Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, the modern day founders of the city, arrived in the 1940's with a vision that created a civic and cultural renaissance which is still in use and even taught in local classrooms today, commonly known as "The Aspen Idea".
Aspen has a unique, rich, and varied history that has shaped the town and its character. It is a great city to explore no matter what time of the year it is. The Hotel Jerome has been an Aspen landmark and local gathering place since its opening in 1889. Patrons can still order the infamous "Aspen Crud", a milkshake infused with numerous liquors at the "J Bar" restaurant, a drink "off limits" for some.
The Wheeler Opera House opened in 1889. It was originally a part of the "Silver Circuit", a mining era collection of venues that brought internationally renowned performers to the silver and gold mining camps and towns of Colorado's high country. After being destroyed by fire and undergoing two major renovations, it is today Aspen's premier performing venue.
An interesting part of Aspen’s history revolves around the Wheeler-Stallard Museum. To entice his wife to move to a mining town, Mr. Wheeler had the house built just for her in 1888. It didn't work, and neither he nor his wife ever lived in the house. Today the house is part of the Aspen Historical Society where the first floor is furnished and decorated the way it might have been in the late 1800s, while the Second Floor Gallery is currently showing "Go West, Young Man!”
The Historical Society is very active and has created numerous things to do. The society features an exhibit about the history of transportation into and around Aspen, from the Ute Nation to the jet age. The West End Walking tour offered through the society shows off the Victorian architectural legacy created by the mining barons, investors and entrepreneurs of the late 1800s.
The majority of Aspen's early population worked in the mines or in businesses that supported mining. When the silver boom busted in 1893, many people left in search of better work, but some residents stayed and became ranchers during the "The Quiet Years". These years are documented in an old barn that houses the Holden-Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum.
The Aspen Historical Society also offers "Ghost Tours" during the summer months in nearby Ashcroft, a town that went "bust" in the 1880's. Its last resident died in the late 1930s and by then the town was well on its way to being the ghost town as it is today. Resident "ghosts" are on hand to answer questions and offer tours of Ashcroft.
Silver mining was the primary economic driver for Aspen in the early years. Smuggler Mine is one of the most famous and productive of Aspen's silver mines. The Smuggler produced a world record nugget of nearly pure silver that weighed almost a ton, and ultimately had to be broken into three pieces to be hauled out of the mine. Tours are available.
The environmental movement has a long history in the Aspen area from the time when residents who stayed after the mining bust decried the "death" of the local rivers and streams due to pollution from the mining days. The locals united to expand the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area and documented in the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Today, Aspen is vibrant! Winter and summer calendars are chock full of events. From the world renowned ballet and music for all tastes, to art openings and lectures by talented individuals from all over the world, including locals. Since the summer of 1949, the Aspen Music Festival has supplied classical music to concert halls and quaint street corners alike.
The Aspen Ideas Festival is a world-renowned gathering of some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the world, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen has become an iconic Aspen event. The Jazz Aspen Snowmass continues to draw the biggest acts in the music world, the Aspen Art Museum is a globally recognized leader in contemporary art, and Theatre Aspen pulls the curtain on a terrific playbill every year; and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Aspen is truly a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers! Whether it's downhill skiing in untouched snow or hiking through dense aspen groves. Epic powder days in winter turn to amazing rafting come spring and summer.
Warm days lead adventurers to endless trails to climb, hike or bike, outdoor concerts, and water sports. No matter how you choose to spend a day in Aspen, downhill or cross country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, rafting or fly fishing, there is an unforgettable outdoor activity right at your doorstep in Aspen.
Bringing the kids? How about these choices to keep them entertained: The Aspen Recreation Center offers a complete facility for year round activities. Take one of the many guided tours either by jeep, horseback, hike or by climbing. White water rafting for all skill levels.
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, The Aspen Historical Society Center, the Aspen Art Museum, Theatre Aspen, the Ajax Adventure Camp, and Smuggler Mine Tours all offer an abundance of activities to keep the kids entertained. Skate parks and Ice rinks abound in the area.
For a really neat adventure, take the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain. Once you're there, try out the climbing wall or take a jump with Eurobungy. If that's not your thing, there's disc golf, an obstacle course, and even the popular silver nugget dig! Mine for silver just like the old days in Aspen - the small silver nuggets can be taken as a souvenir. Have lunch at the Sundeck or pack a picnic of your own. The view from 11,212 ft. isn't too shabby either!
Check out Aspen's most celebrated winter festival, Wintersköl, and meet Santa during the 12 Days of Aspen at Christmas time.