Most people flock to Aspen when it’s covered in fresh white powder, but while the winter season may be a draw, some consider summer to be Aspen’s secret season. The snow-capped mountains are bursting with vivid colors, the wildflowers are in bloom, and the town turns into one massive outdoor playground for adults. Here’s a summer guide to Aspen with everything to see and do.
There are limited airlines that fly into Aspen/Pitkin County, although airport parking appears to serve more private jets than commercial airlines. The semi-private airline, Aero, is a newer alternative for travelers flying out of Los Angeles or Dallas. The air carrier offers direct flights from private terminals with first-class-style seats and added benefits such as access to a dedicated local concierge and added perks such as in-flight catering by Erewhon.
Where to Stay in Aspen
Lodging in Aspen is limited to luxury resorts and private multi-million dollar mansions available for rent. Book a room at The Little Nell for a five-star resort experience located at the base of Aspen Mountain—ideal for guests that want to experience first tracks in the winter. The Living Room is a cozy lounge where one might be tempted to linger all day, but the hotel also hosts a slew of wine dinners, mountainside festivities, and a signature cycling camp with former pro-cyclist Christian Vande Velde.
The St. Regis Aspen Resort boasts a spacious lobby, popular for winter apres-ski but the real star here is the elegant 15,000-square-foot Remède spa. Wellness warriors will easily spend a day here and indulge in treatments such as a body scrub, facial, or even an in-suite massage. Hotel Jerome, on the opposite side of town near Main Street, is a charming hotel and has been a historic landmark since 1889. J-Bar, the hotel’s classy gastropub is always buzzing and the famous burger served on a brioche roll (pro-tip: add grilled onions) is not to be missed.
Where to Eat in Aspen
Travelers who frequent Saint Barths will appreciate Betula, a chic, modern European restaurant and sister to Bonito, a similar outpost in the French West Indies Island. All white lounge furniture and a DJ spinning eclectic music sets the mood while an innovative cocktail menu such as the Yellow Paloma poured in a bird-shaped glass keep diners lingering after dinner.
Aspen might not be the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of fresh sushi, but locals and visitors agree the eponymously named Matsuhisa is a crown jewel in town. Situated in a Victorian-style two-story house, the restaurant offers hot and cold Japanese dishes including Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s signature plates such as the miso marinated black cod, rock shrimp tempura, and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, which put the chef on the culinary map. Reservations are hard to come across during peak season so book in advance.
For a good time at one of Aspen’s popular nighttime hangouts check out Cache Cache. On one side, the large horseshoe-shaped bar becomes one of the town’s social hubs and on the other, the upscale French-American cuisine continues to be a favorite amongst locals and visitors. Also in town, Steakhouse 316 is a classic white-tablecloth eatery with red leather booths serving prime cuts of beef and seafood.
What to Do in Aspen
If you need a sign to plan a spring or summer trip to Aspen, let the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen be it. The town is brimming with epicurean delights, endless pours of wine, and an action-packed weekend filled with live events and celebrity chef sightings.
In the summer, the idyllic Maroon Bells, two peaks in the Elk Mountains, are in all of their natural glory. The picturesque backdrop consists of majestic twin peaks, best viewed by foot or bike, that tower 14,000 feet above a tranquil Maroon Lake. Parking reservations are required (bikes and e-bikes are permitted without a reservation). Avid hikers who are up for a challenge should explore the narrow, 10-mile Sunnyside Trail that offers sprawling views.
Art lovers will want to scope out the Aspen Art Museum in the heart of town. It’s a contemporary museum that recently featured the works of Andy Warhol and Italian artist Gaetano Pesce. For live entertainment, check out Belly Up, an intimate venue that has hosted both emerging and big-name artists such as Lukas Nelson, Leon Bridges, and Kygo.
The Aspen Institute, a local non-profit organization, holds ongoing leadership seminars and is the host of the Aspen Ideas Festival. Field experts and visionaries come together for a multi-day festival discussing global issues around six major themes.