Just being among the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains is worth a family vacation in Aspen any time of year. In summer, it’s an exciting drive there (lots of switchbacks, sheer drop-offs and breathtaking views!) – make a stop for a photo at the Continental Divide if coming from the east – but there are daily flights directly into Aspen year round. There are so many family activities in Aspen, it’s hard to narrow it down to just five, but here I go:
Visit a Ghost Town: Get a glimpse of the Old West by touring one of several ghost towns near Aspen. Ashcroft Ghost Town and Independence Ghost Town are the closest and offer guided tours throughout the summer for a small suggested donation, or you can do a self-guided tour year round for free. Tours are conducted by the Aspen Historical Society.
Ashcroft offers a glimpse into “the good old days” through the remains of a once flourishing town. The boarded up log cabins don’t look as cozy as they do in western films. It’s clear that they were drafty and far from energy efficient. Ashcroft is the remains of a once booming silver mining town which once was home to 2500 people and supported two sawmills, two newspapers, a school, and 20 saloons. It was, at that time, larger than Aspen. It is an interesting area to explore. There are also picnic facilities. Be sure to bring a camera.
We drove by the Independence Ghost Town on our way in (and out) from Denver. Here you’ll find the remains of the Roaring Fork Valley’s mining community. It boomed during the gold discoveries of the 1870’s and closed up in the decline of the mines in the late 1890s.
Ice Skating: Aspen Ice Garden and Lewis Ice Arena both offer indoor – year round public skating through the Aspen Park & Recreation services. Facilities include snacks, skate rental and ADA-approved locker rooms. Silver Circle Ice Rink is an outdoor rink open only in winter at the base of Aspen Mountain (430 East Durant, across from the Ruby Park Bus Stop). and kid-friendly burger joint nearby.
Aspen Mountain: Silver Queen Gondola – Ride 3,000 feet above the heart of Aspen and experience panoramic views of the Elk Mountains at an elevation of over 11,000 feet! Once at the top, you can hike on your own, dine at the Sundeck restaurant, or take a 45-minute guided tour at the Aspen Mountain Nature Center along marked trails with a trained naturalist from ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies). The guide explains the plants, trees and wildlife found there, paying particular attention to children with activities to engage their interest. Water and sunscreen are provided. Open daily throughout the summer.
Play in the Snow: What better place to learn to ski or snowboard than at a ski school in Aspen! If you already know how to ski, there are many places in Aspen and nearby. But be warned, there are no green circle (beginner) slopes on Aspen Mountain. Luckily Buttermilk is nearby. Check this page for more details. You can also find places for sledding (just behind the recreation center), cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through the forest on marked trails. You can snowshoe to and around Ashcroft Ghost town, too. Aspen is truly a winter playground for all ages.
Playground: In summer, don’t miss the outdoor Wagner Park Playground in the center of town. Normally they don’t have the white tents in the background, they were just up for the Food & Wine Classic. Across the street from this park are a couple of burger joints and other kid-friendly eateries. In winter, the indoor playground at the Aspen Recreation Center has an indoor pool, lazy river, rock climbing wall, water slide, and so much more It’s a great way to come in from the cold and have some serious fun.
Kid friendly or not, find great deals on hotels in Aspen below: