Aspen Untucked: Get Out of Town |

Aspen Untucked: Get Out of Town

by Barbara Platts
New Mexico fall mountain sunset featuring golden aspens and rays of sunlight
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Once again, it’s that time of year. The town has emptied out, the weather is brisk and somewhat gloomy, the trails are getting muddy, and a good portion of the restaurants have closed their doors until winter.

During offseason, a section of the Aspen population gets out of town for an extended period of time because their places of work are closed. Many travel to beaches, posting wonderful photos on Facebook of them and their comrades in bathing suits whilst drinking piña coladas and sunbathing. Others go trek through Europe or Africa, making us intensely jealous with their cultured experiences, which are sure to include a ride on an elephant or camel.

But many of us who have full-time, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.-type jobs, don’t get the luxury to leave for an extended amount of time. We carry on, business as usual, with maybe one or two long weekends to enjoy some rest and relaxation, or just a sweet escape.

For those weekend warriors, I share four of my favorite places to vacay that are within a day’s drive. Each is quite different from the next for whatever kind of weekend trip you may be looking for.

Denver, Colorado: The Urban Vacation

Distance: 159 miles

Estimated drive time: 3 hours 11 minutes

An easy trek to the east, Denver is the closest thing to city life that us Aspenites have. And the fun thing about this city is it’s ever-changing. There are constantly new restaurants, bars, shops and events going up. I personally love to go for ethnic food when I’m in the Mile High City, since we have a shortage of it in the valley. Some favorites are the popular ramen restaurant Uncle and Biju’s Little Curry Shop, which serves Indian cuisine. Besides the eats, there many other things to enjoy like baseball, hockey, basketball and football games, Broadway musicals at the Buell Theatre and museums, such as the Museum of Nature and Science and the Clyfford Still Museum. Plus, once you’ve made it to Denver, there are plenty of other wonderful towns to experience nearby such as Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. The options are endless.

Las Vegas, Nevada: The Indulgent Vacation

Distance: 634 miles

Estimated time: 9.5 hours

If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you know that two to three days in this indulgent city is all that’s necessary to reap its benefits…and its hangovers. Yes, Vegas is intense, but it also has a lot worth exploring. I have a few good friends that live there and being able to see the city through a local’s eyes is refreshing. Turns out Vegas isn’t all about the gambling and the booze. The magic scene is alive and well, with greats like Penn & Teller, David Copperfield and Mac King performing on the regular. There’s also tons of great food, no matter what cuisine tickles your palette. Make sure to spend some time off the Strip when you’re there, particularly in downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street, where it all began, is a particularly interesting stretch worth exploring. However, there’s also an arts district in the downtown area with galleries, museums, recreational pot shops and restaurants. Two of my favorite downtown locales are The Cornish Pasty, which serves delicious, doughy calzone-type meals, and the Artifice, a late-night bar lounge with live music and artwork.

Moab, Utah: The Active Vacation

Distance: 239 miles

Estimated drive time: 3 hours 51 minutes

If you didn’t get your camping fix over the summer, Moab is the ideal spot to head for the offseason. Now that the cool fall temps have arrived, this desert location is much more tolerable. The mountain bike trails are endless and cater to all skill levels, as do the hikes. If you haven’t been to Canyonlands and Arches national parks (or even if you have) both are worth exploring. The town is quaint but should certainly be checked out. Start the day with a tasty breakfast at Love Muffin Cafe, go out and do something active, then refresh afterwards with a cold one from the Moab Brewery.

Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Cultural Vacation

Distance: 303 miles

Estimated drive time: 5 hours and 37 minutes

There’s something about Santa Fe (pictured above at sunset). I can never put my finger on it, but each time I’m there, I never want to leave. A town rich in creativity and steeped in Native American history, everything about it is beautiful. Go to the downtown area for New Mexican style jewelry and apparel. The Santa Fe Plaza often has local artisans selling their creations. Many of the town’s most famous galleries can be found on Canyon Road. Walk up and down the street for an art experience like no other. Also a huge sell for the town is the legendary Meow Wolf space. The arts collective, which brings together more than 100 artists, is an interactive experience for guests and includes everything from strange forms of storytelling to live music performances. And, when in New Mexico, we can’t forget about the incredible Mexican food. For some authentic cuisine, check out Harry’s Roadhouse and The Shed.

Happy offseason adventuring!

Barbara Platts wants to know what your favorite weekend offseason trip is. Reach her at

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