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Denver Is On a Roll

The Mile High City’s downtown is at the heart of the latest and greatest in Colorado

By Beth Buehler

Downtown Denver has been on the move over the past decade with a flurry of distinct new hotels and cool venues, major top-to-bottom renovations, and a spacious rooftop expansion at Colorado Convention Center (CCC). The addition of the A Line train from Denver International Airport to the restored and reimagined Denver Union Station has also been a game-changer.

Downtown Denver skyline. Feb. 13, 2024
Downtown Denver has 13,000 hotel rooms || Photo by Matt, courtesy of Adobe Stock

Especially attractive to meeting planners are the 13,000 hotel rooms within easy walking distance of CCC, including both newer properties like Thompson Denver by Hyatt and The Slate Denver, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, which opened in 2022, and longtime favorites like the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, which launched in 2003. Historic beauties like The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa and The Oxford Hotel, and high-end properties like Four Seasons Hotel Denver and The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, are also situated in the vibrant city center.

The Oxford Hotel in Lower Downtown Denver. Feb. 13, 2024
The Oxford Hotel in Lower Downtown || Courtesy of Visit Denver

Downtown Denver also is in the process of updating key public spaces like Skyline Park, a landmark since the 1950s. The redevelopment will create a winter ice skating rink that transforms into a plaza for events and a water play area in the summer. 

However, the biggest news is restoration of the 16th Street Mall, built in 1982. Set for completion this year, the project is reconfiguring the pedestrian mall’s layout to create wider sidewalks, facilitate a new amenity zone, and allow the Free Mall Ride shuttle service to traverse in the middle. Additional green space, interactive elements, and new collections of site furnishings also are planned.

Lobby of The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa. Feb. 13, 2024
Spectacular lobby of The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa || Courtesy of Visit Denver

A Downtown Meeting Experience

HelmsBriscoe held its 2023 annual business conference for 1,600 attendees in May at CCC and selected Hyatt Regency Denver as the headquarters hotel due to its proximity, number of guest rooms, and pricing, says Kari Dobbins, associate vice president of associate advancement for HelmsBriscoe.

“The convention center is very organized with processes and documentation that is necessary during preplanning. This made communication with the center and budgeting very easy,” she shares. “The Hyatt was also the host of a few of our conference events, and their space options, service levels, and amenities were a great fit for our meeting.”

While daytime meetings were held at CCC, Visit Denver hosted an interactive opening night networking event at the Denver Art Museum, which reopened the fully renovated Lanny and Sharon Martin Building and introduced the new 50,000-square-foot Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center in 2021. The gala awards dinner took place on the final night in the Hyatt’s Centennial Ballroom with the hotel’s culinary team introducing a four-course personal preference menu, which allows attendees to choose their own entree. 

Exterior of Denver Art Museum. Feb. 13, 2024
Denver Art Museum || Courtesy of Denver Art Museum

“Denver is a great destination for a meeting,” Dobbins says. “The proximity to the convention center of hotels, off-site venues, and restaurants provides planners and attendees with many options that are within walking distance. The value for services also makes this a budget-friendly destination without sacrificing quality of service.”

New & Refreshed

Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver and The Rally Hotel also are among the newer additions, having both opened in 2021, and the 200-room Hotel Born adjacent to Denver Union Station was rebranded to Limelight Hotel Denver last year. Additionally, properties like the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel, Aloft Denver Downtown, and The Westin Denver Downtown have undergone total refreshes. 

The Sheraton, the largest of the three with 1,238 guest rooms and over 133,000 square feet of meeting and event space, unveiled the results of an $80 million renovation in 2021. Last year, the property opened a Topgolf Swing Suite and the new Parlur event space that holds up to 1,000 for receptions and 250 for banquets. 

The Sheraton Denver Downtown's Parlur event space. Feb. 13, 2024
The Sheraton Denver Downtown’s new Parlur event space || Courtesy of Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel

Featuring 1,400 square feet of function space, the 140-room Aloft Downtown Denver reopened last September after a $3 million makeover that touched the lobby, fitness center, social lounge, guest rooms, food and beverage outlets, and more.

The Westin Denver Downtown also revealed its multimillion-dollar renovation of all guest rooms, meeting spaces, restaurant areas, and the lobby last year. The property now offers 432 rooms and suites and nearly 39,000 square feet of function space with the addition of two traditional guest rooms and a new 3,000-square-foot, lobby-level meeting space with floor-to-ceiling windows. 

The Faculty of Federal Advocates (FFA) holds one or two half-day programs annually at The Westin. A roundtable discussion with 50 judges and practitioners from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court was held most recently in the Confluence A meeting room while a similar gathering with 80 federal judges and practitioners from U.S. District Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals took place in the Easley Ballroom. 

Augusta ballroom at The Westin Denver Downtown. Feb. 13, 2024
Augusta ballroom at The Westin Denver Downtown || Courtesy of The Westin Denver Downtown

FFA Executive Director Dana Collier, who planned meetings at The Westin before and after the renovation, appreciates that the hotel registration desk was moved to the first floor. “It greatly reduces foot traffic on the meeting-room levels,” she says. 

“The primary reason we are at the downtown location is because it is extremely convenient for our federal judges; they can walk to the hotel from any of the federal courthouses in a matter of minutes,” Collier notes. “A lot of our members practice downtown, so it is also convenient for them to walk over from their offices.”

Latest Happenings

Check out this sampling of recent venue openings, a jazz club relocation, and an architecturally significant hotel slated to open near Civic Center Park this summer. 

Call Me Pearl One of Denver’s newest cocktail bars and lounges, Call Me Pearl, debuted in McGregor Square last November and is available for private events. Inspired by the timelessness of pearls through the mauve and taupe color scheme and presentation of dishes like oysters on the half shell, the light-filled space is an elegant and welcoming place for groups to escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a handcrafted cocktail, wine, beer, and small plates. Design highlights include a vaulted ceiling, layered fabrics, rounded leather lounge chairs, and a chandelier made up of more than 1,350 small glass orbs that resemble iridescent pearls.

Handcrafted cocktail from Call Me Pearl. Feb. 13, 2024
Call Me Pearl serves handcrafted cocktails. || Courtesy of Call Me Pearl

Led by Executive Chef Stephen Greer, Call Me Pearl offers classic dishes such as oysters Rockefeller and olive-anchovy tapenade served with a warm baguette, as well as more playful options like garlic-chili shrimp with toasted coconut, crispy rice noodles, and caviar served alongside creme fraiche and house-made potato chips. The menu evolves seasonally, and groups can tap into monthly dinners featuring pre-set menus paired with wines and spirits.

Dazzle After 25 years in business, Dazzle has moved two blocks northwest from the historic Baur’s Building to the Denver Performing Arts Complex, giving groups and fans of the performing arts a place to go for live jazz, snacks, heartier foods, desserts, and drinks after the theater, opera, and ballet. Dazzle is also available for private parties and meetings. Dazzle’s Main Listening Room seats 140 and can be expanded to 240, and the smaller El Chapultepec Piano Bar and a lounge also are available.

Holey Moley Golf Club Denver Australia-based Funlab launched its first U.S. location of Holey Moley in downtown Denver and has plans to open others in Austin and Houston, Texas, and San Francisco, California. Holey Moley Golf Club Denver upends the concept of typical miniature golf with three nine-hole courses that are teed up with delicious bites and Instagram-worthy cocktails. 

Indoor group seating at Holey Moley Golf Club Denver. Feb. 13, 2024
Holey Moley Golf Club Denver has space for a range of group sizes. || Courtesy of Holey Moley Golf Club Denver

Groups of 10 to 200 can get creative at the Art Party hole, win big at the Duck Shoot hole, phone home on The Moon and Pars hole, and toast success with cocktails like Sugar Caddy, Pop Till You Drop, Partee Punch, and Boozey Birdie as well as mocktails, beer, and wine. Food options are on the casual side and include sandwiches, salad, and bits and bites like sliders, skewers, poutine, nachos, and fried wings and pickles.

Populus The country’s first carbon-positive hotel will open this summer in downtown Denver. The 265-room, 13-story hotel features multiple food and beverage outlets, and the second floor resembles the understory of a tree and is home to a variety of meeting spaces. The property shared a first look at the nature-inspired interiors, created by Wildman Chalmers Design in partnership with Fowler + Fowler Architecture D.P.C. and are designed to evoke an aspen grove and complement the biophilic architecture by Studio Gang.

Rendering of guest room at Populus hotel. Feb. 13, 2024
Rendering of guest room at Populus hotel opening this summer || Courtesy of Nephew

The ground-floor lobby and restaurant are reminiscent of a forest floor that moves up through the trunk and branches of the floors where guest rooms and suites reside to a rooftop restaurant, bar, and hospitality suites that are filled with color and natural light and mimic the lush canopy of a tree. The Populus art collection will further add to the nature-inspired design, encompassing everything from commissioned art depicting the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes to elevator recordings of Colorado bird songs that vary based on time of day and seasonality.