Mind Games in Colorado

Hotels & DestinationsHotels & Resorts

colorado

Brain power and adventure combine for dynamic events

When a mad composer’s latest composition turns out to be a backstage time bomb, you and your party must stop this mayhem. Can you untangle the maestro’s clever puzzles and disarm the bomb?”

This game description from the puzzle room Puzzah! is clearly designed for group think. The Denver company features one of several escape rooms that has swept Colorado by storm. The gist of it is simple: While locked in a space for an hour, teams must figure out how to set themselves free and solve the mystery together.

Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs are perfectly positioned as communities with mind-bending activities. After all, these cities are brain trusts for many of the country’s top science and engineering universities, national labs and high-tech startups. Bundled with scenic landmarks for hiking and climbing, a Colorado meeting can bring out the best of a team’s mind and muscle.

Denver International Airport (DEN) is a direct flight from most major U.S. cities. Boulder is a 45-minute drive north and Colorado Springs is just over an hour south. Delegates can also fly directly to Colorado Springs Airport (COS). Need another reason to meet here? Weather is optimal, with 300 days of sunshine a year, for those thinking ahead.

Denver

coloradoThe Crawford Hotel, Denver

Colorado’s largest city is a showcase for intellectual, cultural and adventurous pursuits. Amy Yanda-Lee, director of marketing and public relations for Chase54 golf apparel, specifically selected Denver for her company’s sales meeting. Since the city is historic and promotes innovation, it aligned well with Chase54, a 30-year-old manufacturing company launching a fresh take on its branding, according to Yanda-Lee.

When the goal is to get groups thinking outside the box, consider introducing folks to an escape room. Places such as Puzzah! and Denver Escape Room thrill guests with inventive storylines and tech gizmos so the experience seems real.

A journey to creative and historic locations can also help spin those mental wheels. At Denver Art Museum, there are group tours and special exhibits. If a group needs motivation, check out Wings Over the Rockies air and space museum. Exhibits bring folks close-up with pilots and astronauts who risked their lives to reach their goals.

Some learners need kinetic activity to get unblocked. Rock climbing, ziplining and white water rafting can be booked in advance with suppliers such as Arkansas Valley Adventures.

Eat Up

coloradoThe Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Denver

Where to go for a bite? With 300 downtown restaurants, Denver delivers mesmerizing cuisine. “We’ve got restaurants that are great for whole buyouts and chef-owned properties with new concepts,” says Justin Bresler, vice president of marketing for Visit Denver. “We have been known for the best steak to the best street tacos to the best seafood.” Bresler adds that downtown is safe and a pleasant walk at night.

Denver boasts some 78 distinct neighborhoods. These days, everyone’s talking about reinvigorated Union Station, a 100-year-old train stop with retail and restaurants. In River North (RiNo), foodies rush to The Source, a former foundry turned artisan market with two hip eateries, Acorn and Comida.

Companies can also wow clients in the Golden Triangle district, known for museums, galleries and impressive dinner locales. Reviewers are blanketing Potager Restaurant and Fruition Restaurant with kudos.

Since this is, after all, the Mile High City, groups can enjoy restaurants with skyline views at places including Linger for New American and Ocean Prime for seafood and steak. Book a closing-night party at Hyatt Regency’s Peaks Lounge on the 27th floor.

Meet Up

coloradoRendering of The Art Hotel, Denver

Denver’s downtown core is anchored by Colorado Convention Center. Currently offering 2.2 million gross sq. ft., the convention center will benefit from a $100 million investment that will expand the facility in order to keep it competitive.

Popular nearby hotels include the 1,231-room Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, steps from the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, a shopping and retail strip. The Sheraton offers 133,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and can accommodate up to 3,000.

Very memorable is The Crawford Hotel, a new luxury property located inside Union Station. It offers 20,415 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 12,000-square-foot hall.

Yanda-Lee and Chase54 chose the Crawford due to positive interaction with the staff. “Anything that was questionable during the [selection] process was addressed with a creative suggestion,” Yanda-Lee says. “The sales reps still rave about the trip.”

Vying for customers is The Art Hotel, a 165-room boutique property with 4,100 sq. ft. of meeting space. Opened in June, the property emphasizes an experiential stay. The lobby features an art piece with 22,000 light bulbs and original works throughout. Fire, the hotel restaurant, features sculptures and artfully plated new American entrees.

The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa completed a $10.5 million renovation in July, updating its 200 guest rooms and adding meeting space that increased its property total to 23,253 sq. ft.

Ballrooms at Grand Hyatt Denver and Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center are undergoing renovations at a combined cost of $10 million. Grand Hyatt has 516 guest rooms and 52,600 sq. ft. of event space. Hyatt Regency features 60,600 sq. ft. of meeting space and 1,100 guest rooms.

Boulder

coloradoFlatirons, Boulder

Less than an hour’s drive from Denver is Boulder, a city hard to beat for academic prowess. While the national average of people with bachelor’s degrees is 26 percent, Boulder residents check in at 67 percent. Boulder’s accolades include being cited as one of The 10 Smartest Cities in America earlier this year by MarketWatch, and America’s Most Innovative Tech Hubs by NerdWallet.

If you want to rub shoulders with the smart folks at one of Boulder’s three national labs, groups can tour the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory (NCAR). The Summers-Bausch Observatory stages an open house on Friday nights, allowing visitors to use telescopes to see galaxies up close.

“It is the best city for our needs,” says Nanci Reich, director of corporate operations for the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. Twenty-five astronomers came to Boulder last May for its fifth meeting. Attendees convened at University of Boulder to brainstorm and meet astronomy professors. Hearing a speaker from NCAR was “the cherry on the intellectual sundae,” Reich says.

Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau’s value to event organizers is its ability to personalize meetings and weave in the city’s attractions, according to Mary Ann Mahoney, executive director.

“In creating smart meetings and smart destinations, we have access to incredible scientists and federal labs,” Mahoney says. “Occasionally, people come in and ask for speakers, and we have the connections to make it happen.”

To get energized, usher the team outside for a hike near the Flatirons, the iconic peaks that resemble five flat irons. Get trail recommendations at ever-popular Chautauqua Park. 

“Hikes do not have to be intimidating,” Mahoney says. “They can also be along the creek where you are pacing yourself and setting your mind at peace.” The 200 miles of public hiking and biking trails, and 43,000 acres of open space are more than enough area to clear one’s head.

Eat Up

Who would have thought this town would plant itself on the culinary map? Hosea Rosenberg, winner of Top Chef’s fifth season, recently launched farm-to-table Blackbelly Market, which is already a hit among groups.

Tell the gang to dress up for a night at the mountainside Flagstaff House for French fare. The family-owned restaurant of 40 years maintains bragging rights to a 15,000-bottle wine cellar.

Pearl Street Mall shopping district is festooned with eateries. Dine on the rooftop at barbecue-focused West End Tavern. For awe-inspiring architecture and great fusion dishes, book Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. The ceramic-paneled tea house, a colorful gift from sister city Dushanbe, Tajikistan, is so breathtaking the building could be mistaken for a temple.

Boulder chefs know how to please folks with the narrowest of palates. “Restaurants are so adaptable here,” Mahoney says. “Gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free…our population is changing. Our chefs know how to cater to unusual requests, which are not so unusual anymore.”

Meet Up

coloradoSt. Julien Hotel & Spa, Boulder

Boulder features approximately 20,000 guest rooms at hotels and inns. The elegant St. Julien Hotel & Spa, a AAA Four Diamond property, has 201 guest rooms and is attractive to those with champagne tastes. It features 16,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Millennium Harvest House Boulder is the city’s largest hotel, with 269 guest rooms. Boasting 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, it sits next to the University of Colorado, With upgraded garden spaces and renovated guest rooms, hotel plans call for even more meeting space to be added over the next two years.

Hyatt Place Boulder/Pearl Street became the new kid on the block after opening in April. The property offers 150 guest rooms and 4,963 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs represents another favorite meetings haven. The highest in altitude (6,035 feet) of the state’s three major cities, it is known for having more than 50 area attractions. This strategic powerhouse is home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), United States Air Force Academy and U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Attendees will marvel during a tour of U.S. Olympic Training Center, where the country’s top athletes train. You can also challenge the team’s universal intelligence at Space Foundation Discovery Center to learn about planets and meteorites.

United States Air Force Academy features a 31,600-square-foot visitor center and a cadet chapel with stunning architecture. The Cadet Wing formation march happens Monday through Friday at 11:35 a.m. during the school year.

For physical activities that require problem-solving, the city tops the list in mega-adventures. Check out Cave of the Winds WindWalker Challenge Course if your attendees need to push the physical envelope. It provides a ropes course and gives non-athletes a break with easy-to-manage cave tours. For an only-in-Colorado experience, sign up with Challenge Unlimited for a guided 20-mile bike ride, all downhill from Pikes Peak.

Attendees are encouraged to take a simple or an advanced hike through the city’s pride and joy: Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark with towering sandstone formations as tall as 300 feet. The visitor center and museum are nearly as impressive as the views.

Eat Up

The hilltop Pepper Tree is a standout for fine dining, according to Kathy Reak, director of convention sales for Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. PepperTree’s signature experience arrives when chefs prepare flaming steak filets tableside. Event planners can reserve the entire 60-seat restaurant.

MacKenzie’s Chop House for steak and seafood is another high-end contender and group favorite, Reak says. Three banquet rooms provide privacy for groups of up to 60.

For a casual atmosphere, Phantom Canyon Brewing Company is ideal. “The three-story pub features pool tables and amazing food,” Reak says. “You feel very relaxed.” The banquet hall holds up to 200 for breakfast and dinner meetings.

Meet Up

coloradoCheyenne Mountain Resort & Club, Colorado Springs

Unique and traditional sleep options are prolific. “Properties range from high-end, five-star luxury to truly Colorado-esque ranches,” Reak says.

How does a secluded estate for your group sound? Glen Eyrie Conference Center is a 1906 castle set in a gated property on 800 acres, a 15-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs. With 97 guest rooms and 19,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, the property promotes in-house activities such as castle tours, a challenge course, onsite geology tours and high tea. Organizations that have booked meetings include Goodwill Industries, Colorado National Guard, Junior Achievement and Colorado Department of Education.

For large events, the AAA Four Diamond Cheyenne Mountain Resort & Club offers a sprawling campus of eight lodges with 316 Rocky Mountain-decorated rooms. For years, groups have converged to take advantage of this one-stop shop for business services, meeting rooms with inspiring views and memorable meals. The new Alluvia spa, Pete Dye 18-hole golf course, a 35-acre lake with a sandy beach, 17 tennis courts and five indoor and outdoor swimming pools provide enough attractions to keep attendees on the premises for the entire conference.

Summing Up

With convenient access from everywhere in the country, Colorado’s three major cities are a no-brainer when it comes to booking a location that’s breathtaking, intellectually stimulating and affordable. Meeting planners have choices that stack up well over a mile high.


Resources

Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau – bouldercoloradousa.com
Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau visitcos.com
Colorado Tourism – colorado.com
Visit Denver – denver.org


Colorado Fun Facts

-In Boulder, 33 percent of the population is 18 to 24 years old.

-Colorado Springs is 6,035 sq. ft. above sea level, followed by Boulder at 5,430 sq. ft. and Denver at 5,280 sq. ft.

-Nearly half of all residents in Boulder are college students.

-Pikes Peak was named after American explorer Zebulon Pike in 1806, but he never made the summit climb.

-One of the most popular attractions in the Pikes Peak region is Garden of the Gods.

-The Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado Springs at 956 feet tall is considered the world’s highest suspension bridge.

-The No. 1 attraction in Colorado Springs is Air Force Academy Visitor Center and Chapel.

-Shredded Wheat cereal was invented in the 1890s in Colorado Springs.

-Denver’s nickname, Mile High City, is named after its one-mile elevation.

-Denver has a population of 634,265, which is the most of any city in Colorado.

-Colorado’s mountainous areas are six times the size of Switzerland.

-In Denver, the road to the top of Mount Evans, at 14,260 feet, ties for honors as the highest paved road in North America.

-Colorado’s premier long-distance trail, Colorado Trail, is 500 miles long. It starts in Durango and ends in Denver, passing eight mountain ranges, five river systems, six national forests and six wilderness areas.


Major Meeting Venues

Boulder

Boulder Marriott

Near University of Colorado; 4,943 sq. ft. of meeting space; accommodates up to 275; 157 guest rooms; full-service spa; Canyons restaurant.

eTown Hall

Home of the nationally syndicated eTown radio program; former church building morphed into multipurpose hall; largest room is 1,800 sq. ft.; media center has a capacity of 220.

Glenn Miller Ballroom

At University of Colorado Memorial Center; renovations completed in January; new skylights, theatrical rigging and hardwood floors; 9,400-square-foot ballroom named after late musician.

Rembrandt Yard Art Gallery & Event Center

colorado

Inspiring artists’ quotes etched on exterior; art gallery epitomizes Boulder’s creative culture; accommodates up to 500 in 6,500 sq. ft. of space; hardwood floors, fireplace and giant windows. 

Rooftop Terrace Club

New facility at University of Colorado stadium; 13,900 sq. ft. of open-air space; panorama of Flatirons peaks; capacity of 600.

The Greenbriar Inn

Erected in the 1870s; landmark situated on 20 acres with ponds and waterfalls; sprawling restaurant, tavern and banquet rooms; more than 7,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Colorado Springs

Antlers Hilton Colorado Springs

Anchors downtown; 27,500 sq. ft. of function space; 292 guest rooms; spectacular views of Pikes Peak; health club; indoor pool.

Colorado Springs City Auditorium

Downtown hall opened in 1923; accommodates up to 2,200; theater seats 230; 9,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.

Colorado Springs Event Center

Provides more than 40,000 sq. ft. of flexible space; popular events such as bridal fairs and flower shows held here.

Doolittle Hall

Located on United States Air Force Academy campus; more than 11,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in four rooms; magical views of Rockies.

Garden of the Gods Club and Resort

Opened in 1951; guests have included Robert Mitchum, Gene Autry, John Wayne and Walt Disney; 69 guest rooms and suites; golf course; tennis club; more than 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hotel Elegante Conference & Event Center

colorado

500 guest rooms; more than 48,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; accommodates groups of up to 2,000 for receptions. 

The Broadmoor

Only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond resort in Colorado; 779 guest rooms; 185,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; three lodges suited for incentives.

The Broadmoor World Arena

Premier sports and entertainment complex; largest facility in southern Colorado; training center for world-class figure skaters; seats 8,500 for concerts and 7,500 for ice hockey games.

Denver

Colorado Convention Center

In downtown core; mammoth facility features 584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space with plans to expand; walking distance to more than 8,700 guest rooms; certified as venue that meets the ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows and Conferences.

Denver Art Museum

Gorgeous venue features masterpieces from Claude Monet and Winslow Homer; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space taps creative juices; Hamilton Building has titanium panels that reflect sun.

Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Seawell Grand Ballroom holds up to 1,000 guests for receptions and 800 for seated events; dramatic views of Rocky Mountains.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

colorado

Great for a geeky party with up to 3,500; IMAX theater and planetarium; event consultants available to transform space.

Grand Hyatt Denver

AAA Four Diamond rated; 516 guest rooms were renovated this year; 52,600 sq. ft. of function space; rooftop jogging track; indoor pool; near Pepsi Center and 16th Street Mall.

Hotel Teatro

AAA Four Diamond boutique hotel; across from Performing Arts Center; two blocks from convention center; 110 guest rooms; eight meeting rooms, with 6,080 sq. ft. of space.

Hyatt Regency Denver Colorado Convention Center

Great meeting hotel adjacent to convention center; 60,600 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 30,000-square-foot ballroom; extensive prefunction areas; 1,100 guest rooms.

JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek

Near Denver Botanic Gardens and shopping; 196 guest rooms; 8,400 sq. ft. of event space; full-service space; fitness center.

Magnolia Hotel Denver

Located in former American National Bank Building that was built in 1910; boutique hotel has 246 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Paramount Theatre

Built in 1930; Art Deco theater located on pedestrian-friendly 16th Street shopping mall; seats 1,870; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Ritchie Center

Located on University of Denver campus; several event and meetings spaces; arena can hold up to 8,000; five meeting rooms that can host from five to 300 people.