Aspen’s Best Places | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Best Places

Aspen Times writer

Bikers on the Slickrock Trail in Moab, Aspen's favorite weekend destination. (Mark Fox/Aspen Times Weekly)

This category was a bit more competitive than it has been before, but the end result was the same: Moab. The recreation Mecca in southeastern Utah remains Aspenites’ favorite place to get a little weekend relief. Yes, Moab continues to sprawl to the north and south, and it’s probably too late for the town to kick its long-standing case of the uglies. But the hiking, mountain biking and climbing are great, the red rocks of Canyonlands and Arches national parks are world-famous, and it doesn’t hurt to finish a day of outdoor activity amid a growing selection of restaurants and watering holes.A few other places registered in this contest, including Denver, Boulder, the Broadmoor, Crested Butte, Lake Powell, Independence Pass and “camping.”Our staff liked the universally loved “couch.”

Under the right circumstances, almost any place in the civilized world can be an interesting place to people watch. Hell, even the usually vacant confines of your own apartment or home can make for good viewing if you’re throwing a party. This question really comes down to consistency: Where in Aspen can you reliably find enough humanity of varying age, size, shape, stride and dress to make for consistent, quality gawking?There are a few Aspen stalwarts in this regard, and they all registered somewhere in this poll: the pedestrian malls, Paradise Bakery, Zélé Cafe, the fountain, the Benedict Music Tent. Several restaurants and bars made the list as well: Ajax Tavern, Caribou Club, Sundeck, the Cantina, The Little Nell.But the Hyman Avenue Mall was the winner, edging out Paradise Bakery by a nose (OK, two votes). If you count the fountain as part of the mall, then it goes from a nose to perhaps an entire head (OK, nine votes).

If Aspen’s a dog-friendly place, then residents’ favorite dog-walking spot would have to be a winner. And the Rio Grande Trail, with its river crossings, woods and meadows is a bone-a-fide, in-town doggie paradise.The Rio Grande drew exactly twice as many votes as Smuggler, its nearest competitor. Aspen Mountain won a few votes, as did Buttermilk (home of the canine uphill), Hunter Creek and the Arbaney Kittle Trail in the midvalley.A few people said simply “Town,” which probably has less to do with terrain and more to do with the abundance of doggie treats available in local businesses, including The Aspen Times.

Readers had varying thoughts on this one, which made the results interesting. The Gondola was the winner, and several others chose “ski lift” or “skiing,” confirming the relationship between deep powder and libido.But consider some of the other answers: Five people said “online.” Hmmm .. how times have changed. Three people said “Caribou Club,” and three more said simply “bar.” There were three votes for “Explore Booksellers,” which sounds more cerebral but perhaps less fun than “bar.”One person said “church,” another said “beach” and a batch said “hiking.” (Huh?)Several other bitter souls seemed to have given up on Aspen in this regard. They weighed in with “downvalley” and “not in Aspen.”

This category also drew a lot of different results. While Eric’s bar was the clear winner, plenty of other locales earned proud spots on this list.Just behind Eric’s were Belly Up, Lava Room and Caribou Club with a handful of votes each. Ski lifts were a popular spot to find a short-term squeeze, and Club Chelsea, Shooters (now Bar Aspen), Sky Bar, Jerome and The Little Nell all drew a few votes. We suspect each of these joints attracts a slightly different breed of horny toad.Then, for the morning people among us, there’s always “the gym.”

Again, the winner of this category was practically a given, but the other answers certainly piqued our curiosity. The Gondola offers that perfect public/private combination, but readers got creative on this one and gave us all some good ideas for future intimate encounters.First, there were the hotels: The Little Nell and Jerome. OK, makes sense. “Camping,” says one reader. Yeah, all right.But what exactly does “Closing Day Highlands” mean? And “RFTA” sure paints an interesting picture.”Maroon Bells” sounds nice, as does “meadow.” Was “St. Regis hot tub” an after-hours encounter? And we’re still contemplating the details on “Belly Up,” “Eric’s” and “Caribou.”

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OK, back to the G-rated stuff. This was a horse race between Wagner Park and the Yellow Brick, but in the end the big gray molars at Wagner Park edged out the high-tech rope structures at the old schoolhouse. Maybe it’s the close proximity of those public bathrooms …Other contenders included Herron Park/No Problem, Arbaney Park in Basalt and the North 40.Other entries (not playgrounds, strictly speaking) were “fountains” and “skate park.” Whatever serves the purpose, we say …

Well, as with the “best place to shag,” this one makes us wonder if anyplace isn’t a good place under the right circumstances. Doesn’t everyone love to drop their drawers and go swimming? Anywhere?Nonetheless, people had their favorites. Who could argue that Conundrum Hot Springs is the best place for a dip in your birthday suit? Natural pools, high in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness – a sublime spot.That said, readers seemed to agree that swimming naked can be fun almost anywhere, from the Grottos/Punch Bowl to the Sky hot tub to the St. Regis hot tub to Lost Man Reservoir to – no, it has nothing to do with Aspen – Lake Powell.

A lot of places made this list with anywhere from one to seven votes, but the Sky Hotel was way ahead of the competition. Little Nell came in second and the Aspen Highlands favorite, Iguana’s, was third.There were vote-getters at every local mountain from Mountain Dragon and Cirque Cafe in Snowmass Village to Bumps at Buttermilk. Other Aspen locales included Mezzaluna, Ajax Tavern, the Wine Spot, the Sundeck, J-Bar and the Double Dog pub.

This one was close, between Explore Booksellers and the universal Home. In the end, the idea of curling up on the couch won out, but there were many other places with bookworm appeal.The Pitkin County Library, of course, received a number of votes. Little Nell received a few, Sundeck got one.Many of the runner-up spots were parks: Paepcke, Glory Hole and Koch were mentioned specifically, but one reader said simply “park.” Several nature-lovers chose “Hunter Creek,” others said “by a river” and still another said “mountain.”One slacker said “at work.”

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