While enjoying a pint of craft beer in Aspen, Colorado, I came to the realization that the city is not expensive when compared to big cities like Chicago. Rather, it is expensive when compared to small towns. The cost of living in Aspen is 51% higher than the average in the United States, slightly lower than cities like Seattle. As someone who likes to travel economically, I try to avoid paying urban prices in mountain towns. In the summer, Aspen offers a variety of outdoor activities that don’t require a hefty budget. Hiking and city bus transportation are free, cycling can be affordable if you avoid expensive rentals, parks are great for picnics, and there are plenty of free cultural attractions to explore.
During my three-day stay in Aspen, I spent about $600, with most of it going towards lodging. One way I saved money was by staying at the Tyrolean Lodge, a family-run hotel on Main Street. The lodge offers affordable rooms that can accommodate up to five people and includes efficiency kitchens with free coffee. While the price may be expensive for a solo traveler, it can be a great deal for families or groups, potentially reducing the cost to $53 per person per night. In comparison, luxury hotels like Hotel Jerome and Limelight Hotel Aspen charged significantly higher rates.
To get around town, I took advantage of the free bikes provided by the Tyrolean Lodge. The bikes were better than those available for rent in local shops, which mainly offered electric bikes at a high cost. I used the bike to explore the nearby Rio Grande Trail, a scenic trail that follows the Roaring Fork River. I also took advantage of the free bus service to access hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. Hiking is a popular summer activity in Aspen, and many trails start from the town. One notable trail is the hike up Aspen Mountain, which allows hikers to take the gondola back down for free.
When it comes to dining out, I learned to take advantage of happy hour deals offered by restaurants during off-peak hours. For example, Ajax Tavern offers discounted prices on drinks during happy hour, making it more affordable for budget-conscious travelers. However, it’s important to adjust to dining between the early-bird hours of 3 and 6 p.m. Lunches were easier to find at reasonable prices, with options like New York Pizza and Red Fox Frozen Yogurt offering affordable meals. Meeting up with friends for outdoor activities and picnics also helped keep costs down.
One of the advantages of Aspen is that many of its major cultural attractions are free. Aspen’s reputation as a cultural destination began in the 1940s, and today, visitors can enjoy free exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum and explore the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies, which showcases the work of the artist and designer Herbert Bayer. The Aspen Music Festival and School also offers a variety of free events throughout the summer, featuring performances by talented students.
Overall, while Aspen may have a reputation for being expensive, there are ways to enjoy the city on a budget. Exploring the outdoors, taking advantage of free transportation and cultural attractions, and being strategic about dining out can help travelers enjoy Aspen without breaking the bank.