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Like a lot of ski towns, Aspen features a two-phased entertainment period. There's apres ski in the afternoon when drinks flow, food comes cheaper and sometimes performers, often a solo guitarist, warble out songs at a bar during an extended happy hour. You can find aprÃ¨s venues near the base of each of Aspen's ski areas. Then there's the late night bar scene, which varies from pool table-equipped sports bars to cocktails at swanky hotel lounges, and there are a few tuneful dance spots in between. Music in Aspen may be spun by DJs or played by live bands geared to a variety of age groups. Regardless of your preference, a good time can usually be found in Aspen. Don't forget that Aspen is located one and a half miles above sea level. In this realm of diminished oxygen pressure, a little alcohol can go a long way, especially if you are fresh in from the flatlands. Colorado bars close at 2AM, which is about when the last RFTA buses
make their runs. Fortunately, most of the good entertainment spots are within easy walking distance of downtown hotels.
A local favorite, Eric's offers a multifaceted environment for your evening's pleasure. For food, there's a Mexican restaurant, which serves the usual south of the border fare and features margarita specials from 5PM to 6:30PM. Their billiards room offers a classic pool-hall atmosphere with eight tables and a wait staff ready to bring cocktails, wines and beer added, of course, to the loser's tab. If smoking is your thing, their cigar bar remains one of Aspen's only venues that legally allows you to light up indoors. Their lounge offers single-malt Scotches and small-batch bourbons plus 14 beers on tap in a modern setting. There's a dance floor and a DJ who plays on special occasions, but most of the time, it's a lively party atmosphere with folks boogieing to whatever the bartender plays.
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Dating back to 1892, the Red Onion remains Aspen's oldest still standing bar. It's a place where local miners once traded paychecks for high-altitude hangovers. Local legend says that John Denver first played “Rocky Mountain High” at the Red Onion, but don't hold that against the place. The Red Onion closed up in 2007 over a rent dispute, but new owners arrived, and the historic spot reopened in 2010. It still sports the same stamped metal ceiling, wooden bar and tile floors. The food, however, has improved and the bathrooms are clean and new. Some evenings feature live music. Other nights, it's karaoke or trivia contests (you'll have to check the website to find out which night features which because it constantly changes). Regardless, it's a great spot to share a pitcher with friends and speculate about the bullet holes in the bar.
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Steve Mundinger, Caribou Club
This is a private, members-only club, and if you can score an invitation from a member, it's worth going in just to say you've been there. Yes, celebrities do come here, but most fall into the B-list category. Paris Hilton, locals say, is a regular. What one finds frequently here are older men accompanied by younger women. Draw your own conclusions, but if you think these are fathers sharing time with daughters, you're probably way off base. The club, with no name on its door, sits around the corner from the Wheeler Opera House. Inside, it features a somewhat swanky, upscale varnished-wood look with western art masterpieces hanging on the wall. There's a great room for conversation plus a dining room, bar and private rooms. If you're flush with funds, temporary one-week memberships can be purchased for $500 per couple, and triple that during Presidents’ Day weekend and between Christmas and New Years.
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Aspen Brewing Company
A few decades ago, Coors was the prime Colorado beer and visitors could often be seen leaving the Denver airport with cases of it tucked under their arms. While Coors is still the choice for some taste buds, locally brewed, hand-crafted beers have become a Colorado specialty. For the absolutely freshest, tastiest, full-bodied brews around, end a ski day or begin a night at the Aspen Brewing Company. They have a cozy tasting bar at their small brewing facility down the hill from Hotel Jerome. If you don't know what you want, order one of their sampler trays. Come early because this place is not open late. Hours run noon to 9PM. Monday to Saturday and noon to 6PM on Sundays.
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This is the place in Aspen to catch name-brand entertainment live, with top entertainers frequently stopping by for a visit. Previous acts have included everyone from B.B. King to ZZ Top. Seating and tables are limited, but reservable at a price for shows. Ticket costs are in line with big city concert halls, except at this 450-person venue, the stage is up close and personal. When the big guys aren't in town, lesser known acts entertain, providing a pleasant evening environment for drinks and dancing. While a ticket or cover charge is collected most nights, the Belly Up does offer a few evenings when the music flows for free (call ahead to find out if a cover will be charged on the night you're planning to attend).
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