By Beth Buehler
One of my favorite parts of traveling for business meetings, conferences and incentive trips is exploring the destinations. It drives me crazy to be in a town and hardly get beyond the walls of the hotel, convention center and airport. Colorado excels at combining business and pleasure, and the sales and conference teams at properties, the local destination marketing organization (DMO) and destination management companies (DMCs) will have plenty of ideas of how to mix local experiences into the itinerary.
Here are a few ideas based on articles I’ve written and meetings attended.
Meet right next to the action – Continuing education gatherings that involve the legal and health care industries tend to do a great job of this, making it a combination of learning and time in a fun place. I’ve heard of several that are held annually in Colorado ski towns and are scheduled at times convenient for both attendees and their families. Meetings are scheduled in the morning and evening so there is plenty of time on the ski slopes and hiking and biking trails right outside hotel doors. Schedule meetings with pre- and post-stay options so attendees can have time to truly relax. DMCs and the experts at skigroup can help out.
Book culinary tours with a twist – There’s no need to create your own excursions when there are amazing food tours available in Vail, Denver, Telluride, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. For example, Vail Valley Food and Beer Tours offers a beverage tour that stops at three local breweries and a culinary excursion that includes five restaurants and one specialty shop, with tastings included! Taste of Denver Food Tours take groups through downtown for seven tastings that showcase the city’s burgeoning culinary scene and also offers Boozy Bites, which blends cocktail history tidbits with Denver’s buzzing mixology scene. In Boulder and Grand Junction, bike tours between farms and vineyards are truly memorable.
Consider options for walking conferences – I like how communities and meeting planners are utilizing the walking conference concept in Colorado, to move attendees between nearby venues and attractions. At the 2017 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference in Grand Junction, the conference was held at Three Rivers Convention Center at one end of downtown and the opening reception took place on the other at the historic Avalon Theatre. After the reception, attendees were free to dine at the many downtown restaurants. Once the awards dinner wrapped up on the second evening, a downtown nightclub was booked for dancing and celebrating just a few blocks from the conference hotels. During breaks, attendees could go to nearby coffee houses and shops. That’s my kind of conference!
When in Colorado, do as the locals do – Get out and enjoy the scene! Check the destination’s event calendar and get your group out for an outdoor summer concert, farmer’s market or a local winter festival as part of the itinerary. Then there are the amazing outdoor activities such as rafting, horseback riding, fly fishing, ATV tours, gondola rides to mid-mountain restaurants, snowshoeing, zip lining through forests, tubing and more. Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides, ski resorts (which are really year-round playgrounds), Colorado Adventure Center, and resorts such as The Broadmoor and Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa offer their own incredible array of unique activities. Add a team-building purpose to the fun with the help of CBST Adventures.
These are just a few ways to mix business with pleasure in Colorado. The unique opportunities in the state’s cities, mountains and plains are nearly endless!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.