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Throughout its history, Colorado has hosted an impressive register of desperados, dignitaries, and dreamers who rested their weary heads at the state’s finest hotels. Many of those celebrated boarding houses are still welcoming guests, and in honor of Colorado’s 146th birthday this month, we found three long-standing lodgings whose renovations are only slightly less impressive than the iconic guests who have graced their beds.
Then: In 1970, Hunter S. Thompson ran unsuccessfully to become the sheriff of Pitkin County, leading his campaign from his “office” at the Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar. Although his progressive platform—which centered on legalizing marijuana and decentralizing the police—was simply ahead of its time, we still believe voters made the right choice by not putting the writer of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in charge of law and order.
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Now: You can still visit the J-Bar, or you could really experience Fat City (what Thompson wanted to change Aspen’s name to) by stepping into Hotel Jerome’s Felix Roasting Co. The couture coffeehouse started in New York City, expanded to Aspen in fall 2021, and boasts a gilded ceiling, velour seating, and bold wallpaper. It serves an $18 Hickory-Smoked S’mores Latte, a decadent combo of steamed, graham-cracker-infused milk and espresso served in a martini glass rimmed with dark chocolate and graham crackers. If your wallet isn’t that fat, though, Felix also offers a standard version for $7.
Rates start at $1,275 per night
The Delaware Hotel
Then: With escape routes down the stairs and through the window, what’s now Room 16 of the Delaware was allegedly a favorite among cowboys watching their backs, none more renowned than gunslinging gambler John Henry “Doc” Holliday. After spraying bullets alongside friend and lawman Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral, Holliday lived briefly at the Harrison Avenue hotel from late 1886 to early 1887. He left town after shooting (but not killing) a man at the Hyman Saloon.
Now: Purchased last year by Monty Moran and David Chrisman, former Chipotle execs, the Delaware is undergoing a multimillion-dollar update to its grand lobby and lounge that is expected to be completed later this month. The refresh will add antique mechanical games, an upscale eatery called Mineral (whose menu will be developed by an undisclosed James Beard Award–winning chef), and a hidden candy room open exclusively to pint-size hotel guests—if they can find the secret lever in the lobby.
Rates start at $90 per night
Then: Upon arriving in town in September 1909 for the dedication of the Gunnison Tunnel, President William Howard Taft feasted on wild raspberries and mountain trout before touring the town’s healing vapor baths. The heavyset head of state—he weighed more than 300 pounds while in office—set up temporary residence at the Hotel Colorado, where he enjoyed the Victorian garden (which still exists) and bird sanctuary (which doesn’t) but not the hot springs, joking to reporters, “I’ve found it’s much better for a man of my size not to bathe in public.”
Now: Hotel Colorado will always celebrate its history of distinguished guests such as Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. But if its ongoing $10 million renovation (which will feature floor-to-ceiling room remodels and a new guest elevator) is any indication, the inn’s respect for the past doesn’t mean it’s stuck in it. Book the Roosevelt Suite, slated to be finished next year, and you’ll be able to relax on Italian-villa-inspired and antique furniture and peer off the same private balcony the 26th president did more than 115 years ago.
Rates start at $200 per night