Big city culture in a small mountain town


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We all dread when tourists descend upon Aspen for summer vacation. Our community is a mecca for visiting mountain bikers and hikers–but also for the most sophisticated music and culture aficionados who come here to sample the cultural smorgasbord Aspen offers. Instead of hiding from the visiting hoards, join them by dropping by a few of the events that make our little town a hot summer destination. Here are four activities that are cheap (and in some cases, free), accessible, and teach you stuff you can’t learn in the classroom:

1) Aspen Words, Writer in Residence Talks at Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar



Every month, from May through November, local literary non-profit, Aspen Words, sponsors a writer to come to work on a book-in-progress in a remote cabin in Woody Creek. The gig requires each writer to do one free public event that involves a reading and a Q&A session at Hooch from 6-7pm. While you won’t be able to order a cocktail, these hour-long sessions in the presence of a literary genius can be mind-blowing and inspirational. Check out for a complete listing of upcoming events or, better yet, put your name on their email list.

    2) Aspen Music Festival, 4pm Sunday concerts on the lawn

Your parents already know about this. Bring a blanket, a picnic, and a friend or two– and experience an Aspen Music Festival concert while relaxing in a beautiful environment. Even if you don’t consider yourself a classical music lover, this is a pretty miraculous, entirely free experience. Arrive by 3:30 to secure a primo spot in the lawn as space fills up fast. Check out to view the concert schedule.

3) Aspen Art Museum

Did you know that entry to the Aspen Art Museum is absolutely free for everyone? Grab a friend and head up the long, steep staircase at the Aspen Art Museum for a cappuccino (or lunch if you’re feeling flush) and a great view of Ajax. Then, visit the galleries downstairs to check out the art. Those people wearing Aspen Art Museum t-shirts in each gallery are not only security guards, they are actually quite knowledgeable about the exhibitions. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions. It’s an entirely pleasant way to spend an hour on a summer afternoon. Consult for the exhibition schedule.

4) Aspen Institute Films and Documentaries

Every summer the Aspen Institute screens a few documentary films in the evening at Paepcke Auditorium. These are the kinds of films that you’re not going to see in theaters or on Netflix, which is what makes this opportunity so special. In the past, these films have highlighted pressing political and social issues, the lives of prima ballerinas, and even the value of eating a vegan diet (I saw that one a few years ago and it really stuck with me). Ride your bike to Paepke, and maybe you can even score a free student ticket. Screenings usually take place in the early evenings.


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