By Beth Buehler
It’s time to get the family together, and those who have accepted the mission to plan this gathering of generations must first find a destination. Colorado is an excellent choice for a family reunion destination for many reasons but here are just a few: there are four seasons to enjoy, activities for those seeking culture and adventure, mountains and cities, and an amazing array of lodging and venues from guest ranches and cabins to urban boutique hotels and full-service resorts.
Destination Colorado’s website is a helpful tool to make sense of the options and to reach out to several properties at once through an easy request for proposal (RFP in industry lingo), instead of spending hours sending emails and calling for rates and availability. Here are a few helpful tips about making the most of this information-packed resource.
Four Seasons to Savor – If you asked my parents, two sisters, two brother-in-laws and the nine kids ages 18 to 35 who make up the grandkid pool (now along with some additional spouses and little ones), we all have a varied response to favorite seasons. Knowing that Colorado can provide stellar experiences in spring, summer, fall and winter is helpful going into the “date dive,” meaning the process of nailing down a time on the calendar… not on Match.com. I say it that way because this can be the trickiest part of planning a family reunion.
If your group is tech-savvy, create a spreadsheet, place it on Google Docs (or a similar sharing program), and ask for top three dates available, perhaps in one or two different seasons. Or start with three or four dates that the venue(s) you found on Destination Colorado’s website have availability at a cost that works for your group. Then, everyone can see the responses as they come in, and it makes the process much simpler for the individuals doing the planning. Various seasons also means there will be different price points, especially in mountain towns.
Wide Array of Activities – One of the best features of Colorado is that locals and visitors can enjoy so many different activities in any town and region. This is especially helpful for families, which tend to have members with various tastes and abilities for adventure and appetites for culture. In towns like Loveland, Greeley and Estes Park, you can find sculpture parks, a train museum, concert venues, bustling downtowns, Rocky Mountain National Park, trails, parks, breweries, farmers’ markets and much more to plan an unforgettable itinerary and list of options catered to your family. Plus, it is easy to go between these three communities for day trips or extended vacations beyond the reunion, which is the case along the Front Range and mountain towns located along the Interstate 70 corridor and in Summit and Grand county in particular.
On Destination Colorado’s website you can view the destination possibilities by region to better understand the lay of the land.
Mountains and Cities – One of the early things to find out is if family members are seeking a gathering with an exciting urban twist; the backdrop and activities available in the mountains; or a small or medium community like Grand Junction with great venues and pastimes. Again, take a look at Destination Colorado’s website to see the options as well as the many photos posted by the destinations and venues. Another important facet is if family members will arrive by plane, train or automobile. Transportation options and costs from where everyone lives may narrow down the decision very quickly, as well as how you will get around once the whole crew arrives.
Historic trains throughout the state are a fun way to check out various sights with no one doing the driving, and Denver and surrounding communities offer a terrific array of public transportation options that make exploring the city inexpensive. Towns like Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and Aspen have bike share programs, providing a fun alternative. In Telluride, it is easy to ride the free gondola between the historic town and Mountain Village.
Places to Stay and Gather – Of course one of the highlights of most family reunions is where you stay and gather. If it is easiest to do this all in one place, there are all sorts of great full-service hotels and resorts, camps and guest ranches. Select from Destination Colorado’s list of venues for properties with and without lodging but all experienced in working with groups of various sizes. Many places also have the activities right there, such as swimming pools, horseback riding, zip lines, tubing, skiing, miniature golf, biking and hiking trails, and more. Do you want hotel rooms, campsites, cabins or unique options like yurts? That will help narrow down the search for venues.
Special Touches – Under the Meeting Services section of Destination Colorado’s website, family reunion planners can find photographers and businesses that can assist with transportation, audiovisual (sound, lighting, etc.), activities and more.
Instead of spending hours surfing the internet, utilize Destination Colorado’s website and have a whole array of great options at your fingertips. Colorado is sure to make the youngest to the oldest in your group waving the “let’s come back here again next time” flag. Happy planning!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.