The Rocky Mountain region is not only home to towering peaks and scenic vistas but also the location of some of the country’s most beautiful national parks. Meeting planners wanting to take advantage of these natural wonders should consider hosting their events in these downtown Rocky Mountain locales.
Close to Glacier National Park and 15 minutes from Flathead Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi River, downtown Kalispell, Montana, is steeped in Western charm. Original storefronts dating from the late 1800s line the streets and feature everything from Western- and Montana-themed gifts to outdoor adventures and crafts. Meeting attendees love the area because it is a great place to extend their stays, either before or after their conferences.
The largest meeting spaces in downtown Kalispell are in the Red Lion Hotel and the Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell. Both hotels are on Main Street, and together they can host groups of up to 500 people. The Red Lion has 170 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting space; the Hilton has 144 rooms and 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
Both hotels are within walking distance of Kalispell’s major attractions, including the Montana History Museum, the Hockaday Museum of Art and the Conrad Mansion, which was the home of Kalispell’s founder and features 90% of the original artifacts from his home. All three attractions make great off-site meeting venues. Large trade shows and events can find space at the Flathead County Fairgrounds or the Majestic Valley Arena.
Groups that want to do something a little different can schedule a tasting at one of Kalispell’s wineries, breweries or distilleries. Outdoor recreation is big, especially hiking, kayaking and snowshoeing.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado, has seen its historic downtown grow and expand in the past decade. Downtown Fort Collins has an inviting atmosphere, with homes built in the late 1800s, a vintage trolley, quaint shops and locally owned restaurants.
Meeting planners that want to tap into all the downtown area has to offer should explore the Armstrong Hotel, a historic hotel that just celebrated its 95th anniversary and has a small meeting space, or the Elizabeth, an Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, which has 164 rooms and 3,600 square feet of meeting space. The Elizabeth has become popular for smaller meetings and events because of its four themed hospitality suites that all have balconies for outdoor entertaining. Larger group meeting options downtown include the Fort Collins Marriott, with 229 guest rooms and 17,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Hilton Fort Collins, with 256 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
Off-site venues include the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, which has a digital dome that can be used for specific programming for meeting groups, and Lincoln Center, the area’s performing arts center, which has a more traditional ballroom and a rooftop terrace for outdoor events. The Translational Medical Institute, which is affiliated with Colorado State University, also has top-of-the-line meeting spaces. Fort Collins is a well-known craft beer city. Visitors to the area can take tours, organize tastings and even host meetings at two of the city’s most well-known breweries: the New Belgium Brewing Company and the Odell Brewing Company.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is known for its Southwestern style, art galleries, cathedral and historic plaza that features upscale shops, tasty restaurants, the historic La Fonda hotel and the Palace of the Governors, an adobe complex where local Native Americans come daily to sell their handcrafted wares.
The 40,000-square-foot Santa Fe Community Convention Center offers the largest meeting space downtown. Just two blocks from Santa Fe’s historic plaza, the center includes a 17,000-square-foot column-free ballroom. It is next to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which is another major attraction in the city. The La Fonda is one of the area’s largest meeting hotels downtown, with 180 rooms and 20,112 square feet of meeting space. The Eldorado Hotel and Spa, the largest hotel downtown, has 219 guest rooms and more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space.
There are about 1,700 guest rooms within walking distance of the convention center, including the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza, which is directly across the street from the Eldorado, the La Posada de Santa Fe, and the Drury Hotel.
Visitors who want to get out of historic downtown should visit Meow Wolf, an immersive art installation about three miles away that takes guests into another world where secret doorways lead to hidden worlds and there is a mystery to be solved. For those interested in art, Canyon Road has at least 100 art galleries to peruse.
St. George, Utah
About an hour away from Las Vegas, St. George, Utah, is surrounded by gorgeous natural landscapes and geologic features, including Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park. Downtown St. George is walkable, and meeting attendees have easy access from their hotels and meeting spaces to shops and restaurants. The Dixie Convention Center, the city’s largest meeting facility, has more than 100,000 square feet of space, including 32,000 square feet of meeting space and a 46,550-square-foot column-free exhibit hall. The facility can host groups of up to 5,000. The Hilton Garden Inn, Hyatt Place, the Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites and Tru by Hilton are all within walking distance of the Dixie Center.
In total, there are more than 6,000 hotel rooms in the Greater Zion area; each of the five conference hotels offers about 5,000 square feet of meeting space. Meeting attendees that don’t have a lot of time to get away can still get out into nature at Snow Canyon State Park, which is about 10 minutes away from the convention center. It features petrified sand dunes, ancient lava flows and red sandstone cliffs and is just as majestic as Zion National Park, which is about 45 minutes from town, said Jacqueline Grena, meeting and conventions sales manager for the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office.
The area is also home to 13 golf courses, four state parks and 55 adventure outfitters that can take guests on helicopter tours, jeep tours and canyoneering trips, as well as hiking, paddleboating and horseback riding.
The capital city of Idaho is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States but still manages to maintain its small-town feel. Its downtown area is walkable, so groups that host meetings or conferences in the city don’t have to worry about how attendees will get around.
The Boise River cuts right through downtown with a 26-mile greenbelt path for walking and cycling, so visitors don’t have to go far to enjoy the area’s natural wonders. The Grove Plaza is one of the biggest outdoor venues in Boise and hosts more than 60 events each year. It is managed by the Boise Centre, the city’s convention center, which has 86,000 square feet of meeting space and can host groups of up to 2,000 attendees.
The Grove Hotel, a AAA four-diamond property, is next door to the convention center. It has an additional 16,000 square feet of meeting space and 234 guest rooms. One of Boise’s most popular hotels is right on the Boise River, about two miles from downtown. The Riverside Hotel has 21,000 square feet of meeting space and 300 guest rooms. It can host groups of up to 600.
Meeting attendees who want to get out into the mountains during the summer months or ski in the winter can visit Bogus Basin, a ski resort about 16 miles from downtown Boise. World-class rafting is only 45 minutes away, and people who enjoy fly-fishing can bring their poles and walk down to the Boise River.
Boise is also known for its large Basque population. Groups can host events that bring in Basque food, dancers and music.