Peter is broadcasting his radio show from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado at The Little Nell this weekend.
Aspen is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, a foodie’s delight, and a place to see and be seen among the beautiful people.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity or a millionaire to enjoy the happenings in this tiny town (only half a mile wide and one mile long).
Read on to find out where the locals like to eat, drink and play.
Diane Tegmeyer, Freelance Writer
Although everyone should take the bus to capture the requisite photo of Maroon Bells, Tegmeyer recommends sticking closer to town to experience some beautiful hikes. Hunter Creek Valley is located just east of town, and offers access to a variety of trails including the Hunter Valley Trail. Technically, you can hike all the way to Vail!
Stop by any outdoor store in Aspen to pick up trail maps, which are crucial for hikers of all levels.
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It’s not easy to find cheap eats in Aspen, but it is possible to find great value. On the Hyman Avenue Mall, head down a flight of steps to Zocalito Latin Bistro, where locals gather for authentic Latin American cuisine. And here’s a tip: between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. bar food and drinks are half off!
If classic Mexican is more your style, Su Casa—also on Hyman—is the place to be. Finding it requires the help of a local, as it’s located at the bottom of a flight of stairs. After dinner, just head next door to the party at Eric’s Bar. “I don’t actually know Eric’s last name,” admits Tegmeyer. “Everyone calls that area ‘Eric’s World.”
For a real budget treat, just grab a seat by the Popcorn Wagon. Literally, it’s a big red wagon serving up soul-satisfying sweet and savory crepes, sausages, popcorn, and more—all at very un-Aspen-like prices.
Aspen is packed with both upscale and quirky little galleries, so just start walking around the square and poke through the small alleys. One space that visitors often overlook is the Aspen Art Museum (www.aspenartmuseum.org) on Mill Street, just across the street from the post office. It’s not easy to find, but once you enter, you’ll find two floors featuring an eclectic mix of artists. Frequent art talks and hands-on workshops keep the locals coming.
Of course, you can find the Pradas and the Guccis around town, but Aspen also has its selection of funky, independently-owned clothing stores. Check out the wares at places like Blue Phoenix (www.bluphoenix.com) on Hopkins Avenue, Nuages on Cooper Avenue, and Distractions (www.imeldasaspen.com).
Bennett Bramson, Fleisher Company EcoBroker and business consultant
For a hiking adventure, take the RFTA bus to Maroon Bells and then hike the trail past the Bells to Crater Lake—a good four-hour roundtrip walking adventure. Away from the crowds and in the early morning, you may come across beaver, deer, elk, and marmots. Be wary—you may also spot an occasional bear, bobcat, coyote or cougar.
Be on the lookout for tracks, animal droppings … and wild strawberries. Most importantly, bring water for each hiker, a trail map, and a jacket. The weather and temperature can change abruptly with 30-degree temperature variations … even mid-summer. (Aspen has been known to get snow in July.)
For incredible hiking, biking, and horseback riding outside of the Aspen core and tourist sites, make a visit to the St. Benedict Monastery in Old Snowmass, and hike the top of Gateway (you can go all the all the way to Mount Sopris if you’d like). No tourists, great views, and trails from easy to moderate. You’ll meet some really nice people and their dogs too (I’ll be there with Panda, Monty and Jameson).
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Locals will often escape the noise and crowds of the downtown core and head to Hickory House (Hic House, to locals). Located right off the S-curves at Aspen’s entrance, Hic House offers some of the country’s finest, award-winning barbecue (that’s right, in Aspen, Colorado). Hic House uses their secret recipes to slow smoke the ribs, pork, beef, and chicken, which are complemented by excellent sides, huge salads, and drinks to boot.
And, for a real stomach expander, try Hic House for breakfast: Gigantic portions, priced right makes this a real local’s favorite year-round. (Hint: Share the pancakes because the order of two fills an enormous plate.)
For its small size, Aspen has more cultural activities and venues per capita than most larger cities. One place locals frequent is Belly Up (www.bellyupaspen.com), an upscale music venue with ample food and drinks. Located just off the Cooper Avenue Mall and Durant, Belly Up brings an eclectic mix of world renowned performers, emerging acts, and local musicians. Owned by local Bill Goldberg (brother of former WWE world champion wrestler, Goldberg), Belly Up is clean, cool, and casual, and it even hosts music for those under 21, with a special “no drinking” stamp.
The closest thing Aspen has to a “County Fair” is the Aspen Rotary Club’s Annual Ducky Derby (www.duckyderby.com). A full day of fun, festivities, games, booths, prizes, food, music, and a great silent auction, the day is highlighted by one of the country’s largest “duck” races, as the club floats 30,000 adopted rubber ducks down the Roaring Fork River. Winners get cash prizes (including a chance to win $1 million) and the day is a blast. Always held the second Saturday in August, the tourist crowds have begun to wane and it’s a great place to hang with the locals.
For more information, check out Peter’s radio show from Aspen–find out about the guests here.
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