Downtown Aspen is the best replica of big-city nightlife found anywhere in the high Rockies. On any given night, lavish private parties at The Little Nell happen a stone’s throw from a major rock concert or dance party at The Belly Up, with dancers, stars, and locals alike coalescing for a nightcap at The Red Onion or Mi Chola. Aspen shuns at least the turn-down portion of the “early rise, early to bed” mantra that most ski towns live by, meaning there’s no shame in saving a bit of energy for after the lifts close. Most everything is walkable, so hit a few of these spots for a good night on the town.
J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome — This bar has seen more celebrities at the peak of tipsiness than just about anywhere beyond the Sunset Strip. The house drink, the Aspen Crud (a milkshake doused in bourbon) is both a dessert and a nightcap, the ultimate drinker’s two-birds-one-stone elixir.
Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar — The Hooch is Aspen’s spot for stiff drinks and late-night snacks that don’t involve ordering room service. It also serves Fernet Branca on tap, in case you want to get weird.
Belly Up — Aspen’s premier live music venue brings in the type of talent you’d normally find playing amphitheaters and large-scale clubs the world over. Think Sound Tribe Sector 9, Silversun Pickups, and Modest Mouse in a club that holds 450 people.
Mi Chola — For a casual round of pints and conversation, head to the bar section at Mi Chola. Locals tend to congregate here around 9:00 PM, drawn by the cold beer, tequila list, and occasional celebrity sighting.
The Red Onion — The local dive, The Red Onion, is a name you’ll hear casually suggested for just about any purpose where a drink is necessary. Stop here on your way back to the hotel or Airbnb, and see how many people you recognize from earlier in the night.
Eric’s Bar — Part lounge with an adjacent pool hall and part cigar bar, Eric’s is the type of ski town bar you see portrayed in movies like “Out Cold” or “Ski School.” Locals tend to seamlessly mix with tourists here, probably because once you’ve downed a couple of the bar’s martinis, the accents get lost in the slew of boots on the dance floor.
Caribou Club — If you’re a smooth operator, you may be able to finagle your way into the Caribou Club, the most prestigious private club in town. This requires befriending a member and being invited to dinner or the bar. To make your impromptu appearance happen, your best bet is to lap the gondola at Aspen Mountain and hope you strike up a conversation with the right person. You never know.
Chair 9 — Located inside The Little Nell hotel, Chair 9 throws some of Aspen’s best parties, and you don’t even have to stay up late to attend them. It’s an après-ski spot, kicking off mid-afternoon with DJs and dancing and continuing into the evening. You may want to hit your room and change before stopping by, but if that’s inconvenient, well, this is a ski town. No judgment.