How Destinations Are Getting Authentic

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How Destinations for Meetings Are Getting Authentic


By Beth Buehler


I love visiting and attending meetings in towns that truly tap into their real character, spirit and history. In my days working in downtown revitalization with communities around Colorado and Iowa through the state Main Street programs, that was how we always described how downtowns were different than modern-day shopping malls. People like authenticity.


In this blog, I’ll share how several destinations for meetings are getting authentic in Colorado and provide ideas about how to tie into the local culture. It’s not a new trend in the Centennial State but certainly a trait that today’s meeting and event planners and attendees are seeking.

True to Local Vibe


At the top of our list of destinations for meetings, Boulder has long been a community that is true to itself and doesn’t attempt to mold to others’ expectations. I love the tagline, “Hip since 1859” and the unofficial “People’s Republic of Boulder,” which describe a place that stands on its own. Booking longtime venues like Hotel Boulderado downtown and Colorado Chautauqua that borders the Flatirons certainly provides a taste of the town, along with farm dinners and bike and brews tours. Boulder also has dialed in the art of walking conferences that allow attendees to experience that atmosphere and venues located on and around Pearl Street Mall, including the historic Boulder Theater.


As far as mountain destinations for meetings, Crested Butte is a free-spirited town that marches to its own beat. A Vail Resorts meeting planner familiarization trip (FAM) that I recently attended captured the town’s flair well on a scavenger hunt that included a local ski manufacturer (ROMP Skis), a well-known restaurant (Secret Stash), a museum/event venue (Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum) and two sister businesses (Pfisters and Pooh’s Corner).


One of the properties on the site tour was Elevation Hotel & Spa in Mt. Crested Butte, which recently added two new venues that very intentionally play off the local scene: the billy barr lobby bar named for a legendary local naturalist and researcher and Matchstick Productions Lounge with posters, memorabilia and ski movies by the local film company. The lobby bar provides a glimpse at the scientist’s efforts in tandem with Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), one of the largest and oldest scientific field stations in the world located in nearby Gothic.

Meeting planner FAM scavenger hunt stop at Crested Butte's ROMP Skis, courtesy Vail Resorts

City Charm


In Colorado’s third largest and most ethnically diverse city, Aurora, the authenticity angle is completely different. There are an incredible number of ethnic markets, restaurants and organizations that can be worked into a meeting agenda. Also don’t miss visiting Stanley Marketplace to check out a variety of great venues and more than 50 local and Colorado-based businesses to eat, drink, play, shop and enjoy services such as spa treatments and exercise classes. Aurora also has an impressive array of craft breweries, including two with flight and space themes—Launch Pad Brewery and FlyteCo Tower—which makes sense as the home of Buckley Space Force Base.


Another large Colorado city with its fair share of authenticity is Colorado Springs. Groups can book experiences at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and should also check out other attractions that speak to the sense of place such as Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (the highest elevation zoo in the country) and Seven Falls and Manitou Springs & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, both renovated and owned by The Broadmoor. Both Seven Falls and the zoo have event space for gatherings.


The U.S. Air Force Academy also holds an important role in Colorado Springs, and groups will have even more reason to visit the academy with construction of a visitor center and Hotel Polaris underway in the new TrueNorth Commons just outside the North Gate.


My first trip to Pueblo was for the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in 2021, and I was impressed with the downtown, riverwalk and culinary scene. Not only has the town been home to the Colorado State Fair for years, but there is also a proud steel industry heritage that is reflected in the town’s new Fuel & Iron Food Hall that opened in April. The food hall is a launching platform for new local restaurants. Wherever you dine in town, make sure to try something with Pueblo green chiles as part of the ingredients. It’s also hard to get more authentic than staying in one of the seven guest rooms/cells and having a reception at the Clink Lounge located in the Station on the Riverwalk, the former police station and jail near the Pueblo Convention Center.

FlyteCo Tower brewery in Aurora is located in the former Stapleton International Airport's air traffic control tower, courtesy FlyteCo Tower

A Taste of the West & Hot Springs


Steamboat Springs is an ideal place for attendees to feel part of the West and experience a portion of the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. Savor a hot springs soak at Strawberry Park Hot Springs and Old Town Hot Springs and feel right at home wearing a cowboy hat and boots for a horseback ride, cattle drive, an evening at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, or a stay at a guest ranch. There also is Cowboys’ Roundup Days, Steamboat Winter Carnival, and Cowboy Downhill events that are fun to include on an itinerary if the scheduling of a meeting or incentive trip allows. Don’t miss a stop at F.M. Light & Sons for western apparel or provide a gift card as a sweet welcome gift.


This is just a sampling of how destinations for meetings are getting authentic in Colorado. Ask local destination marketing organizations and destination management companies how to plug into real experiences that will result in attendees departing with a sense of the place.


Top Photo: E-Bike Tour in Boulder, courtesy Visit Boulder


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.