Experience the summer swagger of this quintessential ski town.
I dream of skiing more than I actually get on the slopes, but Aspen, Colorado, has always been a snowy locale on my must visit list. I thought when I finally met this famously chic ski spot, the vistas would be covered in a white blanket of powder. Fate had other plans, and my introduction occurred in the middle of the summer when I traveled with my husband and infant daughter to visit friends who have made Aspen home. Although the only snow I saw was at the very top of the towering Rocky Mountains, way beyond my reach, I fell in love with the town all the same, discovering that its charm goes way beyond its reputation as a winter wonderland.
For our four-day visit, we set up camp at the Limelight Hotel, a modern boutique property in the center of the downtown action. Across the street from Wagner Park and within walking distance from Aspen Mountain, the hotel puts you just steps from the town’s stylish restaurants and upscale shops. One of my favorite perks was the Limelight’s incredible breakfast spread (included in the hotel rate). Picture bowls of homemade granola and platters of fresh fruit and sliced meats, along with a rotating selection of hot items ranging from veggie frittatas and steel cut oatmeal to biscuits and gravy. Breakfast is served from 7 to 10 a.m., and I advise waking up early to beat the crowds and have your pick of the best offerings. If a big morning meal isn’t your thing, the hotel’s hand-tossed pizzas are ideal for a laid-back lunch in the Lounge or late night in-room dining after an action-packed day of exploring.
The Limelight also offers a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as a fully equipped gym and complimentary shuttle service to and from Aspen’s Roaring Fork Airport and around town. Personally, I was won over by the adorable wooden crib outfitted in Winnie the Pooh bedding that the staff placed in the room for our daughter prior to our arrival. The 440-square-foot Deluxe Room also included a desk and sitting area, kitchenette with a refrigerator, Keurig coffeemaker and microwave, as well as a spacious bathroom. The 126- room property’s accommodations run the gamut, including rooms with full kitchens and dining rooms, private terraces with mountain views and dog-friendly, one-bedroom casitas— a little something for everyone. When we weren’t relaxing in our home-away-from-home or strolling the streets window-shopping and eating, we experienced the best of summer in Aspen. Here is just a taste of the non-winter must-do’s.
1. Ride the Gondola.
A ride on the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain isn’t just for wintertime. At the peak, take in gorgeous mountain views, snap a family photo and sit down for a meal at the Sundeck restaurant. Then spend the afternoon hiking, playing lawn games or watching the kids participate in an obstacle course. Yoga and live music are offered on select days. aspensnowmass.com
2. Visit Maroon Bells.
Some of the most photographed mountains in North America are just 10 miles from Aspen up Maroon Creek Road. From mid-June to Oct. 4, the two peaks of the Elk Mountains can only be accessed by public bus ($6 ticket) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Buses leave every half hour from Aspen Highlands Village. Once you reach the drop-off point, there are hiking trails of various skill levels with the stunning peaks as a backdrop. We opted for the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, which travels about 1.5 miles each way along the creek flowing into the lake. This is a Kodak moment you can’t miss. aspenchamber.org/explore-aspen/trip-highlights/maroon-bells
3. Indulge in spa time.
Aspen has a number of award-winning spas, including Remède Spa at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. A short walk from the Limelight Hotel, the 15,000-squarefoot facility features steam caves, cold plunges, a Confluence waterfall and oxygen lounge. All treatments are customized to each guest, ensuring you get the most out of your visit. My 60-minute facial was topped off with a relaxing warm paraffin foot wrap; décolleté, arm, foot and scalp massages; as well as an eye and lip treatment. Pure heaven. stregisaspen.com
4. Stroll the Aspen Saturday Market.
From mid-June to mid-October, spend your Saturday morning checking out the food and artisan vendors set up along the downtown streets. Sample fruits, aromatherapy products and gourmet treats (including the mouthwatering Ajax Donuts). Celebrating 18 years in 2016, the market highlights only Colorado made, grown and produced items. aspenchamber.org/explore-aspen/trip-highlights/aspen-saturdaymarket
5. Go back in time at the Ashcroft Ghost Town.
Eleven miles South of Aspen on Castle Creek Road, this former silver mining settlement dates back to the 1880s and was once home to approximately 2,000 people. Stroll through the remnants of the town, including a saloon and post office. Guided tours are available daily mid-June through Labor Day. Adult admission is $3, and children 12 and younger are free. aspenhistory.org/tours-sites/ashcroft-ghost-town
Feast at the Food & Wine Classic
If you are in Aspen in June, don’t miss this culinary extravaganza. The inspiration behind the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, the esteemed epicurean event brings together more than 300 wine and luxury lifestyle brands in a Grand Tasting Pavilion and offers more than 80 cooking demonstrations and wine seminars with world-class chefs and wine experts. This year, it takes place June 17-19 in Wagner Park (across the street from the Limelight Hotel). foodandwine.com/classic
STORY: Giannina Smith Bedford
Contributing home editor and design columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel & Business Writer. Mother of Two.