Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Aspen, CO

  • Published 2023/03/03

Nestled close to the mountains, the town of Aspen is most known for luxurious ski resorts and stunning nature views.

However, Aspen was once a prime mining camp area, especially for silver, during the 1880s.

When the silver boom ended, the town’s reputation declined until the establishment of its first ski resort in the mid-20th century.

It continues the legacy of ski resorts, having opened several others over time.

Feel the fresh, cool air and watch over snow-capped mountains during winter.

The town has also expanded with distinctive tourist establishments—museums, nature preserves, trail hikes, parks, theaters, and others—to ensure that there’s something to do outside winter.

Discover the 15 best things to do in Aspen, CO.

Laze around at Paepcke Park

The wooden gazebo of Paepcke Park

Kristi Blokhin /

The Paepcke Park is a plain park with pleasant green plains and trees around the area for a relaxing time.

You can meditate, lie down on the grass, or have a picnic in this calming park.

But the star of this park is their historic gazebo—a small, rustic wooden gazebo built in the 1930s and moved from its first home, a fire station, in 1954.

Lush trees and wildflowers surrounding Paepcke Park

Kristi Blokhin /

It’s a simple octagon structure in decent condition, safe enough for people to enter.

The stark contrast of this wooden gazebo makes it stand out amid the verdant hues of Paepcke Park.

Check it out when you’re in Aspen!

Bring Your Skis and Snowboards to Aspen Highlands

Scenic view of Aspen Highlands

Kristi Blokhin /

It’s no secret that Aspen is a go-to place for a vivid outdoor adventure.

In Aspen Highlands, you can experience that outdoorsy lifestyle you’re craving during winters.

Skiers climbing the Aspen Highlands' bowl

Erik Nuenighoff /

Spend the entire winter in Aspen Highlands skiing or snowboarding through some of the scariest mountain terrains or simply enjoying the panoramic view of the surrounding mountain range.

You can also try Cloud Nine, the restaurant at Aspen Highlands, and have a lovely lunch while casually enjoying the Maroon Bells’ cool weather and stunning views of pristine snow.

This ski resort is perfect for travelers seeking their next nature adventure.

People skiing downhill on Aspen Highlands

Erik Nuenighoff /

Explore the Aspen Art Museum

Opened in 1977, the Aspen Art Museum is a masterful piece of architecture.

The whole building is covered with a handmade wooden screen, which gives it a unique appearance from other town buildings.

Inside, the museum has many lavish decorations like their mirrored grand stairs, walkable skylights, and patterned wooden ceilings.

Aspen Art Museum’s exhibition pieces are also praise-worthy with changing themes and diverse mediums, from paintings and sculptures to installation artworks and learning videos.

You’ll see works from upcoming and award-winning artists.

The museum stands by its primary unchanging moral of curating exhibits centered around social advocacies that they believe in.

Visit the John Denver Sanctuary

Scenic nature at John Denver Sanctuary

Images by Dr. Alan Lipkin /

This sanctuary was named after one of America’s most sought-after songwriters, John Denver.

It was dedicated to him in 1998 because of his love and dedication to the Rocky Mountains and the environment, often the focus of his popular songs.

Stone memorial for John Denver at John Denver Sanctuary

Whoisjohngalt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, it’s a beautiful homage to the songwriter, featuring an incredible array of boulders, plants, flora, and waterscapes that reflect nature’s calming and pleasing allure.

You can stroll along the trails and find hints of items sculpted in John Denver’s memory, like the memorial plaque near the garden’s entrance.

The John Denver Sanctuary soothes the souls of those who visit this artificial garden.

One of John Denver's song written on a boulder at John Denver Sanctuary

Lorie Shaull from Washington, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend Your Energy at Aspen Recreation Center

For a fun, action-packed day, try Aspen Recreation Center!

This venue has all the fixings you need for active, indoor recreation.

It houses several facilities to try: a rock-climbing tower, aquatic center, ice arena, rotary pavilion, field courts, cardio room, and weight room.

They also have public wifi and a snack bar, so you don’t have to leave the area if you get hungry or thirsty.

Meet new people and try all the activities at Aspen Recreation Center.

Admire the Art in Baldwin Gallery

Exterior of the building that houses Baldwin Gallery

Kristi Blokhin /

Established in 1994, the Baldwin Gallery is home to several contemporary artworks.

This gallery has plenty to show its guests, from drawings, paintings, and sculptures to photographs and installation art.

You’ll find these works on simple, classic white decor walls to draw your eyes to the artwork.

Despite its size, Harley Baldwin, the gallery’s founder, wanted Aspen to have a diverse, well-known art scene.

If you enjoy art, check out the Baldwin Gallery.

It is a few minutes away from the Aspen Art Museum.

Look for Wildlife in North Star Nature Preserve

As a quiet mountain town, it’s no surprise that Aspen has its fair share of wildlife.

The North Star Nature Preserve is perfect for looking into the cute animals that roam around the area.

Some of the wildlife includes moose, ducks, and beaver dams.

Guests are encouraged not to scare or disturb any animals in their natural habitats since the staff takes great pains to keep them undisturbed.

It’s mostly a smooth, easy trail with flat grounds and well-marked paths, so all levels of hikers can take a casual stroll along the preserve.

You can also kayak along this nature preserve if you’d prefer.

The North Star Nature Preserve is east of Aspen, close to the Roaring Fork River.

Ride the Silver Queen Gondola

An empty Silver Queen Gondola

Zereshk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A ride in the Silver Queen Gondola takes you to greater heights, with better views and more activities to try in the Aspen mountains.

You’ll be traveling roughly three miles from the middle of Aspen, heading towards one of the highest mountain peaks at 11,000 feet from the regular land.

Once there, you can try out their available ventures, depending on the season.

Silver Queen Gondola showing the view of aspen

Zereshk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can go biking, hiking, yoga, and concerts during the summer.

While in winter, you can try skiing, snowshoe tours, and dining at a restaurant situated at the summit.

If you’d like to experience all the activities in Aspen, you can’t miss out on the Silver Queen Gondola, located on East Durant Avenue.

Ready-to-ride Silver Queen Gondolas

Zereshk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore a Mine with Smuggler Mine Tours

Do you want to know about Aspen’s past glory?

Aspen was once a big mining town, but it declined eventually.

With Smuggler Mine Tours, you can explore a former mine of Aspen.

The tour guides lead the way and teach you all you need to know about Aspen’s former mining industry.

Walk through the mines and see firsthand what miners faced in the past.

It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you can only get from mining cities like Aspen.

You might want to bring a hardhat before going to Smuggler Mountain Road.

Search for Ghosts in Dean’s Aspen Walking Tours

These walking tours draw guests because of the possibility of encountering the supernatural.

It turns out that the history of Aspen has a dark side, starting from 1879.

Since 2007, founder Dean has narrated true stories about events in the small town while giving his guests a tour around the area.

If scary things aren’t your fancy, though, he also offers other tours: bike tours, hiking tours, historical tours, and scenic walking tours of Aspen’s most picturesque destinations.

Visit his location in E Hyman Avenue and learn more about the town.

Cross the Maroon Creek Bridge

Close details of Maroon Creek Bridge's structure

Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Maroon Creek Bridge is the only steel bridge in town, built in 1888.

Four other bridges remain in working condition today.

The bridge was primarily a quick, convenient path toward the silver mines but eventually became abandoned after the mining industry declined.

It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places as an architectural wonder.

Over time, the bridge has shown signs of wear, so you can only cross the original part of this bridge on foot.

The city built a new bridge in the likeness of the Maroon Creek Bridge to allow cars and other vehicles to cross the wetlands.

Located west of State Highway 82, check out this historic site!

Watch a Show in Theatre Aspen

Unlike other theaters, the performances of this venue are held inside a giant white translucent tent.

Incorporated in 1992, Theatre Aspen prides itself on Broadway-level performances, intimate seatings, and award-winning artists.

Before finding success, Theatre Aspen went through many tough challenges ranging from financial difficulties to the lack of a suitable venue and staff leaving for other opportunities.

It’s an inspiring tale of how founder Kent Reed continued to pursue his goal of nurturing a cultural institution in Aspen, allowing performing arts to thrive within the community.

Afterward, you can lounge on their outdoor chairs, view their pristine gardens, and peek at the gorgeous mountain view.

Feel Fancy in the Caribou Club

The Caribou Club is private, so guests have to either be a member or pay a membership fee to enter the premises.

This club is a premium destination for Aspen’s luxurious, fine dining experience.

Their menu comprises lavish meals with many ingredients, such as handmade bread and pasta, personally butchered meat and fish, to their delicately-made desserts.

They also have an extensive collection of wine.

The Caribou Club has a nightclub and bar where you can relax near their fireplace and party when their DJ starts to play.

The Caribou Club should be your next travel destination for a grand, luxurious time in Aspen.

Walk the Long Conundrum Creek Trail

Meadow valley along Conundrum Creek Trail

Kristi Blokhin /

Located at the Conundrum Creek Road, this trail is perfect for travelers who don’t mind the long adventure in return for a worthy reward.

Conundrum Creek Trail is a long path that goes up the valley through meadows and forests in a lengthy, winding trail that can be tiring to most visitors.

But in this extensive path, you can witness nature at its finest, from the plethora of plants, trees, and wildflowers to animal wildlife in their natural habitats.

Mountain river along Conundrum Creek Trail

Kristi Blokhin /

You also get a view of the Conundrum Creek parallel to this far-reaching trail.

If you’re up for the challenge of hiking the whole 8.5 miles, claim your prize—an experience in the Conundrum Hot Springs—at the end of your journey.

Are you up for the challenge?

Visit the Conundrum Creek Trail in Aspen, Colorado.

A hiker admiring the scenic views along Conundrum Creek Trail

Kristi Blokhin /

Listen to Music in Belly Up Aspen

Since 2005, Belly Up Aspen has entertained the people in Aspen with good live music without having to leave the comfort of their town.

It may be a small theater, but this concert hall has held performances from some of the biggest artists in music, like John Legend and The Chainsmokers.

From indie music to country, acoustics, and live DJs, you can watch performances from musicians in every genre.

Its size lets you get up-close and personal with the performers; you can enjoy a clear view of the artists while bopping your head to the music.

If you’re ever in Aspen, don’t miss out on a concert in this music hall.

Explore the Wonders of Aspen Mountain

Ski-lift ride at Aspen Mountain

AspenSkiingCompany, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can’t visit Aspen without visiting their number one attraction.

Apart from being a natural wonder, the majestic Aspen Mountain is a top-rated ski resort that offers world-class skiing and snowboarding experiences.

The resort is known for its steep slopes and challenging terrain, making it an absolute favorite among avid skiers and snowboarders.

With a summit elevation of 8,000 feet, the views from the top are nothing short of breathtaking.

During the summer months, when skiing is not in season, visitors can enjoy hiking and mountain biking on the many winding trails that pass through key areas of the mountain.

Whether you’re looking to hit the slopes or just marvel at the breathtaking views, Aspen Mountain is sure to exceed your expectations!

Enjoy an Adrenaline-pumping Experience at Aspen Whitewater Rafting

If you want a thrilling outdoor experience, try whitewater rafting on the Roaring Fork River.

The Aspen Whitewater Rafting offers a thrilling river rafting adventure on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

The rapids range from beginner-level class II to more advanced level class IV—providing an extensive range of difficulty levels for different skill and experience levels.

The trips are led by experienced guides trained to ensure your safety while producing an exciting experience for the entire group.

You will also enjoy the scenic views of the mountain ranges once the current calm down.

Aspen Whitewater Rafter offers various packages and options that can be tailored to meet your needs and interests.

A great way to get your adrenaline pumping while exploring the great outdoors is to try this activity during your visit to Aspen!

Enjoy Craft Beer at Aspen Tap

Exterior of Aspen Tap

Jiujiuer /

There’s nothing like a cold brew while enjoying the cold weather in Aspen.

If you’re looking for the best place to enjoy craft beer, you must visit Aspen Tap.

Aspen Tap, also known as Aspen Brewing Company, is a popular brewery and taproom serving various local craft beers.

The taproom is located in the heart of downtown Aspen, making it a convenient spot to stop for a drink or meal after a day of exploring the town.

The brewery sources its ingredients from local farms and businesses, ensuring the freshest and highest quality products.

You can also socialize with the locals or enjoy quality time with friends and family while sampling craft beers.

Watch a Live Performance at Wheeler Opera House

Exterior of Wheeler Opera House

jenlo8 /

Located in downtown Aspen, the Wheeler Opera House is one of Aspen’s most iconic landmarks and cultural institutions.

This old building was built in 1889 and has been a centerpiece of Aspen’s entertainment and cultural scene ever since.

The iconic Victorian-era stone exterior and grand Italianate style has been a fixture in downtown Aspen for years and continues to wow tourists today.

Entrance to Wheeler Opera House

jenlo8 /

The interior boasts stunning architectural details that will take you back in time once you enter the place—classic features include a grand staircase, ornate decors, and chandeliers.

With its cozy ambiance and intimate setting, the Wheeler Opera House is the perfect venue for performances ranging from concerts and theater productions to comedy shows and film screenings.

So whether you’re a lover of the performing arts or just looking for an exciting and memorable night out in Aspen, don’t miss out on a production from the Wheeler Opera House.

Get Spooked at Ashcroft Ghost Town

Log house at Ashcroft Ghost Town

Pedro Carrilho /

Ashcroft Ghost Town is a historical site just outside Aspen near Ashcroft Mount.

This abandoned village offers a glimpse into the area’s mining past and is home to several historic buildings.

The town was founded in the late 1800s and was home to over 2,000 residents at its peak.

Today, the area is part of Aspen’s backcountry and has become a popular destination for ghost hunters.

The grounds of Ashcroft Ghost Town

Paul Brady Photography /

Visitors can explore the remains of the town, including the restored Hotel Jerome and several other buildings.

The abandoned buildings are draped in eerie silence, giving off an ominous vibe as you explore the area.

The site also offers guided tours and programs for visitors who want to learn more about the town’s history.

If you’re looking for a spooky experience while visiting Aspen, then you should check out Ashcroft Ghost Town.

Houses at Ashcroft Ghost Town

davisdeatonphotography /

Final Thoughts

Aspen, Colorado, has everything you need for a perfect vacation in the outdoors.

From endless scenic vistas of surrounding mountains and nature preserves to historical locations and unique, thrilling recreations, there’s a reason celebrities flock to this small town.

Aspen may have failed as a mining town.

However, its current reputation as a popular tourist spot for skiers and nature-lovers still marks it as a significant part of Colorado.

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