Family Vacations to Aspen, Colorado

Aspen's Downtown Fountain
Aspen's Downtown Fountain (Daniel Bayer)

Aspen Family Travel Tips

  • Take in the view from the top of Independence Pass.
  • Bike or drive out to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area for one of North America's most photographed panoramas.
  • Sign up for inspiring art and craft classes at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
  • Learn how the West was really won at the bronco-bustin' Snowmass Rodeo.
  • Set your snowboarding groms loose on the ESPN Winter X Games superpipe at Buttermilk.

Aspen was a real community long before it was a ski—and celebrity—mecca. Technically four ski areas (Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk), Aspen has a cachet few other towns can claim. But you don't have to be rich and famous to enjoy the place. And, as you'll discover, there's just as much to do in Aspen when the ground is sans snow.

Whether on the way in from Denver (220 miles east) or as a morning outing from Aspen, travel up 12,095-foot Independence Pass, one of Colorado and the country's most spectacular drives. At the top, take in the view, but bring a jacket as it could snow—even in July (conditions that keep the pass closed during the winter).

Also be sure to pack your hiking boots; Aspen has every kind of two-footed terrain, from easy Hunter Creek Trail to the breathtaking (literally) challenge of Ute Trail, which climbs 1,700 feet in the first mile. Got bikes? It's worth every hard-earned pedal stroke to cycle to Maroon Bells Scenic Area, dominated by the most photographed peaks in all of North America (or drive out and hike in the not-to-be-missed scenery). Experienced mountain bikers of all ages will have a blast on gnarly Government Trail traversing Snowmass and Buttermilk mountains.

When the warm air of summer moves into the mountains, some special music events arrive as well. The venerable Aspen Music Festival, with nine weeks of performances, enters its 57th season this June. Music on the Mountain also starts in June with free classical Saturdays and bluegrass Sundays, 3,000 vertical feet above town on Aspen Mountain. If music doesn't draw you there, the disc golf, climbing wall, yoga, guided hikes, and family obstacle course will.

Head to Snowmass to get inspired at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, a stellar place for kids of all ages to stretch their creative spirits. Children's workshops this summer include sculpture, photography, painting, beading, and mask-making.

Summer's weekly Snowmass Rodeo pits professional cowboys against broncos and bulls, but there are events for kids, too, from a petting zoo to mechanical bull riding to mutton bustin' (riding sheep).

In winter, Aspen is all about powder and chic winter garb. All of the slopes and ski schools are superb, but Snowmass, nine miles from downtown Aspen, is the top all-around mountain for families. No doubt, your kids will also want to spend at least one day at Buttermilk, home of the Crazy T'rain Park and X Games superpipe.

As for lodging, Snowmass Club has its own kids club (and golf course), while the condos at The Gant and Aspen Square are walking distance from downtown Aspen.

Tip: Boogie's Diner, serving burgers and malts with a side of '50s schmaltz, is Aspen's most kid-friendly restaurant—but lines often wind out the door, so go early.

Recommended Side Trips: Denver, Grand Junction, Colorado National Monument, Summit County's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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