Unless you’re booked on one of the nine direct flights into Aspen from other cities around the US, you’ll be traveling through Denver, either to switch planes at the airport for the last leg of your journey, or to drive or take a shuttle. With the continuing evolution of up-and-coming neighborhoods, a thriving restaurant scene, a diverse arts community, and a seemingly never-ending supply of new hotels, the Mile High City is worth a stopover, whether you plan it beforehand or find yourself unexpectedly overnighting because of weather conditions in the mountains.
Consider staying at one of these three new boutique hotels, in three very different locations.
The Origin, Golden
Driving to the town of Golden, just west of Denver, puts you that much closer to Aspen. The Origin, open since August 2018, takes its cues from nearby Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the iconic concert venue 10 minutes away by car or hotel shuttle. It starts with the huge “Rocks” letters next to the entrance (in red, natch) and a sign at the front desk indicating that day’s concert; then there are the post-show gatherings in Nomad, the hotel’s Mexican restaurant, and signatures and doodles on a lobby wall from bands that stayed at the hotel. Rooms range from generously sized classic setups to tastefully furnished suites (including one with a bunk room that sleeps eight). With lots of communal spaces (a huge patio has firepits and games like giant Jenga), loaner mountain bikes, and a “Do List” of area hikes, breweries, and venues of interest, the Origin caters well to active, social guests. At the same time, it’s not so achingly hip that others would feel out of place.
Feature we love: The insider flavor conveyed via an in-room bulletin board with a monthly calendar of Red Rocks shows and other Denver goings-on, recommendations from the Do List, and info about local artwork in the rooms and lobby store. Rooms from $129. 18484 W Colfax Ave, 303-215-0100
The Source Hotel and Market Hall, Rino
Situated in River North (a.k.a. RiNO), a transitioning industrial district that’s now home to artist studios and galleries, craft breweries, and trendy restaurants, this spare, modern hotel, open for a year, is in its element. The amply sized rooms have concrete floors, birch casework, and large windows—which even open up garage style in select rooms. But the Source is more than just a hotel. For starters, there’s a brewery on-site, a branch of Colorado’s popular New Belgium. On the second floor, a marketplace features restaurants (including the highly rated Safta) and a varying collection of shops and kiosks selling local goods. In the connected building next door, once an iron foundry, are more restaurants—Acorn draws raves—plus a specialty liquor store, bakery, and more. With so many options, plus a rooftop pool area and a restaurant/bar where you can try all of those New Belgium brews, there may be no reason to leave the Source, but it’s worth venturing out into the rest of RiNO, including Zeppelin Station, another food and retail market hall a few blocks away (and HQ for ski resort operator—Ikon Pass!—Alterra Mountain Company).
Feature we love: At check-in, guests are offered a small, brewed-on-site welcome beer; sip it while admiring the view out to Long’s Peak, one of Colorado’s 14ers. Rooms from $249. 3330 Brighton Blvd, 720-409-1200
The Jacquard Hotel and Rooftop, Cherry Creek
Open since October 2018, this chic 201-room hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection that emphasizes design and sense of place, has a killer location in the heart of Cherry Creek, Denver’s classic upscale destination for shopping and dining. The Cherry Creek Shopping Center, home to Neiman’s, Nordstrom, and some 160 other stores, is just a block away. From the sleek, minimalist lobby to the compact but thoughtfully appointed, modern rooms, the Jacquard exudes luxe urban style. Bonus: Narrative, the hotel’s book-themed ground floor restaurant, has developed a local following for comfort-food classics like shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage and a hearty chicken avocado chopped salad, an interesting wine list, and a sophisticated bar scene.
Feature we love: The “rooftop” in the hotel’s name refers to the top-level pool area and the Kisbee bar; in warm weather, taking in the stellar view of the city and mountains while swimming laps in the 75-foot-long pool or lounging with a cocktail feels like a getaway in and of itself. Rooms from $249. 222 Milwaukee St, 303-515-2000
Navigating Denver to Aspen Flight Issues: The Inside Scoop
Is your United flight from Denver to Aspen delayed or cancelled? Snowstorm on I-70? We asked two Aspen frequent fliers, Sarah Pelch, a vice president at music-booking agency Opus 3 Artists, and writer and editor Tom Passavant, how they handle travel to and from the mountains.
- Before renting a car rather than waiting for a rescheduled flight, check conditions on I-70; if the weather is bad enough or if a rockslide occurs (it happens!), the highway will close.
- “For some reason, United sometimes seems to wait until the last minute to formally cancel a connecting flight to Aspen, even when the weather’s lousy and previous flights have already been scratched,” says Passavant. (He advises checking aspenairport.com for the most timely local info.) Rather than wait until the last minute to book a hotel near DIA, as those can book up quickly, especially if Denver weather is also bad, he recommends reserving a room as soon as your flight status seems iffy. “Sure, the cost is probably nonrefundable if your flight does go,” says Passavant, “but those chairs out at gate B58 are no bargain, either.”
- If an airline offers you a voucher because of mechanical or scheduling issues, you’ll likely be handed a $50 Electronic Travel Certificate (ETC). Says Pelch, “I refuse that and instead go to the United website to write a letter to Customer Care and request a higher value ETC or a certain amount of frequent flyer miles. I usually get a better result.”