The best places to soak in the sun in Aspen
Aspen comes alive in summer for a myriad of reasons: outstanding outdoor activities, amazing arts offerings and — at the top of the list — an unparalleled dining scene.
“Dining al fresco in Aspen is the quintessential summer experience,” says Julia Theisen, vice president sales and marketing for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.
Indeed, Aspen is home to dozens of restaurants and bars — many with outdoor patios that are perfect for summertime dining and imbibing.
“Aspen offers an array of outdoor dining options from the base of Aspen Mountain to our pedestrian malls or sitting upstairs with an elevated view,” Theisen says. “And there are enough culinary options to please any palate and budget while enjoying our perfect summer climate and refreshing mountain air.”
To help you navigate the outdoor dining scene, we’ve chosen a few favorites. Enjoy!
HAUTE HOTELS: A TASTE OF THE GOOD LIFE
Element 47 & Ajax Tavern: The Little Nell’s restaurant patios offer primo seating all summer, with the award-winning hotel’s chefs, sommeliers and servers at your service. At element 47, dine amid the gardens and Aspen’s only living wall as you enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner al fresco. At Ajax Tavern, this sun-soaked patio is open for lunch and dinner daily, known for their French bistro fare and flavorful cocktails.
The Hotel Jerome: A drink at the historic — and newly renovated — Hotel Jerome is an Aspen must-do. And in summer, the experience is even more memorable with a loungy atmosphere on the garden terrace, as firepits and cushioned wicker couches and chairs create conversational seating areas for all to enjoy.
The Limelight: The comfy, casual outdoor spaces — both by the lounge and by the pool — at this locals’ favorite are perfect for après-hike (or bike or shopping), dinner or late-night s’mores over the outdoor firepit. Plus, the Limelight boasts the longest happy hour in town, making it as affordable as it is enjoyable. “With sangria flights, rosé and refreshing beer, the Limelight patio is a great space to après casually after a day on the trails or in town,” says Tucker Vest Burton, spokeswoman for the Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the popular hotel. “Bike and hiking gear is always acceptable après attire at the Limelight.”
The St. Regis Aspen: Sipping a summertime specialty, such as the Espresso Martini, in the Fountain Courtyard at this ultra-luxe property is worth the price for a few reasons, but the best part? “Our Fountain Courtyard showcases Aspen’s natural wonders with unobstructed views of Shadow Mountain. It’s the perfect backdrop for a chilled glass of rosé or to experience our Champagne Sabering ritual that celebrates the transition from day to night,” says Beverage Manager Ericka Briscoe. “Even more enticing are the fire pits. On a chilly night they create a magical, intimate mood that is enhanced by moonlight and music.”
APRÈS ASPEN: WHERE TO INDULGE AFTER THE DAY’S ADVENTURE
Aspen Art Museum: The rooftop SO Café is unique among Aspen’s patios. The views of Ajax are impressive, the prices are reasonable, the vibe is laid-back — and it’s all situated atop the Museum. Check out an exhibit or two (for free) and then discuss what you saw over a glass of wine. Classy.
Fish Tales: For a land-locked town, Aspen does sushi pretty darn well. And, all three local sushi restaurants — Kenichi, Maru and Matsuhisa — offer outdoor dining in summer. There’s nothing more relaxing after a long day spent exploring than sharing a sushi roll and cold sakè with friends.
Shlomo’s: A slopeside favorite in winter, this locally owned joint has some serious summertime potential. Welcoming seating vignettes, happening outdoor bar and heat lamps set the scene for what will likely be a truly Aspen experience.
Jimmy’s Bodega: Jimmy Yeager, proprietor of this popular downtown spot (and it’s sister restaurant Jimmy’s), sums up his philosophy on summertime dining and drinking like this: “Summer is fun. I want our patio to be the same — when you look across the tables you should see a sea of bright colors and smiling faces.” Enough said.
The Mall: Anchored by Grey Lady on one end and Escobar on the other, Hyman Avenue is transformed into one giant outdoor patio in summer. Bar hop — with stops at HOPS Culture and Zocalito between the end points — for a picture perfect Sunday Funday, Aspen-style.
Restaurant Row: Hopkins Avenue between Mill and Monarch is rightly dubbed “Restaurant Row.” Seriously, about a dozen locally owned establishments serve up their specialties in just this one block. Most have outdoor seating, and all are worth a visit.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: JUST MILES FROM DOWNTOWN, BUT A WORLD AWAY
Oftentimes, the best-kept secrets are places off the beaten path. Aspen is no exception. Our No. 1 pick in this category: Pine Creek Cookhouse. Situated about 10 miles up Castle Creek Road just past the ghost town of Ashcroft, this stunning log-cabin restaurant has an amazing deck with expansive views of the surrounding Elk Mountain Range and Castle Creek Valley. At lunch, savor the breathtaking views while enjoying a shared butcher and cheese plate accompanied by a crisp glass of white wine from their extensive list. Or, for truly different (read: funky) experience: Woody Creek Tavern. Located past the “bump, dip and rumble strip” in Woody Creek, the outdoor patio of this iconic Roaring Fork Valley eatery is renowned for its margaritas, Mexican fare and colorful characters.