Colorado’s blessed with some of the most vivid contrasts of any state in America — even within the same towns.
Denver, for example, combines the best of the Old West with the exciting skyline of the New West. Here, you can see beautifully restored buildings from the early-1900s or even the late-1800s, only a block away from sleek, modern cultural and meeting facilities. And, while plenty of Denver residents still wear cowboy boots, their boots are probably a lot shinier than the cowboys earning their livings just a few miles away.
Colorado Springs, just 70 miles south, is surrounded by towns that still echo the Old West, such as Old Colorado City and Cripple Creek. Yet, its most famous building is The Broadmoor Resort, in the style of a 15th-Century Italian Renaissance palace, complete with its peach-colored exterior and its towers and turrets.
Boulder is home to the University of Colorado, whose placid halls of learning aren’t far from the 50-foot-high “CU” written on a very steep, very high rock-face by some intrepid young climbers. Boulder also has a hotel that’s a model of sleek/modern architecture and design, the St. Julien, only a few blocks from another hotel that’s an extraordinary combination of Old West and Victorian architecture, the legendary Boulderado, dating back to 1909.
“(The Broadmoor) is a Five-Star property, with so much to see and do that attendees never have to leave … which enhances networking and idea-generation.”
— Ida Pennymon
Then, there’s Vail Valley, within the popular resort (and meeting) towns of Vail and Beaver Creek. Each has busy, European-style town squares and continental villages with elegant shops and restaurants (Vail even has a clock tower). And each is surrounded by some of the most rugged — and most beautiful — mountain panoramas in America.
Here are some of Colorado’s best meeting cities and resorts, and some of the colorful contrasts that make them so special.
Boulder started out as a supply town for miners. Now, however, with a major university, great shopping and dining and excellent meeting hotels, its current-day contrasts are everywhere you look. Throw in a ton of outdoor recreational (and teambuilding) opportunities, and it’s become a great town for meetings.
Boulder’s main street, called Pearl Street, is closed to traffic but still lined with historic buildings now housing trendy shops, the city’s best restaurants and innovative breweries.
The Queen of Boulder is still the majestic, red-brick Hotel Boulderado (160 guest rooms, 8,400 square feet), as it has been since New Year’s Day 1909. The Boulderado received a major upgrade last year. And its contrasting cousin with the striking contemporary design, the St. Julien Hotel & Spa, offers 201 guest rooms and 9,708 square feet.
Many of the folks who followed the miners here in the late-1800s did not come for precious metals, but to recover from tuberculosis at the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium started by Dr. Kellogg (yes, the cereal Kellogg). Others came for the Colorado Chautauqua learning institution, started by Texas school teachers so they could teach summer school without the hot weather. And many meeting planners cite Boulder as a place where attendees can relax in the fresh air and re-energize in the natural beauty.
In addition to being “cool,” Boulder’s also just plain fun, especially on Saturday afternoons in the fall, when the University of Colorado Buffaloes charge onto the Folsom Field turf to the roars of 65,000 people. In Boulder, planners can provide attendees with experiences such as hot-air ballooning, mountain biking, hiking and beautiful nature walks, all within minutes of their hotels.
Boulder’s also easily accessible, as it’s only a short ride from Denver International Airport. In fact, planners considering Boulder have never had it so good — the city’s opened three new hotels and renovated three others recently.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder and the Hilton Garden Inn Boulder opened in January, as a dual-managed property with a combined 376 guest rooms and 7,809 square feet, along with a shared rooftop pool. The Residence Inn Boulder followed in March, with 155 guest rooms and 2,500 square feet.
The Boulderado recently completed a $2.5 million renovation of its lobby and reconfigured its second-floor mezzanine into a meeting space for 250 — which you can access on the original Otis Elevator. The St. Julien has completed upgrades on its guest rooms and lobby, and the Boulder Marriott completed renovations on its guest rooms in June.
Colorado Springs is a study in contrasts, ranging from natural wonders such as Pikes Peak to picturesque “Old West” towns.
Upon its founding in 1871, the town drew visitors as varied as “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold-miners, European travelers coming for the natural beauty and Americans who wanted to see the “Old West” before it disappeared. Native Americans, however, had lived here for centuries, drawn by the soothing hot springs in the area (hence, the town’s name).
The Gold Rush still exists in historic towns like Victor and Cripple Creek. Artistic treasures, on the other hand, can still be discovered among the artists and craftspeople in the colorful old town of Manitou Springs. Here, you can also experience those mineral springs that drew the native peoples.
Groups can tour the U.S. Air Force Academy, experience the charm of historic Old Colorado City, visit the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Training Center or ogle natural wonders such as the Garden of the Gods or the swinging bridge over the Royal Gorge.
This city also boasts one of the most prestigious resorts in America. The Broadmoor Resort is now celebrating its 100th birthday. Its builder and original owner, Spencer Pentose, was an aficionado of Medieval Italian architecture. So, in the middle of the Old West, he built a peach-colored Italianate palace, which, interestingly, now houses one of America’s finest Western Art collections. The Broadmoor has 783 guest rooms and 185,000 square feet, along with 16 restaurants, 26 shops, a full-service spa, a beautiful lake on which you can row or pedal, two championship golf courses — and Cheyenne Mountain right outside your window.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort is also a longtime Colorado Springs landmark. Offering 316 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet, it’s a woodsy, classic mountain lodge with a Pete Dye golf course, spa, three restaurants, general store and jaw-dropping views almost everywhere you look.
Great Wolf Lodge, which opened last year, is a fantastic family and meeting resort, with 311 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet. The Lodge at Flying Horse opened only a few months ago, and attendees can use all the facilities at the adjoining Flying Horse Country Club.
Existing meeting hotels aren’t standing pat, either. Last year, Embassy Suites by Hilton renovated its 204 guest rooms and expanded its meeting space to 7,000 square feet. And DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Colorado Springs just added a new restaurant and bar.
Ida Pennymon, senior manager of global events at international software company Cherwell, brought more than 700 people from all over the world to The Broadmoor (and four other nearby properties) last October. It was the fifth straight year she’s used that resort for the Cherwell Annual Global Conference.
“We like having our conference at The Broadmoor,” Pennymon says, “because both our Colorado Springs and Denver-based staffs can come. It’s a Five-Star property, with so much to see and do that attendees never have to leave … which enhances networking and idea-generation. Colorado Springs — with its colorful old towns and natural wonders like Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods — is a place where attendees like to come. And, we always try to have a social-responsibility component, so we donated to the Special Olympics — and we even had one of their athletes address our meeting.”
Contrasts? Denver’s hip yet old-fashioned. It’s constructing glass towers that pierce the sky, yet it treasures its older buildings. It’s transforming once-blighted neighborhoods into attractive new places to live, work and be entertained. And, it has transformed its beloved landmark, Union Station, into a brand-new transportation hub … and a place where Denver residents go to experience cool restaurants and shops.
Inside the city are futuristic structures like the Denver Art Museum. Yet, just outside the city are rustic cattle ranches. Inside the city are world-class restaurants and shops. Yet, just outside the city — and easily visible to everyone inside the city — is the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, providing breathtaking natural beauty and myriad recreational opportunities in which to enjoy it.
Small wonder that Denver attracted more than 32 million visitors last year, many of them meeting attendees. In many ways, Denver is a model city for the rest of America — and it’s got the media awards to prove it.
For a big city whose profile is shooting skyward, the downtown still remains compact, walkable and filled with great places for attendees to eat, watch sports, shop or meet.
The Colorado Convention Center is a striking structure. Its downtown location hums with an urban vibe, while its 4.5 acres of windows bring the mountainous outside in. The Center is starting a project to add 80,000 square feet of meeting space, 60,000 square feet of pre-function space and 50,000 square feet of outdoor event space, giving it nearly one million square feet. The work will be finished in 2022. And these additions will be atop the roof, offering dramatic views of the city and the Front Range.
The Center’s within walking distance of some 10,000 hotel rooms — and that number is about to increase.
Hilton Garden Inn Union Station will open this winter, with 233 guest rooms, 5,000 square feet and a restaurant in the born-again Union Station. Scheduled to open this month is Jacquard, Autograph Collection, with 201 guest rooms, 6,900 square feet and a rooftop pool and bar.
A former Marriott property after a $27-million upgrade, recently opened as Hilton Denver City Center, and the trendy LoDo (Lower Downtown) neighborhood saw the opening of Kimpton Hotel last August.
One of Denver’s coolest hotels — and perhaps one of America’s — is actually an art museum within a hotel. The ART Hotel has 165 sleek, stylish guest rooms with huge windows and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. It also has one of the most impressive contemporary art collections of any hotel in America. The guest rooms, public spaces and meeting hallways are filled with provocative art that will have your attendees talking — especially the 7-foot, steel-wire horse in the lobby.
Jessica Rife is senior events manager for ESource, and brought more than 600 attendees from across the country to Denver last September for the annual ESource Forum. They stayed and met at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, Denver’s largest, which offers 1,231 guest rooms and 133,000 square feet.
“Denver has proven a great site for us,” Rife says. “It’s an exciting city, going through a genuine rebirth. It’s a city that’s very walkable, with a vibrant downtown filled with restaurants, breweries, attractions and museums. The airlift is great from anywhere in the country. It’s also a city that’s very involved in ‘Green’ practices, which are important to us.
And, the Sheraton is perfect for us, because it’s big enough to handle both our room- and meeting-space requirements, which is one of the reasons we’re booked there through 2023.” C&IT