The Emerging Willits Town Center






Willits Town Center is located between Basalt and Carbondale and just west of El Jebel. In the past few years it has seen a huge growth in restaurants, breweries and distilleries, shops and a boutique hotel. It is becoming a place where you can stay down valley, walk to restaurants and then be able to easily get to both downtown Basalt and Carbondale where there are many more options to try. You can have a great experience without having to stay in Aspen or in Snowmass Village. My recommendations include:

Woody Creek Distillers: At 60 Sunset Drive in Basalt, right off of Willits Lane. Make sure to visit their stunning, contemporary tasting room. They are known for their vodka from locally grown potatoes. Once one of the largest potato growing regions in the US at the turn on the 20th century, it has recently re-emerged with the the growing of the crop by Woody Creek. As a non-vodka drinker, I really liked the taste. However, the highlight for me was their very smooth and excellent Young Colorado Whiskey made with four grains and their 100% Rye Whiskey.

Smoke Modern Barbecue: A good dining option is Smoke for barbecue that is located in the heart of Willits Town Center.  I recommend the pulled pork and brisket Smokin’ Q Combo. It is a casual restaurant with a reasonable menu, which is a good respite from the higher prices in Aspen.

At 941 E. Valley Rd., Mezzaluna from Aspen has opened a new Willits location. Open for lunch on weekends and dinner daily, they feature a large number of Italian pastas, starters and entrees.

Capitol Creek Brewery: Recently opened is the Capital Creek Brewery at 371 Market St. This is a  fun, contemporary brew pub that features their own beers including ales and IPAs, other locally sourced beers, wine,  cocktails and seasonally sourced dishes for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

The Arts Campus at Willits/TACW:  While a permanent theater is being built, The Temporary hosts music concert, film, comedy and lectures. It is located at 360 Market, adjacent to the Element Hotel.  Nearby is the Movieland 7 which features current film releases.

Element Hotel: Located at 499 Market Street, this is a new hotel that is designed as an extended stay experience by Starwood Hotels. There is an attractive lobby, an outdoor pool and patio with outdoor grills, an indoor pool and fitness center, laundry  facilities, evening socials, complementary breakfasts ad a branch of Four Mountain Sports. Many of the rooms have fully equipped kitchens.  You can stay here, walk a block to buy your food at Whole Foods or visit the several restaurants in the complex.

Market Street Kitchen: One of my best new finds in Aspen is Mawa’s Kitchen in the ABC or Airport Business Center. Their second location at 499 Market St. is the Market Street Kitchen located in the same building and off the lobby of the Element Hotel. This is a restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, that features healthy, vegetarian and gluten free dishes. I had a delightful conversation with Mawa, the owner. Make sure to ask for her when you are there.