Earlier this month we found ourselves heading to Aspen, Colorado for a wintery getaway as a family of three. My husband was there for work — a deal-closing celebration with some clients — and Sophie and I were able to tag along! Since we had the baby with us we participated in absolutely zero snow sports (you can read more about that here), but we still had an amazing time in Aspen.
Since most people go to Aspen for skiing / snowboarding, I thought I would share our experience (where we stayed, where we ate, what we did, etc.) in case you’re looking for ways to enjoy the area without participating in winter sports.
ONE MAJOR TIP:
If you’re familiar with being at higher altitudes you likely already know this, but [according to the Wilderness Medical Society] your body loses water through respiration at high altitudes twice as fast as it does at sea level so be sure to make a point to drink more water than you normally would to stay properly hydrated. This also means that you have an even higher chance of experiencing a hangover if you don’t remain diligent about drinking glasses of water between your alcoholic beverages.
GETTING TO ASPEN
We discovered that it’s surprisingly challenging to get to Aspen, at least from Seattle. There were no direct flights to / from Aspen (on any airline! we checked beyond our beloved Alaska Airlines, just in case) which meant that we’d either have to (1) have a connection (and possibly have to stay somewhere overnight!) or (2) fly into Denver and drive almost four hours to Aspen. The latter is what we ended up doing because we didn’t want to risk all of our luggage / baby gear not making it to our destination (which is always a gamble with a connecting flight).
Because mountain passes can be a little dangerous this time of year we used this website to monitor the weather / driving conditions on our path from Denver to Aspen. I will say that it’s not super user friendly (in my opinion), but it was the best option that we found with the most up-to-date info. I definitely suggest getting familiar with the website (or the app if you choose to download it) before you leave on your trip because it’s frustrating trying to figure out something new that isn’t intuitive when you’re driving in inclement weather.
The cell reception is also very spotty in the mountains so I also highly recommend downloading offline maps before you leave just so that you have them available for your navigation… just in case.
While the drive through the Rocky Mountains to Aspen from Denver isn’t short and can be dicey if the weather is inclement it is absolutely beautiful, especially through the White River National Forest. Every time we would drive around a bend we’d both gasp and audibly exclaim “Wow!”. It’s totally worth the drive just to go through that area — my photos through the car window just DO NOT do it justice. Such a gorgeous part of the country and it’s an absolutely breathtaking drive.
We arrived in Colorado on Friday at 11:00am, which meant that by the time we arrived in Aspen we’d be able to check into our room! We had two and a half days in Aspen and then on Monday we had time to grab a quick breakfast before making the ~four hour drive back to Denver to catch our 3:00pm flight home to Seattle.
WHERE WE STAYED
We happened to visit Aspen during a fairly busy time of year, being a long weekend (with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday), so a lot of the hotels were astronomically priced ($1k+ per night!), but Aspen Square Condominium Hotel was a lot more budget-friendly, especially by comparison to those other prices!
It was a cute, clean room with great views, Wi-Fi access, a real functioning fireplace (wood provided!), a furnished kitchenette (which was SO clutch with a baby!), lots of board games, decent amount of seating in the living area (couch, small table & chairs, club chair, barstool chairs), and a little terrace with a table and chairs! The facility also had their own heated pool and hot tub, but only the hot tub was open for our visit and we know that it’s dangerous to put babies in hot tubs so we ended up not taking advantage of it on this trip.
I will say that the underground parking garage situation is tight and there are limited parking spots. They have a few parking spots in the street level lot as well, but it’s not really where you want to be if the weather is wild (the lot turns into an ice sheet if the snow melts and then re-freezes). Additionally, there is only one elevator and it is quite slow / small so just budget your time accordingly if you have reservations at any particular time. You can use your keycard to utilize the stairwell, but that wasn’t an option for us with Sophie’s stroller.
All of that being said, we’d definitely consider staying here again! We had a great experience and I’d recommend it.
WHERE WE ATE
Après-ski is a big part of the culture in Aspen (as I imagine it is in most skiing towns 😉) so there were a lot of opportunities to enjoy some beverages and nibbles around town. Aspen isn’t a large city, but it is definitely chock-full of spots to eat and drink! We were only there for a short time so we didn’t get to experience the whole spectrum of what Aspen has to offer, but the places we did eat at were pretty damn tasty!
For our first night we chose French Alpine Bistro. The only reservation we could get for the whole weekend was Friday night at 9:15pm 😂 but it was worth the late seating! So cozy, intimate and yummy! Apparently their fondue is amazing (a couple next to us enjoyed a pot and it looked so good!), but we opted to get cocktails, share a salad and order our own entrees instead (though it was really hard to forgo the melty cheese… YUM). We doubled down on their truffle dishes — I got the gnocchi and my husband ordered the steak with topped with freshly shaved truffles. For dessert, a glass of port wine and the Crêpe Suzette was not to be missed!
They had a “sidewalk café” set up outside which is where we were seated and it was very cute — they had decorated like it was a French country-chic ski lodge and it felt very appropriate for the area and the restaurant’s vibe.
For breakfast on Saturday we grabbed coffees, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries from Paradise Bakery. We definitely over-ordered, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we wanted to try as much as we could in case we didn’t get another opportunity to eat there before our trip was over. I’m pleased to report that it was all delicious!
While we were out exploring town, Sophie fell asleep so we popped into J-Bar to relax and kill time while Sophie snoozed. They had a lunch menu, but since we had eaten breakfast a bit late and had an early-ish dinner reservation that night we only ordered drinks. Their cocktail offerings were great!
For dinner, we went to Acquolina where I took absolutely no photos because we were out for my husband’s work dinner, but it was a solid Italian restaurant! There were 9 adults and a baby and other large groups (I think there was a 13-top table nearby us as well?) so they can accommodate bigger parties if you need to find a space to enjoy a meal with a larger number of people.
For Sunday breakfast, we picked up coffee and pastries from Local Coffee House, which was literally across the street from our hotel. Since the town is pretty small, nothing is really too far away, but the convenience of having this place across the street was awesome. I also think that their coffee was a bit better than Paradise Bakery’s, but their pastries weren’t quite as good; given their respective business names this isn’t super surprising, but I felt that I should confirm any suspicions. 😉
After our gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain (more on that below) we stopped at the restaurant at the summit, appropriately named The Sundeck. Since we arrived around noon, it was absolutely PACKED both inside and out because everyone who had been skiing / snowboarding all morning had worked up an appetite! Even though Sundeck offered food, we only had drinks because we had eaten breakfast a bit late (again) which had thrown us off of our usual mealtimes. The restaurant inside is set up cafeteria-style, but in an alpine lodge environment; they do have a full bar option that is separate from the food area if you’d prefer a cocktail. I highly recommend snagging a table or chairs out on the deck if the weather allows because the views are spectacular and it’s always nice to get a little fresh air and sunshine.
It turned out that skipping lunch wasn’t the best idea and we started to get a bit hungry. We decided to get something light and Jüs was perfect for holding us over until dinner. We got the Babar and Astérix smoothies which were delicious. When we’re back in town again, I will absolutely be returning.
I know it probably seems crazy to have smoothies during the winter, but we enjoyed them in our cozy hotel room so it wasn’t like we were drinking cold drinks out in single-digit temperatures.
At Bear Den I finally got my fondue! It was such a tiny, charming restaurant that was the perfect spot for a date night. I doubled-down on the cheese and got the French Onion Soup as my entrée (so cozy for a chilly night) and we shared two desserts because they were small and we couldn’t decide between the tiramisu and the pistachio panna cotta (both were divine! we made the right choice to get two desserts! haha).
Some other spots that we didn’t make it to, but look forward to trying in the future:
( * = denotes repeat listing due to multiple meal offerings )
BREAKFAST / BRUNCH
Mi Chola *
Mi Chola *
Of course, I will update this section if we ever visit Aspen again and I get to try more of the restaurants!
WHAT WE DID
We got lucky with some truly beautiful weather! On Friday when we drove in there was a bit of snow in some of the mountain passes and then Aspen received a little bit of snow overnight, but the rest of our visit we had “bluebird days“, meaning there were clear, blue skies. Even though the temperatures were low (into single digits overnight!) because there was no wind chill factor it was actually quite comfortable if you dressed appropriately. We actually got too hot a few times between bundling up and buildings having their heating systems cranked up.
So, finding activities proved to be pretty tricky because although Aspen is actually pretty family-friendly and there were plenty of things to do with toddlers / kids, there (understandably) isn’t much geared toward families with ~six month olds. This meant that we had to get creative with our activities since we had Sophie with us. I think this would have been more difficult if we had been there longer than our 2.5 day stay, but this length of time actually worked out great for us.
Aspen is actually a pretty small place that is first and foremost a tourist destination filled with [mostly] hotels, shopping, and restaurants. This means that it’s incredibly walkable and visitor-friendly. We are used to walking around Seattle and bigger cities like Manhattan, so this was a piece of cake by comparison.
On Saturday we spent our day walking around town, and guys… it’s really cute. There are SO many stores for shopping! High end designer shops, charming boutiques, and everything in between. We may have done some retail therapy and purchased a few items… we found two adorable outfits for Sophie, I was able to source a bag that I have been hunting down for years, and my husband located a shirt that he has been wanting, but was sold out online. It was such a successful shopping day and we had such beautiful weather for meandering around town!
Even though the Silver Queen Gondola is used mainly by people who plan to ski or snowboard down the mountain, they also offer sightseeing passes. The unobstructed aerial view of the mountains on the way up / down is breathtaking and the 360° views from the summit were incredible. This was absolutely a baby-friendly activity and a highlight of our trip; we highly recommend it.
We discovered that there was a wine shop just across the street from our hotel called Aspen Grog Shop (near Local Coffee Shop) that carried mostly champagne / sparkling wine (my kind of wine shop!!). We purchased two bottles and after our early-ish dinners on Saturday and Sunday we enjoyed glasses of wine by the fireplace in our room which was so cozy and romantic.
We waited too long to make arrangements for a sleigh ride so by the time we called there was no availability left for the busy weekend that we would be in town, but this would have definitely been a Sophie-approved activity.
We had originally planned to do lots of swimming in the hotel’s heated pool, but we found out when we arrived that only the hot tub was available and those temps are way too high for babies so we didn’t get to do any swimming.
Other non-skiing / snowboarding activities that we are interested in for future trips:
Even though we have been snowshoeing before, I’d have felt more comfortable with a guided snowshoe tour of an unfamiliar area, especially with the baby. Not only would having a guide who knows the terrain well be good for safety reasons, but I bet they’d be able to point things out to us that we would have missed on our own and would be able to share more about the area to enrich our experience.
I love tubing! Not a safe activity for babies, but I can’t wait until Sophie is big enough to go tubing with us!
Obviously, Sophie is wayyy too small for ice skating and neither my husband nor I are confident enough in our skating abilities to skate whilst wearing her in her baby carrier, so this is another activity that will have to wait.
Sophie doesn’t meet the height requirements for the Alpine Coaster, but I definitely think that we could have done this with her.
Ullr Nights sounded like great family fun… just for families with older kiddos.
WHAT I WORE
I mentioned in a previous section that both my husband and I got overheated a few times over the course of our trip, so I recommend dressing in layers. That way, you can peel the layers off as the day warms up or if you are going into any businesses because every building has their heating system on blast.
Honestly, my bag was packed with a lot of the same things that I wear when we visit Maine for Christmas: a warm coat, a pom beanie, scarves, etc. but this time I made sure to pack my snow boots. 😉 I mean, #wheninAspen, right? I brought a few tops, bottoms, and accessories that could easily be mixed and matched depending on the occasion. I brought a couple more pieces than I probably needed, but I wanted to make sure I had options in case we ended up getting snowed in and I needed another day or two’s worth of clothes. Plus, with a baby you never know if you’re going to get covered in bodily fluids so having backup clothes for both of you is always a good idea.
You can find more of my outfit details linked in my LTK account here.
I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to experience Aspen, especially in their peak winter season to get the full experience! As someone who enjoys colder weather this was a Winter Wonderland dream-come-true! This trip has made me curious to check out Whistler too, which is a lot closer to Seattle (we used to drive up to Vancouver, BC frequently pre-pandemic).
Please let me know in the Comments section if you have any questions (or suggestions for a future trip)!
Stay warm, friends!
Sending hugs —