Beach volleyball tournaments, kayaking competitions or scenic boat cruises might not come to mind when you think of Colorado events. That’s because less than 1 percent of the state’s land is water, according to the U.S. Geological Society’s Water Science School. However, that still leaves nearly 450 square miles of opportunity for clever water venues and activities.
A few man-made lakes, plenty of natural ones and dozens of reservoirs provide ample water time for groups.
The Lake House at Cherry Creek, Greenwood Village
The Lake House at Cherry Creek, located at Cherry Creek State Park, is Denver’s only beachfront venue and has various rental options such as the Great Hall, Upper Deck, Tiki Beach and Breezeway Patio and expanses big enough to host up to 500 guests. “It’s truly a blank canvas,” says Tamara Wilkinson, manager of The Lake House. “When you rent The Lake House at Cherry Creek, we provide the tables and chairs for up to 200 guests, and we will connect groups with the best in the industry for catering, décor, entertainment, etc.”
She adds, “Recently we hosted an electrical company for an employee appreciation day. Food was provided for the 150 attendees, and the organization partnered with Rocky Mountain Paddleboard to take the group onto Cherry Creek Reservoir for some water activity.”
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, The Lake House has programming such as Live! at the Lake, a classic rock summer series. Reservations for eight or more can be taken for these evenings. “With the backdrop of sailboats on the reservoir April through October, it’s just an added bonus for spectacular scenery,” Wilkinson says.
Keystone Lodge & Spa, Keystone
Situated by Keystone Lake, Keystone Lodge & Spa has the added benefit of 152 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space, with the largest option being 5,700 square feet. During the summer, groups also can utilize the Keystone Adventure Center to rent standup paddleboards (SUP), paddleboats, kayaks, canoes and bikes so attendees have a chance to get outside to stretch their legs. Groups also can incorporate the natural beauty of the lake as a backdrop for events.
Keystone Lodge & Spa recently treated two July groups to evenings that paired majestic mountain views with culinary delights and on-lake activities. Approximately 1,200 incentive group attendees experienced “Taste of Keystone,” featuring a laser light show and food from Keystone’s culinary team that was available around the lake so guests could nosh between fun activities like paddle boarding and canoeing.
In a separate July group event, Keystone’s outdoor plaza was used as an exhibit hall for a software company event where teachers could experience new products. This group also rented out the entire adventure center, allowing guests to go between the exhibit hall and on-lake activities or mountain biking. Also, the company brought in mobile stages where well-known artists performed and floated its mascot on the lake and encouraged participants to use a canoe, paddle boat or SUP to reach the mascot for a one-of-akind photo.
Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events, Grand Lake
Western Riviera offers one of the most spectacular lakeside venues in the state just steps from the shores of Grand Lake, the largest natural lake in Colorado. The resort has a meetings and events hall with 2,000 square feet of interior space that accommodates up to 122 and includes a great room, bar and 1,000-square-foot outdoor deck for lakeside dining.
The true bonus of the lake from Memorial Day through Labor Day is the multiple options for water activities from chartering a pontoon boat with a historical tour guide to kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, paddleboating, fishing and more.
“Just recently, we hosted a fundraiser for a local charity. Each of the supporters invited 12 guests for a total of 120 people, and barbecue was served by a local caterer. While looking out at Grand Lake one of the guest’s remarked, ‘This view is just like a picture postcard,’” shares owner Jackie Tompkins.
Mesa Lakes Lodge, Mesa
Located on western Colorado’s Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world, the lodge and cabins at Mesa Lakes Lodge are surrounded by lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The main lodge can host up to 99 people for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and there is a front patio with umbrellas for up to 40. However, the most popular request is the south side of the lodge, where there is a yard and porch that can accommodate groups of 20-30 and overlooks Beaver Lake.
“This past February, we hosted NASA for the entire month,” explains owner Andy Brito. “They had rented all the cabins and we would set up a breakfast buffet each morning, prepare sack lunches for daytime (as they were out in the field all day), and then host a full buffet for dinner.”
What gets interesting is how NASA utilized Mesa Lakes Lodge’s water resources. “The group was monitoring water levels constantly and testing probes for outer space as well. They would fly an airplane over the property each day to record which probe was most accurate,” Brito says.
Not all groups take the scientific approach to the lodge. Rather, many corporate retreats rent snowmobiles, cross-country skis and snowshoes and during warmer months switch to rowboats, canoes, paddleboards in addition to booking horseback rides, ATV tours and guided fly-fishing trips.
There are more than enough rivers and streams in Colorado for all the weeks of the year. From rushing rapids to quaint trickling streams, there’s an option for every group.
Mishawaka Amphitheatre, Bellevue
The Mishawaka, roughly 25 miles outside of Fort Collins, has hosted hundreds of receptions and events at their riverside venue with indoor seating for 80, outdoor seating for 250 or standing room for 1,000. There are 60 onsite parking spots and a shuttle company to provide transportation as needed.
“We host everything from nonprofit breakfasts, lunches on the river and private concerts; we run the gamut,” notes Taylor Strope, events coordinator. “We are hosting a Chamber of Commerce event in autumn for 200 people in the outdoor amphitheatre. We will be catering from our restaurant and doing something a little different. There will be three different setups—wedding, a reception and a corporate conference—and a local band,” explains Strope.
Rock Bottom Ranch, Basalt
Located halfway between Basalt and Carbondale, ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch is set among wetlands and braided river channels on 113 acres and has an indoor Field Study Center. Standard rental includes staff assistance, a farm tour catered to age and demographic of the group, and use of the Field Study Center, a pole barn, lawns and picnic areas. There is ample parking for 30 vehicles and plenty of bike parking right off of the Rio Grande Trail.
Even in a state without an abundance of water in nature, a significant number of venues are making big waves.
GIVE YOUR NEXT EVENT A LITTLE EXTRA SPLASH!
BOATHOUSE CANTINA, SALIDA Overlooking Salida’s water park on the Arkansas River, there is a large river patio at this venue. With use of the restaurant space, groups of 200 can convene here.
GARLIC MIKE’S, GUNNISON A staple along the Gunnison River, Garlic Mike’s has a large lawn, spacious tented patio and a new River Bar. Raft from Three Rivers Resort in Almont to Garlic Mike’s with a convenient Float ‘N Dine package.
HORSETOOTH RESERVOIR, FORT COLLINS The South Bay Group Pavilion can be reserved and holds up to 150 people.
THE BROADMOOR SEVEN FALLS, COLORADO SPRINGS Located only a mile away from this historic resort via a handy shuttle, Seven Falls features a lighted path up to the seven waterfalls, two zipline courses, and Restaurant 1858 for indoor events along the water.
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN, COLORADO SPRINGS, A DOLCE RESORT A 35-acre private lake with a white sand beachfront is perfect for a beach-themed party or luau complete with fire pits for a pig roast, a variety of boat rentals and two sand volleyball courts. Or plug into beach and SUP yoga classes.