Last October my husband and I vacationed in Colorado. We spent 10 days visiting Denver, Colorado Springs, Aspen, Vail, and a few spots in between. Since we had so much fun stuff to share with you, I split it up into two parts. If you missed Part 1, click here. We talked about our adventures in and around Denver and Colorado Springs.
Today our travel story moves on to the lovely Aspen and Vail. Here’s our itinerary and a list of our recommendations:
The hotel is located about 5 minutes walking distance to downtown Aspen which we loved and totally took advantage of that. We loved The Gant. The property was lovely, our room was amazing, and the staff was helpful. However, my one complaint is that the restaurant was closed for the season. Thankfully we were close to downtown where there were all kinds of food available, but we didn’t have the option of room service or something right on the property if we were feeling lazy. It was a short walk, and it inspired us to do it repeatedly, so I’m going to call that bonus exercise.
What We Recommend:
- Independence Pass. If you’re driving from Colorado Springs to Aspen then you pass right through this area. The mountains are seriously amazing which makes the drive just as enjoyable as the destination. It’s at 12,095 feet elevation so just keep that in mind if you plan to spend extra time up there exploring.
- Downtown Aspen. Downtown Aspen is filled with lots of restaurants and high end shops. We walked around there a number of times because it was something nice and relaxing to do. Plus, that’s where the food was. Mmm, food.
Some trees still had their leaves and were still changing colors, which made the town extra scenic. Since it is nestled in the mountains, it was a little like a mix between winter and autumn.
However, unexpectedly we woke up to a couple of inches of snow. It was actually perfect because it coated the landscape and made it super pretty but it didn’t prevent us from being out and about. It was a little bit of an unexpected snow storm that came when it wasn’t really cold enough to snow, so it started to melt almost immediately. This made for a few puddles and the need to pay very close attention when walking under branches that were sagging with snow. Unless you really like snow falling down the back of your neck anyway.
What Restaurants We Recommend:
- Paradise Bakery & Café. This bakery is so cute. We each enjoyed a croissant egg breakfast sandwich. Of course we had to sample the pastries too. Boy, was it hard to decide what to get (although I often have that problem no matter where we are). We tried a chocolate chip cookie and a blueberry crumb muffin. Everything was delicious. We ate outside on a bench and we had an audience of birds waiting for us to drop some crumbs. They all seemed to know the drill. Flaky buttery croissants and people eating them that are total suckers for cute birds.
- Poppycock’s Cafe. This cafe is like a diner that serves breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed breakfast there on our way out of town and it was just the stick to your ribs comfort food you need before you head off for a long drive.
- Peach’s Corner Café. If you like “earthy crunchy” organic meals then this is the spot to hit. My husband was not a fan of his breakfast, but I liked mine. I will admit that it wasn’t as good as the croissant sandwich but… duh, it involved kale and quinoa.
I’m not sure why taking pictures of coffee is a thing on social media, but it is, so I had to capture a shot of my favorite coffee in Aspen. The coffee more than made up for the food that divided my husbands and my opinions.
- Ajax Donuts. This spot is a food truck so it’s easy to miss (in fact, we actually did miss it the first day there). The next day we made a point to look for it and I’m glad we did because they make the best mini doughnuts. They make them for you right when you order. Seriously, they are must-have. Don’t choke on powdered sugar.
- Ajax Tavern. We ate at this place on our first night in Aspen. The food was delicious (possibly the best in town) but the atmosphere was a little loud. There were a couple of very large groups there that night, so I’m not sure if it was a good night to judge the volume of the place, but it was loud enough that we mostly ate our meal without conversation because it was pointless to try.
- Su Casa Mexican Restaurant. We are tough critics when it comes to Mexican food but we were very pleased with this restaurant. We highly recommend it if you like Mexican food. The place was a little tricky to find off the road in a sort of mall area, so don’t be confused if your phone navigation tells you that you are there and you can’t find the place.
- Brunelleschi’s Pizza. We always like to try the local pizza and beer on every vacation so this stop was a no brainer for us. They serve very thin pizza so if that’s your thing then you will love it. We enjoyed it. This place was near Su Casa and was equally confusing to find. Don’t give up, it’s worth it.
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. As you may have guessed it, this is a chocolate shop. They also have a shop in Vail which we stopped at. If you like chocolate then you must stop by, it was delicious. Okay, serving chocolate is sort of like cheating when it comes to delicious, but you get my point.
The hotel is located right in the Village of Vail, which we loved. Similar to Aspen, we walked everywhere and there were tons of places to see and shop in.
What We Recommend:
- Village of Vail. This village is the cutest one I’ve ever seen ever. It has lots and lots of restaurants and cute shops. There are enough loops and side streets to get yourself pretty confused on the first day, but with the help of the cute map you can get in the hotel and a little bit of walking around aimlessly, you’ll figure it out quickly.
Seriously, how cute is this town?! It’s split into two parts separated by a short walk.
- Hiking. While Vail (and Aspen) are known for skiing, there is still plenty to do and see in October. We don’t ski, so going there off season suited us just fine (and was way cheaper). There are a lot of hiking trails to explore, each varying from easy flat terrain to difficult hills. We did a little bit of both. It was a good opportunity to enjoy one another’s company, admire nature, and take pictures. We are both photo bugs so this was a lot of fun. Plus, it was good exercise. Apparently when you are in little towns in the mountains during off season, you end up exercising.
If you visit in the winter then you’ll see this path covered in many, many feet of snow. The aspens everywhere with their beautiful white bark make this walk something you must see. Conveniently it is just up the hill from the village so you can just go any time you like without driving anywhere.
See what I mean about the aspen trees? Beautiful.
What Restaurants We Recommend:
- Blue Moose Pizza. Obviously this is a pizza place, but they do have other food. We did in fact have pizza and it was the best pizza we had on our trip. It might even be one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had of all our vacations. In other words, you must go here. The prices are great and if you’re lucky you can sit outside and enjoy a little bit of scenery or people watching depending on your preference.
- Pepi’s Bar. This restaurant is one of the oldest in the village and there’s a good reason. It’s freaking amazing. In fact, we ate there twice (and we would have gone more if we had stayed longer). Reservations are a must for dinner, and probably not a bad idea for lunch, and are filled up extremely early. If you plan to eat there, decide that at around breakfast time and make your reservation or you’ll be eating somewhere else. (Even in the off season!) They serve amazing and authentic German cuisine. Even ordering the food is a bit of a multilingual experience. This was probably my favorite restaurant of the entire trip and also offers outdoor seating for more scenery or people watching.
- Lancelot Restaurant. This restaurant is also one of the oldest in the village. They are apparently somewhat famous for their prime rib. We both had it, and it was fantastic, so that fame is well deserved. As a heads up, the dress code is a little on the fancy side. You don’t have to get dressed up, per se, but don’t go in ripped jeans or shorts. Shoot for at least business casual if you have the room in your suitcase.
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This is the same chain as the place we went to in Aspen. When we were in Aspen, I didn’t know I’d have a second shot at their chocolate, but I’m glad I did. The shop in Vail serves hot chocolate and I LOVED it. It was the perfect hot beverage for keeping warm while walking around in the village. What a great combo, tasty liquid chocolate and warm fingers. You can’t beat it.
- Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory. This a super cute candy shop. They had an impressive variety of old style candies and in a twist of fate, also serve ice cream. We skipped the candy and went for the ice cream and it was delish. Please don’t judge us for going directly from hot chocolate to ice cream in the cold weather. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Aspen and Vail are at very high elevations. If you’re interested in reading about our thoughts and advice about what to expect then head back to Part 1 to check it out (Click here). I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, but just remember there are little cans of oxygen for sale all around town for a reason and that you are never far from a place that does when you decide you want to try it.
If the Summer is off season for ski country, then Autumn makes summer look like it’s crowded. This comes with some interesting things to keep in mind. A lot of places (shops, restaurants, etc) will actually have three sets of hours. The “we’re open all the time because it’s Winter” hours, the “we are open for hikers and there are a lot of them around” hours in the Summer, and the “no one comes here during this time of year, so we aren’t going to stay open” hours in the Autumn. The hours signs on shop doors will typically show all three sets with the date ranges they apply for. Just keep that in mind before you assume places will be open late at night, or at all in a couple of cases.
Related to funny hours, one of our biggest disappointments on this entire trip was that there were literally ZERO ski lifts or gondola rides that were open in ANY of the cities we visited. This was not an hour based problem either, they were just flat closed for the season. We were hoping for a cozy ride to the tops of various mountains for another batch of scenic photo ops, but we were unable to find even a single one to do that on.
We’ve had so much fun reminiscing about our Colorado vacation. I hope you enjoyed hearing about our adventures. Feel free to ask any questions and we’re happy to help in any way we can.