Added Value Is Automatic for Colorado Meetings
Photos: International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge Tourism Office/Louie Traub; Cookie Time at Beaver Creek, courtesy of Vail Resorts/Stacie Mesuda; Tour at Clark Family Orchards, courtesy of Visit Grand Junction; Union Station Farmers Market, Sam Gentry/Denver Union Station; Curling and Cocktails at Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa, Beth Buehler; Thursday Night Live in Fort Collins, courtesy of Bohemian Nights; Stanley Marketplace, From the Hip Photo
Find additional ideas and information about iconic places for a Colorado meeting and search for meeting venues by region or statewide.
Who doesn’t like a great deal, especially when meetings are on a budget or some extra decor or audio-visual touches would be nice? An easy place to find a wide variety of deals in Colorado is through Destination Colorado, a one-stop resource that is a helpful forum for planners to explore the best lodging, venue, destination and service options for groups of all types and sizes.
Colorado also offers a serious amount of automatic value, meaning planners can tap into resources that already exist, such as a jam-packed calendar of free concerts and festivals, public parks and pavilions, worthwhile community-service projects, low-cost modes of transportation and more. Also make sure to connect with destination marketing organizations (DMOs) around the state for all sorts of ideas and in-kind services, especially before landing on a firm meeting or event date.
The following seven items are just a few things to ask DMO staff and other industry pros in Colorado about when selecting a destination, venues and activities.
Community Service Projects
There are several great companies in Colorado that offer team-building activities with a CSR (corporate social responsibility) twist, but it’s also possible to organize activities directly with a nonprofit at no cost, other than the supplies and tools needed and perhaps a donation.
Maintaining trails, building facilities for animal-rescue leagues and helping prepare and serve a meal at a homeless shelter are good examples. For example, hundreds of people have taken part in group volunteer opportunities at Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, with projects ranging from trail work and vegetation projects to fire-fuel-reduction work and litter cleanup.
Free & Inexpensive Happenings
DMOs typically provide a variety of services for free, including a RFP process that includes several lodging and venue partners, and have a wealth of knowledge about suppliers and fun activities for groups. Plus Colorado ski resorts, destinations and hotels present all sorts of free happenings. In Beaver Creek, the end of a ski day means delicious free chocolate-chip cookies!
Year-round there is music al fresco galore in the form of free concert series at parks and ski resorts, including Thursday Night Live at Old Town Park in Fort Collins. Avon LIVE! and Hot Summer Nights in the Vail Valley, Bands on the Bricks in Boulder, Alpenglow in Crested Butte, Snowmass Free Summer Series and Steamboat Free Summer Concerts are just a few additional examples.
Almost all Colorado communities host unique festivals that have no ticket price — only a charge for add-on activities, food and drink, and other purchases — and it’s not just limited to only summer and fall. Winter means options like Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Wintersköl in Aspen, International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge and Parade of Lights in downtown Denver.
Farmers’ Markets & Orchards
Colorado has long been a pioneer in supporting local farmers, organic practices and sustainability, and farmers' markets are more popular than ever. Plus, there is an abundance of orchards and vineyards on the Western Slope to check out.
Farmers’ markets are the place to find not only great local produce and foods but also baked goods, artists, musicians, meals and more. At Denver Union Station, just step out the front door on Saturdays from mid-May through mid-October. In Aspen, Telluride, Crested Butte and Boulder, head downtown to shop the bounty. Check to see if one of your hotel’s chefs is willing to accompany a group to the farmers’ market and talk about what to buy and incorporate purchases into a cooking class or meal.
Several orchards on the Western Slope in Paonia, Palisade and Grand Junction offer pick-your-own experiences for reasonably priced peaches, apples, cherries and more, depending on the season. Send attendees back to their rooms with these fresh snacks or incorporate them into breaks.
Market Halls & Parks
All sorts of market halls are popping up around Colorado, especially in communities like Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, and offer alternatives to a plated or buffet dinner. Another less-expensive option is a picnic at a public park pavilion.
Give each attendee a set amount of money to spend as they wish at the food halls, instead of having a big catered dinner that requires decor, live entertainment and more. Attendees will love the choices and shopping, making it a fun night out. Come back all together at a beer hall, like the one available in Stanley Marketplace.
Choose parks that border a lake like in Aurora or feature a large collection of public sculptures like in Loveland. See if there are any concerts going on in a park that can be attended after the picnic is over.
The Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley and Aspen/Snowmass both have free public bus systems, and RTD’s Free MallRide buses traverse the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. Telluride has offered a free scenic gondola ride from the historic town to Mountain Village, where the ski area is located, for more than two decades.
RTD also helps people get around the Denver metro area very inexpensively on buses and light rail, including the A Line that runs from downtown to Denver International Airport for only $10.50 one way. Pedicabs are another memorable and low-priced way to get attendees from a downtown hotel to an off-site event nearby.
Complimentary Services & Goodies
Ask hotels about free activities that attendees can enjoy. If families are along for a meeting or event, for example, Dive-In Movies shown at the Omni Interlocken Hotel pools at dusk (from Memorial Day through Labor Day) are sure to be a hit.
Free nightly receptions at the Kimpton’s Hotel Born and Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver and the various Embassy Suites around the state are always a treat and a great place to network. The Ritz-Carlton, Denver recently introduced a tasty daily lobby presentation from 4–5 p.m. where guests can sample Rocky Mountain Green Chili Dip paired with house-fried tortillas, showcasing the flavors of green chilies from Pueblo.
At Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa, choose from regular, chocolate and strawberry marshmallows and make s’mores over patio fire pits from 3–5 p.m. after a day playing in the snow. Perhaps stick around for Curling and Cocktails, a new reasonably priced option for a sport most of us just see during the Winter Olympics.
Organizations like the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) offer free hikes daily in Aspen and Snowmass. Friends of the Dillon Ranger District also present a wide variety of free educational hikes throughout summer and fall ranging from wildflower, wildlife and mining-history excursions to forestry and waterside walks.
It also doesn’t cost much to hire a guide anywhere for hikes and snowshoe tours or a yoga instructor to lead a class in a park or on a patio.
Many cool Colorado experiences aren’t synonymous with big bucks. In fact, there are all sorts of options that are no cost or low cost, providing extra value for meetings and events and kudos for planners in the process!
Levitt Pavilion Denver
Levitt Pavilion Denver in Ruby Hill Park hosts 50 free concerts and several ticketed events annually in a beautiful outdoor setting. The free series is a launching pad for emerging artists, and food trucks are available to satisfy hunger pangs.
Photo: credit Joel Rekiel
Walking Mountains Science Center
Walking Mountains Science Center presents free daytime and evening snowshoe tours on Vail Mountain. Take in the epic views of Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness and learn about animals and winter ecology. Snowshoes are provided.