As one of the most famous skiing towns globally, Aspen Colorado is a playground for the rich and famous, hosting events like X Games and Winter Olympics, and is a favorite winter holiday destination for many across the country.
Aspen offers more than just skiing on the Aspen Snowmass and boutique restaurants. It has a rich cultural heritage with music festivals and venues like Belly Up featuring famous performers and a summer events program with golf, fishing, horseback, hiking, rafting, and biking!
With so much and more to offer, like the magnificent views, campsites and 5-star accommodation, theatre, music, and a full year events calendar, no wonder this little town in Colorado is the desired destination.
Let’s take a quick look at Aspen and then discover 20 other towns in the USA just like it!
A Quick Overview Of Aspen, Colorado
Located in the heart of the White Elk National Forest and surrounded by four peaks of the Elk Mountains, Aspen was at the center of the silver mining boom in the late 1800s. With a population of around 7500, Aspen offers a wide variety of activities from sports and culture to restaurants and hotels.
It has a continental climate which makes the summer days temperately warm and, of course, the winters being moderately cold with daytime temperatures often above freezing.
Aspen is well known for its boutique up-market stores and high-end restaurants; Aspen is a playground for jet setters and ordinary folks alike and sees good numbers of visitors from all over the USA and the world every year.
Aspen, however, is not the only mountain town offering amazing experiences and scenery. While others may not have the X-Games, other towns in the US do bring their unique character and attraction for tourists and visitors.
Aspen’s Unusual Attractions
Aspen has a few other attractions besides the ski slopes, X Games, and celebrities, and some of them are just as amazing and truly unusual.
The John Denver Sanctuary
The late great John Denver has his lyrics inscribed on massive stones over this open area park next to the river. Many of his songs waxed lyrical about Colorado, so it seems fitting that the state has honored him with this sanctuary that you can explore this amazing space for free from dawn until dusk.
The DarkSide Ghost Tour
Aspen may be painted as a bright, colorful town, but it too has a dark side. Take the tour and learn about the history that made these ghosts as you walk through the shadowy streets at nightfall….
The Past To Present Tour
Learn about Aspen’s humble beginnings as a mining town and let your guide enthrall you with folklore tales and local history and downtown Aspen as well as rare inside knowledge about this famous resort town.
Well known for the celebrities that frequent Aspen, you can take a walk through the streets and see if you can spot any of your favorite stars. Some of those names include the likes of The Kardashians, LeBron James, Elton John, Gigi Hadid, and countless others.
And if you have the opportunity, grab tickets for the X Games and come and see your heroes of the ice and snow compete live at one of Winter Sport’s most famous events!
Now that we have some background on Aspen let’s start our journey of the twenty towns similar to Aspen in the state of North Carolina.
1. Bryson City, North Carolina
With a permanent population of less than 2000 and sitting south of Great Smoky Mountains Park, this small town offers incredible scenery and a good range of outdoor activities.
The Deep Creek trail brings hikers past some breathtaking mountain views and waterfalls and leads back to the town, where numerous breweries and restaurants entice you with the homebrews and super cuisine.
This town has a small neighborhood feel and friendly, and if you want a break from the winter ‘Hollywood’ of Aspen, Bryson City could be a good option.
2. Big Bear Lake, California
Standing in the middle of this picturesque town, you would never think that you’re only 95 miles out of LA! When you get tired of battling the rat race, you can pack up and head to the serenity of the San Bernadino National Forest and the tranquility of Big Bear Lake.
Leave your city blues and reconnect with nature with the scent of pine and the opportunity to see some of America’s native wildlife, such as bears and mountain lions.
When it comes to skiing, Big Bear has 50+ skiing trails at the Big Bear Resort, its entertainment district; there are other activities for all family members, including a kids bike park, zip-lining, and a tube park.
3. Burlington, Vermont
Bars, breweries, bookstores, and skiing makes this small town in Vermont a great option for a unique New England getaway. The slopes of Mad River Glen offer skiers a chance to show their moves on the slopes.
The views from Mansfield Mountain are spectacular, and the area offers hiking and kayaking the lake in the summer and outdoor eateries in the town’s Church Street Marketplace.
The Shelburne Museum contains a fully outfitted steamboat and American memorabilia and a good collection of impressionist art. For beer lovers, this little town has the most breweries per capita anywhere in the US!
4. Helen, Georgia
Arriving in this town and experiencing the local cuisine like schnitzel, beer, and pretzels, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a village in the Bavarian Alps! Well known for its German-style hospitality and architecture, this town of around 600 residents will give you that ‘small village’ experience.
Riverfront beaches, the waterpark, and the mountain coaster will keep the kids entertained. At the same time, adults can enjoy the beautiful scenery and hiking found in the Smithgall Woods State Park and Raven Cliffs Wilderness.
Helen offers some first-class resorts and hotels and caters for that perfect holiday without the glamour and glitz of some of the more famous holiday towns.
5. Big Sky, Montana
If it’s skiing you want, then Big Sky is your destination. One of the towns that can rival Aspen for the variety and quality of skiing, Big Sky offers a staggering 6000 acres of skiing along 300 trails and could well be the mecca of skiing in the US.
Fifty miles to the south sits Yellowstone National Park, and Big Sky is considered one of the gateways to this national treasure. Aside from skiing, you can enjoy some other winter sports like dog-sledding and ice-skating, and the fun doesn’t end with the end of winter!
Summer activities in Big Sky bring white water rafting, golf, horseback riding, and hiking, and this impressive town in Montana could certainly offer you an equivalent experience to that of Aspen.
6. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Smoky Mountains are a paradise of small-town tourism, and here is another gem situated next door to the National Park. Gatlinburg’s massive aquarium is a major drawcard for the kids, and there is also a wide variety of restaurants, while the mountain coaster offers some spectacular scenery.
One of the unique attractions is the two-mile Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway bringing superb panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Moonshine tasting, an eight-mile arts and crafts loop, the Fanny Adams Theatre, and the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area are just a few of the delights that await you.
7. Homer, Alaska
Heading north, you’ll find this quaint little town nestled on the southern coastal side of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Mountains offer an unobstructed view from the 5 miles long Homer Spit that extends into Kachemak Bay.
All-year-round activities would give you opportunities to explore kayaking, tidal pool exploration, and fishing trips all in the shadow of the snowcapped peaks that lie beyond as well as the chance to see glaciers and wildlife in the nearby Kenai Fjords National Park.
Homer is an ideal location for a quiet, soul-refreshing mountain getaway featuring art museums, a range of restaurants, and accommodation.
8. Hot Springs, Arkansas
While there may not be any skiing in this little town in Hot Springs National Park, the natural hot water attracts many visitors for its therapeutic properties. Basking in hot springs may not be jet-setting the slopes, but it is a great way to spend a few days and relax.
The bathhouses are a throwback to Roman times, and when you are done with that, numerous hiking trails are suitable for the whole family in the Northern and Western sides of the mountains. More challenging trails further West, like the Eagle Rock, look in the Ouachita Mountains.
Like many small towns, there is an array of bars, restaurants, and shops located downtown for perusal at your leisure.
9. Mammoth Lakes, California
The scenic Sierra Nevada mountains provide the backdrop for this popular town with everything one could want for a vacation, whether in summer or winter.
Cross-country skiing with 150 miles of skiing trails and snowmobiling and tubing provide ample winter activities, with summer offering hiking, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, and boating on the magnificent lakes surrounding the town.
Another big attraction is the proximity to Yosemite National Park, located just east of the town, just a short drive away.
10. Hood River, Oregon
For anyone that has toured the great Winelands of the world and wants more experience of that in their backyard, here is a prime opportunity.
Hood River is one of the few towns with wineries, and having some fine wines run over your palette is never a bad way to spend some time on vacation! This little town is a cultural smorgasbord with vineyards, orchards, spas, and an exciting arts scene with farmer’s markets, museums, art galleries, and boutiques!
Savoring the finest farm-fresh food accompanied by local wines adds to this gem’s charm in the heart of Portland.
But if all this culture lacks excitement, you can pump your adrenaline with paddleboarding, windsurfing, or biking and then experience the magic of the hiking trails in the surrounding mountains.
11. Breckenridge, Colorado
A close cousin to Aspen, the Breckenridge Ski Resort has 187 slopes to satisfy the most ardent of skiers! Other outdoor activities include hiking, biking, and a host of other options if skiing is not your thing.
Like many mountain towns, their main street has a plethora of restaurants, souvenir stores, clothing stores, and bars, so there is no shortage of entertainment for visitors of all ages.
And finally, even if you aren’t the skiing type, you can take a gondola ride to the top and still appreciate the natural beauty of the slopes and peaks.
12. Bar Harbor, Maine
How would you like to be one of the first people on the continent to see the new day’s sunrise? Well, if that appeals to your spirit of adventure, then head off to Bar Harbor in Maine and Cadillac Mountain, located in Acadia National Park.
Hike to the top for some of the most dramatic and breathtaking views as the new day dawns, then head down to one of the many spots in town for a real country breakfast to kick start your day in high gear!
As a coastal town, there are plenty of nautical activities such as boat rides around Mount Desert Island, touring the classic lighthouses, or a light stroll along Frenchman Bay. This town is also a gateway to Acadia National Park along Maine’s coast, so you are truly spoiled for choice.
13. Park City, Utah
Back to the snow, we go with this town located in Northern Utah. This town is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts with world-class skiing areas as it’s only 30 miles from Salt Lak City.
Famous festivals like the Sundance Film Festival And Kimball Arts Festival take place here. The downtown area is brimming with an abundance of historic destinations, an abundance of shopping, and exquisite restaurants with scenic views.
For the adrenaline junkies, there is zip-lining and an alpine roller coaster, not to mention the hundreds of skiing trails that offer something for every level of skier.
14. Taos, New Mexico
Spa resorts, mineral springs, and a host of wellness centers will take you on a journey of relaxation and recovery in this small town in New Mexico. But, it doesn’t end there, no sir!
A vibrant arts scene, historical and cultural sites, and stunning natural beauty make this town a popular destination for visitors seeking a total vacation experience. The ski slopes offer a range of slopes at the resort, and the Sangre De Cristo hiking trails are an adventure on their own.
You can also immerse yourself in Mexican and Native American culture with trips to the plentiful museums and art galleries downtown and, of course, lots of eateries and shops for souvenirs.
15. Stowe, Vermont
Winter in Stowe brings out exciting activities, including speeding down the resort’s many ski runs, snowshoeing, ice skating, or taking a ride in the gondola. But the other seasons aren’t to be ignored either, for Stowe has something for everyone all year round.
Hiking to the numerous waterfalls in the area or helping out at one of the local farms picking fruit or a round of golf at the Stowe Country Club is just a taste of the activity options when the weather is warm here.
Sunshine and the vibrant greenery, as well as excellent mountain views, are big drawcards, and this means that you can experience and explore everything this town has to offer any time of year!
16. Juneau, Alaska
Heading north again brings us to another gem in Alaska, and this one is the capital! If the names Snow Tower, Mendenhall Towers, and Devil’s Paw send a shiver up your spine, they should!
These are some of the famous jagged peaks surrounding Juneau, and the challenging hiking trails are not for the faint of heart! Rugged landscapes and mountains are the calling card of Alaska, and if this calls to you, it may be time for a visit!
The East Glacier Loop Trail is one of many hiking trails for beginners. Anyone can enjoy the incredible scenery and other activities, including zip-lining and tours by floatplane!
Winding down after an action-packed day outside, downtown Juneau offers some traditional Alaskan cuisine like reindeer sausage, as well as the chance to explore some historical buildings and the waterfront docks.
17. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Bison burgers, cocktails, and the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar are two reasons this town has so much character to offer! Imagine sitting on an actual saddle while enjoying the cuisine at this well-known spot!
With all that, you may forget that this town is perfectly located to explore two of America’s greatest National Parks- Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
As expected from a town bordering these two great parks, the scenery is phenomenal, but the town itself is no slouch when it comes to activities either! Rugged trails take hikers into the open spaces of history in the West.
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers prime ski slopes, and pampering yourself in luxurious spas and hotels in the area is the perfect way to end off the day.
18. Telluride, Colorado
Another gem in Colorado, Telluride, has an all-year-round menu of special activities for everyone in the family. Starting with winter, the ski slopes at Telluride Ski resorts are packed with skiers enjoying the snow.
The warmer months are ideal for hiking along the trails like Jud Wiebe and the Bridal Veil Trail. The San Miguel River offers fishing, and there are opportunities for off-roading, mountain biking, and horseback riding, to name a few, and in fall, try lead peeping!
Telluride’s downtown art galleries offer another dimension to this town, with the restaurants, shops, and bars adding to the charm of this small town, and don’t forget the hot springs nearby!
19. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley in Central Idaho has some historical significance for skiers. Back in 1936, the first chair lifts were installed, and this entrenched Sun Valley as a compelling and modern ski-resort destination.
While skiing is a major attraction here, it’s not the only winter activity that one can engage in as there is also ice skating and sleigh rides which will enthrall the young ones.
Summer sees more action with the options for golf, fly-fishing in the nearby lakes, swimming, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking, so there is every reason to visit Sun Valley any time of the year.
There is also the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, and for a bit more insight into the area’s history, you can visit the Sun Valley Museum Of History.
20. Estes Park, Colorado
Located 65 miles west of Denver, Estes is a perfect place to start and then move to the vast expanse of Rocky Mountain National Park. Set up your base at Estes and spend your day exploring another majestic national park.
The park offers activities such as snowshoeing, sledding, and cross country skiing, and a range of wildlife from moose and elk to bighorn sheep will thrill the wildlife enthusiasts no end.
But, don’t leave out Estes as there is plenty to see, do and explore in the town itself. A favorite spot for visitors is the Estes Park Riverwalk, located by the Fall and Big Thompson rivers with charming restaurants that will entice you with the aromas of sumptuous meals.
There is more to see and experience downtown with a multitude of cafes, art galleries, candy stores, and shops will see the time fly by as you walk through the area.
Outdoors there are trips from Estes Park like Jeep tours and white-water rafting, and an adventure awaits you as you trek through the trail at Glacier Gorge. The Estes Park Aerial Tramway is an excellent way to take in the incredible scenery at a leisurely pace.
America is an incredible playground filled with beautiful quaint towns that offer everything a person could want and a bit more. Not only that, but they have activities for people of all ages and skill levels for both winter and summer.
National Parks, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice-skating, hot springs, hiking, mountain biking, water sports, and a vast cultural and gastronomic experience await visitors in small towns like these all across this great country.