Estes Park has always been a good place to get away from it all. When it comes to meetings and events, this longtime tourist hot spot has grown up in recent years.
A case in point is the Estes Park Events Complex and Pavilion that opened in May 2015. Located on the town’s 42-acre fairgrounds, the campus features more than 50,000 square feet of indoor space. With 25,755 square feet, the main event space has capacity for almost 1,800 people and has hosted trade shows, sporting events and local festivals. The adjacent Estes Park Pavilion features another 19,184 square feet and allows for indoor/outdoor layouts.
Groups of 20 and fewer also can utilize a number of breakout rooms at the complex. One of the most memorable is located in a circular silo. “It’s totally unique,” says Karen Lynch, sales and marketing manager for the Town of Estes Park.
The town also owns and operates the Estes Park Conference Center at the recently renovated and rebranded Ridgeline Hotel, with 10,300 square feet of flexible event space that breaks down into six individual soundproof salons. Capacity is about 1,000 guests theaterstyle or 365 for a banquet. Free shuttles conveniently connect the conference center to downtown Estes Park.
“It’s all one-stop,” says Lynch. “You have the catering, you have the rooms, you have the meeting space.”
Estes Park’s authenticity and few chain business makes the mountain community a draw for a wide range of meetings and events. For example, Ram Katha Colorado, a largescale prayer event held at the Estes Park Events Complex from June 24 to July 2, 2017, “was nine days of incredibleness for Estes,” Lynch shares.
Sita Sharan of Boulder helped organize the event, which attracted 800-1,000 people each day. Estes Park has long occupied a special spot in Sharan’s heart. “I had a fantasy years ago of bringing my spiritual teacher [Hindu bard Morari Bapu] to a beautiful place in America,” she says. “He comes every year, and it’s usually an exit off the freeway.”
But the Estes Park Events Complex bucked that trend. “It’s the most beautiful events center imaginable as far as I’m concerned,” she says.
The event was logistically challenging. Room blocks were reserved at several local hotels. Caterers flew in from Los Angeles to help with free lunches. Estes Park Shuttle handled airport transportation to and from Denver. After the daily prayer ended, participants toured Rocky Mountain National Park with Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides. A/V was critical. “The whole thing was broadcast live on satellite to 72 countries,” Sharan notes.
The whole thing went off without a hitch, doubly impressive considering it was Estes Park’s peak summer season. “It was flawless,” says Sharan. “I could turn to Karen with every puzzle I had. They went above and beyond to accommodate our needs.”
Daniel Galhardo, CEO of fishing brand Tenkara USA in Boulder, has organized an annual Tenkara Summit for enthusiasts of the Japanese fly-fishing style of the same name since 2011. After moving the event around for the first four years, he settled in Estes Park in 2015 and plans to stay.
Held at the Estes Park Events Complex in 2017, the one-day summit attracted about 300 attendees from 23 states, as well as Japan and Norway. After six hours of demonstrations and presentations, a band performed as attendees participated in a fly-tying session. Food trucks supplied lunch and attendees were left to their own devices to book lodging.
“It was a very good fit,” says Galhardo. “We didn’t have to cap numbers and there was a lot of flexibility. The team was absolutely great to work with.”
And the location is apt for an angling event. “Estes is very central to a lot of beautiful streams and Rocky Mountain National Park,” says Galhardo. “Part of the purpose is to bring the tenkara community together. It’s also an excuse to go fish.”
Gatherings Made Simple
Another notable local event venue, YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center, can host 2,500 overnight guests and has 60 dedicated meeting rooms that add up to 90,000 square feet of event space in all.
Director of Group Sales Arlyn Crowfoot highlights the 21,000-square-foot Longhouse Gymnasium as the largest venue with room for up to 2,500 people, followed by Assembly Hall with a capacity for 1,300 people, including 500 guests sitting at tables for meals. “It’s one of our newer buildings,” says Crowfoot of the latter. “It’s state of the art.”
There are also plenty of meeting rooms for groups of 10-100 as well as retreat cabins, equipped with kitchens, which can house 40-80 people overnight. Food service includes cafeteria-style meal plans and catering in private rooms.
Activities run the gamut from horseback riding to archery. There are climbing walls, a zip line and a ropes course to boot. “We basically give groups a planning guide and they can pick and choose what they want to do,” says Crowfoot.
Activities can be reserved a year in advance, and lodging two years prior. “You need to book really early,” he advises.
Melissa Romsdahl, education and cochlear program coordinator at Colorado Neurological Institute (CNI) in Englewood, organizes summer sessions at Estes Park Center for families with kids who have received cochlear implants. The three-day event typically draws about 150 people.
After registration and an ice cream social on Thursday, Friday is focused on activities like horseback riding and zip lining. Saturday includes educational seminars for parents and booths for exhibitors selling relevant products and services. Meals are in a private room.
“They are fantastic assisting with the needs you have,” says Romsdahl. “The A/V people are great, and the conference people have the room set up however you want. They’re there to help you.”
Rocky Mountain PeriAnesthesia Nurses Association (RMPANA) has helped organize several three-day educational workshops at Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch (also owned by YMCA of the Rockies and located near Winter Park) for more than a decade. “We usually rotate,” says Sandra Johnson, RMPANA’s education chair. “In 2018, we’ll do it at Estes again.”
The annual fall event draws about 150 nurses from Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico. The group typically takes over an entire lodge and utilizes the YMCA’s cafeterias, but attendees have the option to go out for dinner.
October is a great time for an event in Estes Park, she adds. “The views are amazing and you’ve got the elk out that time of year. You can almost touch them.”
Please don’t touch the elk, but do get in touch with nature while in Estes Park as it’s just outside the door. Rocky Mountain Conservancy offers educational Rocky Mountain National Park tours and Wild Side 4X4 Tours, which can handle groups of up to 74.
More Estes Park Venues
The Stanley Hotel dates back to 1909 and has 41,000 square feet of event space, including two venues with room for 300 attendees: the MacGregor Room for a nice dinner and the Concert Hall for theater-style events. Historic and ghost tours offer good diversions.
On Lake Estes, the ballroom at Estes Park Resort has a maximum capacity of 170 (or 250 with extension into restaurant space), and there are several meeting rooms, a boardroom and an outdoor beer garden for events that involve about 50 attendees. The resort currently has 55 guest rooms, but there are expansion plans that include 30 standalone cabins and a 250-person pavilion by 2019.
Perched above downtown, The View Restaurant at The Historic Crags Lodge can accommodate up to 130 guests for dinner with unbeatable vistas of Estes Park and the surrounding scenery.
Along with several Estes Park properties, Trout Haven Resorts owns the 800 Moraine Event Center for groups of up to 110 and a wide range of lodging options (50 rooms in all).
After getting a taste of the great outdoors in the park and beyond, there are opportunities to sample wild game at dinner. It’s all part of the Estes Park experience, where a world away is just 90 minutes from Denver International Airport.