Even the most notorious
nose-to-the-grindstone business traveller will have a difficult time not having
fun in sunny Denver, located on the eastern edge of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Its location near the geographic centre of the
US, a world-class airport and a rash of recent hotel developments in its pedestrian-friendly
core have combined to make Denver an increasingly regular stop on the business
travel circuit. From 2010 to 2011, there was a 17% increase in business
travellers coming to the city, and a hotel building boom will add some 1,400 new
rooms over the next two to
Also, the city’s diverse economy has weathered
the recent economic storm better than most other major US cities. In April the
Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation had to revise its forecast due to better-than-expected gains in
employment, retail sales and applications for residential building permits.
Denver’s historic centre is in the middle of
massive redevelopment in and around Union
Station, which is located in the lower downtown area known
among locals as “LoDo”. By
mid-2014 the Beaux Arts-style
rail station should emerge as a new multi-modal transportation hub, with a
112-room hotel and an expansive indoor/outdoor dining and retail area. With nine
new office buildings under construction within a few blocks, the end result will
be an unusual mix of modern glass and steel alongside the area’s original red
brick, iron, stone and timber buildings.
Denver International Airport is
considered one of the best airports in the
world – and one
of the least expensive. Stiff competition among low-fare carriers like
Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines (along with the dominant United
Airlines) has reduced average fares to and from Denver by about 28% over the
last decade. This year the airport will add new long haul nonstops to and from
Tokyo, Mexico City and Reykjavik.
However, the airport’s distance from downtown – some 40 to 60
minutes by car or cab depending on traffic – has long irritated visitors.
That frustration will evaporate in 2016 when the new FasTracks
East Rail Line will cut the duration of the
between downtown and the newly renovated
Union Station to just 30 minutes. In the
meantime, cab fares from the airport to downtown are set at $55.15 plus tip.
Renting a car is another option, but be aware of steep fees if you plan to park
at a downtown hotel.
There are two five-star hotels in Denver. The
chic 239-room Four
Seasons Hotel Denver opened near the Colorado
Convention Center in October 2010 –
relieving pressure on the 202-room Ritz-Carlton,
which opened in January 2008 – to accommodate the city’s
increasing number of luxury-seeking visitors. Both hotels are located in modern
downtown high-rises and offer upscale steakhouses, spas and club levels.
Denver’s two elegant grand dames are the Oxford
Hotel and the Brown Palace. Both
are more than 100
years old, yet they have
done a masterful job of keeping up with the times, remaining fixtures on the
local social and business travel scene. For example, the 80-room Oxford,
located steps away from Union Station in burgeoning LoDo, will be the “sister”
to the station’s yet-to-be-named new hotel, sharing meeting, spa and gym space.
The ornate hotel is filled with European antiques and elegant suites (some with
four poster beds and claw-foot tubs), plus
modern amenities such as large flat screen televisions and complimentary high-speed
wi-fi throughout the historic five-storey brick structure. The iconic Brown Palace (located a few blocks to the east) is
where locals gather in its soaring, stained glass-capped atrium for afternoon
tea or weekend brunch. It joined Marriott’s Autograph Collection of independent
hotels in 2012, which means guests can earn or redeem points in their popular
Denver’s downtown hotel scene is dotted by several
upscale boutiques in historic buildings, such as the 246-room Magnolia Hotel, sporting handsome,
contemporary rooms with high ceilings, large windows and dark wood furniture;
the eclectic 189-room Hotel
renovated all rooms and public areas in 2011;
and the 110-room Hotel
located in a beautifully restored red brick and
limestone Renaissance Revival-style
In recent years, a parade of brand-name hotels
has opened along 14th Street, across from Denver’s convention
centre. The newest of the crowd is the 302-room Homewood Suites by Hilton / Hampton Inn & Suites, which
opened in April 2013 and is notable for its adaptive reuse of an existing
building. This unusual “hybrid” hotel (two brands in a single building) is
housed in a converted mid-century modern, 13-storey office tower that was gutted and
converted into a hotel. The starkly modern, art-filled lobby is split between
the two brands, with separate front desks and dining areas, but with communal
space for meetings and a shared indoor pool and fitness centre. Homewood Suites accommodations are
designed for extended stays and include small kitchens and separate seating
areas, while Hampton Inn rooms are smaller, but have nice touches such as mini-refrigerators and microwaves. Both
brands offer complimentary wi-fi and breakfast.
The popular 403-room Embassy Suites Denver opened
in December 2010, and recently joined some very high-class peers as one of
TripAdvisor’s Top 25 US Hotels for
2013. Guests enjoy large two-room suites, cooked-to-order breakfasts, a 24-hour
fitness facility with a swimming pool, and a prime location directly across the
street from the front door of the convention centre.
Mingle with the downtown corporate crowd for a
healthy, organic and sustainable lunch at The Kitchen, a big,
bright community bistro in LoDo. Enjoy farm-to-table favourites such as
Colorado lamb burgers in a rambling collection of large, rustic, exposed brick-and-timber
brightened by the large floor-to-ceiling windows.
Denver’s movers and shakers gather at the
Grille in Larimer
Square to make or celebrate deals over what many consider
the best steaks (and martinis) in town.
For something lighter, check out Rioja, also in Larimer Square, where
James Beard Foundation award winning chef Jennifer Jasinski turns out a
frequently updated menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare, such as coconut-carrot
braised rabbit leg, artichoke tortellini or pan-roasted venison.
For a close look at the new urbanism on the
western side of downtown –
complete with gorgeous views from a buzzy indoor/outdoor dining room and deck – wander
over to Linger, which
offers a diverse menu of dishes from around the world, such as Indian masala dosa, Middle
Eastern carrot and lentil falafel or Mongolian barbecue duck buns.
The steps of the Colorado state capitol
building downtown are exactly 5,280ft above
sea level, which is why Denver is known (literally) as the “Mile-high City”. To
adjust to the altitude, get out of your hotel room, board room or meeting room
and take a walk. If you
are downtown, start your stroll
somewhere along the city’s pedestrian-only corridor, the 16th Street Mall, and
head west toward the
original tree-lined mall is exactly one mile long, but as you near its western
end at Wynkoop Street, continue past the construction sites around Union
Station and LoDo. Crossing the pedestrian bridge, you can peer
into the rapids (or rocks depending on the season) of the Platte River. Continue heading
west, and you will cross another pedestrian bridge over I-25, Colorado’s main
north-south freeway. On the western side of the bridge is Lower
Highlands, one of
Denver’s newest, trendiest neighbourhoods, known among locals as LoHi. Once
there, turn around and soak in the city skyline views, or stop for a locally
brewed beer at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
If you rented a car, try to spend an afternoon
in hip Boulder, a gorgeous university town in the foothills of the Rockies
about 30 miles northwest
of downtown. Spend a day strolling the Pearl
Street Mall or join the healthy, outdoorsy
locals scrambling around the trails and rock faces of Chautauqua Park.
Looking for the perfect souvenir to bring back
from your Denver business trip? Check
out Rockmount Ranch Wear for an
array of snap button shirts, cowboy boots, western belts and other supplies
that will let you bring home a taste of the Wild West. The jam-packed store,
located in the same LoDo storefront since 1946, has sold its snap button shirts
to a long string of celebrities, from Elvis Presley to Paul McCartney.
Despite its image as a starting point for ski
vacations, do not come to Denver expecting to see much snow – or any
form of moisture for that matter. Denver
sunny days than any other major US city, including
those in Florida, California or Hawaii. So instead of packing an overcoat,
bring your sunglasses, lip balm and sunscreen. The sunny, dry weather and
access to outdoor activities is one key reason why Colorado has some of the
fittest, least obese residents of any US