and the music gets loud usually ensuing in a wild night.

Off the lobby of the Hotel Jerome, you’ll get a feel of the old west in this iconic saloon. Order the barbeque chicken salad with corn nuts.

Hickory House
The best ribs in Colorado. Come for a heavy brunch or lunch (after you hit the hills of course!).

The White House Tavern
New on the dining scene, grab a gourmet sandwich and a handcrafted cocktail on the patio or warm up in the winter in the cozy wood paneled converted home that inspired its name.

Steakhouse No. 316
A solid New York-style steak house at altitude.

Belly Up Aspen
Aspen’s best hangout for live music in one of the coolest intimate venues around. Their concert calendar is always full so you’ll likely catch one of your favorite bands while you’re in town.

Aspen Saturday Market
I always discover something new while also picking up local produce at the farmer’s market on Saturdays (8 a.m. – 3 p.m.) from mid-June to mid-October.

Pine Creek Cookhouse
Legendary views meet fine dining in this cabin tucked away beyond the historic ghost town of Ashcroft. Hike here in the summer for lunch and cross-country ski or snowshoe under the stars in the winter. An absolute must in any season.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center
A creative think thank of sorts for artists of all ages from around the world. During the summer months, one and two week workshops are offered along with exhibitions, workshops and events. The Feature Artist Lecture Series runs June-August welcoming the most significant contemporary artists to Snowmass to inspire creative ideas. Don’t miss Marina Abramović on July 25.

Wheeler Opera House
Built in 1889, it’s Aspen’s premiere venue for concerts, film, festivals, opera, comedy and much more. Be sure to check the schedule while you’re visiting.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass
The non-profit producer of Aspen’s biggest music festival held every Labor Day Weekend brings big name artists to an outdoor stage. There’s also a summer festival every June and the JAS Café summer and winter series downstairs at The Little Nell.

Aspen Brewing Company
Aspen’s only microbrewery. Hit the Tap Room for a craft brew with a view.

The quintessential quick locals hike that’s usually done daily. Once you reach the top there’s even more trails to explore if you have more than just your lunch break.

Ute Trail
Another local favorite, this one takes a little more stamina. Give yourself a day or two to adjust to the altitude and if you’re in great shape, take the trail all the way to the top of AJAX (the local’s name for Aspen Mountain) for lunch on the Sundeck. Don’t worry…you can ride the gondola down for free.

Maroon Bells
They’re the most photographed mountains in North America for a reason. Tip: from June – Labor Day, the Maroon Bells can only be accessed by public bus from 9am-5pm. So wake up early, beat the rush and take in the magnificent views.

Snowmass Rodeo
Celebrating 40 years of ridin’ and ropin’ every Wednesday June – July. Because when in Rome, right?

The Aspen Art Museum presents innovative exhibitions from the international contemporary art scene with admission free of charge thanks to major donors Amy and John Phelan. Construction is underway for a new building more centrally located which is slated to open next summer.

The first bike-sharing program to launch in a resort community rode into Aspen earlier this summer making quick trips easy. Ride, return and repeat with a 24-hour, 3-day or 7-day pass.

When you settle into your mountain digs, be sure to tune into channel 82 (named for the main route into town) Aspen’s only producer of live and local television. Aspen 82 is the official partner of Aspen/Snowmass, broadcasting bright and early on “The Lift” every morning at 8 a.m.

It’s always mountain time on 103.1 FM, Aspen’s best rock radio station. They’ve been on-air for over 40 years and are the official partner of most major local events, so in-studio special guests and pop-up performances are often.

For a small town, it has quite the list of glossies to get an even bigger taste of the Aspen lifestyle. Keep an eye out for complimentary copies of Aspen Peak, The Scout Guide Aspen and and Aspen Sojourner scattered around town.

Aerin Lauder, Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn, Antonio Banderas & Melanie Griffith, John Oates, Kevin Costner and Lance Armstrong. There’s a steady stream of A-list visitors throughout the year, so keep an eye out…you never know who’ll be riding up next to you on the gondola. Oh, and there’s a whole Mountain of Billionaires.

Suggested For You


  • don’t forget to check out Aspen Brewery. Its an amazing little tasting room for Aspen brewed beer where you are sure to see all of the locals hanging out, and a few brewery dogs.

  • More eye candy for this small town East Coaster … Amen Wardy and Pitkin County Dry Goods! Wash that down with a bite and a half from Big Wrap!

  • I’m sorry, I can’t help this one–but the only thing that comes to mind when I hear/read, “Aspen” is.. “Mmm.. California… Beeautiful”… -Dumb & Dumber :) … lovely illustration by the way!

  • I especially enjoy the Wheeler Opera House! They offer such a wide array of films, shows, comedy nights and more- plus you get a special look into Aspen’s history with the original decor and theatre!

  • I’ll be there for a week this in a few weeks – do you have any recs for nightlife during the summer? When I’ve been there previously its been kind of dead — I don’t know if we are going to the wrong places.

    Also – is there anywhere that has spinning classes that might rival Flywheel or SoulCycle? It doesn’t seem like it – obviously we’ll be doing a lot of hiking but thought I would ask.

    On the restaurants — how has the steakhouse that was previously Lulus been faring? Also, I would add Poppycocks for delicious pancakes, if its anything like I had 2 years ago.

  • If you have time, make sure to take a trip ‘down valley’ and come visit Basalt & Carbondale…. lot’s to see, eat and explore right outside of the aspen city limits as well!

  • Love this post! It brought back a lot of memories from when I lived and worked there for the Aspen Music Festival and School. You need to definitely include that…there’s nothing like listening to a full orchestra under an open tent in the summer.

  • Hi Leah,

    Unfortunately, either has yet to land in Aspen (I’ve even sent a request to SoulCycle corporate!). If you need to get your spin fix, you can get a guest pass to the Aspen Club & Spa, which offers a full schedule of fitness classes. But it’s best to play outside!

    As for nightlife: it’s somewhat more quiet in the summer but definitely hang out in the new Living Room at the Hotel Jerome. The J-Bar (also in the Hotel Jerome), 39 Degrees in the Sky Hotel, Justice Snow’s and Finnbarr’s Irish Pub are usually happening. If you want to party hard, there’s Escobar, Eric’s and the members-only/infamous Caribou Club. But, there’s always live music at the Belly Up (which I much prefer than going to bars/clubs).

    The former Lulu’s is now Steakhouse No. 316 (mentioned above) and I’m a fan.

    Feel free to reach out directly with any other questions…have a great trip!

  • Aspen has been very close to my heart. I spent about 3 months there and absolutely loved it. I am visiting the States next month and would love to come here and re-live those amazing memories.