Unique Group Travel Destinations in Colorado
By Beth Buehler
Looking for something different to gather face-to-face again? It seems like ages since we’ve been able to leave “the nest” and venture out, so making your next meeting or event special is paramount. There is no better time to ponder unique group travel destinations in Colorado as the options for business, incentive and leisure gatherings are as abundant as the blue sky and wide-open spaces.
To provide just a snapshot of the opportunities, I’ll cover a few different geographical areas of Colorado as well as cities and smaller towns. Let’s get back to gathering, while remaining respectful of any local guidelines and attendees’ health concerns. I’m so thankful Colorado is open for meetings and events!
Cool places in southwestern Colorado
In southwestern Colorado, two of Colorado’s most iconic ski towns, Telluride and Crested Butte, date back to the mining days of the late 19th century and score big points for historic charm, sheer beauty, friendly vibes and nearby regional airports. Both have downtowns filled with shops, restaurants, nightlife and other attractions and feature ski villages that easily can be reached by free public transportation. In Crested Butte, it’s colorful Mountain Express buses painted by local artists that deliver riders to Mt. Crested Butte. In Telluride, hop onto the gondola and admire huge views on the way to Mountain Village or perhaps get off midway to catch trails or dine/meet at the fabulous Allred’s Restaurant with huge windows. You can’t find this kind of gondola connection anywhere else in North America!
There are a variety of lodging/venue options in Telluride including the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village, while Elevation Hotel & Spa is the largest ski in/ski out property with meeting and event space in Mt. Crested Butte. Pair Elevation Hotel with Mountaineer Square Conference Center for larger gatherings. While Crested Butte and Telluride have countless awards to show for top-notch ski terrain, they have become premiere year-round places to visit with all sorts of festivals, events, culture and outdoor pastimes.
Skiing, hot springs, vineyards & orchards
Along Interstate 70, between Denver and Grand Junction, there are many unique group travel destinations in Colorado but I’ll focus on three: Beaver Creek, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Add some extra fun by riding Amtrak from vibrant Denver Union Station to Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction with stops in Granby and Fraser north of Winter Park along the way.
The last three winters, I’ve had a chance to ski Beaver Creek and enjoy the fabulous terrain for skiing, snowshoeing and other snowy fun but there is a whole menu of year-round activities. The base village is hopping with shops, restaurants, an ice-skating rink, a hiking center, miniature golf and more. Don’t forget to stage some photos utilizing the interactive “playground” of oversized sculptures such as towering frost flowers, a giant snow globe, larger-than-life goggles, and a remodeled ice cream truck. Plus there is an impressive selection of meeting and event properties like Beaver Creek Lodge, The Charter at Beaver Creek, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley.
Glenwood Springs is west of Beaver Creek and has been a health-focused, outdoorsy destination dating back to the railroads arriving and the 1888 opening of Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Not only was Walter Devereux the leader behind bringing European-style wellness to the mountains of Colorado by capitalizing on the natural mineral hot springs, he also was the founder of the stately Hotel Colorado just across the street. Hotel Colorado renovated all its meeting and event spaces a few years ago in a modern fashion that honors the property’s rich history. A bustling downtown, located just a short walk over the pedestrian bridge from Hotel Colorado and the pool, combined with Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Sunlight Mountain Resort make Glenwood Springs a truly memorable destination for groups.
Heading farther west, our unique group travel destinations in Colorado tour continues to the Grand Junction area, known for having acres and acres of vineyards, orchards and lavender fields and loads of outdoor activities like golfing, biking, seeing wild horses, hiking on dinosaur trails, and jet boating and rafting on the Colorado River. Any time of year is great to visit but spring, summer and fall are standout seasons. There are a variety of wineries for tastings, touring and holding events in Grand Junction and neighboring Palisade. For the ultimate experience, stay at Wine Country Inn in Palisade, which is surrounded by vineyards and has a good selection of indoor and outdoor function space.
Great urban settings
Cities like Colorado Springs and Aurora also excel as unique group travel destinations in Colorado. Colorado Springs’ rich history and city-meets-mountains location makes it a standout. The Broadmoor opened its doors in 1918, and the meticulously manicured property has grown to include a huge array of meeting and event space; various lodging, dining and activity options; and three Wilderness Experience properties. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and The Broadmoor Seven Falls are conveniently located just down the road and are ideal outings for groups. The new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center and U.S Air Force Academy also should be considered for itineraries.
Since opening in 1951, Garden of the Gods Resort and Club also has set the bar high and opened to groups and the public in more recent years for lodging, meeting and event space, golf, tennis, spa and more. Meanwhile, Hotel Eleganté Conference & Event Center serves groups well with more than 48,000 square feet of meeting and event space and 500 guestrooms.
Aurora, part of the Denver metropolitan area and Colorado’s third largest city, has made a name for itself in the meetings and events industry over the past decade with the addition of Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center and Stanley Marketplace, which is a former aviation manufacturing facility turned hip location for restaurants, shops, services, and meeting and event space. One of the things I like best about Aurora is the rich ethnic diversity (think great restaurants and markets representing cultures from all over the world), variety of microbreweries, and more open space and lakes than one would expect!
That’s a brief take on unique group travel destinations in Colorado. Get out there and enjoy the Centennial State!
Top Photo: Take a private guided Canopy Tour and end at Gorrono Ranch for cocktails and a bite to eat. Courtesy Telluride Ski & Golf.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.