By Clay Perry
Is Boulder the next great trade-show-incubator destination?
With the city’s conference space topping out at 9,000 square feet, many emerging trade shows have found Boulder just the perfect size for nurturing small to mid-sized trade shows, expos and events that are just getting off the ground.
A pioneering, innovative spirit (Boulder routinely tops the lists of top entrepreneurial and tech startup hot spots in the nation), a sense of small-city collaboration (with big-city amenities), and a setting that gets exhibitors and attendees excited (mountain views, trails, historic downtown, amazing dining scene, a short drive from Denver and Denver International Airport), Boulder has built a reputation as a supportive, invigorating place for upstart trade shows.
Grow Your Show
Will your trade show go the way of The Great American Beer Festival, which started in Boulder and has since graduated to the Colorado Convention Center, given its 62,000 sell-out attendance? Or NatchCom, a gathering for tech and e-commerce innovation in the natural products industry, which recently moved from Boulder to San Francisco to respond to growing demand?
It’s possible. And we’re confident Boulder’s unique, trade-show-ready venues will play a role in catapulting your event to next-level of success.
It’s true that Boulder doesn’t have a conference center, and that actually makes for a refreshing trade-show experience for your exhibitors and attendees. Instead of being buried in the center of a giant convention center under florescent lights with nary a skylight in sight, even Boulder’s largest spaces are light-filled, mindfully designed and close to nature. Here are a few options.
1. Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder
Instead of a beige-on-beige soulless lobby, you’ll walk into a imaginative, nature-inspired art installation featuring friendly woodland creatures at Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder and find enormous floor-to-ceiling windows to take in views of Boulder’s Flatirons mountains. The unique vibe carries through to the hotel’s 6,510-square-foot ballroom, a popular spot for markets, expos and trade shows. For example, Naturally Boulder holds its Annual Spring Fling at the Embassy, using the ballroom for its Shoots Showcase trade show of fledgling natural products. High ceilings, cutting-edge audiovisual equipment and space for up to 750 guests are ideal for trade shows like this one.
2. St Julien Hotel & Spa
With a primo location in historic downtown and a front-row-seat to the dazzling show the Flatirons mountains put on daily, St Julien Hotel & Spa’s decidedly upscale, 4,088-square-foot ballroom is always a crowd-pleaser. Additionally, if you’re considering a fresh-air trade show (how very Boulder of you!), the spectacular Redgarden Terrace or side courtyard can accommodate. The St Julien’s award-winning green efforts will appeal to your group if you have a focus on sustainability: the hotel composts, conserves water and even has a rooftop beehive and garden.
3. Glenn Miller Ballroom
Planning a trade show with a focus on innovation? Why not host it at a university known worldwide for its groundbreaking discoveries? University of Colorado Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, named after the legendary big band musician (a CU alum), is Boulder’s largest ballroom at 9,275 square feet. Divisible by three and with all the tables and AV equipment you need on-site, this space is favored by trade-show planners in search of a “blank canvas” with flexible layouts. A sprawling terrace with classic Boulder mountain views is another perk. And it doesn’t hurt that the ballroom is in the University Memorial Center (with options for even more space throughout the center) in the heart of CU’s scenic campus and distinctive red sandstone architecture.
4. Boulder JCC
The Boulder Jewish Community Center (JCC) is a huge, cutting-edge facility that welcomes trade shows from all walks to discover its gorgeously designed Levin Hall, with 4,000-square feet of space. A floating timber ceiling creates a warm and welcoming tone, and one entire wall is lined with glass windows that overlook the Rockies and opens up onto a spacious patio. Events like the Aging at Altitude Expo, with hundreds of attendees and information booths, have found this space to be the bright, feel-good atmosphere (with ample parking, to boot) for positive collaboration.
5. Rembrandt Yard
If your trade show is in the creative industries—or you simply appreciate artful, stimulating settings—take a look at downtown Boulder’s Rembrandt Yard. An event venue and art gallery in one, there’s always stunning paintings and sculptures on display and huge picture windows to take in some of Mother Nature’s most inspiring works, too. It’s conveniently just a block off bustling Pearl Street, downtown Boulder’s pedestrian shopping and dining district. A 3,500-square-foot space with gleaming hardwood floors makes for an intimate venue that will get exhibitors and guests buzzing and is a favorite for visually stunning trade shows like the Annual Boulder Wedding Showcase.
6. Boulder Theater
One of the loveliest (and most photogenic) examples of art deco architecture in the state, the Boulder Theater shares hosting duties for the Annual Boulder Wedding Showcase with Rembrandt Yard each year. (This is another option in compact, walkable Boulder: use more than one venue for a single event.) The theater has also been the setting for the Boulder Adventure Film Festival, whose Street Fair and Expo takes over downtown’s 14th Street in front of the theater’s famous marquee, for a fresh-air experience that perfectly suits the event’s outdoors ethos and adventure-gear exhibitors.
You’ve Got Friends in Boulder
If you like the idea of a setting that thrives on collaboration, innovation and outdoor beauty, the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau can help zero in on the right facility choices and do a lot of the legwork. The assistance is complimentary.
Clay Perry is the director of group sales for the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau and knows a thing or two about trade shows, having attended about a bajillion of them annually. He is passionate about helping meeting, conference and trade-show planners knock their events out of the park in Boulder and takes clients around for site visits in the CVB’s vintage VW bus.