Finding the Real Aspen

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.

Finding the Real Aspen, The deck at Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain
The deck at Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain in Aspen, Colorado.

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.

Find the Real Aspen, Petey the dog at Aspen Brewing Co.
Petey, the world’s luckiest rescue dog chillin’ out at Aspen Brewing Co.

So where did we find the real Aspen?

We found it sitting on the bar stool at Aspen’s oldest restaurant and bar, the Red Onion. We found it while watching local kids dance their hearts out to hip hop tunes during Wintersköl. We found it at Aspen Brewing Company. We found it in the architecture of the Victorian homes around town. And we found it while visiting with shopkeepers at various art galleries and shops around town.

Without a doubt Aspen is pricey and can be posh, but it’s also really fun and surprisingly friendly. When it comes to wait staff and others in the service industry, I’ve never met a nicer group of people in all of my travels. The genuine welcoming attitude of every waiter, bartender and barista we ran into in this busy tourist mecca is a real credit to the town.

Finding the Real Aspen. The Jerome cowboys.
Hanging out with the cowboys in front of Hotel Jerome. Color me happy!

Let’s face it, Aspen is the home of the $17 burger, but I’ll bet you a hundred bucks it will be one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat. You see, in Aspen, you really do get what you pay for. The bar has been set high here for service, for food and for accommodations.  

This isn’t a place for a bargain vacation, but you’ll find real people, a real town and you’ll have real great experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing some of ours with you over the next few weeks.

Thank you to the Aspen Chamber for hosting us.

And thank you to Allison & Jillian for being fabulous guides and pointing us to all sorts of fun!


  1. I’m with you, Heidi! In 17 years of living back in CO (for the 3rd time), we have only passed through Aspen on our way to climbing mountains and soaking in hot springs. This past fall, we finally did make the effort to find the John Denver Sanctuary and enjoyed it very much. Someday, maybe we’ll actually spend a night there, but I still say Crested Butte is the best, “real” ski/mining town left in Colorado that hasn’t been spoiled by wealth and fame.


    1. Thank you for stopping by HeidiTown this morning, Major King.

      I agree that Crested Butte is a wonderful town. I felt it had a real magic when I visited. However, the median price of a home there is nearly 1 million, so I’m not sure how long they can hang on to that authenticity. Let’s hope they can make it last!

      It’s not a ski town, but I think Leadville is one of the last “real” mining towns left in Colorado. It’s still rough around the edges, which I love. I call it the last of the Wild Wild West towns in the Rockies.

      Thanks again for stopping by! You’ll have to try out Aspen for a weekend and tell me what your thoughts. 🙂


  2. Looks like you made the most of your visit! Looking forward to learning more about what you experienced so that we can try out a few more places. Even though we’ve lived within an hour of Aspen for 14 years, we’ve only spent one night there – at the St. Regis for an anniversary. The farmers’ market in the summer is wonderful. You’ll have to come back. 🙂


  3. Glad you had a fun time in Aspen. We have been going there since 1987 and it really hasn’t changed its comfortableness too much. It is also a great summer town with the Independence Pass drive and hiking the Maroon Bells.


  4. It was great to see you again Heidi. Thank you for mentioning us in your article. The entire reason why we started an Aspen blog, AspenRealLife.Com, was to show that Aspen indeed does have great depths, with incredibly inspirational, positive, and creative people who make our ski town a culturally active and adventurous place to live in. As you learned in your visit, there is far more to Aspen than just those who indulge in the “glitz and glamour”. I look forward to reading more of your coverage.


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