Monday, June 24, 2024
Home Places Venue Report Get a Little Wild and Meet with Animals

Get a Little Wild and Meet with Animals

By Kimberly Lord Stewart

Imagine at your next event howling with a wolf, tickling the tummy of a tarantula or gazing into the big brown eyes of a giraff e. It’s all possible at Colorado’s zoos, wildlife pavilions and animal sanctuaries.

In a state where nature takes center stage, it’s only fitting that wildlife should be a part of your next gathering. We’ve rounded up venues that will please clients looking for something unusual, entertaining and gentle on budgets. Your money will go a long way at any one of these spaces, and you will be supporting wildlife conservation.

Butterfly Pavilion

This Westminster attraction is literally crawling and buzzing with cool creatures. As guests enter, Rosie, a fuzzy and friendly Chilean tarantula greets guests. Yes, you can hold her while she tiptoes across your hand. In the main pavilion, more than 1,600 butterflies and moths gently glide over the rainforest fauna. Ask about a butterfly release for a memorable way to celebrate a company’s success and strategic goals for the future.

In the newly opened Colorado Backyard exhibit that can hold groups of up to 120, see the animals and invertebrates that we call neighbors. There are two classroom-style meeting rooms well-suited for 65 people, a large ballroom for 150 and an outdoor patio that holds 100. The entire Butterfly Pavilion can accommodate 650 people. A food truck is on-site, and additional food trucks and approved caterers are allowed.

The private events team will guide teambuilding classes, rainforest yoga and lectures about bees, planting pollinator gardens and even eating cricket protein. “The little activities from the guest speaker to lunch, to Rosie and then the tropics, kept the group entertained and guessing what was next … that’s exactly what I was envisioning,” says John Pinaud, administrative assistant for Wells Fargo. “All my guests kept telling me how much fun they were having and actually learning this stuff was fun!”

Denver Zoo

Adjacent to City Park, the animal, bird, sea and reptile residents of the Denver Zoo are ready and waiting to liven up your next event. “We typically look for a venue away from the office that provides a fun, unique atmosphere and allows for us to have some business-focused time but also time to bond as a group,” says Brie Aguila, assistant vice chancellor for external relations at the Office of Advancement, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “The team at the zoo met our every need including a premade scavenger hunt for a team-building activity. We received raving feedback about the food and beverages. We felt like we really received a lot in return for the cost.”

Book the entire zoo for up to 8,000 or check out the smaller zones and rooms. The Conoco Zoo Garden is ideal as a covered space with outdoor patio access, and Giraffe Meadows is a shady tranquil spot perfect for tents, both for a maximum of 200. The indoor Norgren Hall is a traditional conference space that can be subdivided and hosts up to 150. Plateglass windows offer a view of Predator Ridge, home to Denver’s lions and wild dogs from Africa. Plus, smaller classroom-style rooms are nearby. Rentals include zoo admission tickets for guests to mingle among the animals and exhibits.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

This charming zoo, perched on its namesake mountain, affords glorious views of Colorado Springs below. The entire zoo hosts up to 2,500 people. A must-see event space is the Safari Lodge for 48-68, but be ready for additional guests. The meerkats’ living space shares a window, and these mischievous members of the mongoose family have been known to scratch on the windows for attention. Next door is the zoo’s primary attraction, the giraffes. Consider a giraffe cocktail party for 20 to 250, where guests can feed these graceful animals.

We have held our all employee, friends and family picnic at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo since 2005,” says Lisa Kazee, director of sales and service culture for Ent Credit Union. “Having the opportunity to have a venue where it is just us is a win. The zoo offers so many things that fit everyone’s enjoyment level from young to young at heart.  The staff is always accommodating, and I have had the pleasure of working with almost the same staff from our first event.”

The primary meeting space, The Lodge at Moose Lake, accommodates groups of 150 to 240 and has three garage doors that open onto the patio. Adjacent are two restaurants, Rocky Mountain Wild BBQ and Pizza with a View, that draw guests to their expansive views. Below is the Cozy Goat, with freshly roasted coffee and local pastries, perfect for morning meetings.

The catering menus at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are completely customizable. Anything from street food and cotton candy to a formal black-tie dinner is available. “We don’t know what no means,” says April Hall, director of catering and event sales.

This summer look for two new interactive exhibits with hippopotamuses and African penguins as the showstoppers.

Wait, There’s More!

Not far from Colorado Springs is the COLORADO WOLF AND WILDLIFE CENTER in Divide. It’s the perfect place for a field trip to learn about wolves, coyotes and foxes. The center can host groups of 40 (larger by request). There are opportunities for private interactions with the wolves and full-moon tours. The amphitheater is ideal for private lectures about restoring wolves back into the ecosystem by the sanctuary’s founder Darlene Kobobel

For an under-the-sea event, look no further than the DOWNTOWN AQUARIUM. The Nautilus Ballroom seats between 50 and 250, with a breathtaking view from the observation deck. Guests can explore the sea creature exhibits, which span the globe from coral reefs and lagoons to the rainforest and coastal wharfs. Ask about a Mystic Mermaids show of choreographed mermaids that swim among the sea life.

The WILD ANIMAL SANCTUARY near Keenesburg is home to tigers, lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, leopards, wolves, servals, bobcats, foxes, lynx, coyote and many other smaller animals. Guests walk on a raised walkway high above the animals for a bird’s-eye view, and volunteers are available to answer questions on the self-guided tour. A café is open in the visitor’s center, and picnic tables are available.

Alligators are a surprising sight in this state, but the COLORADO GATORS REPTILE PARK is gator country. Thanks to an 87-degree, geothermal well, gators live comfortably in this cold-weather climate. The center is home to other rescued reptiles including tortoises, Nile crocodiles, pythons and boas. Guests can feed, hold and take pictures with baby alligators and for the daring, gator wrestling classes are available.