By Beth Buehler
A common saying in Colorado mountain towns for locals is “I came for the winter and stayed for the summer.” Many people associate Colorado with white-capped peaks (just look at the design of Denver International Airport), amazing powder skiing and snowboarding, and flakes dumping on Denver Bronco games during Monday Night Football. While winter is truly fabulous, summer is definitely a magical time for groups to gather in the Centennial State for a destination meeting and here are a few reasons why.
- The temperatures are moderate and water fun abundant. Colorado has very low humidity and the nights tend to cool off, especially in the mountains. Plus there are plenty of ways to spend memorable time in the water. A few examples are water parks for all ages such as Water World and Elitch Gardens Water Park in Denver, hot springs like Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, great outdoor pools at properties such as Vail Cascade Resort & Spa and Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, and the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, a 32-acre urban waterfront experience. Groups also can explore rivers and lakes by fly-fishing, boating, sailing, stand up paddleboarding, rafting and kayaking.
- Festivals & community events are natural tie-ins. I grew up going to the Greeley Independence Stampede rodeo and parade, and there are so many choices in towns like Durango, Telluride, Aspen, Golden and Breckenridge. Why do extra planning when a great local happening is sure to delight attendees and give them a feel for local flavor and traditions?
- Plenty of options to get outdoors. There are outdoor concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Fiddler on the Green and in most communities, and if possible groups should work in a ranger program, tour or picnic at one of Colorado’s four national parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. For a glimpse of Mother Nature’s creativity, Crested Butte is truly the Wildflower Capital of Colorado with fields of wildflowers that will blow your mind and an annual wildflower festival. Many ski areas offer a wealth of mountain activities in summer like bike parks, fun zones for kids, chairlift rides to hike down, take in the scenery or enjoy a mountaintop picnic.
- Great historic districts and neighborhoods are perfect for strolling and patio gatherings. Nothing makes a town feel more vibrant than people milling about downtown and socializing on patios. In Denver, the patio options in LoDo and Larimer Square and many other districts are awesome, and the same is true on Pearl Street in Boulder and the pedestrian mall in downtown Aspen.
- Zoos, amusement parks and gardens are beyond the norm. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs is one of the few zoos I have experienced in a mountain setting (I love feeding the giraffes there, and there is ). Betty Ford Botanical Gardens in Vail, Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland and Denver Botanic Gardens are beautiful backdrops for receptions and entertainment. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs offers one of the best alpine coasters, amazing cave tours, and a swing that will thrill the pants off even the biggest adventure seekers, and Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Cañon City is reopening this summer better than ever.
This list could go well into the double digits, but you get the idea. Summers are an amazing time for groups to gather in Colorado.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.