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The Best of Springtime in Aspen

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

Visiting a seasonal destination during the more subtle season is an advanced travel move, reserved for the more adventurous traveler seeking a more authentic cultural experience. You see people who cater to you during the on-season -teaching you skiing, pouring your wine or driving your raft shuttle, doing none of these things. You see them doing what they do when they have time to come up for air and remember why they moved here in the first place. Some travel or take weekend jaunts, yet many others revel in a well-deserved staycation, some quality time off in their own backyard.

In a Crocodile Hunter, Animal Planet kind of way, visiting Aspen in the off-season provides a glimpse of locals in their natural habitat. The Cougars may have left town, but you’ll see plenty of other animals gathering food and drink, seeking shelter and leisurely traversing the landscape out in the wild (let the cameras roll, you may even see some mating rituals).

And for the visitor, there are off-season specials, end-of-season sales and discount lodging. Not to mention plenty of parking.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association provides a complete list of what’s open and what’s not, to take the guess-work out of spring hunting and gathering. Highlights include local favorites L’Hostaria with authentic Italian and, in my tastebuds’ opinion, the biggest bang of a bar menu for the buck, in town; they’re open Tuesday-Saturday without fail for the next couple of months. Aspen Brewery pours home-grown micro-brews all season and good ol’ Jimmy’s American Bar and Restaurant stays open seven nights a week as does Kenichi, Aspen’s latest remodeled trendy sushi den.

Nearby Woody Creek Tavern is open, home of the perfect end to a leisurely bike ride down the Rio Grande trail . Right next door, the Woody Creek Community Center offers art, books, gourmet coffee, organic foods and wireless. Off-season makes for good strolling, as well; less cars vying for placement on the streets and therefore more opportunities to jaywalk, right? Take a scenic tour around town and discover your own favorite haunt.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center has ongoing workshops, while the Aspen Art Museum hosts free Thursday Night Receptions, with wine and cheese and the latest inspirations from artists, often on-site to offer insight. BellyUp Aspen caters to the hearty in-towners with frequent free music and movie nights complete with big-screen viewing and an exemplary sound system. For the avid movie-goer, try occasional film and constant ambiance at the Historic Wheeler Opera House and old-fashioned blockbuster viewing at the Isis Theater , seven days a week.

The great outdoors is always open. Take a hike up local’s favorite Hunter Creek Loop or even Buttermilk Mountain, for a closer look at spring hillsides and a panoramic view of town and the mountains beyond. Bring ski poles, a change of weather gear and an adventurous spirit to match spring’s fickle moods, then toast your hearty nature with a cold beer, shuffleboard and a gourmet Noodle Bowl at Bad Billy’s (open always).

And if you’re here on a Friday night, Lime in Snowmass Village offers awesome food and drink and Karaoke. There’s nothing quite like Karaoke for an authentic local wildlife sighting.

www.aspenchamber.org for more details on planning your off-season excursion or exotic staycation.