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Bambinos Loves Travel: Family Friendly Aspen

Posted on June 30 2019

Karen Saunders

Owner, Bambinos Boutique & Bambinos Clothing Co., mom to Annie (10) and Sadie (5), on a #shopsmallsummer mission

Emily Duck

Co-owner, Christian Elizabeth & Co., mom to Ryan (4) and Mackenzie (1), Frequent traveler, Aspen lover

Bambinos Loves Travel: Family Friendly Aspen

We're just over a month into summer and have spent most of that time beating the Texas heat in Colorado. This time away collided perfectly with my commitment to a #shopsmallsummer and also with Emily and her sister Kathryn's (co-owners of our fave brand Christian Elizabeth) summer trip to Aspen/Snowmass. My family has been spending several weeks each summer and ski season in Aspen/Snowmass for the last eight years and Christian Elizabeth sisters, Kathryn and Emily have been visiting regularly since childhood. Emily fell in love with this special place as a toddler, got engaged there, got married there, and now gets to share it with her own babies. Few places are as jam packed with family owned businesses as Aspen, and while visiting together, we were excited to compare notes on the best of the best for families in this beloved destination. Our littles are ages 1, 4, 5, and 10 and we've personally tried out every single thing listed (many over and over again). All the shops and restaurants are family owned. We hope you'll bookmark our top picks for a future adventure and follow a few of our favorites and shop them from your own hometowns. If you want to take the Shop Small Summer Challenge with me, we’d love to share your finds -- just tag us and use the hashtag #shopsmallsummer. This is a fun way explore the destinations you travel to this summer and to get to know your neighborhood a little bit more. We can't wait to see where else this journey takes us!

Karen and her Bambinos Babies

Emily and Kathryn in Aspen circa 1999

Christian Elizabeth & Co. littles

Karen & Kathryn making plans

Shopping

Twinkle - A magical jewel box filled with treasures for baby and child, this darling store features the most amazing consignment apparel sourced from all over the world (many with tags still on!) and a beautifully curated collection of new apparel too. The owner, Michelle, is a mama of two and on our last visit, her daughter Zoe (10) helped my daughter Annie (10) choose her outfits and ring up her purchase. So fun! I shopped at Twinkle for years before I ever dreamed of being a boutique owner and have always loved the personalized service and the cozy space. Sadie (5) adores the "changing room" which is a canopy tent hanging from the ceiling with a fluffy seat inside and the lollipops at the register.

Ro + Fern - Named after her sweet dachshund, Ro and even sweeter daughter Fern, this mom owned and operated shop features looks for baby, littles, and tweens. Annie immediately went for the Iviva styles and grabbed a jumpsuit sister set by Sol Angeles which has been worn on repeat since. The edgier West Coast vibe differs so much from Bambinos, but I loved our visit and love that my big girl confidently chatted with the shop owner and found her own style. 

Carl's Pharmacy - If you ask my girls their favorite place in Aspen, they'll unequivocally and simultaneously answer "Carl's." If there was a contest to see who could pack the most merchandise into a retail space, all Aspen shops would be contenders (hello crazy real estate) but Carl's Pharmacy would win the prize. This place has everything! With two stories of wall to wall, floor to ceiling displays, you'll find whatever it is you need and so many things you don't need but want anyway. Our tradition is to create ways for the girls to earn spending money during a trip, then end it with a much anticipated visit to Carl's for treasure hunting. (It's likely why we hear no whining on hikes)! Pro-tip...grab autographed copies of the "Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog" series here for gift giving back home.

Emporium and Flying Circus - Right across the street from Carl's this gift shop / artist co-op is self-billed as Aspen's most unique retail experience and we agree. It's an indoor "big top" featuring 70+ local artists stocking the shelves with handmade jewelry, artisan marshmallows, vintage kids clothing, delicious smelling bath products, gourmet foods and so much more. Whatever you choose, be sure to leave with a "Fun Meter" pin and set it to maximum fun for the rest of your trip.

Eating

Pine Creek Cookhouse - This is one of my favorite spots in Aspen (it's actually just outside of Aspen in the ghost town of Ashcroft). We love doing family hikes here with the kids every summer and then everyone enjoys a delicious meal at the end. This has been a family tradition of ours since I was little and it is extra special to me because it is where my husband and I got engaged! - Emily

Crêperie du Village - A must visit in both summer and winter, the creperie feels like a swiss chalet inside and on the patio and the single table at street level has gorgeous views of Aspen mountain. It's the perfect place to enjoy  a glass of rosé with raclette, fondue & sweet & savory crêpes. It's not a "kid" restaurant but with an early summer dinner reservation you'll beat the crowd and with nutella and lemon sugar crepes, you'll have even the most selective eater cheering to return.

Jimmy's - This place is an Aspen institution with some of the best patio views in town. It's also not a "kid" place but they are absolutely kid friendly. Instead of a kid's menu, they offer steak, salmon, chicken, mac & cheese, or basically anything you request in small portions at kid's meal prices. They bring out extra cherries with the Shirley Temples and extra breadsticks (AMAZING) while you wait. Our family fave is the meatloaf, which isn't on the menu anymore but its always available on request.

Mi Chola - This is our favorite post-hike cool down spot in Aspen, conveniently located near the trail ends by Main Street. Grab a big patio table if the weather is brilliant or escape the heat or rain in a booth built for groups. Keep the littles occupied with the provided coloring sheets and crayons, lidded plastic cups they can't spill, and a kids menu with something for everyone. For yourself, order a margarita and some guac to enjoy with the chips and salsa. We've tried nearly all the margaritas on the menu and it would be impossible to pick a fave.

L'Hosteria - This fun spot has been a Tuesday night family summer tradition for at least a decade and we love sharing it now with the next generation. Be sure to snag a table outside so you can listen to the great live music. It's authentic Italian cuisine made with love.

Brunelleschis - "Bruno's" in Aspen is as kid friendly as it gets (with great food for everybody). Kids are greeted with chef hats and a ball of dough on a pan and can make their own breadsticks and top their own pizza.

Ranger Station - This Snowmass stop makes for a dinner adventure. We love to park (or get dropped off) at Snowmass Base Village and take the Skittles (a free gondola ride) up to Ranger Station. With patio seating right on the mountain the kids can run and play nearby. With happy hour everyday 3-6 its the perfect early dinner spot. Visit on Friday nights for live music or go on Thursdays in the summer during the Snowmass Free Summer Concert Series and enjoy from the sidelines. They're  known for their draft brews but we're fans of their handcrafted cocktails (Woody Creek Manhattan and Bacon Bloody Mary)!

Hiking

Hallam Lake  - Tucked away just on the edge of downtown Aspen is a 25 acre nature preserve and environmental learning center. It has hiking opportunities for the youngest explorers and its "Birds of Prey" feeding times that are worth calling ahead to check on. Ask at the front desk for an activity guide with scavenger hunt and your littles can earn patches for their finds. Home to ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies) this spot offers drop-off day camp opportunities for ages 4 and up. To make a family day out of it, you're perfectly positioned to add on the Rio Grande Trail with an entrance just a few hundred feet away. This paved trail runs a continuous 42 miles all the way to Glenwood Springs but you can tackle as much or as little as you want. Hike it and enjoy the rushing river views and picnic spots or rent bikes with trailers for little ones. If hiking you can choose your own adventure by veering off onto Hunter Creek Trail, which features a "StoryWalk" tour introducing children to the Bauhaus school in celebration of its 100 year anniversary and influence on Aspen.

Maroon Bells - The most photographed mountains in North America, this is a must do for all ages. Start at Aspen Highlands and catch a bus up to Maroon Lake. Enjoy the narrated tour and learn about Aspen's history as a mining town and see the avalanche debris from this season of record snowfall. The bus drops you off near Maroon Lake (use the avalanche proof bunker bathrooms before venturing further) and you can choose an easy hike (Maroon Lake Scenic Trail) or a harder one (Crater Lake). We've done both with kids of all ages but would plan to help littles under age 5 in a carrier up to Crater Lake.

On the way down from the bells, stop the bus at T-Lazy-7 Ranch for a scheduled adventure like fly fishing or horseback riding or just make an impromptu stop to pet the llamas and alpacas. Simply cross the street and wave down a bus to continue your journey back to Aspen Highlands.

My favorite thing about this whole post is seeing this pic of Emily at the T Lazy 7. Its been there for 80 years as a working ranch and now adventure center. We love that Ryan and Mackenzie get to follow in mom's (and grandma's) footsteps, horseback riding and fly fishing and being the best dressed littles for every activity. 

Snowmass Mountain - Snowmass in the summer is covered in wildflowers and though you definitely need sunscreen the cool mountain breezes keep you going even on longer hikes. One of our favorite Snowmass days starts at the Elk Camp Gondola. Ride up then connect to the Elk Camp Chair Lift for a ride all the way to the top of the mountain. Its a great photo spot and a fun place to explore but for little ones we recommend taking the chair back down to the top of the gondola. Grab lunch or snacks at the restaurant and have a picnic. Borrow board games and play on the patio. Explore the Lost Forest alpine coaster, zip line, climbing wall, and ropes course. Choose easy hikes even the littlest walkers can handle with Rabbit Run Nature Trail or Sierra Club Loop then take the gondola down when they're worn out. Or try the just as easy but longer way down on the Vista Trail. Its all downhill switchbacks with beautiful scenery.

Ditch Trail/Nature Trail - An equally fun adventure on Snowmass but skip the gondola (and the cost)! Start out at Divide Lot in Snowmass and hike the Ditch Trail. Its relatively flat with streams and wildflowers and views of Mt. Daly and the Maroon Wilderness area. There are a few picnic benches along the way for snacks and you hike out the same way you come in. To continue the adventure, cross the Divide lot and connect to the Nature Trail which is just as scenic and easy and takes you all the way to Snowmass Village Mall where you can eat, shop, or hop on the Skittles for extra fun.

Aspen Mountain - The 20 minute gondola ride up is a fun as the adventures on top! The new Bluetooth connection (only in the red cars) lets you play your favorite tunes in the cabin while your little ones bop along. The scene when you get off is breathtaking and warrants a photo stop. Its tough to get the view in with selfie mode so meet a new friend and get in the shot with your kids! The Sundeck restaurant is a few steps away (we recommend the cinnamon rolls and brownies to share) or bring a picnic and find a patch of grass to enjoy. Nearby you'll find hula hoops, a life size chess set, a playscape, fort, swing and more. There's plenty to keep the kids entertained and spots to take a break from the sun. For the bigs, Aspen mountain has the world's highest altitude 18-hole disc golf course. If you aren't playing it, take the gondola back down! Note...this June the fort and playscape were entirely covered with snow thanks to the epic season this winter. We still enjoyed the gondola but spent our time snow-skiing instead of hiking. 

Playing

Wagner Park - The best spot in town for mountain views, wide open spaces to let the kids run, a playscape, and nearby restaurants to grab a bite and keep an eye on littles at play. Walk down the pedestrian streets a bit to the dancing fountain splash pad (adjacent to a Froyo cart) at Mill & Hyman.

Snowmass Rodeo - With 46 years of rodeo in Snowmass, this is THE place to be on Wednesday nights all summer. Events include all the great ones like barrel racing and bull riding but the kid events are our favorites. Little ones 5 to 10 can enter a drawing for Mutton Busting and its the cutest thing. Everyone in that age group who wants to can participate in the calf scramble with prizes awarded to the top 3. Just be sure to arrive in time to sign up before 7:00 pm. You'll want to arrive before that anyway (doors open at 5:00) for BBQ, live music and the petting zoo. Kids 10 and under are free!

Saturday Market - a 20+ year tradition in Aspen, this is way more than a farmer's market. Of course you can find the finest produce, gourmet foods, and local meats but with over 100 vendors it's great for gift shopping (jewelry, bath products, clothing, leather goods) and the perfect place to find a special piece of art to commemorate your trip. People line up for the kettle corn (worth it) and snack their way through the blocked off streets. Our favorite find this trip was a handmade plush doll keepsake by Viola Studio!

Aspen Animal Shelter - A must do at no cost for your little animal lovers! The Aspen shelter has a cat room open to visitors to brush and play with the cats and kittens. Their Dog Walk and "Rent-a-Pet" programs allow visitors to take an adoptable dog on a hike or for the whole day. 

Heron Park - This scenic park near downtown Aspen features a very shallow lazy river perfect for dipping toes (it's roaring this summer thanks to the massive amounts of melting snow), a wooden playscape, swings, and wide open spaces. A quick walk through the park leads to the John Denver Sanctuary, a magical outdoor space for all ages. Its adjacent to the Roaring Fork River so you can hear the water rushing all around you and has nooks at every turn designed to inspire. 

Aspen Music Festival - Music Tent Sundays have been a Christian Elizabeth & Co. family favorite since before there was a CE&Co! It is so picturesque to sit outside and listen to the orchestra play while surrounded by the beautiful Aspen trees. We bring folding chairs, books, quiet games for the kids, hors d'oeuvres and wine. The perfect Sunday afternoon in the mountains!

Kid Free Time! - This year we discovered Camp Smashbox, a local day-camp in Snowmass that was so. much. fun. Its for kids 5 and up and was an amazing experience for my littles. You can sign them up for just a day or for a 5 day week and they'll beg to go back for more. It runs from 8:30 - 5:00 and at $69 a day or $275 a week we found it to be a great value. Camp Aspen Snowmass is located at the Treehouse in Snowmass and has long been our go to for both ski lessons and summer day camps for ages 3 and up. Its pricier but kids spend their days on the mountain with amazing staff and you can't beat the convenience. For nights and weekends without the littles, Emily and I both recommend Aspen Babysitting Company. We've used them many times and always feel like our kiddos are in good hands. These options let you enjoy daytime activities that are tough on the little ones like biking to Woody Creek Tavern, hiking the Rim Trail (my kids did it this summer but told me NOT to include it as a kid friendly hike in this guide),  golf, or Aspen shopping (only small businesses of course). For nighttime fun, check out Belly Up or Theater Aspen and the amazing dining options at Pinions or Cache Cache. In comparing notes this summer we agreed the best bar in town is the Living Room at the Jerome. A stay at this storied hotel nearly 9 years ago started my love affair with Aspen and the Living Room bar is clubby and relaxed and perfect for reliving all the memories.

Cheers to happy summer travels and a #shopsmallsummer filled with LOVE!

xo, Karen, Emily, & Kathryn


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