No matter when you plan to visit Aspen, Colorado — winter, spring, summer or fall — plan to spend some time and money on dining. You won’t regret it.
Before we visited this winter, I had no idea Aspen was such a foodie town, and I’m not kidding when I suggest that you should go there and eat all the things. Seriously, forget about the diet and don’t cry over carbs, just eat everything and be happy.
While nothing in Aspen is cheap, the bar is set high for good food in this resort town, and it’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal here.
Of course, when at Meat & Cheese, a restaurant and farm shop, you must order the Meat & Cheese board, which serves two, and follow it up with one of the restaurant’s creative entrees such as coffee chocolate rubbed short ribs or the rotisserie chicken (the best I’ve ever had).
Dining here is a true foodie experience. We relied heavily on the staff for information about what we were eating and Parker, the manager on duty, knew the menu inside and out, including the fantastic craft beer selection.
For a quick pick-me-up, drop into Aspen Overeasy for a freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juice concoction. I met up here with my friend Jillian Livingston of AspenRealLife.com. I ordered the Super Sunrise which had pineapple, strawberry, orange, and grape, and Jillian went with the Avocado Dreamboat, a coconut water infused green drink filled with good-for-you stuff.
If you’re looking for a swanky après ski destination in Aspen, but don’t want to break the bank, check out BB’s bar. BB’s restaurant serves up delicious items like antelope steak ($42), and the bar keeps the creative spin going, but has more affordable bites.
I highly recommend the pork belly steamed buns ($16). Great for sharing, add a side of kale and Brussel sprouts and you’ve got a high-end meal for a reasonable price. In addition to après ski, the bar at BB’s is a fun Aspen late night destination.
Bloody Marys are a big deal in Aspen. I saw them on every menu in town, and if you google “best Bloody Mary in Aspen, Colorado” a ton of lists come up, but the place that makes every list is the St. Regis. In fact, their Bloody Mary is so popular that they have a free Bloody Mary tasting every day at 11:15 a.m., which just so happened to be when I stumbled in.
The Regis Hotel in New York, is said to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary. Originally called “The Red Snapper,” it was invented by a bartender working there in the early 1920s.
At the St. Regis in Aspen, you can sample this hotel’s unique recipe, the “Downhill Snapper,” and order from their Bloody Mary menu that includes versions from their hotels around the world.
I ordered the “Downhill Snapper,” which is made with Woody Creek Vodka and muddled dill and basil. It was well-worth the $18 price tag, although, at that price, I didn’t order more than one.
My last Aspen dining tip is Home Team BBQ. If all this gourmet fare has you longing for down home grub, this brand new Aspen restaurant is the place to go, especially for those who love Carolina style barbecue.
Located in the Inn at Aspen, at the base of Buttermilk, this is a family-friendly dining option. Everything here was quite tasty, although the southern style mac ‘n’ cheese was my favorite. On a tip from a server, I added a little Home Team Death Relish to my mac ‘n’ cheese, a habanero salsa — and my life was complete.
Thank you to the Aspen Chamber for hosting us on this trip and to the various restaurants that invited us to dine with them while we were in town. We can’t wait to dine in Aspen again!
Hot air ballooning is a bucket list activity for many of you, and if you are lucky enough to live in or visit Colorado, it’s relatively easy to book a ride in a hot air balloon. In fact, you’ll find commercial hot air balloon outfitters in many beautiful destinations from Steamboat Springs to Pagosa Springs.
Earlier this month, Ryan and I attended Winterfest in Pagosa Springs. For years, a hot air balloon ascension has been part of this event, and I managed to hitch a balloon ride with the Dickey brothers from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
It turns out, I couldn’t have been in better hands. These brothers, Frank and Bill Dickey, have decades of hot air balloon piloting experience. And in fact, the Dickey brothers have come in first and second at the piloting championships held at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest hot air balloon festival.
For the participants, a hot air balloon event is a lot of work, a little flying and lot of tailgating. It’s a family and friends affair due to the fact that a balloon needs at least four people to help get it unpacked, up in the air, back down on the ground and packed away.
A Winterfest record number of 19 balloons were scheduled to go up on two mornings in Pagosa Springs. After a pilot briefing at the Visitor Center, which involved a discussion of weather and other logistics, the teams headed out to an open space in downtown Pagosa near the San Juan River.
I felt like a kid as I stood on the frozen ground watching in awe as enormous, colorful balloons materialized around me. Once a balloon begins to fill with propane, it stands upright surprisingly fast. Before I knew it, balloons were hovering all around the park; some rose quickly while others moved more slowly. It’s a bit like watching a big balloon waltz.
I was going up in the 2nd Wind, with Bill and his daughter, Kelly Dickey, who was celebrating her birthday. Kelly’s parents, Bill and Carol, met through ballooning, as did Frank and his wife Nikki Byrd-Dickey.
I climbed, a bit awkwardly, into the basket, and at some point, we were airborne, although I’m not exactly sure when we left the ground. This is because there’s a huge difference between flying and floating.
When a plane lifts off you can feel it in the pit of your stomach, but hot air balloons have a much more gentle ascent because they float as opposed to fly. And I think it’s the floating that makes a hot air balloon ride so magical.
When the pilot isn’t burning the propane to keep the balloon afloat, it’s an incredibly quiet ride, which only adds to the enchantment of hot air ballooning.
This is the point in this article where I’m going to reveal a secret that some of you already know – I’m deathly afraid of heights. I push myself to do things like zip lining and ice climbing because I want to write about these activities. After all, fear is good fodder for stories.
My first experience in a hot air balloon was years ago at the Sweetheart Balloon Rally in Loveland, Colorado. I was downright terrified as we floated high above Larimer County, covering quite a few miles and landing not so softly in neighborhood park near a lake.
As we floated above Pagosa Springs in 2nd Wind, I looked down on the town, out at the mountains and watched the balloons slowly rise and fall around us. My emotions continually shifted from a strange inner peace to sheer terror and then back to peace.
Bill Dickey kept me entertained with ballooning stories; some were reassuring and others were not, but it was his skill at keeping our balloon above the park that was most comforting.
Before this balloon ride, I didn’t realize that it was possible to pilot a hot air balloon up and back to nearly the same spot on the ground where the balloon started.
Flying back and forth over the same area by using winds of opposite directions at different altitudes is called, in balloon terminology, a “box.” Pagosa Springs’ valley location, in addition to the warm air currents created by the town’s hot springs, make it a great place to fly a “box.” Of course, high winds can change everything, but we had perfect weather on our Saturday morning outing.
Once we were back on the snowy ground, less than 50 yards from where we’d taken off, Ryan climbed in for a short ride while I chatted with Frank Dickey.
These two brothers are a wealth of ballooning information and quotes. My favorite, and a favorite of ballooners, is: there are bold pilots and old pilots, but no bold old pilots.
There’s no ambiguity in that quote and it says a lot about the kind of people who balloon. This is not an extreme sport. It’s been around for more than 200 years, and requires an enormous amount of patience to learn the skills required to be hot air balloon pilot.
Meeting the Dickey brothers was a highlight of my HeidiTown travels. I love their zeal for ballooning and I especially appreciate their ballooning know-how.
The next morning, after their pilot briefing in uptown Pagosa Springs, the balloons launched from various areas. We found six setting up in the recreation center parking lot near Wyndham Pagosa. This time they didn’t fly a “box,” but rather drifted with the winds in a westerly direction.
This time I was set to shoot instead of ride, and we had a great time chasing the balloons around in our car and capturing up to eight in the same photograph.
Winterfest occurs annually in Pagosa Springs and is organized by the local Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the balloon ascension, there are sled races, a polar plunge and more. It’s a great time to visit Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
For a comprehensive list of balloon festivals in Colorado and beyond, visit HotAirBalloon.com.
Thank you to Visit Pagosa Springs for hosting us on this trip and thank you to the Dickey brothers for a wonderful hot air ballooning experience.
Make your spring break experience extra special this year with these fantastic Colorado ski resort festivals.
This town knows how to throw a party and spring break is no exception. There are lots of kids’ activities around Breckenridge from ice skating to arcade games at Downtown at Eric’s. See a full list of Breckenridge activities for kids here.
Orbital Flight is a big-air format freestyle event featuring music from Keys-N-Krates. Taking place on March 19, this will be a fantastic event to watch.
For the adults, Spring Breckenridge Beer Festival is April 8, 2017.
And don’t forget that April 1 through 23, 2017, it’s Spring Fever at Breckenridge Ski Resort, an event that includes everything from sports competitions to free concerts.
If you’re in the market for a pair of shoes that cost more than my first car, Aspen is certainly the place to go. However, I was surprised to find a number of shops selling affordable items in this high-end town.
We visited Aspen in January during Wintersköl, their annual winter festival that features snow sculpting, a canine fashion show, on slope fun and more.
While in Aspen, I discovered that if you poke around, you can find some fun little shops scattered amongst the big fancy names we’re all familiar with from New York Fashion Week.
Here are some of my favorite Aspen shopping finds. I’d love to learn about your favorite Aspen stores in the comment section.
Do you think the old-fashion bookstore is a thing of the past? It’s alive and well in Aspen at Explore Booksellers. This the kind of place that welcomes the reader and encourages them to stay awhile. Continue reading
Ryan and I hadn’t been out in the big city since the fall, so when we read that the Colorado Symphony was playing Beethoven, we decided it was time for a Denver date night.
We used to frequent the Colorado Symphony quite often. In fact, for several years we bought concert packages to the CSO, giving us an excuse for a Denver date night every month. The Colorado Symphony has all sorts of subscription packages available, making it easy to pick and choose the number of symphonies you want to attend and which shows.
We started our Denver date night at TAG Restaurant on Larimer Street, an eight minute walk from Boettcher Concert Hall. This restaurant has been on my radar for awhile now and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
The food scene in downtown Denver has come a long way since we lived in the Mile High City in the early 2000s.
Chef Troy Guard, who opened TAG in 2009, is a big part of the city’s culinary expansion. He has opened a number of restaurants since, and there are still more in the works. Guard’s restaurants elevate food, while still making it approachable, and I think this is why he’s so well-loved by Denver foodies. Continue reading
I am ashamed to admit that an iconic Colorado town has been missing from my HeidiTown travels and it’s entirely my fault. After six years of traveling the state, up until this month, I had only ever been to Aspen for an afternoon.
To be honest, I was intimidated by Aspen.
I’m a laid-back, West Coast girl. I grew up in small towns in Oregon and Washington, far from the glitzy streets of LA or cultured avenues of NYC. I’m all about jeans and t-shirts. I get a manicure once a year, and I’ve only ever had one French manicure and that was for my wedding.
I was truly worried that I’d feel out of place.
We finally visited Aspen for a three-night stay earlier this month during Wintersköl, and while the town was all the things that I’d imaged it would be — women in fancy fur, high end shops catering to the mega rich and $20 cocktails — under the glossy surface, Aspen is a real town, with real people and real Colorado charm. It is, in fact, much more laid back than I expected. Continue reading
It has come to my attention that not all HeidiTown citizens love winter. Apparently sparkling snow doesn’t have a magical effect on some people and in fact, makes them long for hot summer days at the lake.
I don’t have a touchstone with this, as I love the snow and all things snow-related, but as a good Mayor, I shouldn’t ignore this segment of my town. And while I enjoy tromping through freshly fallen snow, I do, occasionally, go indoors during the winter.
Here are a few Colorado outings where it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a snowball to the face or slip on unseen ice or get your tongue stuck to a frozen pole.
Denver is no cowtown. The Denver Art Museum gets the top shows in the country and I’m thrilled to have such a high caliber museum out my backdoor.
We’re planning to head down soon to see the new Star Wars exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. If you haven’t heard about this exhibit yet, I could accuse you of living under rock, but I won’t. Sometimes these things get past even me.
The Denver Art Museum is fun to visit year round, but we often find ourselves targeting this museum on snowy days. Continue reading
Several years ago I was told I “wasn’t really a travel writer” because I didn’t travel internationally. This conversation, which occurred over email, stuck in my craw.
Dictionary.com defines travel as, “to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship: take a trip; journey: to travel for pleasure.
This definition does not include, “must have passport with at least 3 stamps.”
I believe it was the advent of the “travel blogger” that changed people’s perspective on “traveling” and “travel writing,” but just because I don’t trot the globe doesn’t mean I’m not a traveler, and this goes for you too.
This leads me to the heart of my discussion. One does not have to visit South America or Paris, France to experience the transforming power of travel.
Travel bloggers love posting the following quote by Mark Twain:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
When travel bloggers refer to this quote, I believe most are inferring that the type of travel necessary to gain this level of enlightenment requires boarding a plane with a backpack stuffed with charcoal pills and wanderlust. Continue reading
Where can you watch a fire and ice bonfire, run a 5K on a frozen river, celebrate a 167-year-old mountain expedition, take a polar plunge and so much more? At the Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa, Colorado in the beautiful San Luis Valley.
A lot of HeidiTown stories came from our 2016 trip to Rio Frio Ice Fest, and I guarantee if you attend, you’ll have more than a few stories to tell too.
And if you want an even better story, participate in this festival. This will not only provide you with stories, but also bragging rights. After all, how many people can say they’ve ran a 5K on a frozen river? Let alone on the famous Rio Grande River.
The Rio Frio Ice Fest kicks off on Friday, January 27 with a party at the Grover Theater. This year’s festival theme, Tropical Beach, will be alive and well at this fête and throughout the weekend.
Saturday is chockablock with events starting with the Rio Frio on Ice 5K at 9 a.m.
The Rio Frio on Ice was my first 5K (read about my entire experience here). I’ve been known to start a lot of things on ice. My first-ever climbing excursion was also on ice. And while the elevation kicked my butt (Alamosa is at 7,500 feet above sea level) I had a blast, and best of all, I did not come in last in my age category.
You don’t have to run during the entire length of the Rio Frio on Ice – I walked and jogged the course, but if I can finish this race, you can too.
After the 5K, it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment. Attendees can enjoy all sorts of activities in downtown Alamosa such as live ice sculpting, contests such as a kids’ costume event with a Tropical theme, an evening fire and ice bonfire and Grub n’ Pub, a ticketed dining and drinking tour of the town. Ryan and I loved Grub n’ Pub so much that I wrote about it.
Rio Frio Ice Fest doesn’t end on Saturday. Stick around on Sunday for the pancake breakfast, Fremont Parade, Polar Plunge and Fremont Haunt, a coffin race with a twist. The Fremont Expedition (1849) lost a lot of men along the Rio Grande River in the San Luis Valley as they tried to make their way back to New Mexico. The Fremont Haunt competition re-enacts a portion of these tribulations.
Rio Frio Ice Fest represents an opportunity to explore Alamosa and the surrounding area. It also offers attendees the opportunity to experience first-hand what Alamosa has to offer. It’s a truly immersive event, and I think this is what makes it so great. You don’t just see Alamosa, you experience it to the fullest during Rio Frio Ice Fest.
Rio Frio Ice Festival
January 27-29, 2017
Register for the Rio Frio on Ice 5K here.
Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.
A Note from the Mayor: This article first appeared in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor where I work as a reporter-at-large. The original title was “Explore Colorado.”
Colorado is a beautiful state. Even the towns that dot the Eastern Plains have their own sort of nostalgic charm. However, there are a few towns that really sparkle when blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. Here are the towns that I consider to be three of the most picturesque winter towns in Colorado.
Coloradans have a long time love affair with Crested Butte. And while it’s not quite the same quaint place it once was – according to Zillow the median home price is $995,000 – it still retains an authenticity that residents and visitors love.
Crested Butte sits on the border of where ranch land merges with the mountains. The town, which is located a short (free) bus ride from Crested Butte Mountain Resort, is full of colorful Victorian buildings, many of which house fantastic restaurants.
The town was incorporated in 1880, and had a population at that time of 400. In addition, approximately 1000 miners lived in the surrounding area. One of Crested Buttes’ most popular winter festivals, Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race, is a celebration of Al Johnson, a mail carrier who traveled between the mining communities in the Crested Butte area in the late 1800s. Continue reading