By Beth Buehler
Growing up only 15 or 20 minutes from Loveland, Colorado, it’s been fun to see this artsy community with a small-town vibe transform into a destination for meetings and events. Major game changers for this gateway to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park have included the addition of The Ranch Events Complex; Embassy Suites by Hilton Loveland Hotel Conference Center & Spa; and the Centerra development that includes outdoor shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, housing, Chapungu Sculpture Park and more.
Two other big selling points for groups are related to the town’s location only 50 minutes north of Denver and Denver International Airport and within the triangle of three major universities: University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley. The attractive UNC Loveland Center at Centerra has five classrooms with ski resort names and a computer lab available for rent.
For fun outside meeting rooms, groups can sample local beers and spirits; explore historic downtown Loveland to dine and shop; enjoy water sports on area lakes and rivers; and bike, hike or walk the miles of trails. However, one of my favorite parts of the community’s heritage relates to art, whether it’s attending world-renowned sculpture shows, browsing the art in local galleries or strolling around Benson Sculpture Gardens and Chapungu Sculpture Park. Both parks can host receptions, and I still fondly remember one held at Benson Sculpture Gardens while attending the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference.
Currently, Larimer County allows gatherings of up to 175 during these COVID-19 times. “What we are starting to see more of now are weddings, small corporate meetings and retreats, family reunions, and local-focused gatherings,” says Chris Bierdeman, tourism group sales coordinator for Visit Loveland. “Loveland is very fortunate to have plenty of uncrowded and naturally beautiful outdoor open spaces. We also have a ton of meeting and event space between our two largest venues—Embassy Suites Loveland and The Ranch Events Complex—that perfectly lends to any socially-distanced event arrangements imaginable.”
Between enhanced cleaning efforts, upgraded technologies and internet capabilities, these facilities are “perfectly suited for hybrid events, allowing guests to attend both in-person and virtually,” he suggests.
The Sweetheart City
Another key facet of the town’s identity as the “Sweetheart City.” Loveland hosts the Sweetheart Festival over Valentine’s Day and stamps and resends thousands of Valentine’s around the world. Two LOVE Lock sculptures not only are impressive visually, they are available for placing custom-engraved padlocks available for purchase at Loveland Visitors Center. Maybe it could be a way for a group to express love and thanks to the community for rolling out the welcome mat?
Now that the stage has been set for what you can expect in Loveland, let’s take a look at the venues that help make Loveland a stellar destination for meetings and events. Since we’re on the theme of love, considering the fairly new Sweet Heart Winery and Event Center makes delicious good sense. Nestled between the Big Thompson River and Devil’s Backbone Open Space, the winery sources grapes from Colorado and California vineyards and can host up to 200 in the barrel room and smaller gatherings in the tasting room.
The Ranch Events Complex and adjacent Embassy Suites by Hilton Loveland Hotel Conference Center & Spa can host several gatherings at once. “Attendees can attend small- to mid-size meetings in these sprawling facilities with free parking away from the crowds, enjoy beautiful settings next to world-class sculpture parks and tap all the outdoor adventures that northern Colorado offers,” Bierdeman says.
As a quick overview, Embassy Suites features 263 two-room suites and 40,000 square feet of conference space, including two ballrooms. There is a handy separate entrance for the conference center and the on-site Rocky River Bar and Grille. Nice bonuses for all guests are free made-to-order breakfast and complimentary drinks at an evening reception in the lobby.
I remember when The Ranch Events Complex opened and seeing the facility for the first time while attending a Disney on Ice show at the Budweiser Events Center. The Ranch offers more than 375,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space spread across 270 acres and has a convenient location just off Interstate 25. With the ability to host anything from a board meeting to thousands of music festival fans, multipurpose venues on the campus include the First National Bank Exhibition Building, Larimer County Conference Center, MAC Equipment Inc. Indoor Arena and Pavilions, and Thomas M. McKee 4-H, Youth & Community Building.
Unique Gathering Places
Additional unique options for smaller or medium gatherings include Ellis Ranch Event Center, Garden Room of Loveland, Chilson Recreation Center, Foote Gallery at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, The Rialto Theater Center, and Sunrise Ranch Conference and Retreat Center.
One of my longtime favorites is the 3,200-acre Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, which recalls memories of attending family picnics hosted by the bank where my dad worked. Located seven miles west of Loveland, Colorado’s lowest elevation dude ranch has meeting space in its Heritage Lodge, but the real highlight is being outdoors for activities such as horseback riding, roping lessons, a challenge course, wagon rides, campfires, volleyball and horseshoes.
In addition to Loveland being a great destination for meetings and events, Colorado as a state offers a broad range of opportunities for groups. And Destination Colorado is dedicated to helping planners find just the right fit for their gatherings!
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 15 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.