Exploring Aspen

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All images by John Cain Photography

In late August, we had the pleasure of joining the Aspen Chamber and event professionals from around the country for a whirlwind 3-day tour of all the town has to offer. If you think Aspen is just skiing and celebrity spotting, think again! (Though we did get a glance of Ringo Starr and Barbi Benton during our stay.) Aspen is a charming town year round, with fabulous food, exciting nightlife, cozy hotels, and enough activities to satisfy any type of visitor, whether you’re there to scale the Maroon Bells or browse the shops and galleries. With so much going on, it’s no surprise that the town has become a go-to wedding destination for Colorado locals and visitors alike, one we’re always excited to visit.

Our trip kicked off with a delicious dinner at the bright and modern Limelight Hotel, where contemporary rooms have mountain views and are just steps from the Silver Queen Gondola. The Aspen Historical Society treated us to a 15-minute musical rendition of Aspen’s history, a hilarious and witty introduction to the town that’s a must for a wedding weekend welcome dinner. The hotel’s Lounge is known for its après, perfect for pre-rehearsal cocktails or a tasty nightcap. It is also the sister property to the Little Nell, offering a more affordable price point for guest lodging.
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The next morning, we headed to Aspen Meadows Resort, home to the Aspen Institute and designed by Herbert Bayer in the iconic Bauhaus style. The resort mixes sparse, modern design with a fabulous art collection that combines nature and outdoor sculptures with sketches, paintings, and tapestries displayed throughout the property. The 98-room resort is set on 40 acres just north of town, so it’s a serious source of peace and quiet. Merrill Patio is a breathtaking ceremony site, with Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk Mountain across the valley, and McNulty Ballroom was designed with weddings in mind. This is a perfect location for guest lodging, ceremony, reception and day after brunch all in one place.121_AspenFAM_August31st_JohnCainPhotography
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Though skiing is what Aspen is known for today, back in the day it was all about silver. The mining town is home to some beautiful historic properties, including the Wheeler/Stallard Museum and the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum. Wheeler/Stallard’s two lawns and brick patio are perfect for tents, while Holden Marolt has ample space for tenting as well as built-in entertainment: The museum is full of artifacts from the town’s silver boom. Planning a wedding weekend? Consider the museums for a Thursday welcome reception.
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Follow Maroon Creek southwest of town, and you’ll find T Lazy 7 Ranch, a guest ranch full of western charm. The main building is the Lodge, a log cabin building with two fireplaces and a sprawling stone patio that’s cozy in all seasons. Down the hill, a rolling pasture surrounded by aspen trees is a gorgeous backdrop for a ceremony al fresco or a tented reception. We’re picturing an aisle edged with wildflowers and wooden benches, or a family-style meal served at farm tables under the stars. For a welcome or rehearsal dinner, head to the Chuckwagon Grounds for a barbecue and live music. We love local musician Dan Sheridan, whose John Denver covers are second to none. Or get everyone out into nature with snowmobile tours or horseback riding trips with Maroon Bells Guide and Outfitters.
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The St. Regis Aspen has stunning views of Aspen Mountain, framed perfectly by the hotel’s Fountain Courtyard (and made even better with ice-cold champagne freshly sabred by the sommelier). It’s a gorgeous spot for a ceremony, no matter the season, and can be tented with ease. Downstairs, a gray and champagne-hued ballroom is hung with antique mirrors and crystal chandeliers and opens up to a foyer with cushy lounge furniture and walls papered with stunning mountain views. We’re dreaming of transforming that foyer into a luxe mountain after party!
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For dinner, we headed to another one of Aspen’s comfortably luxurious venues, the Caribou Club. The first members-only club to open in town, Caribou Club is a fine dining destination, an inviting lounge serving classic cocktails, and, come 10 p.m., an uber-swanky nightclub! With a one week membership, you can reserve one of the five dining rooms for pre-wedding festivities or an intimate reception. Or if you’ve got another location in mind, they provide full-service catering, including gorgeous and delicious wedding cakes.
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Our last day kicked off with breakfast at The Little Nell. If being a Five-Star, Five-Diamond hotel wasn’t enough, the main restaurant, Element 47, was just awarded five stars as well, making the Nell a go-to location for unbeatable accommodations and a meal you’ll remember forever. And that’s not even taking into account their wine cellar, with over 20,000 bottles from all over the world. If you really want to be in the mountains, the Little Nell has that covered, too. Just hop on the Silver Queen Gondola and head up to the Wedding Deck, where the Elk Mountain Range serves as the backdrop for your first kiss. Inside, the Aspen Mountain Club would be a perfectly appointed location for a small wedding dinner or cocktail hour. If you’re looking to make a space your own, head next door to the Sundeck, where you can decorate to your heart’s desire. But take our word for it: You won’t want to cover up those views!
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We took the gondola up, but there’s more than one way to get down a mountain. Blazing Adventures greeted us with a troupe of Jeeps for a bumpy, windy ride through the trees and down the back of Aspen Mountain to Pine Creek Cookhouse for lunch. This sweet mountain cabin is a delicious restaurant, but also an intimate and remote wedding venue. The wedding meadow is at the base of the valley, with mountains and aspen trees on all sides. Inside, antler chandeliers and roaring fireplaces will warm up your guests – an important touch, since the only way to get there in the winter is on cross-country skis or in a horse-drawn sleigh.
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Before our final dinner, we headed to the Aspen Art Museum, a non-collecting institution focused on continuing Aspen’s contemporary art tradition and bringing world-class art to the mountain town. The new location, which opened in 2014, features a woven screen exterior that fills the space with light. The rooftop café has a stunning view of Aspen Mountain, and would be an amazing ceremony location. Interior gallery space is sleek and white. We’d go all modern, with clean lines and neutral hues dressed up with serious pops of color from bright arrangements for a reception, or dim the lights and bring in a DJ for a private dance party.
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Our Aspen takeover ended at Hotel Jerome, an historic property that’s been around almost as long as Aspen itself. Built in the 1880s, the hotel was nearly lost before new owners took over in 1985 and began a restoration project that transformed the property. Today, it’s a living history, with decor schemes and details that nod to all the periods it’s seen, from antique deer trophies on the walls to the 1950s-inspired Prospect restaurant, complete with reproduction Hermès chairs. In addition to J Bar (Hunter S. Thompson’s de facto Aspen office), Hotel Jerome has the only above-ground ballroom in town. You won’t believe how much natural light and mountain views can dress up a ballroom until you’ve seen this one. And how spectacular are these flowers by The Aspen Branch?
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With so much to offer and so many jaw-dropping venues, it’s worth heading up a little higher into the Rockies for a destination wedding in Aspen with the Bella team!

One thought on “Exploring Aspen

  1. Pingback: A Whirlwind Trip to the St. Regis New York – and the Marchesa Couture Show! | Bella Design and Planning Blog

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