Meeting Planner Guide for Colorado
By Beth Buehler
Your client or boss wants to hold a meeting in Colorado. What if you aren’t very familiar with the state other than knowing that Denver is The Mile High City and that a lot of skiing happens in the mountains here? Have no fear, Destination Colorado Meetings has you covered with this meeting planner guide which will bring you up to speed quickly.
Destination Colorado Meetings is a nonprofit organization that has been connecting meeting and event planners to experienced suppliers for more than 30 years. The organization’s 150 members represent destinations, venues and service providers that offer inspiring experiences and value-focused options for a group’s next program. Destination Colorado Meetings attends trade shows like IMEX America and hosts the annual Colorado Meetings Showcase, offers an easy request-for-proposal process, and provides a wealth of helpful information. In short, we can be your meeting planner guide to help your next meeting in the state shine.
On the website, planners can search Colorado by region and destination, look at an entire list of venues or narrow it down by city, and check out suppliers by category like transportation and destination management companies. There also is information about incentives.
For this blog, I’m going to break down the state by region and provide a very brief overview of each, making it an abbreviated meeting planner guide to Colorado. For even more detailed information as you read this meeting planner guide, go to Explore Destinations and click on Regions to capture the spirit of Colorado for your own program.
Denver Metro Area
Like all big cities, there is the primary city and several other communities that make up the metropolitan area. Here, we’ll look at Denver, Aurora, Golden and various suburbs.
Let’s start off with Denver, Colorado’s capital city. There are all sorts of great neighborhoods that are well-suited for groups such as downtown, RiNo Art District, Capitol Hill/Golden Triangle, and Cherry Creek. An abundance of great new hotels has entered the scene over the past five years like The Rally Hotel, The Jacquard and Thompson Denver. And there have been impressive total refreshes at properties like Sheraton Denver Downtown and Aloft Denver Downtown. The state’s largest convention center, Colorado Convention Center, is in the heart of downtown and finishing up a major expansion the end of this year.
In Aurora, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center opened five years ago and is one of the state’s largest resort/convention center combinations. There are many distinct venues and neighborhoods in this ethnically rich city like Stanley Marketplace, Pelican Bay at Cherry Creek and On Havana Street.
Golden is a historic town in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Denver. Home of Coors Brewery since 1873, Golden has boutique hotels, food halls, museums, a bustling downtown with Clear Creek meandering through, and plentiful outdoor activities.
Sampling of Venues: Colorado Convention Center, Denver Art Museum, Denver Performing Arts Center, Infinity Park Event Center, Non Plus Ultra buildings, The Local Drive, University of Denver, Upper Larimer – Event & Performance Venue, Wynkoop Brewery
Attraction Highlights: Colorado Railroad Museum, Coors Field, Cherry Creek State Park, Denver Art Museum, Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, Empower Field at Mile High, Meow Wolf, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, Stanley Marketplace, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
In addition to Denver, Colorado’s Front Range includes other great destinations to host meetings and events like Boulder, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland. The state’s three largest public universities are located on the Front Range—Colorado State University, University of Colorado and University of Northern Colorado—giving college flair to Fort Collins, Boulder and Greeley.
Boulder’s and Fort Collins’ historic downtowns, Pearl Street Mall and Old Town, are among the state’s best and offer many options for groups, while Loveland is known as town with two incredible sculpture parks, a large lake and the expansive Ranch Events Complex. Estes Park, a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, offers the benefit of easy access from nearby cities along with a beautiful location in the mountains and plenty of meeting venues like the spacious Estes Park Events Complex and YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center
Sampling of Venues: Colorado Chautauqua, Estes Park Events Complex, The Elizabeth Hotel, The Ranch Events Complex, University of Colorado Boulder, YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center
Attraction Highlights: Benson Sculpture Park, Boulder Dushnabe Teahouse, breweries, Celestial Seasonings Tours, Chapungu Sculpture Park at Centerra, downtowns, Estes Park Via Ferrata, Flatirons, Rocky Mountain National Park, university campuses
Colorado has a banner selection of mountain communities, each with its own personality. It’s impossible to do all the great destinations in this region justice in a small amount of space, so make sure to check out the mountain region on Destination Colorado Meetings’ website for a more in-depth look at Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Georgetown, Glenwood Springs, Keystone, Silverthorne/Frisco/Dillon, Snowmass Village, Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Winter Park/Granby.
Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Snowmass Village, Steamboat Springs, Vail and Winter Park/Granby all have ski resorts that offer year-round outdoor fun and active base areas to wander. Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Winter Park have thriving historic downtowns that harken back to mining and ranching days and a nice variety of boutique shops, restaurants, venues and more. Keystone and Copper Mountain have sizable conference centers, while the area surrounding Granby and Winter Park has beautiful ranches.
Located only 45 miles west of Denver, Georgetown also is a historic gem with museums, mines to tour and more. Farther west is Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne in Summit County with easy access to several ski resorts and their own distinct features like Lake Dillon, shopping and dining districts, a food hall, a performing arts center, amphitheater and more. Glenwood Springs has an ideal location between Denver and Grand Junction right off Interstate 70 and is known for two iconic Colorado attractions built by Walter Devereaux: Hotel Colorado and Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. There is much more here with other hot springs attractions, a mountaintop theme park, golf courses and miles of trails.
Sampling of Venues: A wide range of hotels and resorts from high-end and slopeside to those with an art/design focus and shipping containers built into the architecture; Copper Conference Center; GHC Workspace at the Old School; Headwaters Center; Keystone Conference Center
Attraction Highlights: 14 ski areas and several Nordic centers, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame, Dillon Amphitheater, Frisco Adventure Park, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Georgetown Loop Railroad, Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, ice-skating rinks, Lake Dillon
In the South Central part of the state you find Colorado Springs and Pueblo. You have the choice of local airports or flying into Denver International Airport and utilizing ground transportation to reach these outstanding communities located about 45 miles apart. One unexpected fact is that Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, has one of the best selections of spacious resorts with loads of indoor and outdoor space, a range of amenities and great meeting space that groups will love. There also is a nice selection of professional and collegiate sports venues that groups can tap into for their own use, mountainous surroundings and cool museums, with the latest addition being the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
While resorts and hotels offer the bulk of meeting and event space in Colorado Springs, it’s the Pueblo Convention Center that offers a wide range of options in Pueblo and easy access to nearby hotels, shops and restaurants that are also located downtown. The Colorado State Fair brings thousands of people into town every year. Make sure to provide free time so attendees can stroll the Pueblo Riverwalk and select menus that allow groups to sample the chilis and other produce grown in the area.
Sampling of Venues: Cheyenne Mountain Resort, DoubleTree by Hilton Colorado Springs, Flying W Ranch, food halls, Garden of the Gods Resort and Club, Pueblo Convention Center, sports and county fair facilities, The Broadmoor, The Lodge at Flying Horse, The Nature Place
Attraction Highlights: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, Pueblo Creative Corridor, The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, The Broadmoor Seven Falls, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, other museums and arts facilities
If you haven’t been to the southwest part of Colorado, get this area on your radar. Regional airports in Durango, Gunnison, Montrose and Telluride make this region easy to access and worth the effort for the extreme beauty, outdoor options, and rich histories in Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Durango, Salida and Telluride.
All have ski areas nearby, with most of these resorts offering a broad selection of summer and fall activities as well. Weave the historic downtowns in these five communities into your itinerary along with the impressive selection of biking, hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing trails as well as river fun, outdoor summer concerts, year-round festivals, museums, and locally owned shops and restaurants.
Sampling of Venues: Elevation Hotel & Spa, Hartsel Ranch, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Ski Ute Casino, Strater Hotel, The Peaks Resort & Spa
Attraction Highlights: Four ski areas (Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Monarch Mountain, Purgartory, Telluride Ski Resort), breweries and distilleries, Browns Canyon National Monument, Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum, historic downtowns, hot springs
Colorado’s largest city on the Western Slope, Grand Junction, is located along the picturesque Colorado River and is only 30 miles from the Utah border. There are more than 30 wineries—with several offering tastings, tours, and space for meetings and events—along with craft breweries, distilleries and cideries in Grand Junction and nearby Palisade. The largest event space in Grand Junction is downtown’s Grand Junction Convention Center. On the other end of downtown is the historic Avalon Theatre with shops, restaurants and more than 115 sculptures and murals in between. Head south about an hour to the beautiful area around Gateway and the impressive Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa.
Sampling of Venues: Avalon Theatre, Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, Grand Junction Convention Center, Wine Country Inn in Palisade, wineries and distilleries
Attraction Highlights: Book Cliffs, Colorado Mesa University, downtown Grand Junction and Palisade, golf courses, Grand Mesa, Museum of the West, Powderhorn Resort, Western Colorado Center for the Arts, wine country
While a lot more could be written in a meeting planner guide for Colorado blog, this provides a good overview of the state to help narrow down the choices and introduces you to all the information found on this website to help you make a plan.
Photo: Garden of the Gods, Courtesy Visit Colorado Springs
Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 18 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and is on the team that introduced Southwest Meetings + Events this summer. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.