“A place where the beer flows like wine where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. A little place called Aspen.”
When you think of Aspen, Colorado you probably think of three things: 1) Dumb and Dumber 2) Fur everything and 3) Rich people wearing fur everything. And you’re right—this ritzy destination offers famous skiing, fancy art galleries and more posh bistros than you can count on one hand.
I can probably guess you wouldn’t think of going to Aspen and spending most of your time sifting through discarded clothing and housewares in dusty thrift stores. But let me assure you, thrifting in Aspen has everything you want and more.
The drive to Aspen is stunning, especially if you’re brave enough to take Independence Pass when the snow banks have already collected their share of thick white powder. The road is winding and the speed limit ranges from 10-30 mph. Drivers should pay close attention and fight the urge to glance out the passenger’s window as your car spurts along the outside lane of a road that borders a massive white valley, separated by nothing more than your dreams of not dying.
The Pit Stop
Be sure to make a stop in the history-rich town of Leadville, where the mining boom seemingly suspended this town in time. Take some time and frolic through the two-story Western Hardware Antiques, where treasures from past centuries litter walls, floors and even ceilings. This enduring monument to western history is remarkable; the building literally withstood an explosion in1962 that wiped out the rest of the neighborhood. You could spend days in this place and still see something new with each glance. I left with an old Audubon book, some peacock feathers and an old metal (skeleton?) key.
Your best bet in Aspen is finding an AirBNB or Bed and Breakfast; otherwise, the lavish hotels can be costly. If you want to rough it, there are a few campsites outside of town, specifically the Silver Bells Campsite on the way to the Maroon Bells.
Aspen is a year-round destination for skiing, hiking, shopping, dining and more. Despite its swanky reputation, Aspen offers adorable eateries, fun antique shops and, of course, thrift and consignment stores sprinkled between high-end dining options, extravagant art collectives and stylish boutiques.
There is no shortage of places to eat in Aspen. We opted for a down-home dinner at Little Annie’s, a home-style eatery established in 1972, named after the daughter of a silver miner who came to Aspen in the 1870s, back when a little place called Aspen was known as a little place called Ute City. Little Annie’s could pass for an old saloon, with its rustic wooden façade and red door and shutters. But the menu offers everything from famous hamburgers and fried chicken to quinoa salad and salmon.
Little Annie’s enlightened life mantra is inscribed on every menu:
“Travel light in life; Take only what you need: A loving family, Good friends, Simple pleasures, Someone to love, And someone to love you, Enough to eat, enough to wear, And just enough to drink, For thirst can be a dangerous thing.”
For a delicious, unpretentious brunch, locals love the Main Street Bakery and Café. Don’t let the name fool you, this full-service establishment offers much more than muffins and bagels. Grab a table on the patio surrounded by lush greenery and enjoy a delicious eggs benedict in your own secret garden.
But if your wallet is aching to spend some serious dough on vittles, head over to Aquolina Trattoria and Pizzeria for exquisite Italian food, not to mention, a full-service bar with over 1,700 different types of liquor. Seriously though, their drink menu is a novel.
When in Aspen, you can’t miss the Maroon Bells, Colorado’s most photographed spot. These sharp twin peaks tower over Maroon Lake and make for a breathtaking spot to break out a picnic or take cheesy Christmas photos. The “hike” from the main parking lot is more like a 50-foot stroll from your car, although there are a few longer hikes around the destination and you can even trek up the bells themselves.
Check for road closures — Maroon Creek Road is closed from mid-June through September from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Here’s where the real fun comes in! Check out the many Aspen consignment and thrift stores. You will find everything from designer handbags and clothing to ridiculously marked-down ski outerwear, shoes and outlandish Halloween costumes. Grab a friend and make a hat montage, donning fur caps and ridiculous fedoras in front of the mirror, or comb the heaving racks for the perfect pair of flare jeans.
Notables: Aspen Thrift Shop, Susie’s Limited, Aspen Home Consignment, Uptown Exchange, Amber’s Uptown Consignment
Wherever your feet take you, a glorious paper map will give you expert directions to each of these shops. Happy second-hand hunting!