Land of the Free: 5 Fab Freebies in Aspen & Snowmass
Free Things to do in Aspen & Snowmass By Kara Williams
Kara Williams is a freelance journalist, mom of two, outdoors lover, and contributor at TheVacationGals.com. Here are five of her favorite free things to do with kids in her own backyard, the Colorado Rockies:
Snowmass Treehouse: After the chairlifts close at Snowmass for the day, the fun place to be is the new, 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center in the middle of the Snowmass base village. While the full-day and evening kids' camps incur a fee, there is a nice afternoon program of free Family Après Activities for preschoolers, kids, and teens. These activities change throughout the week; depending on the day, you might sing songs or tell stories around the campfire, make crafts, watch skiing or boarding movies, or just play together in the Eagle Peak multi-purpose room. Most activities begin between 3pm and 4pm, so check out the schedule in advance.
ACES at Snowmass: If you've already sprung for a lift ticket at Snowmass, here's a great way to get some added value. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is a not-for-profit environmental education center and a tremendous local resource. ACES operates the Wapiti Wildlife Center and warming hut at the top of the Elk Camp ski lift in Snowmass. Every day at 11am and 1pm, you can join a free naturalist-led ski tour here. Kids of all ages and their parents can learn about animal tracking, how wildlife adapts to winter, what can trigger avalanches, and more. Participants need to be intermediate-level skiers for these 30-minute tours.
Aspen Art Museum: Visit this museum and you'll be exposing your kids to the most important and emerging trends in modern art. There are no permanent collections, but rather an ever-changing selection of visiting exhibitions. The museum is open every day except Monday and admission is always free. Ask at the front desk for the artCART, which includes supplies for children to create their own masterpieces, or artMAPS (museum activity packets), which include activities and kid-friendly guides that correlate with the current exhibits.
ACES at Hallam Lake: There's also an ACES center at Hallam Lake, located just northwest of the post office in Aspen, that's open weekdays from 9am to 5pm. You can borrow snowshoes for free to traipse around the half-mile trail that winds around the pretty nature preserve and lake. A licensed rehabilitation center, ACES houses various birds of prey, such as golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, and you can often find spiders, snakes, and other creatures in the indoor exhibits.
Aspen Historical Society Museums: Okay, full disclosure: Grown-ups do need to pay a $6 admission fee at the two museums overseen by the Aspen Historical Society, but kids 12 and under can visit for free. The Wheeler-Stallard Museum in Aspen's West End currently has a transportation-themed exhibit, with artifacts dating back to the days when Ute Indians inhabited the area, and the Holden-Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum just east of town explains the history of Aspen’s silver-mining heyday and its important farming heritage—also with nifty memorabilia.