Aspen on a Budget
ASPEN, Colo. —Discounted accommodations, inexpensive dining options, and a plethora of free amenities and events create the opportunity for anyone with any budget to enjoy the special nature of Aspen.
- Hotel Durant affords guests an excellent downtown location within steps of Aspen Mountain and Lift 1A. Family-owned and operated, this unique lodge is designed in the Bavarian tradition with 19 rooms that exude a cozy, European feel. (122 E. Durant Ave., www.durantaspen.com)
- St. Moritz Lodge, a European-style lodge just blocks from the downtown core, rents studios or one- and two-bedrooms condos for reasonable rates — sometimes starting at less than $100 during the summer. Smaller rooms with shared baths are also available for the budget-friendly traveler. (334 W. Hyman Ave., www.stmoritzlodge.com)
- Annabelle Inn, formerly called the Christmas Tree Inn, is a family-owned 35-room lodge. Each room is individually decorated with mountain-chic furnishings, and the hotel’s charm is best enjoyed with the freshly baked cookies served each evening in front of the lobby fireplace or around the courtyard fire pit. (232 W. Main St., www.annabelleinn.com)
- Tenth Mountain Division Hut System caters to the more adventurous visitor with a system of 29 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, many with easy access to Aspen and most accessible by four-wheel drive, mountain bikes, or hiking. Huts are equipped with fireplaces, cooking materials, and water. Visitors bring bedding and food. (www.huts.org)
- Camping. Sleep under the stars at one of the seven drive-in campgrounds around Aspen including Silver Bell, Difficult and Lincoln Gulch. There are official campsites in many of the most popular backcountry areas, and places, where designated sites are mandatory, will be marked. Check with the U.S. Forest Service for more information about sites and regulations. Some are free, other campsite rates start at $15 a night.
Dining & Nightlife – Aspen’s dining scene plays on the world’s stage, garnering international attention for the caliber of cuisine served in nearly 100 restaurants in downtown Aspen. Visitors on a budget can enjoy Aspen’s culinary delights and stay on budget at the following eateries.
- Aspen Bar Menus – Sit in the bar at nearly every restaurant in Aspen, and sample the same fabulous food served from the regular menu at a fraction of the price in a more relaxed setting.
- “Happy Hour” specials at most of Aspen’s eateries offer a big bang for the buck. Nosh on $14 gourmet pizza and drink specials at Mezzaluna from 3 – 5:30 p.m. every day of the week.
- The Hickory House is famous for its baby-back ribs, which made Oprah’s list of favorite things. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this Main Street eatery is a must-stop during an Aspen visit. (730 W. Main St., www.hickoryhouseribs.com)
- Woody Creek Tavern, the famous hangout of Hunter S. Thompson, the recently renovated tavern is a restaurant and bar, serving a selection of american dishes, killer margaritas in a fun setting with eclectic décor. (2858 Woody Creek Rd., www.woodycreektavern.com)
- New York Pizza serves up big thin-crust slices that start at $6.00, making this Big Apple-style pizzeria hard to beat for the budget-conscious. (409 E. Hyman Ave., nyp.pizza/aspen)
- Zane’s Tavern is a favorite local hangout serving classic bar food. Zane’s has plenty of indoor and outdoor patio seating and serves up wings, burgers, tacos, and other sports bar favorites. (308 S. Hunter St., www.zanestavern.com)
Shopping – Aspen may be a town that is recognized for world-class boutiques and designer shopping, and that’s exactly what makes its second-hand stores goldmines when it comes to good finds.
- When Olympians like Aspenite Gretchen Bleiler have an extra snowboard or local professional mountain bikers upgrade their equipment, they unload their nearly new goods to Replay Sports, which stocks everything from used golf clubs to raincoats. (465 N. Mill St., 970.925.2483)
- Gently used designer purses, jeans, or the perfect summer dress are just some of the potential goods available at Susie’s Limited. (600 E. Main St., 970.920.2376)
- When Aspenites clean out their closets, it all goes directly to the Thrift Shop of Aspen. Think Armani, North Face, Ralph Lauren and Patagonia, all kept in a building connected to the fire station. (422 E. Hopkins Ave., www.aspenthriftshop.org) And be sure to stop by Aspen Home Consignment for antique and gently used furniture from Aspen homes. (202 E. Main St., www.aspenhomeconsignment.com)
Free and Nearly Free Activities
- Test your skills in the Rio Grande Skate Park, named one of the best in the country, boasting accolades from experts like the legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk and ESPN X Games athletes. Kids (or adults) can skate for free on more than 13,000 square feet of paved terrain.
- Commune with nature on free, guided nature walks led by naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). The free 45-minute walks meander along Richmond Ridge atop Aspen Mountain, and participants learn about the native trees, birds and animals that thrive in the high-alpine environment. Tours meet at the top of the gondola daily on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (www.aspennature.org)
- Enjoy free art at the Aspen Art Museum, which houses a rotating selection of high-caliber, contemporary exhibitions and offers free admission through the summer, courtesy of John and Amy Phelan. (www.aspenartmuseum.org)
- Enjoy music in the mountains with Aspen Music Festival and School with free classical performances by the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra on Tuesdays at 4 p.m., free “High Notes” discussions on Wednesdays at 12 p.m., free pre-concert talks on Sundays at 3 p.m., free classical music atop Aspen Mountain on Saturdays at 1 p.m., and free masters classes, student showcases, family concerts and other events throughout the summer. (http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com)
- Have some family fun at the 82,000-square-foot Aspen Recreation Center (ARC), a multi-use facility featuring a 32-foot climbing tower, a unique aquatic center with slides and grotto, an NHL-sized ice arena, and batting cages. The ARC also offers swim lessons and affordable five-day camps throughout the summer for kids. (www.aspenrecreation.com)
- Splash in the Dancing Fountain. The water fountain on the Hyman Avenue Mall is a bona fide child magnet, with unpredictable vertical jets of water that shoot from the ground, soaking anyone standing in their way. Designed by the late, Aspen-based physicist Nick DeWolfe and sculptor Travis Fulton, the computer-programmed fountain is completely random, with no set pattern for hours of endless fun.
- If you left your furry friend at home, or are just simply seeking companionship, borrow a dog through the Aspen Animal Shelter’s “Rent-a-Pet” program. Take a canine for a walk or bring him home overnight — a new family member may come out of it. (www.dogsaspen.com)
- Explore the Grottos, a few miles east of Aspen on Independence Pass. These smoothed-out rock caves and caverns on the Roaring Fork River never fail to thrill little explorers — and their parents, too. The scenic area includes picnic tables, so bring some grub and make a day of it.
- Climb the Red Brick Climbing Wall. Located in the Red Brick Arts Center in downtown Aspen, this indoor climbing wall is a must-do for aspiring mountaineers. (www.aspenrecreation.com)
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For visitor information, visit www.aspenchamber.org, or call 1.888.290.1324 or 970.925.1940.