If you want to put on an event that’s truly going to take your guests’ breath away, start with a backdrop that does the heavy lifting for you. Vibrant red-rock cliffs, white-capped mountains, wildlife and sunsets that are too beautiful for a filter…Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver are a photographer’s paradise—and a meeting planner’s heaven.
Adventurous outdoor activities; fresh mountain air; open meeting spaces indoors and out; dynamic, innovative dishes; and hearty beers all come standard. The only decision guests have to make is which must-see landmarks they plan to check out during their stay, because seeing them all is a tall order. But don’t worry, you’ll be back. These three cities have the unique ability to combine two characteristics that aren’t often seen together. The rugged, wild natural outdoors meets technology, innovation and a creative start-up atmosphere—a perfect combination for groups seeking invigorating meetings, followed by heart-pounding adventure.
Roxborough State Park, Littleton
In an age where Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat rule the social scene, everyone is living vicariously through each other’s well-documented experiences. Yes, even meeting-goers. That’s why so many visitors bureau campaigns are leaning on their guests to showcase their cities for them. But few are as successful as Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver—because you can’t fake natural beauty.
Folsom Field, Boulder
It doesn’t get more picturesque than Boulder. At 5,430 feet above sea level, “The City Nestled Between Mountains and Reality,” as it’s been dubbed by locals, is tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and boasts dramatic sandstone slabs of the Flatiron Mountains. There are really no bad views in this dreamy, historical town, and every venue offers a memorable setting.
One of the best views in college football, Folsom Field at University of Colorado Boulder offers some of the largest venues in the city. Norlin Quad is the campus’ original green space, and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. With seating for 210 in its star theater, Fiske Planetarium is the largest facility of its kind between Chicago and Los Angeles, and can host seated dinners for 100 and cocktail receptions for 150.
The Rooftop Terrace and Bar, overlooking Folsom Field, the Flatirons and the Front Range of the Rockies, offers photo-ops at every turn. Some 13,900 sq. ft. of event space can accommodate up to 600 on the terrace. Moveable glass doors that divide the terrace and indoor bar provide incredible views, as well as access to Byron R. White Club, which offers upscale dining and two custom bars. Two rooms can each accommodate about 400.
Basecamp Boulder, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member
For a hotel that truly captures the spirit of Boulder, 49-room Basecamp Boulder, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member has everything you need for work and play. State-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, a bouldering wall and pingpong table make it the ideal setting for creative meetings and team-building activities.
“Previously a Quality Inn and Suites, the Basecamp brand of hotels took over the property, and it is gorgeous,” said Erin Byrne, communications manager for Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau. “[It] just completed renovations and is the most unique change to a hotel in Boulder we’ve had in a while.”
After being named one of Travel & Leisure’s top 25 large city hotels in the continental United States, Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond St. Julien Hotel and Spa recently replaced mattresses, carpeting, drapes and chairs in all 201 guest rooms. Located downtown, it’s within walking distance to more than 200 shops and 80 restaurants, and offers a 10,000-square-foot spa with 12 treatment rooms.
Boulder Theater (Photo by Denise Chambers/Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Iconic Boulder Theater was built in 1906 and can host events for up to 850 in areas including a tiered auditorium and balcony.
“A particularly unique venue, the Art Deco-style Boulder Theater has a versatile ground floor with no fixed chairs,” Byrne says. “This allows for a ‘TedX’-style setup with their stage to allow for breakouts, standing cocktail hours and any other event you’d like to fit in over the course of a conference.”
There are several hotel developments on the horizon for Boulder. A 155-room Residence Inn is slated to open its doors in late 2017, and will be located a short distance from a new Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn. The 204-room Embassy Suites will have 7,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 7,000-square-foot ballroom, and is expected to open in September 2017. Expected to open in the same time frame, the Hilton Garden Inn will have 167 rooms.
Iconic Hotel Boulderado completed renovations to its event center and 114 of its 160 guest rooms in June. The 990-square-foot outdoor plaza received a facelift and 10,000 sq. ft. of event space was refreshed. A second phase of renovations will focus on the lobby and mezzanine and is expected to wrap up in late 2016 or early 2017.
In April, Dairy Arts Center completed a large phase of renovations and is preparing for a grand reopening this month. The newly completed entryway accommodates 220 and features a cafe and glass atrium with adjoining outdoor plaza.
Share-Worthy Team Building
Great American Beer Festival, Boulder (Photo by © Brewers Association)
The city full of creative start-ups is filled with innovative team-building activities to match—and what makes a better team photo than a company striking a yoga pose from inside a brewery?
An hour-long Vinyasa yoga class at the industrial-chic Sanitas Brewery will allow your group to participate, and wash it down with a pint of Sunburn IPA. The brewery boasts a conference room for groups of up to 30, and the entire brewery can be rented for larger events.
It doesn’t get more photogenic than a 90-minute sunset mountain tour, available year-round for groups of six or more, led by Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides. No album is complete without shots of your best dishes, and Local Table Tours will take groups to the city’s finest independently owned restaurants, bars and gourmet shops, including a must-see chocolate boutique.
“Boulder has been a leader in the natural products and organic food scene for years,” Byrne says. “When in town, you can visit Celestial Seasoning Tea Factory, the first USDA certified brewery in the state of Colorado, and a multitude of farm-to-table restaurants that walk the walk and talk the talk by having staff that work on the farm, in addition to the restaurant.”
Speaking of farms, about one-third of Boulder is made up of agricultural land, which provides more than just fresh food. Cure Organic Farm, Pachamama Farm, McCauley Family Farm and Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, among others, offer lots of volunteer team-building opportunities.
Whitewater rafting, Colorado Springs
Even higher in elevation, Colorado Springs is defined by the recreational activities that surround it—from the Rockies to Pike National Forest and Garden of the Gods Park. Mild climate, low humidity and clear blue skies 300 days of the year mean the chances of capturing the perfect shot are as likely as hosting the perfect meeting.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs offers a vast variety of venues to host meetings and events of all sizes. The Broadmoor alone offers a variety of spaces in an unforgettable setting. The Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond resort features 784 guest rooms, 62 meeting rooms and 185,000 sq. ft. of event space, and is constantly adding new features to its property. Three golf courses, six tennis courts, a spa and a wilderness concierge can be found onsite. Ziplining and new Restaurant 1858 sit at the base of nearby Seven Falls, a local landmark and unforgettable venue.
Hotel Elegante Conference & Event Center offers 500 guest rooms and 48,526 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 13,600-square-foot grand ballroom and 1,426-square-foot garden atrium.
Overlooking sweeping views of Pikes Peak, 309-room Colorado Springs Marriott provides delicious dining at The Ascent and more than 26,823 sq. ft. of flexible event space in 17 meeting rooms.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort, Colorado Springs
Mountain vistas abound at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, a 316-room property set amid 200 scenic acres. The resort boasts more than 40,000 sq. ft. of event space, a private 35-acre lake, five pools, an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course, three dining options and Alluvia Spa & Wellness Retreat.
Located downtown, The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa is a stately, upscale AAA Four Diamond boutique hotel boasting 117 guest rooms with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and granite desks. Built in 1902 as a stock exchange for local mining companies, the property features historic charm throughout its more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Just west of Colorado Springs in Manitou Springs, The Cliff House at Pikes Peak is a glamorous 54-room luxury hotel worthy of its AAA Four Diamond status. Meeting spaces include a 2,500-square-foot ballroom, a 1,850-square-foot pavilion, two boardrooms and a solarium that seats 12.
Spring into Action
Adventures Outwest ziplining, Colorado Springs
The sightseeing, team building and even the tours in Colorado Springs are packed with energy. Starting your trip with a stop at the newly renovated visitor’s center at U.S. Olympic Training Center is a great motivator. It’s the official home to athletes- and coaches-in-training and a must-see destination for roughly 140,000 visitors annually. Public tours take groups around the complex year-round.
Adventures Out West offers myriad possibilities for fun and active exercises. From Segway and Jeep tours to balloon rides and ziplining, there are lots of ways to get the lay of the land. For the more adventurous groups, whitewater rafting and rock climbing await. Not quite ready for the real thing? CityRock offers indoor rock climbing on 43-foot walls. All of these adventures come highly recommended by Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
At Battlefield Colorado, engage in fun, competitive laser tag. State-of-the art gear and realistic team missions turn a fun activity into challenging interpersonal team development. The action shots will make a great company holiday card.
An American metropolis dating back to the Old West era, Colorado’s capital city of Denver is a stunning blend of ultra-modern innovation, storied history and natural beauty. The Mile High City is bursting with young energy, as is evident by its rambunctious nightlife and diverse neighborhoods. Award-winning dining options, seven professional sports teams and a vast backyard with boundless activities beckon groups of all kinds, 365 days a year.
The city’s only boutique hotel, AAA Four Diamond Hotel Teatro, is steps from some of the best restaurants and shopping downtown Denver has to offer. Eclectic decor compliments each of the hotel’s 110 luxury guest rooms and suites. There is 7,220 sq. ft. of meeting space, including an outdoor terrace that can accommodate 100 guests.
Colorado Convention Center, Denver (Photos by Visit Denver)
The city boasts the second-largest performing arts complex under one roof in the country: The Denver Performing Arts Complex offers 10 theaters, totaling 10,000 seats. Next door is The Colorado Convention Center—the two together offer unique settings for events of all sizes.
The convention center hosts more than 250 events annually, and the exhibit level provides six individual halls and outdoor terraces offering extraordinary views of the Rocky Mountains and Denver skyline. Two ballrooms and 5,000-seat Bellco Theatre are breathtaking venues in their own right. The convention center also boasts 584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space on one level—and there’s more on the way.
“In November 2015, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved an expansion of the Colorado Convention Center,” says Rachel Benedick, vice president of sales and services for Visit Denver. “The expansion will feature new, flexible meeting space of up to 80,000 sq. ft. and the addition of a football field-sized rooftop outdoor space with spectacular, unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains and The Mile High City.
“Additional funding for this project will go toward the construction of a new National Western Center that will be a year-round events, entertainment and educational facility.”
Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Photo by ©Denver Museum of Nature & Science)
Those looking for a different kind of photo-worthy backdrop need look no further than Denver Museum of Nature & Science, boasting not only one of the best views of the Denver skyline, but also award-winning wildlife dioramas, gems and minerals, mummies and famous dinosaurs. Factor in 700,000 sq. ft. of event space, and you have one unforgettable meeting.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Photo by ©Denver Museum of Nature & Science)
The lodging in Mile High City is equally picturesque. Located near Denver’s LoDo District, as locals call lower downtown, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center offers 1,100 newly refreshed guest rooms, including 59 suites, and 60,600 sq. ft. of newly renovated function space. An expansive ballroom and 35 meeting rooms offer high-tech equipment and contemporary new furnishings.
Less than two blocks away, The Pinnacle Club, located on the 38th floor of 516-room Grand Hyatt Denver, opened in 2013, offering panoramic views of the Rockies. Two large ballrooms and prefunction space make up a total of 10,300 sq. ft. of event space. The Pinnacle Club has a rich Denver history dating back to Colorado’s Oil Boom Days of the early 1980s. The hotel offers an additional 52,600 sq. ft. of function space.
The Westin Denver International Airport
The Westin Denver International Airport, which opened last fall, is redefining airport hotels. Offering an easy connection to downtown via brand new commuter rail, 519 soundproof guest rooms provide a dynamic, urban experience. The more than 37,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes 15 breakout rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of prefunction space. The Plaza Courtyard offers 82,000 additional sq. ft. of event space outdoors.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Perhaps one of the most intriguing factors of Denver is the amount of once-in-a-lifetime attractions the city offers.
Showcasing 33,000 plants, Denver Botanic Gardens is a photographer’s dream. Set on 23 acres, a collection of 45 gardens and one of the nation’s top conservatories will give any visitor a green thumb.
There may not be a better panorama in all of Colorado than City Park. Lay out a picnic blanket and soak in the Front Range of the Rockies and the Denver skyline. Plus, it’s home to Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Every city has an iconic, over-photographed spot. Chicago has The Bean, aka Cloud Gate. Denver has I See What You Mean, also known as the Blue Bear. Located in front of the convention center, the 40-foot-tall bear is the perfect subject to imitate for an “only in Denver” photo.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Morrison
At the top of the bucket list is Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. Located in Morrison, 15 minutes outside of Denver, the world-famous naturally formed venue offers a visitor center featuring interactive educational displays, a short film on its geologic and musical history, Performer’s Hall of Fame and Ship Rock Grille. The park has ample hiking and biking trails and one-of-a kind concerts.
Hop on the Beer (& Wine & Whiskey) Trail
The Great American Beer Fest (Photo by © Brewers Association)
Rightfully so, when most people think of Colorado, often one of the first things that comes to mind is beer. The state is a breeding ground for craft brews, and it’s proud of its notoriety. Beer festivals and tours can be found in every corner of the state. Colorado is also home to beautiful wineries and even a few distilleries. Here are some of the ways to enjoy all of the above on your trip.
Boulder is home to 20 breweries, five wineries, and four distilleries. It also hosts of 12 tasting festivals from February to October, often accompanied by food and live music. The Great American Beer Fest (pictured right), which represents the largest collection of U.S. beer served each year, started in Boulder in 1982. Now the event takes place in Denver.
Some of the most toured spots include Asher Brewing Company, Finkel & Garf Brewing Company, J&L Distillery, Vapor Distillery, Boulder Beer Company, Redstone Meadery and What We Love the Winery.
Beer & Bike Tours in Boulder includes stops at three local breweries, via bike paths—and each bike is equipped with a basket to carry home a growler of beer. The tour is available on weekends October–March and daily April–September.
In Denver, Stranahan’s has made a name for itself as Colorado’s first whiskey distillery.
It’s hard to pick a craft brewery in Denver—but some stand out among the rest. Great Divide is one of them. It’s been brewing since 1994 and has won 18 awards from Great American Beer Fest.
Breckenridge Brewery is so good it’s expanded to five locations, and offers some unique takes on its brews, such as Nitro Vanilla Porter, with notes of coffee, chocolate and caramel.
The Wine Lab at The Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery is open to the public for tastings, and get this—it cans its wines. The grapes are sourced from the Western Slope and made right in Denver.
Major Meeting Venues
Basecamp Boulder, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member
49 guest rooms, with camping decor; state-of-the- art audiovisual equipment, bouldering wall and pingpong table in meeting space that accommodates 35; indoor heated pool; fitness room.
Elegant Art Deco venue steps from Pearl Street Mall downtown; event staff; tiered auditorium and balcony seats accommodate 850.
Upscale downtown hotel; built in 1909; recently renovated its 160 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of event space includes 990-square-foot outdoor plaza; steak and seafood restaurant.
Millennium Harvest House Boulder
Situated on 16 acres on Boulder Creek; indoor and outdoor pools; restaurant and lounge; 269 guest rooms; 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel
Largest hotel in Colorado; in 16th Street pedestrian mall; business center; 24-hour fitness club; heated outdoor pool; six restaurants; 1,313 guest rooms; 133,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
St. Julien Hotel and Spa
Forbes Four Star, AAA Four Diamond property; recently renovated; 201 guest rooms; 9,708 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, 6,810 sq. ft. outdoors; 10,000-square foot spa with 12 treatment rooms.
Cheyenne Mountain Resort
On 200 acres; 316 guest rooms; more than 40,000 sq. ft. of event space; private lake, five pools; 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course; three restaurants; Alluvia Spa & Wellness Retreat.
Colorado Springs Marriott
Overlooking Pikes Peak, 309 guest rooms; The Ascent restaurant; more than 26,823 sq. ft. of flexible event space in 17 meeting rooms; fitness center; indoor pool; seasonal outdoor pool.
Hotel Elegante Conference & Event Center
7 miles from Colorado Springs Airport (COS) and Garden of the Gods natural monument; 500 guest rooms; 48,526 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 13,600-square-foot grand ballroom and 1,426-square-foot garden atrium; indoor and outdoor pools.
The Antlers Hotel Colorado Springs
Historic downtown hotel; two restaurants and lobby bar; state-of-the-art health club; conference services staff and audiovisual team; 292 guest rooms; 27,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Forbes Five Star; AAA Five Diamond resort; 784 guest rooms; 185,000 sq. ft. of event space includes 62 meeting rooms; three golf courses; six tennis courts, spa.
The Cliff House
AAA Four Diamond luxury hotel in Manitou Springs; 54 guest rooms; 2,500-square-foot ballroom; 1,850-square-foot pavilion; 2 boardrooms; a solarium seats 12.
The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa
AAA Four Diamond hotel; 117 guest rooms; built in 1902; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; grand ballroom accommodates 230 for banquets, 400 for reception; award-winning Cajun & Creole restaurant; Gold Room entertainment venue; state-of-the-art MX Spa.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Located in City Park; views of the Denver skyline; award-winning wildlife dioramas; gems and minerals; mummies; dinosaur exhibits; 700,000 sq. ft. of event space.
Grand Hyatt Denver
AAA Four Diamond rated; 516 guest rooms; 52,600 sq. ft. of function space; rooftop jogging track; indoor pool; The Pinnacle Club on the 38th floor offers 10,300 sq. ft. of event space, including two ballrooms, prefunction space.
City’s only boutique hotel; AAA Four Diamond rated; eclectic decor; 110 luxury guest rooms and suites; 7,220 sq. ft. of meeting space, including an outdoor terrace that can accommodate 100 guests; steps from dining and shopping.
Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center
1,100 newly refreshed guest rooms, including 59 suites; 60,600 sq. ft. of freshly renovated function space; ballroom and 35 meeting rooms boast high-tech equipment; contemporary furnishings.
On University of Denver campus; several event and meetings spaces; arena can hold up to 8,000; five meeting rooms can accommodate 300.
The Colorado Convention Center
584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space on one level; 63 meeting rooms provide 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space on one level; two ballrooms span 35,000 sq. ft. and 50,000 sq. ft.; 5,000-seat Bellco Theatre.
The Westin Denver International Airport
Opened last fall; 519 soundproof guest rooms; more than 37,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes 15 breakout rooms, 10,000 sq. ft. of prefunction space; The Plaza Courtyard offers 82,000 additional sq. ft. of event space outdoors.