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A Guide to Aspen for Arts and Culture Lovers

Essential stops for art and history fans in this Colorado destination

Courtesy of Elle Logan/Aspen Chamber Resort Association

Enjoy an outdoor concert in Aspen.

Courtesy of Elle Logan/Aspen Chamber Resort Association

Aspen, a town synonymous with ski slopes and starry skies, holds an equally dazzling reputation for its vibrant arts and cultural scene. Discover the many opportunities the city offers for enriching experiences, elevating its charm beyond being a mountain retreat. From the dynamic stages of theater performances and the harmonious strains of live music to the compelling narratives of history exhibits and the evocative brushstrokes on display at art galleries, this destination represents a distinctive blend of culture and natural beauty. Here, culture isn’t just something you observe; it’s something you experience firsthand, outdoors, beneath the vast Colorado sky.

Explore Aspen’s rich mountain history

Courtesy of Ross-Daniels/Aspen Chamber Resort Association

Historical buildings hint at the past communities of Aspen.

Courtesy of Aspen Historical Society/Aspen Chamber Resort Association

Aspen, originally home to the Ute people, transformed into a silver mining town from the 1870s–1890s and eventually became a world-class ski area in the 1940s. The natural splendor, small-town community vibe, intriguing wildlife, supreme skiing, luxury shopping, and elevated dining make it the celebrated destination it is today.

Visitors can learn about Aspen’s rich past by taking a Hotel Jerome History Tour, seeing Victorian-era architecture at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, and dining at the historic J-Bar or upscale Prospect restaurant at Hotel Jerome. The landmark hotel dates back to 1889 when J-Bar was popular among miners and cowboys. These days, outdoor enthusiasts chowing down on one of the best burgers in town fill the 19th-century bar, while Prospect offers refined cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients.

Explore the mining history at Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum, wander through a 60-acre original homestead in the Hunter Creek Valley, and check out the nearby ghost towns of Independence and Ashcroft, where prospectors once mined for silver. These sites feature many restored historic buildings that showcase how Aspen’s residents once lived.

Listen to live music at the Wheeler Opera House and beyond

Aspen’s idyllic setting and intimate feel make it a perfect place for musicians to share their talent and love for music. From small live venues and summer outdoor concerts to larger music festivals, big-name and emerging artists perform here year-round. This has turned Aspen into a music hub that draws visitors from around the world.

Enjoy a range of music from jazz to classical and contemporary at various events held throughout the summer. Each summer (from June 26 to August 18, 2024), the iconic Aspen Music Festival and School hosts classical music concerts, classes, and more. Listen to a live orchestra at the Klein Music Tent, attend a piano recital at the Harris Concert Hall, and enjoy an opera at the Wheeler Opera House. Plus, the impressive Jazz Aspen Snowmass holds events, performances, and education programs, including the June Experience, which features artists like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

To see world-renowned musicians in an intimate space, head to Belly Up Aspen. The historic Wheeler Opera House features high-tech acoustics, and The Lounge at the modern Limelight Hotel serves comfort food and beverages in a relaxed setting. If you’re looking for a low-key vibe with epic views, attend the Saturday Classical Music or Bluegrass Sundays concerts at the top of Aspen Mountain, the free Snowmass Summer Music Series on Fanny Hill at Snowmass, or JAS Cafè shows on the Aspen Art Museum rooftop.

See art at the Aspen Art Museum

Courtesy of Gabriel_Orozco/Aspen Art Museum

A variety of art exhibitions can be seen at the Aspen Art Museum

Courtesy of Gabriel_Orozco/Aspen Art Museum

Inspired by the landscape, artists have long flocked to Aspen and worked in mediums including painting, sculpture, fabric, performance, film, and drawing. See impressive pieces at the Aspen Art Museum, housed in a beautiful Shigeru Ban-designed building, with a focus on contemporary art. Additionally, you can visit The Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies at the Aspen Institute.

If you’re interested in bringing home a piece of art, visit galleries like the remarkable Royal Street Fine Art and Casterline|Goodman Gallery. For browsing artwork and taking art classes or workshops, check out the Red Brick Center for the Arts. This creative community hub features a gallery showcasing local artists, plus art, dance, and rehearsal studios. The Anderson Ranch Arts Center has the Patton-Malott Gallery, an outdoor sculpture exhibition, and a café.

Enjoy theater, dance, and film in Aspen

Catch a show at the historic Wheeler Opera House, which features modern facilities and hosts theatrical productions, dance performances, and film screenings. Book a ticket for a musical or play at Theatre Aspen’s Hurst Theatre located in picturesque Rio Grande Park. Attend DanceAspen for an exceptional dance troupe performing ballet and contemporary dance, among other styles.

Film fans will love Aspen Film’s Filmfest, a premier film festival highlighting a variety of genres, including comedy, documentary, and foreign language. Aspen Film also organizes other events and programs throughout the year. If you’re looking for a literary community, don’t miss Aspen Words’ programs and events for readers and writers.

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