The Best Places to Go in Aspen, According to a Local

Top picks from your friendly Aspen neighbor.

A man in a blue jacket downhill skiing with the Maroon Bells of the Rocky Mountains in the background at Aspen Snowmass ski resort
Photo: Getty Images

On June 1, 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic, my fiancée and I decided to pick up our lives and travel the 1,971 miles from New York City to Aspen, Colorado. We packed just enough things to go for a month-long trip. That month turned into two, into six, into eight, and so on, until today. Because my friends, we've never left. It was a game-time decision that I'm grateful for every day.

Getting to call Aspen home during this truly unprecedented time is a blessing. Not only have we been able to dine in world-class restaurants and explore its gorgeous landscapes, but we've also gotten to know and understand the very tangible juxtaposition between the town's present and its past.

Just steps away from shiny art galleries filled with chrome sculptures and neon lights, you'll find a century-old western-wear shop selling locally sourced leather goods and indigenous fabrics. Venture a few hundred yards further, and you'll stumble upon one of the best ski-in, ski-out apres-ski bars serving champagne and caviar to Hollywood starlets. A couple of steps more, and you could find yourself in a historic hotel bar drinking beer next to someone who looks vaguely like Kurt Russel and who most likely is Kurt Russel.

Aspen may be best known as a world-class ski town, but it's also home to a culinary center featuring some of the hottest chefs around. It is both living history and future-forward utopian living at its best.

In this post-pandemic world, travelers deserve to come to experience a taste of what Aspen has to offer, and a shiny new crop of hotels, restaurants, and bars, along with a long list of old favorites await them. Ready to venture like a local? Here are a few of the places we've found that rise to the top of this A-list town.

Where to Stay

Limelight Hotel, which first opened its doors in 2005, recently underwent a full renovation in partnership with Stonehill Taylor. Guests of the "new" Limelight will experience updated designs inspired by Aspen's history. There's even an updated penthouse suite, complete with living room space, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, a fully customized private kitchen, and a terrace.

For a more personalized experience, check out Aspen Street Lodge, an all-suite boutique hotel on the quiet eponymous street steps away from the heart of downtown's Restaurant Row. Guest amenities include a movie and game room, a full bar, rental bikes, a heated boot room, oversized gear lockers, and lessons and adventures with in-house ski world champion Chris Davenport.

Of course, sooner or later, every frequent visitor to Aspen ends up at The Little Nell, and for a good reason. For more than 30 years, the lobby has acted as the de facto living room for the entire town. Since its inception in 1989 (and a subsequent full renovation in 2009), the area's first and only five-star, five-diamond property is the epitome of ski-in/ski-out bliss. Luxury in-room amenities, experienced outfitters, and a top concierge team offer guests a seamless experience.

Where to Dine

For a flavorful bite, make your way to Chica, a vibrant Latin-American restaurant with locations in Miami and Las Vegas, which is now delivering its elevated cuisine to Aspen guests. Yes, go for the food but stay for the drinks. The restaurant promises a dynamic wine and mixology program throughout the season.

Looking to carbo-load? Savor a bite at Casa D'Angelo, which delivers the best Italian cuisine in town. The restaurant sits in a light-filled, indoor/outdoor second-floor space just off of Main Street and offers guests sweeping panoramic views of Aspen Mountain.

For a romantic evening for two, snag a reservation at Cache Cache, a restaurant located in the heart of downtown Aspen, which serves guests "heartfelt" French-American cuisine. The menu is lengthy (and award-winning), but the true locals gravitate to one of three standbys: the oversized pork chop, the rotisserie chicken and fries, or the onion soup.

Where to Apres Ski

For a laid-back scene, head to J-Bar, which happens to be the perfect combination of world-class luxury and cozy mountain style. The restaurant and bar serve up cold-weather staples like burgers, and soups, complemented by a full bar offering drinks ranging from beers on draught to bespoke cocktails. Try the Aspen Crud, a boozy milkshake that dates back to Prohibition days.

How to Ride

Lift tickets to Aspen start at $159/day. If you purchased an Ikon Pass, you also get access to Aspen. See details on the Ikon offering here.

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