aspen summer events

Aspen, Colorado is glorious in the summer — chock full of festivals, events and activities for every type of traveler. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Aspen’s Summer Playlist: Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in the Mountain Town

Ask someone to imagine Aspen, and there’s a good chance they’ll picture wintry Rocky Mountain slopes glinting with fresh powder or autumn sun illuminating a hillside dotted with the golden trees that give the town its name.

But to those in the know, Aspen’s prime season just might be summer, when the weather is sublime, festivals overlap and musicians, chefs, mixologists, creatives and visionaries from around the world flock here.

The possibilities for Aspen summer fun and adventure stretch as high as the Maroon Bells peaks, and packed days are best brought to a close while lingering with friends over world-class cuisine and drinks.

Experience the Summer Festival Scene

aspen summer events
Stretch your mind at the Aspen Ideas Festival. (Photo: Getty Images)

In the summertime, sweeping mountain vistas inspire lofty thoughts as the world’s leading thinkers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs and dreamers gather for the Aspen Ideas Festival and Aspen Summer Words literary festival in June.

Summer Words is a six-day event for writers and readers that includes creative writing workshops, panel discussions and readings by top authors. The Ideas Festival brings scientists, public officials, economists and more to Aspen for 10 days of public panels, on-stage interviews, debates and lectures.

One year’s typically eclectic lineup for the Ideas Festival included luminaries such as the musician Common, the bestselling author Tara Westover, professional basketball player Kevin Love and Vincente Fox, the former President of Mexico.

Even if you don’t register for the daytime workshops, talks and symposiums, the guest speakers and attendees tend to spill out into the town’s bars and restaurants at night and engage in lively discussions with anyone who sparks them.

Impress your friends with your skills at identifying the Pulitzer Prize winner while sipping a Burning Man cocktail at local steakhouse The Monarch.

Unwind on the W Aspen Rooftop Deck

Rising directly at the base of Aspen Mountain and just steps from downtown’s trendy restaurants and shops, The Sky Residences at W Aspen offer the premier location for grooving on mountain views.

The outdoor WET Deck is open year-round, but in summer the mountainside turns vivid green under the vast blue sky, and the 360-degree view is breathtaking. Dance to live DJs, soak in the hot tub and swimming pool, or just hang out by the fire pit and sip a cocktail with friends knowing that Aspen’s summer playground lies just beyond this hip enclave.

Summertime and the Living Is Easy

Although the opportunities for alpine sporting adventures abound for miles in every direction, the town of Aspen itself is compact, providing the perfect atmosphere for skipping from one experience to the next.

Outdoor lovers have it good here, as they’re in easy access to top-notch hikes like the easy Rio Grande Trail, or the slightly more difficult Smuggler Mountain Trail, which rewards hikers with stunning valley and mountain views. For wildflower spotting, head to Cathedral and American lakes.

Adrenaline junkies should point themselves to Aspen Paragliding for a flight through the Colorado sky, or hit Roaring Fork River for whitewater rafting and casting a line for brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout.

Once you’re had your sporty fix, hit the Aspen Saturday Market, open in summer and early fall, for local produce, a food court and live music. The Aspen Art Museum attracted international notice when its striking new building, designed by Pritzker prize–winning architect Shigeru Ban, opened in 2014. The building, a modernist, latticelike cube, spills sunlight into an interior filled with provocative contemporary art.

Plus, the SO Café at the top of the museum features delicious food and drinks, views of Independence Pass, and in the summer, various evening entertainments, including Movies at the Museum, Jazz Aspen Snowmass café shows, dance performances and “Music with a View” collaborations with the Aspen Music Festival.

A wide variety of bands and singer-songwriters appear on the intimate stage at The Belly Up year-round. If you’d rather party with the see-and-be-seen set, try your luck at making it past the velvet rope outside the Escobar Aspen, or to be safe, reserve a table in advance. The club’s décor is reminiscent of the inside of an airplane — if the airplane were filled with neon decor, laser accents, pulsing DJ beats and dancing revelers.

Tune into Aspen’s Music Festivals

aspen summer events
Get your groove on at Jazz Aspen Snowmass. (Photo: Getty Images)

Almost 30 years ago, the Jazz in Marciac festival in southern France inspired music lovers in Aspen to create their own mountain music extravaganza, which has since expanded into a series of concerts in June and an open-air Labor Day festival that encourages crowds of 10,000 attendees to dance their cares away.

Today, Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) has expanded to usher in a new format. The June Experience fills smaller downtown venues with live performances, allowing concertgoers to walk from one show to the next and catch multiple acts in one day.

Over the years, a variety of greats from a myriad of genres have played JAS, including Al Green, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Michael Franti, Mumford and Sons, and the Roots.

Classical music lovers descend on Aspen each summer to attend the Aspen Music Festival and School, an eight-week season of performances and training of mostly young-adult musicians.

More than 400 classical music events fill the schedule and feature orchestras, solo and chamber music performances, opera productions, master classes and more.

Find Your Foodie Haven

aspen summer events
Tempt your taste buds at Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic. (Photo: Getty Images)

Does food taste better at 8,000 feet? Maybe, especially after a day spent working up an appetite while hiking, biking and shopping in and around this Rocky Mountain town. But the talented chefs who create innovative feasts for foodies every June at the Food & Wine Classic don’t need any altitude assistance.

A pass to the festival buys savory meals and a chance to mingle with celebrity chefs, James Beard Award winners, Food & Wine Best New Chefs and champion cocktail mixologists.

Attendance is capped at 5,000, ensuring prime access to all pass holders. Tickets sell out months in advance, and events include wine seminars, cooking demonstrations and dinners in which chefs from across the country recreate the dining experiences of their signature restaurants.

The Sky Residences at W Aspen represent an exclusive shared ownership opportunity slope-side on Aspen Mountain. The Sky Residences are a limited collection of only six three-bedroom and five two-bedroom W-branded Residences.