How to do Fall in Aspen like a Local

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Top things to do in Aspen this fall

Your first thoughts of Aspen may be a skier schussing down the mountain, but for those in the know (that now includes you), fall is not to be missed in this idyllic ski town.

The namesake trees begin to turn gold in the first few weeks of September, bringing "leaf peepers" to come and bask in their beauty. If you want to come to town and not stick out like a newbie, here are some of the best things to do in Aspen in the fall.

Aspen mountain hike
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1. Bar Menus

  • The go-to move of the locals is the Bar Menu. This entails getting to dine at the best spots in town for a deal by saddling up to the bar and eating there. It's also a great way to meet other locals and get their takes on the "can't miss" things to do. 
  • Our favorites are Parc, Kenichi, Cache Cache, Steakhouse 316 and Mezzaluna
  • Also to note, if you go later in the fall, deep into October, some restaurants even offer "Off Season Menus" that offer deep discounts during a time where they have less diner traffic and want to encourage business.
Pro Tip: EatAspen.com tends to post a healthy roundup of “Off Season Menus” as they become advertised.

2. Live like a Local

  • Hotel accommodations in Aspen can get pretty steep. Staying in an Airbnb or VRBO property in town, or just outside not only offers you a glimpse of living like a local in the Valley, but also offers some great deals.
  • We suggest properties in the downtown core if you want to walk around everywhere, Snowmass Village for a quiet but adventurous pace, and down in Basalt on the Fryingpan River for stunning water views.

3. Party at The 'Bou

  • When: October 31st
  • The storied members-only club, Caribou, opens its doors once a year to the public on Halloween to have their shot of the good life. 

4. Ready for Some Football?

Who isn't? The best spots to catch your favorite college and pro match-ups are at Aspen Tap, J-Bar, and just outside of town at the base of Buttermilk at Home Team.

Pro Tip: We like the back room with its comfy leather couch, or if the weather's nice, watching it on one of the outdoor TVs on their patio.

5. Leaf Peep Like a Pro

At every turn in Aspen, it seems like you come upon a grove more beautiful than the next. Instead of dawdling down the road and holding up traffic, make sure to pull over at one of the many gravel pull-offs on the side.

  • Remember high elevation leaves change first, so as you try to pinpoint visiting during "peak season" remember that the leaves in town and downvalley will change last. 
  • Go where the crowds aren't. Skip the Pass, the Bells, and head up the Castle Creek Valley (the Hospital turn at the Roundabout).
  • If you're feeling adventurous and have four wheel drive, head up to Lenado - a lesser known mining town in the area, up Woody Creek Road. The views of Aspen and the entire valley are stunning, including the sunsets. It's a favorite place for a picnic or campsite, but be wary of camping too late in the fall - it gets very cold at night!

6. Keep Layering

You might be tempted to throw on your flannel or chicest shacket, but the temps can still be pretty warm during the day, so make sure you've got a tee or tank underneath. 

  • This is also when Aspen can encounter some rain, so don't forget a lid or to stash your raincoat in your purse.

7. Up, Up & Away!

hot air balloons floating up over sunny green Aspen valley
  • When: September 22-24
  • Don't forget Snowmass when you plan your visit. A fun festival that happens each September is the Balloon Festival, where hot air balloons float over the mountains.
  • We like to pack a little "tailgate" of crêpes from Mawa's Crêpe Shack and a smoothie from Jüs (both at Base Village) to enjoy as you watch and pick your favorites.
  • This is for the morning people - balloons begin to ascend at 730AM. 

8. Ruggerfest

  • When: September 14-17
  • A fun weekend amongst locals (particularly the ladies) is going down to the Rio Grande Park and watching Ruggerfest.
  • This year is the tournament's 55th iteration and draws teams from all over North America and sometimes beyond!

9. Farmer's Market is Still Going Strong

People trying samples of fresh baked bread loaves at farmers market table
  • When: Through October 7
  • If you're visiting Aspen in the non-winter months, you have to wake up early one Saturday and make your way to the Market, running from 830AM-3PM.
  • We like to pick up a coffee at Spring Café or Jour de Fête and wander the stalls of local artisans, farmers and enjoy live music. 
  • Don't miss: Aspen Kettle Corn (addictive!), peaches from Palisades and Paonia Bread Works.

With that, fall is in the air, and you know that you can experience it the best way yet when you spend fall in Aspen. 

Looking to travel a bit more this fall? 

Check out these other insider scoops to hitting cities like a local:

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