Set against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is conveniently located 65 miles north of Denver and 45 miles south of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and clearly has its own style and niche. Downto-earth and energetic, the town has a vibe that seems to thread through towns with universities, continues to expand its capacity to host groups and knows all about beer, bikes and bands.
“Fort Collins is memorable because it is comfortable and authentic. It feels like the ultimate hometown,” says Amanda Miller, director of details for The Place Setting Company, which offers event planning, creative community experiences and more from its office in Fort Collins. “Our community opens its doors to guests. The experience is beyond the walls of the conference room!”
Fort Collins is the largest producer of craft beer in the state, with 70 percent produced locally. For groups, that means tours at beer powerhouses like New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of well-known Fat Tire amber ale and many other brews, and Anheuser-Busch with a newly renovated Biergarten, tap room and restaurant that is available for private events. Sign up attendees for a tour of the brewery, a Beer School or an in-depth Beermaster Tour.
Many of the breweries are within an easy walk or bike ride from each other, making Fort Collins a beer lover’s paradise. Beer & Bike Tours take out the hassle of planning by offering mellow Brewery Cruise Adventures to three breweries on easy-toride cruiser bikes as well as mountain, road and fat bike excursions that finish with a “recovery” beverage of course!
Fort Collins Brewery is located in the heart of the Fort Collins brewery corridor with many breweries within 1 mile (Odell Brewing Co. is on the same street) and boasts a private event space for groups of 20 to 100. Fort Collins Brewery’s restaurant, previously known as Modern Tavern, is being renovated, getting a new concept and reopening by midyear, says PR and Events Manager Elisha Stewart. A full menu is available in the Tasting Room, which can be rented to accommodate up to 100 guests in combination with the adjoining Community Room. The Community Room is equipped with A/V and can host meetings, dinners and receptions, with 55 being the maximum for dinners and 75 for receptions. In addition to its award-winning beer, Fort Collins Brewery also brews its own craft sodas for those who are under age or don’t enjoy beer.
However, it’s not all about brewskies; a whole host of other beverages are being handcrafted in town with two wineries, three hard cider producers, five distilleries, several coffee houses and even divine sipping and brewing chocolate at Nuance Chocolate, also makers of chocolate bars, truffles and more downtown.
“The breweries around town are a favorite. Now featuring over 20 local breweries, there is an atmosphere and style for every beer connoisseur,” Miller says. “Groups also enjoy taking a drive to Horsetooth Reservoir and marvel at the recreation opportunities in our backyard. For those with a little extra time to enjoy our community, I always recommend a trip up the Poudre Canyon to The Mishawaka (an amphitheater with an indoor music space, restaurant/bar/patio), tours at one of the larger breweries, and a tour of the Colorado State University campus.”
Other notable spots for groups to consider, she adds, are the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Cache la Poudre River, Gardens on Spring Creek, Spring Canyon Park and Colorado State University’s Flower Trial Gardens. The CSU gardens, Museum of Discovery and city of Fort Collins’ Gardens on Spring Creek have event space available to rent.
Definitely plan for time in Old Town Fort Collins in your group’s schedule. Not only is it home to several of the beverage makers, there are one-of-a-kind restaurants, shops galore and a real-town feel that can only come from being a good steward of historic buildings. In this case, Old Town has more than 20 restored historic buildings that are part of both national and local designated historic districts. One of these is Armstrong Hotel that was returned to its 1923 historic elegance and has 45 guest rooms and suites, Mantz Hall that hosts groups of up to 70 and Chandler Post Dining Room holding a maximum of 16.
During fair weather, there are outdoor concerts galore in town and colorfully painted pianos for anyone to play in Old Town, where alleys have been upgraded into walkways with potted flowers, murals and attractive lights. Also, ride an original trolley car from City Park to the edge of Old Town and stroll along (or run or bike if you wish) the paved Poudre Trail about 4 blocks from Old Town Square. For built in entertainment, time a gathering in conjunction with beer and music festivals such as Colorado Brewers’ Festival, New Belgium’s Tour de Fat, FoCoMX, and Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.
Or capture the culture any time of year at The Lincoln Center, presenting music, theater, dance and visual arts and providing great event spaces such as a rooftop deck, outdoor terrace, 1,180-seat performance hall and 220- seat theater. Another smaller yet artsy location for a reception is Downtown Artery or reserve Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant’s Agave Room, a ballroom with historic flair that is located above the restaurant and able to host up to 250. Café Vino and the fairly new Farmhouse at Jessup Farms are other unique places for groups to congregate.
“If it’s been a while, groups might be surprised to learn about all the new and soon-to-be completed improvements going on in Fort Collins,” says Erik Barstow, director of sales for Visit Fort Collins. “The largest new development in Fort Collins has to be Colorado State University’s on-campus stadium.” Opening in time for this year’s football season, the stadium can hold 40,000 fans and will have more than 35,000 square feet of event space, Barstow notes.
CSU has a very active Conference & Event Services department and a variety of space and lodging available. Every other summer, CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) brings staff to Fort Collins for leadership development and training that culminates with a weeklong conference for 5,000. Over the six weeks, CRU17 will be based at CSU, utilizing a large gym, the student center, dormitories and more, as well as nearby schools and churches. Lodging also spills over into hotels, bed and breakfasts and private homes, and many attendees bring families so activities also are planned for kids. “Visit Fort Collins and CSU Conference & Event Services have been incredible partners. They treat us like we are family,” says CRU17 Director of Operations Kourtney Street. “We are a big, complicated and long event.”
Fort Collins also is adding 482 new lodging rooms in the near future, Barstow says. The lodging growth is anchored by The Elizabeth Hotel, a full-service downtown property slated to open this fall with 164 guest rooms and 3,500 square feet of meeting and event space, including a patio with views of Walnut Street. The upscale property will feature locally curated art from students, professors and musicians and a music theme that carries through the building with accents in the interior design, programming, amenities and experiences. The hotel, spearheaded by McWhinney and Sage Hospitality, is part of Firehouse Alley, a mixed-use development with a restaurant, retail and parking in the center of Old Town.
Soon to open and sprinkled around town are three new limited-service hotels with minimal meeting space, including Home2 Suites by Hilton, Staybridge Suites and Fairfield Inn and Suites, all with just over 100 rooms each, Barstow shares.
In addition, Fort Collin’s Foothills Mall has been renovated as an indoor/outdoor mall, dining and entertainment center that includes the new Cinemark Bistro complete with restaurant and bar service. The recently renovated Fort Collins Marriott with more than 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space and located adjacent to Foothills Mall is one of the city’s two major full-service hotels. A bit farther north, Hilton Fort Collins is undergoing a $9 million renovation and has roughly 20,000 square feet of facilities for meetings and events.
Downtown, Old Town Square recently completed a $3.9 renovation that added a splash park, extended stage for live music and improved infrastructure. One of the town’s newest venues, Block One Events, opened two blocks from the square next to New Belgium and along the Cache la Poudre River. Part of a larger complex, the space initially was meant to be a restaurant but has become a space for meetings and events. Now it has a steady stream of trade shows, meetings, weddings, memorial services, school dances and more on the schedule. There are four small patios outside and a modern indoor space with three walls of solid windows, polished concrete flooring and industrial-style fixtures that can hold 150 for dinners and 190 for other gatherings.
Fort Collins is a town where groups can pour, pedal, play and be productive, a combination that is hard to beat any time of year.