Locals knowingly nod when anyone talks about how they moved to Aspen for “just one season” before staying for maybe 10. The winter may beckon, but the summer is what sells you. The well-heeled descend on Wagner Park from June 20 through 22 for the Food & Wine Classic, while families converge on the Fourth of July weekend. Aspen is home to some incredible outdoor adventuring, from summiting “fourteeners”—peaks higher than 14,000 feet, in mountaineering parlance—to tubing down snow-melt rivers. Summer is Aspen’s best-kept secret.
Raft the roaring fork River with Blazing Adventures ($90), or let Kiwi Adventure Ko. take you down notorious Slaughterhouse Falls in an inner tube—with a helmet ($85). The Ute Trail rewards hikers with incredible views after a strenuous-but-quick climb. Continue up Aspen Mountain for lunch at the Sundeck—get the chili ($8.50)—and ride the Gondola down for free. New this summer: Aspen Skiing Co.’s see-it-all package ($29) that includes Gondy rides, on-mountain disc golf, and bus tours to the Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in the nation. Stroll the June-through-October Saturday Market to snag a bag of kettle corn.
If you’ve come prepared to splurge, Matsuhisa’s sushi bar ($200-plus per person) is a must—after all, this is Nobu’s namesake restaurant. Prices are more palatable in the upstairs bar. Choose the patio at Ellina($9 to $42) for people-watching and New American dishes such as seared octopus and rabbit. For trendy drinks mixed with house-made syrups ($5 to $35) and farm-fresh fare, visit Justice Snow’sin the 1889 Wheeler Opera House. Aspen celebrates the après-ski happy hour even in the summer—at 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel, where the bar’s hot tub and pool tempt you not to order the tomato basil soup and grilled cheese ($10).
Hotel Jerome ($500 to $5,300) not only is luxurious, but a social hub—with an aptly titled living roombar. Order an Aspen Crud—think bourbon milkshake—at the hotel’s other watering hole, J-Bar.Updated rooms are airy and leathery. Nestled into Aspen Mountain is the Little Nell Hotel($665 to $4,100), a celeb hot spot with three- and four-bedroom condos at The Residences ($1,825 to $6,025) and access to a rooftop pool. The St. Moritz ($38 to $399) offers hostel-style lodging and a 100-degree pool—the result of a plumbing mix-up.
LAX offers seasonal (including summer) nonstop flights to ASE; United’s round-trip flights start at $468. The carrier also offers one-stop flights out of John Wayne Airport, starting at $507 round trip.
Click here to get the recipe for an Aspen Crud