It’s that time of year again, when Aspen is taken over by thousands of food n’ drink-loving tourists and industry folk, including the nation’s preeminent chefs, restaurateurs, Master Sommeliers, winemakers, brewers, distillers, and food and drink artisans. June 19-21 ushers in the 34th annual FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen.

This is my 9th year attending the event, the nation’s most prestigious festival of its kind. In that time, I’ve learned a thing or ten about how to make it through the grueling weekend (because drinking at altitude during morning seminars and Grand Tastings straight through to late-night parties is hard work, especially when it is, you know, work).

Ergo, my handy guide to surviving FOOD & WINE without disgracing yourself or your companion(s), minimizing the collateral damage, and maximizing your fun and enjoyment while in Aspen.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have a memorable weekend that you actually remember:

Pace yourself

Food and Wine Aspen

Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

If you’re from out of town, chances are you’re not used to altitude. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of acclimating. One alcoholic beverage is the equivalent of two up here at nearly 8,000 feet, so slow down, cut back, and remember that hot weather only exacerbates these effects.

Drink lots of water, then drink a little more, and take it easy physically. There are also those altitude sickness prevention powders and pills you can take, but god knows what’s in them, or if they work. I swear by coconut water- it’s loaded with electrolytes and is both a great hydrator as well as hangover helper.

Hydrate. (With water, please)

Just in case you skipped reading the previous tip.

An ounce of prevention…

Before you drift off to sleep, power down a couple glasses of water, and pop some aspirin. You’re welcome.

Don’t forget to eat

It’s ironic that at FOOD & WINE it’s possible to forget lining one’s stomach, but it happens. When you hit a wine seminar at 10am, you’re setting the pace for the day. Start that day with a hearty breakfast and remember to eat actual meals, rather than just grazing on the freebies in the Grand Tasting tent.

Remember where you are

That would be one of the most visually stunning locations in North America. Take some time out from the partying to go on a hike, run, bike ride, or stroll. Ride the gondola, cruise (and snack at) the Saturday farmers market. Enjoy the scenery and chilled-out pace of life, and get to know Aspen, sober-style.

Get some rest

One of the most difficult things to balance during FOOD & WINE is burn-out. There’s so much going on- parties, tastings, seminars, more tastings, and special dinners. It’s hard to do it all and get enough rest, which can result in serious palate and mental fatigue. Take a nap, get a massage or other spa treatment, exercise, know when to say when, and remember: always leave the party when you’re having the most fun.

It’s not just about the booze

Courtesy Michael Moran

Courtesy Michael Moran

It’s called FOOD & WINE, not LIQUOR, BEER & WINE. Besides the sanctioned events, don’t forget to check out Aspen’s many excellent restaurants (my picks for this week of excess: Cache Cache, Chef’s Club, Grey Lady, Kenichi, and Steakhouse No.316). I also love to chill out at So, the serene (and very excellent) rooftop café at the Aspen Art Museum with a glass of wine or local beer.

Need more suggestions on what to do while you’re in town, or assistance booking activities? The Limelight’s Adventure Concierge is there to help.

About Laurel Miller

Laurel is a Basalt-based food and travel writer, cheese consultant and the editor of Edible Aspen magazine. When not sitting in front of her computer in her pj's, Laurel can be found enjoying the outdoors, or backpacking around the world eating street food and acquiring new and exciting tropical diseases.