In the hospitality and events sector, clients expect more than a boring, blank space. Luckily in Colorado there is no shortage of places that light a creative spark for memorable events. From properties with tales of the Old West to venues that bring out the kid in all of us, we are indeed lucky to call Colorado our work and home playground.
Two of Colorado’s grande dame properties came out on top this year for their historical significance and dedication to service. If only those Mexican onyx walls of the THE BROWN PALACE HOTEL & SPA could talk and tell the tales of scandal and romance. The Brown Palace is being recognized as Best Historic Venue for capturing the state’s golden era of elegant hospitality born out of Denver’s rugged beginnings.
THE BROADMOOR in Colorado Springs was recognized as Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/ Event Space Outside Denver. "The Broadmoor is steeped in traditional and first-class service, and consistently lives up to its world-renowned reputation," says voter Monica Cheeks, senior director of catering and convention services, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center.
The resort keeps getting better with new off-site lodges and cabins, renovations to Broadmoor West slated for completion in May and a new Italian restaurant, Ristorante del Lago (scheduled to open summer 2014). The resort’s two new gems for smaller events are Cloud Camp and The Ranch at Emerald Valley. The stone lodge at Cloud Camp, perched atop Cheyenne Mountain, is a haven for cozy corporate retreats and events. The Ranch at Emerald Valley is an all-inclusive cabin and lodge property bordering 100,000 acres of Pike National Forest.
Like The Broadmoor, other properties invested in renovations that turned industry heads. GRAND HYATT DENVER led the restoration brigade with the completion of a $28 million renewal project of the lobby, lobby lounge, guest rooms, Pinnacle Club and other meeting and event spaces. The hot new Fireside Bar features stacked lineal fireplaces and a wine rack with enough unique wines for a new vintage every day of the year. Chris Dorroh, sales and design consultant for Chair Covers & Linens, emphasizes that "the before and after pictures of the Grand Hyatt speak for themselves."
Not only did the hotel gain recognition for Best Renovation Project at a Hotel or Event Venue, Grand Hyatt Denver landed first in the Best Hotel or Resort with Meeting/Event Space in Denver Metro with more than 52,000 square feet of options for groups. The newly updated 38th-floor Pinnacle Club now boasts a ballroom with a 360-degree view of the Front Range, and on-premise ballrooms, theater and classroom spaces are versatile enough to host a few hundred to as many as 1,400 guests.
For events outside Denver, KEYSTONE CONFERENCE CENTER won for Best Meeting/Event Venue Outside Denver (no hotel). With 60,000 square feet of meeting space, there is no shortage of options. The slopeside center is novel for programs that allow guests to engage with the local community and leave a greener footprint. For instance, Keystone Conference Center Green Meetings arranges for groups to help repair mountain trails, and planners can choose from a wide array of sustainable practices including waste reduction, water conservation and green transportation.
For events that call for adventure without a plane ticket, readers chose two zoos for the fun factor, creative spaces with live animals and cuisine (yes, there is great food at the zoo). DENVER ZOO placed first for Best Attraction in Denver Metro and as a runner-up in multiple categories. "Denver Zoo always has wonderful exhibits and seasonal celebrations," says Amy Evans, group sales and events director for Breckenridge-Wynkoop, LLC. "Because of this, I feel this makes the perfect year-round family attraction." Two miles of trails at the zoo’s newest exhibit, Toyota Elephant Passage, guides visitors through 10 acres of terrain that is home to African elephants, Malayan tapirs and greater one-horned rhinos. The zoo can accommodate pachyderm-size events of up to 8,000 people.
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO also attracted readers’ attention as the Best Attraction Outside Denver Metro. At this Colorado Springs zoo, the elephants and giraffes share top billing. Readers who voted for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo loved hand-feeding the giraffes, the scenic meeting space on a mountainside and the food. Both of these zoos have invested in talented chefs, creative locally sourced and international-themed menus and cocktails. The zoo also received recognition (a runner-up for Best Renovation) for The Overlook, an alfresco patio and bar that reaches out over the hillside for great views.
Did someone say food? Best Restaurant/Bar with Private Dining winner MAGGIANO’S has gained a reputation for Italian hospitality. "Maggiano’s has good food and atmosphere, and the space that our company used was very accommodating," says Lolita Hayes, manager of information technology, FCC Services. Both Maggiano’s locations in downtown Denver and Englewood offer full catering menus and spaces for business meetings and private dinners for 250 to 300 guests, depending on the location. Denver also loves its sports, so it’s no surprise COORS FIELD and PEPSI CENTER made the winner’s scoreboard. Coors Field, which won for Best Outdoor Meeting/Event Venue, hit a home run with its variety of options including the Clubhouse, Mountain Ranch Club, Warning Track, club levels and conference rooms. In the category of Best Meeting/Event Venue in Denver Metro (no hotel), the Pepsi Center earned kudos not only for meeting spaces, but also tickets to Nuggets or Avalanche games as part of a gathering.
Every event and meeting planner will tell you it takes more than a village to put on a successful event. This is where a top-notch support team comes in. For its commitment to personal service and being the proverbial Swiss Army knife of meeting planning, CONVENTION DESIGNS won again for Best Meeting/ Event Planning Company. It’s lucky that owner Heather Sullivan didn’t pursue her original career designs for foreign policy. But in hindsight, it may be her background in diplomacy that keeps her company in the forefront of some of Denver’s biggest events.
Another perennial favorite, VISIT DENVER, was crowned Best Destination Marketing Organization (town/area 25,000+ population). It’s the eighth year the CVB has been recognized and the eighth year of significant growth for Denver’s number of conventions, which is why it’s no surprise that number has grown by 226 percent in the same period.
Have you thought of Breckenridge for your next event? This year’s voters ranked GOBRECK as the Best Destination Marketing Organization (less than 25,000 in population). As GoBreck enters a new year after a Breckenridge Resort Chamber restructuring in late 2013, this recognition is a feather in the cap of a sales and marketing team that put Breckenridge at the top of the peak as a highly prized meeting destination spot.
This year the Best Destination Management Company is the ARRANGERS. For an astounding 45 years, the company has been Denver’s boots-on-the-ground company for interactive and always clever "meeter-tainment" ideas like Amazing Race and Freedom Service Dog training corporate team-building events. "I am repeatedly impressed with the energy, reliability, creativity and attention to detail provided by this exceptional DMC, says Cheeks, who also cast a vote for this winner. "We are always confident that our clients are in capable and caring hands when partnering with [Owner] Nicole [Marsh] and Arrangers."
Also getting some love for Best Entertainment is STARKEY PRODUCTIONS. The talent agency is known for bands, DJs and acts that get the whole room moving and shaking.
While Denver’s hotel, restaurant and attraction playgrounds provide a festive backdrop, it’s the food, designers, florists and technology gurus that give an event the finer details. Without a carefully planned menu and a cohesive theme, an event is no more than a room full of people.
Colorado Convention Center’s exclusive caterer, CENTERPLATE, took top honors as the Best Caterer in Denver Metro for the ability to oversee some of Denver’s biggest events. It’s easy to get lost in the enormity of the Colorado Convention Center, but Centerplate is known for paying close attention to every little detail. One of those details is sourcing hyperlocal ingredients at the Blue Bear Farm, located on the convention center grounds. Walk by the 5,000-square-foot garden and you are likely to see Centerplate chefs snipping off handfuls of fresh herbs, collecting giant bunches of chard and handpicking vineripened tomatoes. The raised beds are also a hub for youth education through a partnership with Denver Urban Gardens.
Outside the city, PICNIC BASKET FAMILY OF COMPANIES was voted the best caterer. The Colorado Springs caterer has 30 years of experience, which says a lot about its reputation. Voters gave accolades to each of its family companies: Cravings Five Star Catering, Picnic Basket Catering and Buffalo Gals.
Capturing an event with video and on camera is another talent that makes a gathering all the more memorable. For the fifth year, ALL DIGITAL PHOTO & VIDEO was recognized for Best Photographer/Videographer. "[Owner] Cal [Cheney] and his team at All Digital are quintessential professionals. Their attention to detail makes every event unique," says Kelly Kucera, sales executive for Image Audiovisuals. "They have a diverse array of services from corporate photography to videography and fantastic social packages. I never hesitate to recommend All Digital to all of my clients."
For its creative staging and floral work, DECOR ‘N MORE won for Best Event Décor/Florist. The firm’s work is a perfect fit for Denver’s over-the-top events that need a strong visual theme and striking architecture. If you need a blank canvas transformed from four walls to a magical botanic garden, a ship’s deck or a retro soda parlor, nothing is impossible, especially since Décor ‘N More joined forces with Holiday Artisans in 2013.
Meeting planners can agree that one of the smallest details with the most impact is A/V technology. When the keynote speaker’s video presentation has no sound, it can be a big embarrassment. Readers voted for CCR AV/EVENT TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS as Best Audio-Visual/Visual Presentation Provider for commitment to excellence in all things related to computers, audio and visual displays and other vital equipment for a successful meeting and event.
For an eighth straight year, EVENT RENTS was voted Best Rental Service Provider. Clients say they are continuously pleased with the quality of the service and the equipment the company provides for small and large events. Getting people to and from an event also is an essential component. SUPERSHUTTLE has earned the industry’s respect and was first this year for Best Transportation.