Colorado's Vast Meetings Attractions

From big-city excitement to pristine natural surroundings, this state's got it all

Colorado Denver skyline

Where to: VAIL
STAY - Vail Marriott Mountain Resort
This 325-room property is an ideal destination for groups seeking a mountain getaway without losing the luxury amenities. The property is undergoing renovations to its guest rooms and 21,000 square feet of meeting space, which will be debuting later this year. In the meantime, guests can take advantage of its new Check-In Sips program, offering pours from Vail Brewing Co. upon arrival.

RELAX - The Lodge at Vail and The Arrabelle at Vail Square
These RockResort properties' spas are offering special Altitude Recovery Kits for attendees who feel the effects of being 8,000 feet above sea level. The package includes 20 minutes of oxygen, a peppermint oil foot rub, and a Liquid IV mocktail, all of which should have visitors feeling much better fast.

PLAY -  Adventure Ridge
For groups looking to get active, Adventure Ridge has them covered, with activities such as snowshoeing, tubing, and the popular Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster (which winds through the alpine forest, 3,400 feet down the mountain). Take a break at Bistro 14, serving up lunch and live music with views of Mount of the Holy Cross.

Colorado brings to mind images of snow-topped mountains, craft beer, and outdoor adventure. But it's also an excellent destination for meetings groups, whether for a big-city conference or snowy retreat.

There's no shortage of development happening in the Mile High City, which has major projects underway, with a slew of new and renovated properties and some exciting new meeting-friendly spaces. Last fall saw the opening of The 200-room Kimpton Hotel Born Denver, adjacent to the city's famed Union Station. It offers 14,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as two private terraces and a chef-focused restaurant. But it's not the only Kimpton of note in the city: the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver is wrapping up a full renovation of its guest rooms, bringing in a blue and green color scheme, with striking floral arrangements along with metallic details and art by local artists.

Opened last year, the 172-room Maven Hotel at Dairy Block offers the 2,300-square-foot Windsor divisible event space that can accommodate groups of up to 200 people amid its rugged hardwood floors and exposed-brick and wood walls. It's part of the 60,000-square-foot mixed-use Dairy Block development near Union Station that gives visiting groups a huge range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options from which to choose.

Also part of the exciting Union Station neighborhood is the 180-room Hotel Indigo, opened last year. The LEED-certified building offers a 1,188-square-foot event space and design elements that showcase Denver's natural surroundings (including murals of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado's Front Range). The Hilton Garden Inn Union Station, opening this year, will bring 233 additional rooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space to the Union Station area. (The historic Union Station, which reopened in 2014 with a number of new restaurants, retailers, and bars, recently added the new tapas restaurant, Ultreia from James Beard Award--winner Jennifer Jasinski.)

Other recent openings of note: the 170-room Marriott Moxy in Cherry Creek and the dual-branded Le Meridien/AC Hotels Denver Downtown, with a 233-room AC Hotels by Marriott property and 272-room Le Meridien from Starwood.

Fort Collins
An hour-and-a-half drive north of Denver, the bustling city of Fort Collins is seeing a lot of activity, ranging from high-end hotels to new retail and dining concepts.

"Fort Collins has held top spots on lists such as the best places to live, play, and work for decades -- and now with the influx of new and revitalized hotel rooms and meeting spaces, Fort Collins is also the best place to host a meeting," says Erik Barstow, director of sales for Visit Fort Collins. "Pair your event with the outdoor recreation, culinary, and entertainment district experiences that make our community so unique, and you have a recipe for a successful event."

This past December saw the opening of 164-room The Elizabeth Hotel Autograph Collection in Old Town. Paying tribute to the city's music scene, the property includes details such as record players in the guest rooms, jazz music at the rooftop Sunset Lounge, and even a musical instrument lending library from which visitors can borrow something to play. Its Magic Rat Live Music venue hosts local and visiting artists with late-night jam sessions for guests to drop in on while they're there. Those feeling hungry can swing by the Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market, offering everything from gourmet sammys and grilled pizzas to charcuterie platters.

Speaking of local eats, not far from The Elizabeth, visitors can find The Exchange, a development of food and entertainment offerings (many of which are housed in repurposed shipping containers), with plenty of outdoor areas and other creative spaces. While the north end of this entertainment district is complete, the south building and plaza area (including many drinking and dining spots) is expected to open this spring.

Other entertainment attractions here include the landmark Washington's -- a historic live-music venue with a 900-person capacity -- which reopened after being purchased by the Bohemian Foundation and fully renovated with top-of-the-line A/V and lighting systems, making it an ideal place for groups to host an event and soak in some local color. Another favorite venue, The Lyric cinema, expanded with a 10,000-square-foot building late last year.

Looking further into the future, a mixed-use development of residential and retail spaces, called Confluence, will be breaking ground in the spring. Not far from this, a new 107-room Staybridge Suites is planned and will be breaking ground in early summer.

Where to: ASPEN
STAY - Hotel Jerome
This stylish, historic property will add six new rooms to its historic Aspen Times building scheduled for June 2018 -- which can be modified to work as two three-bedroom suites -- as well as a new 735-square-foot event space. The offering will add to its numerous other attractions including a bistro, spa, and art gallery.

PLAY - O2 Aspen
This wellness destination relocated to a new 4,113-square-foot space in downtown Aspen earlier this year. The new yoga and Pilates studio includes a street-level retail space, three basement-floor spa treatment rooms, and yoga and Pilates space located upstairs, all with plenty of natural light and striking views of the surrounding mountains.

MEET - The Aspen Historical Society
This institution renovated its 3,000-square-foot archive building in July 2017, and the new facility offers a community gallery space for exhibitions, events, and educational gatherings (not to mention a place for the historically minded to learn more about the local history and explore some interesting artifacts and vintage photos). Groups can take things outdoors into the newly landscaped courtyard.

Colorado Springs
For both the highest level of meetings properties and one-of-a-kind experiences, Colorado Springs has much to recommend it -- whenever groups come to the destination.

"Now is always an ideal time to book in Colorado Springs," says Kathy Reak, senior director of convention sales for Colorado Springs CVB. "From breathtaking views of Pikes Peak to Garden of the Gods, the Pikes Peak region offers groups unforgettable experiences and accommodations."

This is a time of particular growth in the city's hotel offerings. The Embassy Suites by Hilton wrapped substantial renovations in 2017, including modernized design updates to all guest suites, the property's in-house restaurant and bar, and its atrium -- not to mention, a new 7,000 square-foot meeting and event space. The DoubleTree by Hilton has also completed the renovation of its meeting space -- more than 25,000 square feet. It is now working through upgrades to its guest rooms, lobby, and expanded bar (which will make it the largest bar in the city).

Scheduled to open this summer, the Home2 Suites extended-stay property, will add 120 rooms and 3,500 square feet of meetings space to the city's available inventory. The property will also boast an indoor saltwater pool and pet-friendly accommodations.

But while new things are happening in the city, classic properties have plenty to attract groups, too. It doesn't get more classic than The Broadmoor, which traces its history back almost 100 years and now offers more than 185,000 square feet of event space and 784 rooms, suites, cottages, and brownstones. Guests can also take advantage of the property's Wilderness Experiences, including Fly Fishing Camp and the all-inclusive Ranch at Emerald Valley.

A trip to Colorado must include some local beer, making the recently remodeled Piccadilly Bar at The Antlers Hotel an ideal choice. It offers 50 beers on tap, specialty cocktails, and 100 wine choices. For those who prefer to do it themselves, Colorado's first self-pour taproom is in Colorado Springs, at Trails End, offering 40 taps. Beer connoisseurs can sample around, paying by the ounce as they go -- with 100 percent of their tips being donated to local trail and humanitarian nonprofit organizations.

Colorado Springs is a great choice for unusual venues and experiences, as well. The city recently saw the opening of DroneSpace, where attendees can take part in first-person-view drone racing -- donning a pair of goggles and getting into the drone's "cockpit," directing it as if they are a miniature pilot moving the craft through its course.

Another active outing for visitors to the city is the Great Wolf Lodge, offering a wide range of out-of-the-box experiences for groups, from a huge indoor waterpark (with rides like the Howlin' Tornado and Mountain Edge Raceway) to bowling, minigolf, and a ropes course.

Another new and interesting venue is the UCCS Ent Center for the Arts, featuring music, dance, and theater productions. It includes a 774-seat concert hall, recording studio, and "audio laboratory," as well as the Gallery of Contemporary Art -- with most of these spaces available for groups.

Reak adds that even though Colorado is often considered a winter destination, groups should consider the city regardless of the time of year.

"No matter what the season, the area is home to a temperate year-round climate with endless blue skies, ample sunshine, and very low humidity," says Reak. "Even in the winter months, the area often sees 50- to 65-degree temperatures. Planners can take advantage of an array of great properties and off-site venues, continually increased air access through the Colorado Springs Airport, and, of course, amazing scenery and a warm, western hospitality. Where else would you want to be?"

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

This article appears in the March 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.