Aspen Times Weekly: 20 Reasons We Love Aspen |

Aspen Times Weekly: 20 Reasons We Love Aspen

Compiled by Jeanne McGovern

You’re here in Aspen. We’re here in Aspen. So, clearly we have at least one thing in common: We LOVE Aspen.

So do a lot of people, apparently.

In fact, Aspen is one of the “Best Places to Visit in the USA,” according to vacation-destination rankings in U.S. News and World Report. But the rankings only put Aspen in the top-20 list. We beg to differ. We think Aspen is No. 1.

Here are 20 reasons why — beginning with five must-do summer activities, followed up by a list of our favorite things.

Here are 20 reasons why we think Aspen is No. 1 — beginning with five must-do activities, followed by a list of our favorite things. And while no one person could explore every nook and cranny of our diverse town and the surrounding backcountry, it hasn’t stopped us from trying – and it shouldn’t stop you. You won’t be sorry … we never are after a day in the great outdoors or an evening spent soaking in the sights and sounds.


We can’t think of another place with more summertime festivals than Aspen. Beginning with the Aspen Fringe Festival in early June and wrapping up with Filmfest in late September, there is a festival just about every week in summer. Aspen Ideas Festival, Snowmass Rendezvous Craft Beer Festival, Mac and Cheese Festival, Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival — this is just the tip of the iceberg … you get the picture.


The hills around Aspen are most certainly alive with the sound of music. From the Benedict Music Tent to Fanny Hill in Snowmass to Bluegrass Sundays atop Ajax, and from Belly Up Aspen to the JAS Cafe at the Cooking School of Aspen to students playing for pennies on the downtown pedestrian malls, our small town plays host to musical acts of all types. Really, where else can you find classical, jazz, rock, bluegrass and more — all in one day? And if one day isn’t enough, remember this: several of Aspen’s musical offerings are weeks long (Aspen Music Festival), ongoing (free concerts on Thursday nights and even some Saturdays in Snowmass), and weekend affairs (Jazz Aspen Labor Festival). So really, what more can a music-loving local or visitor — or even just the casual music fan — want in a town? Not much, in our humble opinion. Happy listening … enjoy the sounds of summer.


For a small town, Aspen is home to some serious big city eats and drinks. It all begins with the Food & Wine Classic and trickles down to the daily grind. From fine dining and bustling nightlife to family fare and picnic baskets, Aspen in summer has something for everyone when it comes to food and drink. Our suggestion: walk the downtown core and stop — often — to see what delights await. For example, a one-block loop around the dancing fountain on Hyman Avenue offers more than two dozen options, serving up everything from sushi and suds to pastas and pinots. An added bonus in summer: most restaurants and bars have outdoor seating, which means you can eat, drink, see and be seen.


When it comes right down to it, what Aspenites love most about summer in Aspen is what actually surrounds the town of Aspen: the great outdoors. Nestled in eastern edge of the Roaring Fork Valley — a dead-end in winter — Aspen in summer is flanked by all that Mother Nature has to offer. Hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, camping, climbing, golfing … the list goes on and on. Our advice to enjoying all that the area has to offer? Grab a map and go. A few favorites, by sport: hike the Lost Man Loop up Independence Pass; mountain bike through the Hunter Creek Valley or road bike to the Maroon Bells; fish the Gold Medal waters of the Frying Pan; paddle the Roaring Fork River; camp at Difficult; climb up Independence Pass; golf the Aspen municipal course. And this is just the start. Truly, no one person could explore every nook and cranny of our diverse town and the surrounding backcountry. But that hasn’t stopped us from trying — and it shouldn’t stop you. Head to a local outfitter or sporting goods shop to get the lowdown on how to explore and enjoy the area safely, and then get out there. You won’t be sorry … we never are after a day in the great outdoors.


Yes, this is a story about Aspen in summer. And how great Aspen in summer can be. But really, what adventure would be complete without a great road trip? None. So for those of us who toil in town day in and day out, the thought of a road trip makes us appreciate the fact we get to come home to Aspen even more. A few of our favorites, all within a two-hour drive: Ruedi Reservoir, up the Frying Pan past Basalt, for some boating, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding and more; Redstone/Marble, for a true small-town experience in a quaint mountain setting; the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, for thrills and chills on the roller-coaster rides and a look into our deep past in the onsite caverns; and Leadville, over Independence Pass, for a taste of the Old West (especially if you happen to hit it over Boom Days, the town’s annual celebration of all that is Leadville).


“I love stand-up paddleboarding on Stillwater. It’s a short drive out of town and feels like a total escape from civilization. I love having an aquarium beneath my feet.”

Anna Stonehouse, photographer

“I love how long the days last.”

Erica Robbie, reporter

“I like that Aspen has so many activities because it disperses people better on hiking and biking trails. The events hosted by the Aspen Music School, Aspen Institute and countless other organizations mean you don’t have everyone in town for the same reasons. While some trails are getting crowded, it’s amazing that you can still find solitude on many others.”

Scott Condon, reporter

“What do I love about summer? Flip-flops. Quick errands, a bike ride into town or a leisurely walk command nothing more of my feet than flip flops. No more laundry loads full of stinky wool socks or dirty ski socks. In the summers, socks come in only for running/hiking, while the greatest pleasures come from letting my dogs bark after they’ve been suffocated by cotton and wool all winter. Now that’s summer living.”

Rick Carroll, managing editor

“The magical vibe. There are so many things to do see and do in Aspen in the summer, but just feeling the goodness of a mountain town is what it’s all about — it’s the energy on the outdoor patios, the gondola running to the Sundeck, classical music coming from the music tent where people are picnicking on the lawn, the sound of the Rio Grande river rushing through town, the announcers during rugby tournaments or volleyball matches, the sounds of kids running through the Cooper St. fountain — everywhere you turn, there are people just enjoying this beautiful place.”

-Samantha Johnston, publisher

“Every day that passes is one more day closer to winter.”

Hank Carter, adverting rep

“Just being outdoors. Hiking, biking, camping in the surrounding backcountry; eating, drinking, people-watching anywhere downtown; playing with my kids, barbecuing with friends, walking the dog. It’s all good, as long as your outdoors enjoying the Aspen summer.”

Jeanne McGovern, Aspen Times Weekly editor

“You really can do two if not three vacation-esque things in a day, with very little hassle and transportation concerns. Biking then fishing. Early fishing then rafting, rafting and biking. Golf then rafting. Rafting and hiking, golfing and fishing with a touch of biking. The longer days make for a pace you can set yourself. And, of course, the sunsets and drinks on the patios start another level of vacation.”

David Krause, editor

“I love Aspen’s obsession with Rosé; sitting on a patio, floating a river, toasting an adventurous day — pink wine is always appropriate for summertime in Aspen.”

Amy Laha, advertising rep

“My favorite thing about summer is hiking and begin outside. I love that it stays light late and I can eat dinner outside somewhere in town after a nice long hike. Just so much fun. I also like that I finnally get to see my neighbors, people stay inside a lot more in the winter around the neighborhood.”

Ashton Hewitt, advertising director

“Believe it boils down to freedom. Freedom to hike all over the mountains, freedom to get in the streams and on the rivers, freedom to run and jump in the parks and in the fields, freedom from layers of clothing and heavy boots . As beautiful as winter is, one feels restricted when not skiing. How enjoyable to be outside for hours amongst all the varied flowers and feeling the warmth of summer on your body.”

Dottie Wolcott, office manager

“I love the road biking accessibility from the core of Aspen; Maroon Bells, Ashcroft and Independence Pass are all classic road rides.”

Maria Wimmer, distribution manager

“Late afternoon float down the Roaring Fork through the North Star Preserve. Put in near the Wildwood School and get out at the bridge on the west end of the preserve. Pristine landscape and lots of wildlife.”

David Laughren, director of business development

“Being outside — outdoor dining, hiking the ski mountains to see them in summer.”

Rose Laudicina, digital engagement editor

“Jump in the Punch Bowl.”

Andrew Travers, arts & entertainment editor

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