It’s the magical time of year when the brisk winds of winter usher in white blankets of cold and coziness, and holiday parties are plentiful and packed with creativity, classics and culinary masterpieces. Welcome to the beginning of the end. Say ado to 2016 and hello to 2017 in sensational style with these great ideas and a good measure of your own.
Many groups are choosing an experience for holiday parties. Rather than stage a dinner at a hotel, companies want to treat employees to something outside normal routines and day-to-day tasks. Whether it’s getting them in the kitchen, out in the woods or even in the art studio, changing it up for holiday gatherings is on trend and allowing groups to break into new frontiers and genres.
Savvy Seconds, Denver
For any fans of the Real Housewives reality series and franchise, this option is going to make you want to actually get away from the screen and try your hand at reality challenges! Savvy Seconds, a pop-up consignment boutique on Colorado’s Front Range, transports a denim bar to you, just as it did on the New York series. The company will bring racks of gently used and donated denim for guests to create their own styles, something fun to exchange, or an item that must be worn to the company holiday party.
“What’s been super popular for the holidays is fundraising,” explains Tamar Arbeli, co-founder of Savvy Seconds. “We bring in 100 to 200 pairs of denim for the partygoers to decorate and then they have a fashion show and charity auction for their chosen nonprofit.” And, Savvy Seconds will travel anywhere in Colorado! Group sizes begin at 12 and can go up to 250 attendees.
Show of Hands, Denver
“We have hosted hundreds of holiday parties over the years at our gallery, and we had to change it up last year to offer something new,” describes Katie Friedland, owner of Show of Hands and self-labeled event guru. “My partner at the store, Mandy Moscatelli, does such an amazing and thoughtful job with the décor that customers are always inquiring about hosting a holiday party. Last year, we came up with Folk Art for Fun during the holidays.”
Companies and organizations of up to 40 guests can book family folk art extraordinaire Alan Moore at Show of Hands. He will come in with all of the materials and supplies, and Friedland arranges for food and cocktails. Guests walk away with something they created that is personal and permanent. “It’s just something different that we simply created for the holidays around the demand we were witnessing,” Friedland says. “Alan does a great job, and if given a design in advance, he can have it drawn out for participants to follow, such as a company logo.”
WATERFALLS & WOODS
Seven Falls, Colorado Springs
The Broadmoor epitomizes the holiday season with its lights, décor and festivities. This attention to holiday detail spills over into Seven Falls, the nearby attraction that the property bought, restored and improved after it was severely damaged by a September 2013 flood. Reopened nearly two years later along with the new Restaurant 1858 at water’s edge, Seven Falls has special holiday night lighting with both color and traditional whites as an entourage meanders up the path to dinner.
Bill Facella, director of conference management and catering for The Broadmoor, recently hosted a group of 100 at Seven Falls. Facella didn’t tell the group where they were going; only he and the meeting planner knew the details as the group boarded a shuttle and drove at dusk to the natural wonder. “As we pulled past the main gate, the group was enthralled as they drove up the road backlit from both the falls and trail. The group arrived at Restaurant 1858 for a festive evening of dinner and dancing,” he shares. Restaurant 1858 can be purchased for a buyout and holds up to 100 for sit-down (inside and outside covered area). Seven Falls also is available for a buyout in the evenings. Just recently, Seven Falls (including Restaurant 1858) hosted a group of 500-plus for an evening event.
ARTISAN AND LOCAL
Black Cat Bistro, Boulder
Dining in an intimate space, in one of the nation’s trendiest cities, is always a crowdpleaser for the holidays. Black Cat Bistro in Boulder understands that it’s not just a holiday meal, it has to come full circle by incorporating the artisan, craftsman, butcher, hyperfocused niche trades into their holiday events. The private Grange room for groups of up to 22 is in high demand with its farm-to-table approach. Black Cat is one of the most ambitious restaurants of its kind in the nation, so it’s a glorious site during the holidays with heritage pigs, lamb and beef, gorgeous winter vegetables, products preserved during the height of the season and more.
The restaurant offers an entire buyout of the main dining room for 68 seated or 120 for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The most cost-effective buyout option for a group is a private holiday lunch or brunch because they don’t have to close the restaurant since they aren’t normally open for these meals. “Often groups are not wanting to pay for/needing exclusive use of a dining area, so we can do groups (up to 15) without reserving a private area,” explains chef/owner Eric Skokan. This holiday season looks to be full of Colorado pride showcased through creative and original trends in food, craft, activity and events. Why not try something new with an inspired twist?
The Frozen Little Things
Sometimes, it's Just a Touch of Jack Frost that can Make a Holiday Event Ultra-Special
* Try design elements that are counterintuitive but plug into the season
This past holiday season at The Ritz Carlton, Denver, a group had an ice podium with mini ice bowls for serving very summerlike ceviche. “Guests were quite surprised and delighted as we handed one righthanded glove to each guest as they entered. They weren’t sure why they received only one glove but as they entered they realized it was going to be needed to hold the ice bowl of ceviche. The glove for the opposite hand was provided at the end as a favor!” —Christina Castillon, The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
* Specialty, interactive holiday cocktail stations are cool.
Think nitrogeninfused drinks that are chilled and smoking and bars made of ice. “Many European cities have ice bar parties, where the guests are donned in Eskimo attire and the bar is made of ice, as well as all of the glasses for the cocktails. The events are held in warehouses or even at private residences, and no need to heat the place as the guests are dressed in winter warmies.” —John Tobey, John Tobey Event Design
* Pick an icy destination.
“We find that guests love to have ice skating parties at the Wash Park Lake House, Evergreen Lake House, Denver Country Club Skating House or Southwest Airlines Ice Rink at Skyline Park by the Clock Tower,” Tobey says. For a destination ice rink, Tobey usually books C Lazy U Ranch or Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, both in Grand County, as it allows guests to stay overnight. The Lodge at Keystone also features ice skating, food, beverage and overnight accommodations and is just over an hour from Denver.