In the southwest section of Colorado, two great towns located along picturesque rivers and U.S. Highway 160 are only 60 miles apart. I had the chance to visit Durango and Pagosa Springs for meetings, exploring and high school soccer games in mid-October, when the trees were still displaying their fabulous fall wardrobes and the temperatures were perfect. These are certainly year-round destinations, with ski resorts nearby and tons of other recreation options and attractions as well as distinct meeting and event spaces.
Being a fan of downtowns, I enjoy staying in a vibrant central business district like Durango’s to easily access all it has to offer during spare time. I liked that several businesses were open late so that after meetings were over on Thursday, there was something to enjoy after a delicious dinner at Ken & Sue’s with an attractive patio and six local microbreweries and two distilleries. The historic beauty where I stayed, Strater Hotel, has long been in our pages, but I had never stayed there and loved my second floor room with a classic feel but modern amenities. The corner property also has great dining and nightlife choices and was hopping with groups arriving and a fund-raising luncheon in the theatre.
Meeting in The Office Spiritorium, an active spot for happy hour, was fun as was touring the hotel with Emily Spencer, sales and catering manager, and Linda Mannix, coordinator of the annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which fully books the hotel around the first weekend in October and is a prime way to give corporate groups a taste of cowboy culture. Spencer says the hotel is ideal for groups of 80 or less but can host an event for up to 230. I don’t think I passed the hotel’s famous Diamond Belle Saloon without it being busy and enjoyed seeing the costumed waitresses and bartenders. Durango Coffee Company and the new Lone Spur Café were within steps for one-on-one meetings, and the paved Animas Trail along the Animas River was ideal for a quick walk or run and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depot and free museum a nice stop, both only a few blocks away.
Other properties downtown of interest to groups but with less meeting and event space are the historic General Palmer Hotel and Rochester Hotel and Leland House, plus the newer DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Durango along the river with 5,500 square feet of function space. On the drive to Durango, I stopped in downtown Ouray, where the Beaumont Hotel & Spa is another historic beauty and drove through Silverton but didn’t find out until getting to Durango that I should have stopped at the newly reopened Grand Imperial Hotel. The Harper family, owners of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, purchased the hotel in spring 2015 and have thoughtfully renovated the gem, making it a fun option for groups to possibly meet in both Durango and Silverton, taking the train ride between the two.
Pagosa Springs also is always a favorite southwest Colorado destination, with The Springs Resort & Spa (complete with hot springs pools, lodging, spa and meeting and event space) and Pagosa Baking Company (also available for catering) always on my must-stop list. This time I stayed at High Country Lodge & Cabins slightly east of town with a great lawn between the lodge and cabins for an outdoor gathering, clean rooms and breakfast provided. Nearby is Fireside Inn Cabins, also with a large lawn and riverside picnic areas, making it possible for medium-size groups to stay at both properties and use the Pagosa Springs Fine Arts Center or Ross Aragon Community Center for meetings. I’ve dined and tried the beer at Pagosa Brewing Company, which recently expanded and has indoor and outdoor seating for groups, and Riff Raff Brewing Company with a nice outdoor deck, live entertainment and home-brewed ginger beer for a whole array of mule cocktails.
Get out and enjoy southwest Colorado in all season!