Gondola on mountain in Aspen

Aspen is the ultimate ski destination. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Explore a Mountain Enthusiast’s Dream in Aspen, Colorado

Welcome to Aspen, Colorado, where the outdoor activities are endless, the cuisine is legendary and the nightlife is a draw on its own. This glamorous ski resort town offers plenty to charm avid downhill senders, wine lovers, art aficionados, wellness enthusiasts and more.

Marked by mountains — Aspen (also known as Ajax), Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass — the area offers incredible vistas everywhere you look.

Stroll through downtown Aspen to find cozy spots to warm up with a mug of cocoa or cool down with an ice-cold beer, and don’t miss the high-end shopping, on par with just about any luxury destination in the United States or abroad.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Enjoy a Luxurious Welcome to Aspen

Arriving in Aspen, you’ll feel as if you have been transported to a storybook town — but instead of little log cabins, there are first-class amenities at every turn. Kick off your weekend with a pick-me-up at the Spring Café Aspen for a latte or superfood smoothie. (This 100% organic restaurant has become so popular in Aspen, the owners recently opened a second location in New York’s SoHo.)

You’re right at the center of it all, so spend a leisurely morning browsing downtown Aspen’s incredible shops, including Maison Ullens for upscale women’s clothing, local literary institution Explore Booksellers and Gorsuch for alpine-chic apparel. Pitkin County Dry Goods is another favorite that offers a well-edited assortment of men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.

Aspen is world-renowned for its culinary offerings and is the site of the annual Food & Wine Classic — all of which means lunch is going to be good. Find a table at French Alpine Bistro, which brings all the charm of Swiss and French ski towns — and their cuisines — to Colorado. Dig into moules frites or cheese fondue in your sheepskin-lined chair.

After you finish up, pay a visit to the John Denver Sanctuary. This serene little park, dedicated to the memory of the legendary “Rocky Mountain High” singer, offers a scenic spot for quiet reflection. Sit atop one of the small boulders scattered on the well-groomed trails and let the stunning views sink in.

Stroll over to the adjacent Rio Grande Park to explore the banks of the Roaring Fork River, and then make your way to the base of the Silver Queen Gondola. The 2.5-mile ride operates year-round, transporting visitors from downtown Aspen to the peak of Aspen Mountain at 11,000-plus feet above sea level. Spend some time up top exploring the mountain before taking the gondola back down.

Champagne cocktail with orange twist
Toast to an excellent vacation. (Photo: Marriott International)

For dinner, it’s Steakhouse No. 316, a mining cabin turned fine-dining staple with a short but brilliant wine list. If you’re looking for a nightcap before turning in, the Caribou Club is a legendary destination for nightlife, but you’ll need to purchase a temporary membership to drink and dine there, as it’s otherwise closed to the public.

For something a bit more low-key, visit the bar at the Monarch for elevated takes on classic cocktails.

Saturday: Experience a Day of Sun and Spa

Aspen is truly a year-round destination and offers outdoor activities for every type of enthusiast with each season. If there’s powder, you’ll likely want to go skiing, of course — while the warmer months offer different, but equally epic, delights. Either way, get your caffeine and croissant fix at Jour de Fête embarking on your morning adventure of choice.

Skiers can choose from four different mountains. At Aspen Mountain, you’ll find steep terrain and an exceptional après-ski scene; Buttermilk is the best choice for beginners; advanced skiers will appreciate Highlands’ steep grades; and Snowmass (larger than the three other mountains combined) is a bit outside of the city center, but offers something for every level.

No matter where you choose, there will be plenty of on-mountain dining options to fuel up between runs.

Maroon Bells in Aspen during the day
Maroon Bells is an absolute dream. (Photo: Getty Images)

During the warmer months, Maroon Bells is a must. Secure a parking or shuttle reservation well in advance and hop in the car for a 25-minute drive. Once there, you’ll find out why the Bells are America’s most photographed mountains. The domed peaks reflect in near-perfect symmetry on glassy Maroon Lake.

Embark on a hike that matches your gusto. The 1.9-mile Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is the most mellow option, while the Maroon Peak Trail offers 11 miles of heart-pounding climbing and panoramic views. Make sure to pack a lunch to enjoy a full afternoon immersed in nature.

After you’re through with your day’s effort, unwind at Remède Spa, renowned for balancing traditional techniques with modern technologies for a memorable wellness experience. The 15,000-square-foot space, with amenities ranging from oxygen lounges to CBD massages, is sure to impress even the most devoted spa junkie.

It’s practically a right to enjoy après-ski when in Aspen, no matter how you spent your day. Be sure to visit the Wine Bar, a haven for those looking to discover the next great bottle through a wine tasting with a sommelier.

In the warmer months, enjoy a craft cocktail downtown at Hooch Cocktail Bar before a dinner to remember at the widely adored Casa Tua for elegant yet comforting northern Italian fare on the patio.

Sunday: Discover the City’s Wealth of Art Galleries

The mountain isn’t the only place to get in some activity. Sneak in a Pilates reformer or yoga class at workout studio O2 Aspen before breakfast at the cozy Bear Den Aspen. Rehydrate with a basil lemonade (or a mimosa made with freshly squeezed orange juice) before choosing between the brioche French toast and the pastrami-spiced steak and eggs.

Along with exceptional outdoor activities, Aspen packs in a variety of must-see galleries and exhibitions.

After breakfast, head to the stunning Aspen Art Museum, an arts and culture hub with an emphasis on contemporary art and education. The airy structure, designed by Shigeru Ban, is a sight in itself, but inside you’ll find an array of rotating exhibits, featuring paintings, drawings and interactive media.

Galerie Maximillian, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Christopher Martin Gallery and Baldwin Gallery are among the other fabulous contemporary art destinations — all of which are located downtown. For those who can spare the time, a quick trip to the verdant five-acre Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass is also worth the trek.

Bikers going through trees in Aspen during the fall
Autumn is an equally lovely season to visit. (Photo: Getty Images)

For lunch, visit Meat & Cheese Restaurant. Part specialty food store, part seasonal eatery, this restaurant features a rotating menu with dishes served farm-style on a wooden board — great for sharing.

Weather permitting, rent a pair of wheels (self-powered or e-bike) from Aspen Bikes and head out on an afternoon ride down the Rio Grande Trail. A breezy 12-mile ride will drop you at Woody Creek Tavern. Cheers to your effort with a locally brewed cold one before peddling back.

While there’s still an abundance of enticing downtown cafés awaiting you — all of which look ultra-cozy and delicious — it’s worth venturing to Pine Creek Cookhouse, an elegant yet rustic restaurant that serves local produce, wild game, fresh fish and incredible views from the base of Elk Mountain.

While the restaurant offers prix fixe dining, don’t miss out on the momos (Nepalese dumplings) as an addition to the meal. Pine Creek is the perfect place for visitors to soak up their final moments (and views) in this enchanting ski resort town.