“Meet me at the Blue Bear,” is the most repeated phrase at any large-scale conference in Denver.
It’s not local slang or secret code, or even the name of one of Denver’s many craft breweries. It’s a giant public art sculpture of a 40-ft indigo grizzly, cheekily peeking into the upper windows of the Colorado Convention Center (CCC), a stylish glass structure within walking distance to 10,000 hotel rooms that is also planning a $233 million expansion. A recent destination experience introduced us to even more artful surprises across two Denver resorts.
An Artful Experience
The heart of Denver’s cultural scene is the Golden Triangle Museum District, home to the Denver Art Museum, Colorado History Center, Denver Performing Arts Center, and The ART, a hotel, an architectural stunner we were lucky to have as our host, with 165 rooms and a world-class contemporary art collection of originals by Ed Ruscha, Claes Oldenburg, Sam Francis, Frank Gehry and more. The hotel creates masterful meetings in 5,000 of event space, with gallery receptions, private art tours, team building “scavenger hunts” to view the area’s public sculptures, “Connect with ART” corporate design challenges, and breakout sessions taught by local Denver artists. We discovered our inner graffiti artists while painting wild canvasses on the rooftop terrace, coached by Denver’s spray can Picasso, Patrick McGirr, and inspired by the hotel’s craft cocktail mixology cart.
If you come to Keystone and didn’t intend to incorporate outdoor space and activities, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Pampered by the Wild
An hour’s drive into the Rockies introduced us to the sprawling Keystone Resort, its two charming mountain villages, numerous lodging options, and the largest conference center in the Rocky Mountains. We discovered that although winter thrills—snowshoeing to corporate broomball on ice—kept us occupied, Keystone is a four-season outdoorsman’s paradise. The center brings the outdoors in with mountain views, terrace spaces accessible from ground floor ballrooms, and spacious event fields for everything from Volvo race tracks and helicopter landings to private concerts. We rode the gondola to the mountain peak for a fresh-air yoga class with breathtaking views, recuperated with a massage at the Keystone Lodge & Spa, and then joined a Western wagon ride to a picturesque old homestead for a charming cowboy cookout.
“If you come to Keystone and didn’t intend to incorporate outdoor space and activities, you’ve come to the wrong place,” says Thomas Kelsey, Keystone’s director of resort sales.
A behind-the-scenes banquet kitchen tour revealed how the staff’s International Culinary School chefs maintain a record-setting food service to 700 attendees in only 15 minutes. But the sweetest surprise was a peek inside Keystone’s chocolate kitchen, where chef Ned Archibald‘s pastry team custom-builds incredible edibles, from truffle-filled gondolas for a winter sports summit, to a full-sized chocolate sofa for a Zumiez conference photo-op. “We made it as a decorative prop,” Archibald says, “but the attendees ate the whole thing!”