Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in our September 2018 issue. This version was fact-checked and updated (where possible) with current information for the 2019 edition of 5280 Traveler.
Blame it on Airbnb, the local-first movement, or Instagram, but travelers today are increasingly uninterested in generic, cookie-cutter hotels. They crave lodging options with unique characteristics that communicate something about the locales they’re visiting, that go beyond offering just a place to sleep, and they’re willing to forgo brand loyalty and rewards to get that authentic vibe. “The experience economy has really taken full hold of the industry, and millennials are driving that,” says David Corsun, director of the University of Denver’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. Nationally and here in Colorado, the shift has forced big-box chains to develop hip brands that will appeal to a younger, lifestyle-oriented demographic as well as opened up the market to smaller, upscale boutique properties—sometimes in neighborhoods far from convention centers and traditional tourist destinations.
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“Denver is a hotbed of activity for millennials, which has made it ripe for this kind of hotel development,” Corsun says. “And given the growing population and the booming economy, it’s not a terrific surprise.” The 2014 openings of Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel inside the former Colorado National Bank building and Union Station’s luxurious Crawford Hotel kicked off a spate of high-profile debuts; another 2,647 rooms came online in the Denver metro area in 2018 alone.
The proliferation is forcing new concepts to differentiate themselves through creative themes—see the Golden Triangle’s widely lauded the Art hotel, which opened in 2015 and boasts a museum-quality collection of 42 original works—and lavish amenities (hello, rooftop pools!). It’s also encouraging the city’s classic hotels to undergo design refreshes and reconceptualize their public spaces. What does it mean for you, dear Denverite? There are all sorts of great new spots to recommend to your out-of-town friends—and there’s never been a better time for a Mile High City staycation.
New Hotel Spotlights
Est. August 2016
Thoughtfully tucked into Cherry Creek North’s revitalized retail zone, Sage Hospitality’s 154-room Halcyon hotel feels like the urban condo building you always wished you could afford to live in. The atmosphere is casual but hip; the ground-level restaurants are among the city’s best; and the decor details charming welcome mats that say things like “You Belong Here” outside your room’s door; modern turntables with a small selection of vinyl—make you feel like you’re living inside a chic designer’s Pinterest board. —Lindsey B. Koehler
Get A Room: If you can swing the substantial per-night outlay, book a terrace room king (starting at $535 per night), which gives you access to a large private balcony.
On The Menu: You can’t go wrong with the on-site options here. Allow time in the morning for coffee and a pastry (both included) at the Kitchen Counter, Halcyon’s de facto check-in desk. Treat yourself to a lunch of house-made ricotta with Colorado honey and filet mignon at Quality Italian. Later, catch the colorful sunset with a frozen cocktail in hand at Elevated, the rooftop bar. You’ll want to make a reservation for a nightcap at B&GC, the sexy, unmarked speakeasy located underneath the hotel.
Favorite Amenity: Earl Grey lovers will swoon over the hot-water stations on each floor. Stocked with sugar, mugs, and every imaginable bagged-leaf option, they’re a thoughtful little fist bump for long-neglected tea aficionados.
Concierge Tip: Halcyon’s borrow-what-you-want Gear Garage has Piaggio Fly 50 scooters, longboards, vinyl records, board games, and GoPros, but don’t miss the chance to assume control of one of the prized Leica cameras, which you can use to snap black-and-white photos around town.
245 Columbine St., 720-772-5000; current room rates start at $339
Est. March 2017
From the hanging, swinging chairs outside the elevators on each floor to the hooded, gray terry cloth robes (good riddance, show-every-makeup-smudge white) in your room, LoDo’s the Maven gives you permission to chill out and let loose. And its location in the bustling Dairy Block development—which also includes office space, ground-floor boutiques, and places to sip and nosh—means you don’t even have to cross a street to do it. Want to take the margarita you ordered at the lobby’s Airstream out back to explore the Alley at Dairy Block’s interactive art installations? You can get it in a plastic cup. Having a nightcap at the Maven’s soda-fountain-esque bar, Poka Lola Social Club? Help yourself to a game of foosball—it’s free. Or, should the “chill out” part be your primary goal, simply snuggle into said robe and pull up your Netflix account on your room’s 49-inch smart TV.
Get A Room: The Master rooms (starting at $319) come with big-enough-for-two soaking tubs; pick up a bath truffle from the Perfect Petal’s stall downstairs.
On The Menu: On sunny afternoons, lobby-adjacent Kachina Cantina’s sidewalk patio (and its fry-bread tacos) beckons. But any other time of day, head next door to the Denver Milk Market, a food hall with 16 different options—everything from bao to crêpes to poke bowls to pizza—from restaurateur Frank Bonanno.
Eye Candy: Between sculptures, paintings, photographs, and installations, the Maven (a 172-room Sage Hospitality property) features more than 400 works of art—all by Colorado artists.
Concierge Tip: The 4,500-square-foot workout facility across Dairy Block’s alley has two Peloton bikes (yes, the ones you keep hearing about in podcast ads). After completing a cycling class led by an instructor on your machine’s video screen—choose between recorded or live rides beamed in from Peloton’s NYC studio—reward yourself with a breakfast burrito from the Airstream. Take it back to your room, where you can make pour-over coffee and catch up on the New York Times for free, using the hotel’s Wi-Fi and a code, on your smartphone or tablet.
1850 Wazee St., 720-460-2727; current room rates start at $259
Est. September 2017
There’s nothing sexy about Le Méridien’s location near the Colorado Convention Center: If you’re on the same block as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., all hope is lost for street-level allure. But—but!—the seduction begins as soon as you walk into the midcentury modern lobby. The come-on continues on the hotel’s 20th floor, where guests meet 54thirty Rooftop, a twinkle-light-bedecked bar with jaw-dropping vistas and a flirty, urban vibe. You’ll be so enamored of Le Méridien after just one #thatviewthough cocktail you might fall into bed without noticing its other charming qualities, including 272 neutral-palette guest rooms that are low on kitsch and high on serenity. —LBK
Get A Room: We’re always looking for an excuse to upgrade, but at Le Méridien, the classic rooms (starting at $322) are all you really need for two people. Tip: Ask for one with floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer dizzying views of both the city and the mountains.
On The Menu: On-site, lobby-adjacent Corinne is a fine choice if you’re a travel-weary out-of-towner looking to crash ASAP; otherwise, take the opportunity to amble to any number of downtown’s fine eateries. Guard and Grace steak house is a straight, four-block shot northeast on California Street.
Next-Door Neighbor: It’s easy to accidentally walk into the AC Hotel Denver Downtown (instead of Le Méridien), which occupies the other half of the building and is also owned by Marriott International. The two hotels opened simultaneously but have distinct personalities: Le Méridien is slightly more upscale, with an artsy, French feel, while the AC Hotel leans masculine with a Spanish influence.
Concierge Tip: Le Méridien partners with a dozen different Colorado vendors—breweries, museums, spas—to provide entrée to the local scene. In most cases, hotel guests simply flash their room keys to gain access to discounts or free admission at spots like the Clyfford Still Museum and Denver Beer Co.
1475 California St., 303-893-1888; current room rates start at $322
Est. January 2017
The northernmost end of LoDo is blowing up, and 180-room Hotel Indigo is smack in the middle of the white-hot bedlam—for better (myriad nearby options for dining, imbibing, and general merrymaking, such as Whole Sol Blend Bar and the Pig & the Sprout) and for worse (the area between 16th and 20th streets along Wewatta Street has been plagued by construction). The rooms are stylish but fairly standard, which is just fine since you won’t be spending much time in them: The real draw of this InterContinental Hotels Group property is its easy access to Coors Field, Union Station, and the trendy Riverfront Park and LoHi neighborhoods. —LBK
Get A Room: Splurge on an expanded corner king suite (starting at $419) if one is available. The floor-to-ceiling windows on two full sides give you a rare top-down view of this burgeoning part of town.
On The Menu: Yes, staying at Hotel Indigo puts you within sight of LoDo’s host of drool-worthy eateries. But walking past Hearth & Dram, located on Hotel Indigo’s first floor, would be a mistake—as would passing on its cured meats and cheeses and expertly crafted bourbon cocktails.
Eye Candy: Hotel Indigo’s round lobby is a riot of beautiful wood paneling. But all that gorgeousness is outdone by “Wildwood Cronesong: Survival,” a black-cherry-and-steel sculpture by Denver artist Norman Epp that rises boldly from a circular pedestal at the center of the rotunda.
Concierge Tip: Whether the Rox are in playoff contention or not, it’s always fun to hit the ballpark. It’s even more fun when you book the Home Run package (starting at $230), which comes with a $30 hotel food and beverage credit, free parking for one night (normally $38), and a welcome bucket loaded with beer and snacks.
1801 Wewatta St., 303-623-4422; current room rates start at $219
Est. May 2018
The most truly boutique of Denver’s new hotel crop, the 50-room Ramble in hipper-than-hip RiNo—relatively far from the convention center and tourist hubs like the 16th Street Mall—is more like an exclusive club you can’t believe you got into. The impeccable design details go beyond pleasing the eye; rather, you feel the luxury in the brass keys and their embossed leather cases, in the velvet headboard, in the antique rug beneath your bare feet. At the same time, you hear cars circling for parking spots and the chatter of people waiting for tables at surrounding eateries drifting in through your cracked-open window. It seems like the gritty hustle of Larimer Street would create a disconnect, but it only adds to the feeling that you’re in the buzzy center of Denver’s hottest scene.
Get A Room: They’re all equally Instagrammable, so it really comes down to if you prefer (solidly soundproofed) windows facing out to the street or a Juliet balcony that overlooks the hotel’s courtyard bar, the Garden. Both start at $249.
On The Menu: In a massive coup for Denver, the independently owned and operated Ramble convinced New York City’s renowned Death & Co to open its second location in the hotel’s opulent lobby. The mixology masters make wonderfully balanced, beautiful cocktails, of course, but the offerings from Death & Co’s breakfast and lunch concept, DC/AM, are elevated delights as well (try the warm oats).
Community Ties: Gravitas Development Group is new to the hotel game but not the neighborhood; it was behind the innovative shipping container development (Work & Class, Topo Designs, Cart-Driver) across the street. In addition to weddings, the Ramble hosts a variety of shindigs, often for area makers and nonprofits—First Friday art shows, Topo’s spring gear launch party—in its 2,300-square-foot event space, Vauxhall.
Concierge Tip: When you encounter a wait for a table at adjacent, no-reservations Super Mega Bien—that’s when, not if—don’t worry about trying to elbow your way to the bar at Death & Co for an aperitif. Instead, head back to your room, sync your phone with the retro-chic Victrola Bluetooth gramophone speaker, put on some Five Points–inspired jazz, and help yourself to a cold can of the Infinite Monkey Theorem’s rosé or Great Divide Brewing Company’s Samurai Rice Ale ($9 each) from the minifridge.
1280 25th St., 720-996-6300; current room rates start at $249
Est. August 2017
After hopping off the A Line train from DIA, visitors only have to roll their suitcases some 110 steps to reach the cabin-cozy lobby—wooden-slat-covered two-story windows, plaid upholstery, a flickering gas fireplace—of the Hotel Born. Giving the 200-room Kimpton property a palpable Rocky Mountain sense of place was a priority for local design firm Semple Brown; in fact, the first thing you’ll see when you open your eyes in the morning are the knotty pine panels that extend from the headboards onto the ceiling.
Get A Room: Save your dollars for Union Station’s eclectic boutiques. Even the standard rooms, which start at $239, have plenty of natural light, thanks to full-length windows. Bonus: Tell the staff you’re bringing your pup (he’s welcome at no extra charge), and they’ll have a faux-fur-topped pet bed and food and water bowls waiting.
On The Menu: Don’t miss the daily wine reception (5 to 6 p.m.) in the lobby, where you can kick off your evening with a free glass of vino or local craft beer. From there, walk to connected Citizen Rail—dry-aged meats anchor the in-house butchery program—or around the corner to Tavernetta for some of the best Italian food in town. Or simply ask the valet to have the hotel’s Tesla drop you off anywhere within two miles.
Eye Candy: Curated by the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art Denver—which you can visit for just a penny by showing your key card—the Hotel Born’s collection of more than 700 original and limited-edition works by Denver artists can be found throughout the hotel’s public and private spaces (there was a Kristen Hatgi Sink photograph in our bathroom!).
Concierge Tip: Between retro-cool Public-brand bikes you can take for a spin down the Cherry Creek Trail, complimentary admission to LoDo’s 38,000-square-foot Colorado Athletic Club, and the yoga mats in your room, there’s no excuse not to get your daily dose of movement.
1600 Wewatta St., 303-323-0024; current room rates start at $239
Est. November 2017
If the bar-as-reception shtick doesn’t catch your attention and you somehow miss that the hotel’s “restaurant” is really just a fancy grab-and-go station, the elevator car styled as a selfie photo booth will probably clue you in to the fact that Moxy—a boutique brand by Marriott International—caters to the millennial set. Even if the giant Jenga in the communal space feels a little precious and calling its staff “crew” comes off as just a bit affected, it’s difficult to deny that the breezy, live-and-let-live ambience is anything other than outrageously fun. —LBK
Get A Room: Except for possibly upgrading to a room with a mountain view—usually $30 more than the $199 starting price—you need not worry about splurging for the “good” room. Almost every one of Moxy’s 170 guest rooms looks exactly the same. Designed with the idea that younger travelers prefer inviting communal spaces over luxurious places to sleep, Moxy’s accommodations feel borderline economy—small rooms, no desks—but still have everything you might require.
On The Menu: Unless a grilled sausage at Moxy’s patio beer garden will do you right, we suggest strolling through Cherry Creek North to find sustenance. Lunch recs? Mehak India’s Aroma or Olive & Finch. For dinner, break the bank at Matsuhisa, CCN’s pantheon of sushi.
Favorite Amenity: If Moxy had a buzzword, it’d be “convenience.” We dig the complimentary lockers in the lobby for storing your bags—before check-in or post-checkout—on travel days. And we also kinda love the kitschy vending machine, which hawks everything from cosmetics to small electronics to gift items.
Concierge Tip: If your button-down got crunched in your duffle, you’ll probably require an iron. You won’t find one in your room (unless you request it). Instead, Moxy has found a way to make laundry fun—well, OK, more fun. The community ironing station on the second floor has everything you need to spruce up your duds, plus make a few new friends.
240 Josephine St., 303-463-6699; current room rates start at $199
Denver’s more established hotels have been pouring money into renovations—partly to attract a new generation of travelers.
Budget: $7 million
Scope: Specially themed rooms
Millennial Bait: The video game suite—yes, there’s a Donkey Kong arcade machine—is made for social media stardom.
Budget: $6 million
Scope: First-floor renovation (2014); guest room makeovers (2018)
Millennial Bait: Sofa beds were added to corner suites to accommodate groups of friends who might otherwise opt for a multibedroom Airbnb rental.
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa
Budget: $10.5 million
Scope: Exterior restoration, guest room updates, new meeting spaces
Millennial Bait: Flat-screen TVs and device charging stations now await streaming-addicted travelers.
Renovation: 2016 & 2018
Scope: Guest room renovations (2016); redesigned public spaces, like the fitness center (2018)
Millennial Bait: The new workout area has a dedicated yoga space.
Hotel Monaco Denver
Budget: More than $6 million
Scope: Guest room renovations (2018); lobby redesign (2019)
Millennial Bait: Hotel Monaco traded tubs for glass-encased walk-in showers—preferred by young jet-setters—in 141 of its 189 rooms.
The Oxford Hotel
Scope: Lobby, guest room, and meeting and event space refreshes
Millennial Bait: The tastemakers at Nine Dot Arts reframed and rearranged the Oxford’s Western art collection.
Make a Splash
Four outdoor pools to, ahem, suit whatever ambience you’re after. —Additional research by Katie Ciaglo
Me Time: Four Seasons Hotel Denver
On Monday through Thursday (holidays excluded), booking a spa treatment of more than $120 scores you access to the luxury downtown hotel’s third-floor pool terrace.
Bonus: Playing hooky on a weekday means you’re more likely to be able to sunbathe in solitude.
Details: Open May to early October
A Day Date: Warwick Denver
Nonguests can snag day passes (prices vary) to the renovated rooftop pool at this Uptown hotel.
Bonus: The building was the first and only Playboy Club in Colorado, meaning the legendary Bunnies used to ply these waters. Romantic, right?
Details: Open year-round
A Bachelor/Bachelorette Party: Halcyon
Guests can reserve a cabana for up to six people atop this eight-story Cherry Creek North hotel (a $500 food and beverage minimum per five-hour block generally applies).
Bonus: Your dedicated waiter will keep the mimosas (or beers)—from the rooftop bar, Elevated—flowing.
Details: Open year-round
A Family Staycation: Omni Interlocken Hotel
There’s space for your whole clan around this Broomfield hotel and resort’s two large outdoor pools. You have to book a room (starting at $189), but it’s worth it to avoid putting your soaking-wet kids in the car.
Bonus: Every Friday and Saturday evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day, check out the poolside, family-friendly movie series.
Details: Lower pool and hot tub open year-round
Next Level Lodging at the Source Hotel
Upon first glance, the eight-story, 100-room Source Hotel—a modern, concrete and glass colossus next to the converted 1880s iron foundry that is Denver’s original market hall, called the Source—looks like a quintessential example of the contemporary hotel. (Local this, floor-to-ceiling that, views views views!) But examine its trappings more closely and you can see, taste, and feel the ways this groundbreaking project, which opened in RiNo in September, is taking industry trends to new mile-high heights.
Trend No. 1: Boutique Branding
The definition of a “boutique” hotel is up for debate—Does it need to be independently owned? Can it have more than 100 rooms?—but, used loosely, the term refers to a relatively small property with a distinctive persona, elevated food and beverage offerings, and attentive service.
Whether it’s obvious or not, big-name brands are actually behind much of Denver’s boutique scene (e.g., millennial-magnet Moxy is a Marriott International concept). The Source Hotel, however, is co-owned by longtime RiNo operator and first-time hotelier Zeppelin Development and managed by the high-end hospitality pros behind Boulder’s St Julien, meaning control over every decision—from which restaurants are chosen to who makes the throw pillows in the guest rooms—stays at the local level.
Trend No. 2: Neighborhood Gathering Places
A first-floor restaurant or coffeeshop full of area residents is infinitely more appealing to guests—and can bring in more cash—than a barkeep pulling Bud Lights for a lonely traveling salesman in an ill-fitting suit.
As if its physical connection to the original Source (via a flora-surrounded bridge) weren’t enough, the ground floor of the Source Hotel is essentially a second market hall, with more than a dozen independent food, beverage, and retail vendors. Its curated collection includes local shops—such as florist Beet & Yarrow and Smōk, a barbecue joint from one of Acorn’s chefs—alongside prestigious makers from elsewhere. To wit: James Beard Award winner Alon Shaya of New Orleans fame debuted Safta, a modern Israeli restaurant, this past August.
Trend No. 3: Rooftop Bars
If you have a tall building in a city with 300 days of sunshine, the Rockies in the distance, and a populace that loves booze, why wouldn’t you put a bar on top of it?
The Source Hotel’s location among RiNo’s low-slung warehouses means its rooftop restaurant and bar, the Woods, has uninterrupted mountain, plains, and skyline views. The drink lineup stars sours made in New Belgium Brewing Company’s 2,000-square-foot experimental brewery downstairs that will be aged in the Woods’ 50 oak barrels. Hotel guests can sip them beside the rooftop’s saline pool or hot tub.
Trend No. 4: Original Art
Whoever sells those hotel-staple Georgia O’Keeffe prints must be going out of business. The Mile High City’s accommodations are brimming with one-of-a-kind pieces—from paintings to sculptures to installations—often created by local artists.
Framed decor can be swapped out easily—but the 780-square-foot mural that Los Angeles urban artist Cleon Peterson (pictured) painted directly onto three of the Source Hotel’s market-level walls is forever (or, at least, for quite a while). Plus, guests can peruse the first U.S. outpost of Montreal’s renowned Station 16 Gallery, also on the main floor.
Trend No. 5: Elevated Bathrooms
Wall-mounted blow dryers, mildewy shower curtains, and tiny shampoos, begone: Powder room hallmarks today include space-saving sliding doors (genius!), glassed-in shower stalls, decorative tile work, and eco-friendly, refillable bottles with spa-quality bath products.
While many places have the option to upgrade to a room with a Jacuzzi, the Source Hotel is moving tubs into some of its bedrooms, where you can soak in the sunshine streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows. (Relax: There are no tall buildings close enough for anyone to see you.)
Trend No. 6: Rooms That Look Like Apartments
High-design, cozy furnishings and accessories and refreshed room layouts make it easy to forget you’re in a hotel.
Throw pillows made by the textile gods at Winter Session, which has a flagship shop downstairs, soften the Source Hotel’s visible industrial bones (see: up-lit concrete columns), as do canvas bags for shopping at the market halls, hanging magazines, and custom Calico Wallpaper using the Source’s bespoke shade of blue. But it’s the twist the hotel put on the customary side-by-side double-queen arrangement—instead, the beds are in more of a T shape, with a headboard/stocked bookcase in between—that truly shatters the tired industry mold. That, and the operable garage-door-style windows in 16 king rooms and four suites.
3330 Brighton Blvd., 720-409-1200; current room rates start at $259
It’s not just the Mile High City that’s been experiencing a hospitality wave. Here, a few recently opened options located outside Denver. —LBK
Opening Date: June 2016
The Draw: One of the People’s Republic’s most interesting hotels (formerly a Quality Inn), Basecamp feels oh-so Boulder in the best way possible. Located near the Boulder Creek Path and just a 15-minute walk to Pearl Street, the 49-room venue oozes an adventuresome vibe—especially if you book the Great Indoors Plains Room, which is designed to look like a campsite, synthetic grass included.
The Elizabeth Hotel
Location: Fort Collins
Opening Date: December 2017
The Draw: Stylish yet still Colorado-comfortable, the 164-room Elizabeth was a much-needed addition to Fort Collins’ lively Old Town area. Its Sunset Lounge and on-site restaurant, the Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market, make an already-bumping dining and nightlife scene even better.
Origin Red Rocks
Opening Date: August 2018
The Draw: Located a scant few miles from one of the world’s most iconic music venues, Origin is the official accommodation of Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Room rates starting at $170 mean you don’t have to drive (or pay for an Uber) all the way home to Stapleton after a late night at July’s the Head and the Heart show.
The boom isn’t slowing yet—at least not according to these new and forthcoming hotels.
Even by Cherry Creek standards, the 201-room Jacquard Hotel & Rooftop (a Marriott Autograph Collection property that opened in October 2018) is swanky. Fine Italian bath linens and robes by Frette and a 75-foot-long private rooftop pool help guests live la dolce vita in Denver.
With 1,501 guest rooms, more than 485,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, four ballrooms, and eight dining options, the much-debated, seven-month-old Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center near DIA is a one-stop shop for travelers. It’s also not a bad place for locals to catch a game on Colorado’s largest HDTV screen outside of a sporting venue (75 feet wide by 14 feet tall) or enjoy an indoor-outdoor pool and lazy river.
The Tree Hugger
Environmentally conscious travelers will jump to book one of Element Downtown Denver East Hotel’s 157 extended-stay rooms when the LEED-certified Marriott property opens this August. The Golden Triangle spot will boast water-efficient faucets, eco-friendly paint and carpet, and a canopied rooftop deck.
The Crown Jewel
With Park Hill native and former Nugget Chauncey Billups as a hands-on equity owner, hopes are high that Palisade Partners’ revitalization of the Rossonian Hotel—a happening haven for black musicians around the 1940s—will bring Five Points more than just 80 boutique rooms. Plans (the anticipated opening is still three years out) call for a subterranean music club and a first-floor restaurant called Chauncey’s; an adjacent mixed-use building will contain an outpost of Washington, D.C., bookstore/lounge Busboys and Poets.