Skiing and snowboarding aren’t for everyone. If you’re like ‘Hey, that’s me 🙋♀️,’ then tune in because this article is for you.
Spas, shopping, restaurant-hopping…
Are these activities more appealing? If so, you’ll have a grand time in Aspen! There are plenty of spas, shops, cafés, restaurants, museums, and galleries to occupy your time.
Pete and I had a day off from watching the kids of the families we came with (more on how we got to Aspen in the first place, click here), so we decided to spend the day wandering the town, which is quite small, and we were able to thoroughly explore it within a day. However, if Moncler, Prada, Valentino, Dior, Gucci, or Ralph Lauren speak your language, then you can be endlessly entertained – Aspen is like the Rodeo Drive of Colorado✨.
Our town day began at Paradise Café. I ordered a spinach and cheese croissant and chai latte, which was made with a box of Oregon Chai concentrate, so not super impressive 💁🏽♀️. Where they really shine is in the baked good department; the croissant was flakey and decadent, and I would also recommend the lemon poppyseed muffin (I had ordered on a different day there). They have gelato as well, but since it was 13°F, we skipped it. Something to mention is that they don’t have indoor seating, so if it’s raining or snowing heavily, the outdoor seating area isn’t extremely enticing. If you come with an exit strategy to just grab your goods and bolt for cover in a nearby store, you’re trip will be well worth it.
As it was a particularly frosty morning, we made our way to Ute Mountaineer, a sporting-goods store similar to REI. We doddled around, admiring the backpacking and cold-weather gear and left with two fantastic items – Pete purchased a very handsome Patagonia sweater while I bought a Kuhl base-layer sweater.
After making our sweater purchases, we made our way to the Aspen Art Museum. I had done some research to figure out how we could occupy our golden day-off and the museum made sense – free entry and a wonderful café on the top, providing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and red-roofed buildings.
Even if you aren’t really a art person (like Pete), the food and vistas are worth it and you can skip the exhibits. I returned the next day with the little girl I nanny for, and I would have gone a third time if I could have! For both trips, I ordered a chai latte (yes, more chai, it was cold!) and a salmon salad with deliciously-tender salmon bits, hearty greens, pomegranate seeds, and apple slices.
This is where you want to come if you’re even the slightest bit of a chai fan – it’s spicy, creamy, and just sweet enough to take the edge off of the spices, it is soo good 🙈. Pete ordered the tortilla soup which was also really hearty and spicy. Their menu changes weekly depending on what produce is seasonally-available, which means what I’m recommending may not be available, but I hope you pay them a visit anyways, if at least for the view.
If something more upscale appeals to you, I also ate at Meat & Cheese when I spent the afternoon with the parents we came with. It is a warm and cozy bistro/bar/deli with a lovely shop filled with specialty chocolates, home décor items, and market goods. They specialize in beautiful charcuterie boards with chicken, pork, or steak and cheeses, potatoes, and nuts, but we ordered salads (yep, so boring 😏).
One of the moms and I ordered the kale salad and the other mom ordered the burrata salad, and we all loved our food! The kale salad was wonderfully dressed with their yuzu vinaigrette and adorned with the most tasty pickled onions. I didn’t get a good look at the burrata salad, but they are generous with a huge hunk of the burrata cheese! They also ordered glasses of wine which they were ‘ehh’ about along with a post-meal cappuccino and espresso. I ordered their on-tap kombucha from Elevated Elixirs, a local Aspen company. I can’t remember the flavor (but it was pink) and I also purchased a bottle of their kombucha at the base of Snowmass, in the Elk Camp Café (I believe it was blueberry-green tea), and also really enjoyed it!
So back to our golden-day-off. We did decide to stroll through the Aspen Art Museum’s galleries and were appreciative of the art, but found ourselves more entertained with the gallery next-door. We can’t remember nor find the name of the gallery🤦🏽♀️, but it is just to the right of the Aspen Art Museum’s main entrance along Hyman Street. They have abstract and goofy pieces that are meant to be comical so it’s a nice stop even for the most ‘anti-art’ of us.
Another not-so-traditional gallery is the Columbine of Aspen. It’s a fossil/mineral/jewelry store, so it’s not really a gallery but it is absolutely filled with art work – the mother Earth kind. The store is hard to miss, go to the corner of Galena and Durant Street and play spot-the-two-huge-theropods (resembling raptors).
When you walk in, you are greeted by a huge mammoth skeleton and glitzy crystals. Another game you can play here is Let’s Plan Our Next Trip – there are T-Rex bits from Northern Africa, crystals from Burma, and various fish fossils from Madagascar.
Can you say global fossil-hunting-adventure?!
When Pete was a child, he wanted to be a paleontologist, so he really nerd-ed out here 🤓. I trailed along after him, absorbing his wealth of fossil knowledge and was reminded of why I love this man so dearly. Who knew a fossil store could be romantic? There are a few of these fossil/mineral/jewelry stores in Aspen, but this is our favorite because of the multitude of pieces here. The people running the store are also very nice and don’t mind if you just bop around asking questions without the intention of making a purchase.
Our next stop was happy hour at Hops Culture. We knew we wanted to find a place to gulp down a few local brews, and gulp we did. I had a pint of ‘This Season’s Blonde’ by Aspen Brewing Co., a ‘Cherry Glider Cider’ by Colorado Cider Co., and the house-made hot cider, while Peter had an ‘Imperial Chocolate Stout’ by Fort Collins, the ‘Nitro Merlin Milk Stout’ by Firestone Walker, and the ‘Victory at Sea’ by Ballast Point.
We are predictable drinkers – Pete likes his dark, frothy beers, so both of the stouts were on point for him (and if you’ve read our article on San Diego, you know he’s all about Ballast Point), while I’m a serial cider-drinker, so I was also very satisfied with my last two choices and kinda ‘ehh’ about the blonde. It being happy hour, we ordered their Loaded Fries and were a little let down. We got the fries without the braised ribs (🌱), and whenever you order a meal without the meat, you hope they compensate some with the other components that come with it, but unfortunately, they hadn’t so we were left with dry fries halfway through. We did love the culture there though; it’s cozy and welcoming and draws an equally-welcoming crowd of ski instructors, locals, and low-key tourists.
After consuming our brews, we walked to Campo de Fiori to meet with the kids and parents of the families with whom we arrived. The kids skied with school friends who were also in town (providing our golden day-off), so we were all coming down from our exciting days.
After you’ve had a long day, do you crave extra-homey and filling food?
I sure do, and Campo provided us with plenty of glutenous goodness. We were presented with a heaping basket of freshly baked bread, and though our guts may have been drowning in wheat proteins (one of which is glutelins, aka gluten), we persevered, polishing off so many baskets that the waiters finally stopped asking if we would like a bread refill. We weren’t too offended as we were trying to save room for our actual meals, which was made easier without being tempted by the deliciousness. Pete ordered the simple Gnocchi Spinaci while I ordered the savory Penne Caprese. Both were so good that we polished off our plates despite our previous bread encounter. If you’re coming with someone (it’s ideal for date night!) or will be wining-and-dining by yourself, our entrees were a really tasty duo.
Our Verdict: Even if snow sports are your biggest archnemesis, this doesn’t mean you’ll be left in your cabin twiddling your thumbs all day while your squad hits the slopes. There is plenty to do in-town for those not inclined to be out in the snow all day, and if you just want a day off from being on the mountain, going into town is a great way to spend it.
Thanks so much for your read and please comment with any pointers and feedback – we love to know how we can improve and what we’re doing well!
Pete and Kiana
All photos have been supplied by companies’ instagrams and yelps.
We received no compensation for this article – all opinions are our own.