Famous for 100-plus world-class restaurants and bars, a local scene that keeps the “Aspen Extreme” vibe alive and home of best music venues in the mountains, Aspen is a heavy hitter in the après-ski and nightlife scene department. With so many choices on tap, we broke down the best of the best to help you make the most of your mountain merriment.
Best après-ski in Aspen
Sun-basking and champagne-fueled dance parties only touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to après-ski enjoyment at the slopeside Ajax Tavern. Based out of Aspen’s only AAA Five-Diamond, Forbes Five-Star hotel (the Little Nell), this lively spot is a favorite among Aspen locals and guests alike, boasting Colorado microbrews, excellent wines and a menu featuring gourmet burgers, sandwiches and salads that satisfy the hungriest skiers and snowboarders. The base-area location is the perfect cherry on top of the whole experience as you can take in all the on-slope action while you enjoy good company and an even better meal. Don’t miss the local’s favorite: Ajax Double Cheeseburger ($20) and a side of truffle fries ($17) for the table.
Aspen Highlands Alehouse
After crushing a lap or two on the famous Highland Bowl, which requires a 20- to 45-minute hike, you’re going to be craving some hearty grub and a cold one. Head to the Aspen Highlands Alehouse, located in the base area, to refuel with their popular pizza pies. Many locals would argue that the Alehouse has the best pizza in the Aspen Snowmass area. The Alehouse also serves a full menu of tasty appetizers, soups, sandwiches and salads, sure to please every palate and dietary need. Wash down your nosh with one of their 16 Colorado brews on draft or more than 50 bottles/cans of beer. Mixed drinks and wine are also available. On warm afternoons, the ample patio is awash in locals and visitors basking in the Colorado sunshine while they sip a tasty brew or enjoy live music.
The Red Onion
Since 1892, The Red Onion has served as a popular watering hole to the Aspen community. Offering some seriously cool atmosphere, this historic saloon features a copper-hammered ceiling and bartenders that double as backcountry guides, ski instructors and even ski-movie athletes. The crowd ranges from glamorous vacationers and second home owners to local ski bums, both of whom might be rocking ski boots late into the night. Sip on $2 PBR’s or sample one of the many local and domestic drafts. If hunger strikes, the Red O’s affordable bar menu (served until 10 p.m.) will satisfy.
Offering “happy hour” discounts seven days a week (3 p.m.–7 p.m.), Limelight Lounge in the Limelight Hotel is the places to be for Aspen’s best après-ski specials. The lounge is just off the hotel lobby and features a large, beautiful fireplace and plenty of comfy seating. Plus, every Thursday through Monday, local, live music is rocking from 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. While you enjoy the tunes, sip on a Bud Light ($3), draft beer ($4) or house wine and munch on one of their specialty wood-fired pizzas ($10).
Best nightlife in Aspen
The Belly Up
If there’s one location that’s at the epi-center of Aspen’s renowned nightlife, it’s the Belly Up. This 450-person music venue, located on Galena Street, hosts nearly 300 world-class music acts throughout the year. Its state-of-the-art sound system and production team have clinched the Belly Up’s reputation in the music world and is the reason why top performers like Thievery Corporation, John Legend, Widespread Panic, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Nas, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Snoop Dogg, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many more have graced the Belly Up’s stage. Be sure to check the Belly Up’s schedule in advance and get your tickets so you can enjoy a special pieces of Aspen’s nightlife.
Not only is Eric’s always happening, but it’s a great spot to go when you’re with a crew of mixed-bag nightlife preferences. Comprised of four different types of bars: the Cigar Bar, Su Casa, Eric’s and Aspen Billiards, there are truly options for every after-hours style. Those who want to cut up a rug will enjoy the main Eric’s Bar, while those who prefer nightlife games will want to get on the billiards list upstairs.
A popular Aspen nightlife hotspot, Escobar is located in a subterranean space on the Hyman Avenue walking mall. If you’re visiting over a holiday period, expect a line extending past the bouncer-guarded red rope. Once you’ve ducked inside the airplane-inspired nightclub, you’ll be greeted with pulsing beats, a chic crowd and a wide selection of libations.
If you nightlife preference is a little more laid-back, head to Jimmy’s on Hopkins Avenue. This second-story watering hole features a down-to-earth atmosphere, typically packed with locals. Known for their tequilas and mescal (and cocktails in general); Jimmy’s Margarita ($10) and Jimmy’s Paloma ($12) are not to be missed. Plus, if you’re looking for some late dinner, Jimmy’s bar menu (served until 11 p.m.) is a delicious option. Try the Jimmy’s Mac ($10), which features bacon and jalapenos, or the Jimmy’s Famous Crab Cake ($20) or one of the daily bar specials ($15).
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.