By Beth Buehler
Are you charged with planning Fall meetings and events? You’ve probably heard the mountain town saying, “I came for the winter but stayed for the summer.” In Colorado, more and more people are adding autumn to that expression, and that goes for any part of the state. Fall arrives like a gentle wave rolling from region to region due the different elevations, which stretches out the timeframe for planning fall meetings and events in Colorado. The colors first start to pop in the mountains with aspens turning shades of gold, orange and red in September and wrap up by mid-October, whereas the rest of the state is on a more typical schedule with fall colors running from October into November.
It’s not just the colors that groups are sure to enjoy. There are a wide range of outdoor venues available to enjoy, festivals typically aren’t quite so large so it’s easier for groups to join in, and activities take on a sense of magical wonder when surrounded by blue skies and stunning multi-colored landscapes. For some, planning meetings and events or rescheduling to fall due to COVID-19 presents new challenges and opportunities, here are a few highlights that organizers of business and social events might find helpful.
Keep in mind that Destination Colorado members stand ready to assist and can share great tips about the destinations they work in!
Great Time for Guest Ranches
After busy summer seasons with family vacations and weekend weddings, fall is an amazing time to visit Colorado’s guest ranches. Some are better suited for groups than others due to availability of meeting and event space and lodging, but all will give groups a taste of Colorado and the West. The attire is casual and the atmosphere is laid back, with activities like horseback riding, biking, fly fishing, zip lining, hiking, spa treatments, barbecue dinners and nightcaps around a campfire. Two of the best known are in Grand County and located north of Winter Park: C Lazy U Ranch in Granby and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash.
Fall also is blissfully quieter (except maybe on weekends!) but equally as beautiful at YMCA of the Rockies’s Snow Mountain Ranch located near Granby and Estes Park Center adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. Both are large camp-like properties with a fair amount of gathering spaces and accommodation choices that range from lodge rooms and yurts to cabins. A huge bonus is the wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities available, such as zip lining, disc golf, miniature golf, roller-skating and crafts!
Plenty of Ways to Enjoy the Colors
There is no need for everyone in a group to be uber-athletic to experience autumn foliage. Book a 4 X 4 or ATV excursion, go on a food and beverage tour, move art and yoga experiences outdoors, and have lunch or a cocktail reception on a rooftop in Denver or patios of historic hotels like Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs or Hotel Boulderado in Boulder.
Prime Time for Community Projects
Fall is a terrific time to take on outdoor projects in partnership with local nonprofits. One fall, in tandem with the Colorado Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Vail, attendees had the option to arrive a little early to help with trail projects and river cleanup through Walking Mountains Science Center and the National Forest Service. After a busy summer season, both entities appreciated the assistance and it was a great way to get to know other attendees on a beautiful October day.
Golf and Beer – A Perfect Match
What better time to play golf than when the air is especially fresh and a little crisp and golf courses are turning into rainbows of autumn colors? After a tournament or scramble, gather in the clubhouse or on a large deck for a meal, awards and meeting. Properties like The Broadmoor and Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs and Omni Interlocken Hotel offer the whole package with terrific golf courses, meeting and event space, lodging, dining and more.
Beer and golf just seem to go together, so see if the golf course bar can serve up Colorado brews they carry or invite a local brewer in for a tasting. For a fun off-site tour and reception, head to one of the state’s many craft breweries or large brewers like Budweiser in Fort Collins and Coors in Golden.
Hop Aboard a Train – One of my favorite ways to soak up fall is riding on one of the state’s amazing scenic railroads like the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Georgetown Loop Railroad, Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, and Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. When meeting in Durango for example, it’s possible to ride the train up to Silverton, have lunch and wander around this historic town, and take a bus back to shorten the time required. Remember to plan some time for your group to visit the railroad’s free museum in downtown Durango. Also, Amtrak connects Denver to towns like Granby, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction if you want to fly attendees into Denver and experience two parts of the state.
These are just a few ideas to get the idea wheels turning for planning fall meetings and events in Colorado. No need to let the list of “to-dos” get too long when Destination Colorado can assist, especially with the organization’s simple RFP process to reach destinations, venues, lodging properties and a wide variety of suppliers all at once!
Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 15 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.