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Family Fun around Greater Aspen, Colorado

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

Frolicking in the FoutainFrolicking in the Fountain ASPEN, CO- It’s the most glorious summer in Aspen in years. There’s a slight smattering of clouds and only trace elements of the usual afternoon showers; this summer, the theme has been hot temperatures and thriving wildflowers, with the occasional puffy cloud adding a splash of texture to the endless blue horizon. Choose Aspen for a multi-faceted, adventurous and thoroughly engaging family vacation, with activities, sights and sounds to appeal to a span of ages and interests.

There are the usual suspects, which never fail to please in the way of life’s simple pleasures. Little kids love that fountain in the middle of town; grab a balloon and set it down while the children watch, mesmerized, as it dances atop the continual bursts of water. They’ll squeal in delight trying to run through it with their eyes closed, bracing themselves for that blast of cool water on a hot summer day.

A couple of blocks away, down Mill Street and just a few scenic steps away from the Aspen Art Museum, there’s the John Denver Park. You can show your kids the words of the Rocky Mountain Prophet, engraved on smooth, imposing slabs of stone, while they wade in the calm, shallow eddy of the tranquil stream. Kids love to sit in the water and splash around, throwing stones at their reflections below. The rock benches and stone seats make the John Denver Park one of the more relaxing and naturally inviting places in town.

When you’ve cooled off, wander back across the bridge, grab a sandwich or pack a lunch and stop into Aspen Brewery. There's root beer and board games for kids, while adults can taste Aspen’s favorite home brews. Relax inside or step out front for an up close and center view of Aspen Mountain.

On Sundays, take the gondola up Aspen Mountain and enjoy some music with your unparalleled view, during Bluegrass Sundays. From 12-3p, both regional and national acts take the stage outside the Sundeck, and each and every concert is free. Also at the top, you’ll find the Frisbee Golf Course, a stellar way to explore the wildflowers and the sunshine and get a little exercise.

For more on wildflowers, Snowmass offers a Wildflower Hike, starting at the Rodeo Parking lot and meandering through a mellow hiking trail and fields upon fields of colorful splendor. In Snowmass, too, are numerous outdoor adventures, from trout fishing to chairlift rides to storytelling under the stars. For details and umpteen suggestions,

And back at the Rodeo Lot, there’s the Snowmass Rodeo every Wednesday night: starting barbeque from the award-winning Hickory House. Mechanical bull, bouncy house and pony rides starting at 5 p.m. and then, at 7 p.m., full-tilt rodeo action with calf-roping, dirt and cowboys in wranglers, wrangling anything in sight.

Another scenic way to see the landscape, the Roaring Fork River and partake in some hearty repast is a bike ride to the Woody Creek Tavern; you can ride bikes there, and then take the bus back, just in case the kids get full and the parents enjoy a world-renowned margarita or two.

Back towards Aspen and up the road from Aspen Highlands, is the road to the Maroon Bells. You can take a bus during the day but some of the nicest moments happen after the rush. After 5p, you can drive yourself to the base of the Bells and witness Aspen’s most famous postcard in the light of the late-afternoon alpenglow, or under the rays of the setting sun. Enjoy a moderate hike to a high alpine lake or simply revel in the beauty of Maroon Lake, just under the Bells and just steps from the parking lot.

Just outside of town, the Aspen Historical Society features tours of the Holden-Marolt Mining Museum, just around the S-curves in a beautiful old western barn. The museum hosts exhibits, interactive displays and funky artifacts from Aspen’s silver mining days.

Around downtown Aspen and always after dark, try Aspen’s Dark Side, a walking tour of Aspen’s featured haunts and supposedly haunted places. Your guide comes dressed to thrill – if not kill - while his stories intrigue, beguile and explore the mystery behind town’s historic facades.

Getting Ready to Climb the ARC TowerGetting Ready to Climb the ARC TowerAspen’s newly built and revitalized Animal Shelter always welcomes visitors; you and the family can take a dog for a walk along the Rio Grande trail, and pet a puppy or scratch a kitty at the shelter booth at Aspen’s Saturday Farmer’s Market.
For more on the wildlife front, there’s ACES, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, offering educational programs and naturalist guided tours of the preserve and surrounding areas. See eagles, hawks and critters of the dam on a sunset beaver walk, or get to know some of the Rocky Mountain’s more indigenous residents with the Naturalist Field School, offering programs for both kids and adults throughout the summer and fall.

And for a bit of good old-fashioned fun for all ages, there’s the Aspen Recreation Center, or ARC. The ARC has a steam room, weight room, hot tub and sauna; it also has an ice rink, climbing tower, diving board and a lazy river that pulls you around and around and, strangely enough, seems to amuse the entire family. So, too, does the waterslide, which snakes around and around and seems to speed up right at the end, just in time to spit you out with a yelp into the wading pool waiting below.

While enjoying your summer sojourn, remember to leave room for your own spontaneous adventure. That’s the wonderful thing about visiting, if not living, in Aspen: there’s always more goodness where that came from.