Planning Summer Meetings and Events in Colorado

By Beth Buehler

Just the thought of summer days ahead in Colorado always lifts my spirits as we transition from winter to spring. Loads of sunshine, a calendar full of events, plenty of socializing on patios, and people heading outdoors in their free time to hike, bike, golf, fish and more. Doesn’t that sound especially amazing as we’re sticking close to home these days until we can wave COVID-19 a big good-bye?

As spring meetings and events are being bumped back into summer and fall and new gatherings are being booked, I thought it might be helpful to highlight some great options for groups planning summer meetings. I’m pretty sure we’re all going to want some major face-to-face time when this is all over, and Destination Colorado and its members stand ready to assist!

Outdoor Venues – For many states, planning summer meetings means going inside where there is air-conditioning, but Colorado’s dry climate results in lack of humidity, so it is extremely pleasant to get outside for lunches, cocktail receptions and dinners. Grand Junction also has breakfasts for groups at the Colorado National Monument that are truly spectacular. Many hotels in cities like Colorado Springs and Aurora and mountain towns such as Snowmass and Telluride have wonderful patios where meetings can easily transition from inside to outside for breaks, meals and receptions.

The unique landscape of Colorado National Monument. Courtesy Visit Grand Junction.

Then there are the rooftops at Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies) and surrounding taverns, gardens such as Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, and spectacular outdoor music venues, with the best-known being Red Rocks Amphitheatre just west of Denver. And don’t forget lawn venues, public parks and downtown alleys that become available in summer.

Firehouse Alley next to The Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins can host all sorts of events in summer. Courtesy Downtown Fort Collins Business Association.

Events Galore – Sometimes one of the hardest aspects of planning summer meetings and events is organizing the entertainment. Why not tap into things that are already happening in a destination if you can? It saves money and plugs into the local vibe. There are all sorts of outdoor concert series and amazing festivals that take place throughout the summer in destinations that range from Boulder, Fort Collins and Pueblo to Crested Butte and Durango. Just make sure to book your gathering enough in advance if a festival already brings a fair number of people to town.

Free outdoor concerts at ski area bases are a highlight of summer. Courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Alternative Modes of Transportation – Summer also opens up diverse ways to get around that can add to the experience. BrewHop Trolley that runs between the breweries, cideries and distilleries in Longmont is especially fun with all the windows down or hire a fleet of pedi-cabs to shuttle a group from a hotel to dinner or a baseball game in downtown Denver. Or have you seen the party bikes you can pedal as a team? In the mountains, ride horses or go on a 4X4 ride to dinner or board chairlifts and gondolas for a bird’s-eye view of the scenery.

During a corporate retreat, attendees were transported from Denver Union Station to a downtown hotel by pedi-cabs.

Season for Local Foods – Colorado is a four-season state so summer is a prime time to catch local harvests of delicious foods such as Olathe sweet corn, Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford cantaloupe, and a wide range of other fruits and vegetables that chefs from restaurants, hotels, convention centers and catering companies love to incorporate into menus. Most towns have farmer’s markets, and you may be lucky enough to catch one and have a chef do a cooking class with your group’s purchases.

Beautiful Colorado peaches in a Palisade orchard. Photo by Beth Buehler.

Fresh-Air Activities – Whether it’s an incentive trip, sales team meeting or executive retreat, I’m a huge fan of incorporating outdoor activities that are fun and showcase the destination. In Colorado that means rafting, horseback riding, fly fishing, boating on lakes, taking yoga outdoors, doing a history or foodie walking tour, and more. You can make it as adventuresome or low-key as you wish!

Mountain top yoga with a spectacular view. Courtesy Keystone Resort.

Great Time to Include Families – With the kids out for school, consider bringing families into the mix. While meetings are underway, family members can go do their own thing or you can plan a few options for them to choose from like the zoos in Colorado Springs and Denver; adventure parks at ski resorts like Breckenridge, Snowmass and Vail; and hot springs in Buena Vista and Steamboat Springs. In the evening, a barbecue with the whole crew at a ranch complete with outdoor games, country music and s’mores around a campfire is a lot of fun. Families may even wish to add a few days to their Colorado excursion for time together!

Hiking is a fun and inexpensive way to include families in a group outing. Courtesy Vail Resorts/Jack Affleck.

Get in touch with Destination Colorado members who can help make summer gatherings, from meetings and retreats to weddings and family reunions, times to remember. There is a simple RFP process on this Destination Colorado website to connect you with a variety of lodging properties, venues, service providers, destinations and more. Stay positive and dream of summer!

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.