In the Southwest Colorado gems of Durango, Pagosa Springs and Cortez, groups are almost always close to a river, mountains, breweries, hot springs and outdoor fun. Plus, expect unique heritage attractions and great venues to add to your treasure trove of options.
A medium-sized college town nestled in the San Juan Mountains, Durango successfully mingles a storied past with modern-day mountain flair.
From gunfights, saloon singers and cowboy poetry to a historic steam train and chuck wagon dinners, Durango honors its Western roots. Take your group on a 45-mile journey through the mountains from Durango to Silverton on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, checking the train’s calendar for special events like the Durango Blues Train, Fall Photographer’s Special, Brew Train, and Durango Wine and Rails. Stop by the free D&SNGRR Railroad Museum right by the depot in Durango, even if you only have a few minutes to spare.
Consider meeting at the historic 93-room Strater Hotel at the corner of Seventh Street and Main Avenue or at least build time in during meeting madness to stop at the Henry Strater Theatre for a show and Diamond Belle Saloon for live music played year-round and a gunfight out front in the summer.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s USP Oncology Sales held a Southwest District team meeting for 15 attendees at Strater Hotel from May 10-12, with meetings held in the Oak Room, dinner in the Mahogany Grille and happy hour in the saloon. “The team loved the history and uniqueness of the venue,” says Senior District Sales Manager Ashley Orihuela.
“Durango was the perfect location! Easy to get to, absolutely beautiful, friendly, warm people and tons of fun things to do,” she adds. “While in town, we did a team-building at the Conundrum Escape Room, took oldtime photos, and did a brewery tour at the Steamworks Brewery.”
Dig into the tasty grub and boot-tapping music at Bar D Wranglers’ Supper Show, offered nightly from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, or attend the True West rodeo on Wednesday evenings through much of the summer. In early October, built-in entertainment can be in the form of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which celebrates ranching and the American cowboy through poetry, music, storytelling, art and a parade.
Enjoy outdoor time on an Animas River raft trip, horseback ride in the mountains, jeep ride to old mining towns or a pontoon boat ride at nearby Vallecito Lake. Another option is a meeting break to walk or bike the paved Animas River Trail, stopping at Powerhouse Science Center and refueling at The Animas River Café located at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Durango or Animas Brewing Company, both on the river’s edge. Along with the DoubleTree, there is lodging and function space at the General Palmer, Rochester Hotel and The Leland House (all historic properties downtown). Ridgewood Event Center & Gardens and River Bend Ranch also rank high in atmosphere for gatherings.
There is plenty to do at nearby Purgatory Resort ski area in summer and winter, and a massage and soak at Trimble Natural Hot Springs is the perfect way to spend some unwind time.
For sustenance, head to one of the many locally owned restaurants in historic downtown or head straight to the source for a farm tour and meal at James Ranch. Or check out the six breweries and two distilleries as well as Bookcase & Barber, an upscale, vintage-style barbershop with a cozy speakeasy bar hidden behind a bookshelf.
Surrounded by 2.5 million acres of wilderness and national forest and known for the world's deepest hot springs, Pagosa Springs is an ideal spot for small or medium groups. The Springs Resort & Spa offers soaking, lodging, spa services and meeting space all in once place. Just a few blocks away and in the heart of downtown is Overlook Hot Springs Spa, where groups can go for rooftop relaxation. For less expensive lodging and spacious lawns for outdoor events, head to High Country Lodge & Cabins and nearby Fireside Inn Cabins, which also has a riverside picnic area.
Pagosa Springs hosted more than 150 attendees for the two-day Southwest Tourism Summit in April 2016, utilizing the Ross Aragon Community Center for general sessions and three breakouts and The Springs Resort & Spa for one breakout. Evening networking events were held at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts and Borde Rio.
“The conference began with a tour of downtown Pagosa Springs, highlighting the use of geothermal heat in downtown Pagosa, with stops at the Mother Spring, Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership Site and Riff Raff Brewing. The networking events included local live music and performances from the Center for the Arts, and local restaurants, foods and beverages were featured,” shares Visit Pagosa Springs Director Jennifer Green, who helped organize the summit in Pagosa Springs.
Not far from the Center for the Arts, Pagosa Brewing Company has spacious grounds for outdoor happenings as well as indoor options for groups, not to mention a full menu of cuisine and beer made on-site. Back downtown, one of the best spots for handcrafted baked goods is Pagosa Baking Company, which serves breakfast and lunch and is available for catering. Other local culinary hot spots include Alley House, Tavern Le Boeuf and Kip’s Grill.
During fair-weather months and breaks in the meeting agenda, head to Chimney Rock National Monument, tube a 2-mile stretch of the San Juan River through downtown, hike to one of many waterfalls and visit Williams Creek Reservoir for a picnic, fishing and canoeing on a gorgeous mountain lake. In winter, there also are plenty of options, especially at nearby Wolf Creek Ski Area, which tends to get its fair share of snow.
Cortez is the gateway to the magnificent Mesa Verde National Park, one of the nation’s first World Heritage sites and the largest archaeological preserve in the country. With 60 guest rooms and meeting and event space, Far View Lodge is the only lodging within the park. Mesa Verde Country (which also includes the nearby towns of Mancos and Dolores) is loaded with additional archaeological attractions such as Hovenweep National Monument, Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Anasazi Heritage Center and Cortez Cultural Center.
Groups with outdoorsy types will want to save time for hiking, mountain and road biking, fishing and water sports on McPhee Lake and the Dolores River.
One of the most unique places to stay is Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch where a selection of homes and cabins are available to rent. Nestled adjacent to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, the historic ranch was owned by legendary cowboy Elden Zwicker, features miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and has plenty of space for peace and solitude. In town, there are national brands like Baymont Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn and Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suites along with the unique Retro Inn.
A progressive beer tasting might just be what the fun doctor ordered after a full day of meetings with Main Street Brewery, Coyote J. Brewing Company and WildEdge Brewing Collective as options in Cortez, all serving food. For groups that prefer wine, Guy Drew Vineyards and Sutcliffe Vineyards offer the perfect local solution.
Another great dinner location in downtown Cortez is The Farm Bistro & Lounge, which chef/farmers Rusty and Laurie Hall opened in 2009 as an extension of their organic farm. They offer on- and off-site catering for 20-100 guests within 50 miles of Cortez. Stone Sushi & More and Blondies Trophy Room also are popular local hangouts, and make sure Moose & More is on the menu or part of a welcome gift with its artisan ice cream and chocolate.
Looking for something different? If so, head straight to southwest Colorado to discover an abundance of options.