By Beth Buehler
Colorado’s wide-open spaces and mountain towns are ideal for groups and leisure travelers at any time, but especially during unexpected scenarios like COVID-19. For example, Chaffee County in central Colorado along with two of its largest communities, Buena Vista and Salida, have experienced a record summer for tourism and been able to welcome groups of up to 175 at outdoor venues.
“We have hosted weddings, family reunions and outdoor music events,” says Scott Peterson,marketing director for the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau. Regarding meeting and event facilities in Buena Vista and Salida and the overall atmosphere, he notes, “Chaffee County is a great place for groups wanting to social distance because 80 percent is public land. Plus, the weather is great and the air temperature stays cool to allow for outdoor events, and the city of Salida closed F street to allow restaurants and businesses to expand into the streets.”
Chaffee County is home to the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area, fifteen 14,000-foot peaks, a mild year-round climate, and a variety of meeting and event facilities. While people of all ages flock to the county to enjoy outdoor recreation, stroll quaint downtowns and soak in three hot springs in Buena Vista, Nathrop and Salida, the towns are building growing reputations as great places to connect at ranches, outdoor spaces, ballrooms, riverside parks, historic venues breweries and wineries.
“Many outfitters and businesses have taken great precautions to keep their guests safe and businesses open. We created this video series to help alleviate any concerns,” Peterson says.
One of the best-known meeting and event facilities in Buena Vista and Salida is Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort near Buena Vista. There is terrific soaking in various pools to enjoy between meetings, meals and receptions that can take place in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces like the pavilion, lawn, meadow, conference center and conference cabin.
New on the scene is a relaxation pool introduced in tandem with the resort’s 140th anniversary in 2019 and featuring an infinity-edge design, built-in seating and a sunbathing deck. The pool is available for private events after hours, and there is an adjacent beer garden to tap into as well.
The SteamPlant Event Center, located in downtown Salida along the river, is another prime venue hosting more than 500 events each year from weddings and conferences to fund-raisers, concerts and more. Originally built in 1887 to house Salida Edison Electric Light Company, the building was transformed by the City of Salida to include a theater, ballroom, outdoor sculpture garden, riverside plaza, conference rooms and art galleries. The SteamPlant also rents the Salida Rotary Scout Hut in Riverside Park, featuring a main floor, lower-level conference rooms, lawn and deck.
Also get a taste of community history and rent space at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds in Salida and Historic Chaffee County Courthouse in Buena Vista. Eddyline Brewery’s taproom, beer garden and restaurant along with Surf Hotel, Surf Chateau and Vino Salida Wine Cellars provide a more modern and hip twist in Buena Vista, and the wellness center INTEGRATE in Salida does the same. For meeting and event planners looking for indoor and outdoor spaces on the outskirts of the communities, 100 Elk Outdoor Center and Hutchinson Ranch have a variety of options. Or mingle with the goats and learn how to make cheese at Mountain Goat Lodge.
In addition to the great meeting and event facilities in Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado as a state offers a whole range of opportunities for groups and Destination Colorado is dedicated to helping planners find just the right fit for their gatherings.
Photos: By Scott Peterson.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.