Travel should be fun. That’s why we ride in planes and trains and automobiles—for the joyous, life-changing experiences that new places can bring.

Yet, hotels don’t always reflect that sentiment. They may be elegant and thoughtfully designed, but they’re also often staid. Whether they’re located in Chicago or London, they don’t feel all that different. But the Curtis—downtown Denver’s “pop-culture-infused” hotel—doesn’t like to play by those rules. In 2017, renovations on the upper stories began and themed levels (a superhero floor and “Floor of Champions” among them) were introduced, each containing one hyper-themed guest room. And this week, the 336-room hotel is revealing a brand-new lobby that brings the Curtis’ “Stay Happy” motto to life from the moment guests walk through the replica-RV vestibule.

“The Curtis has always been the unexpected hotel,” says Lizzie Raudenbush, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton property. But, she adds, “the lobby is the welcome mat of the hotel, and it didn’t feel as happy as it could.”

It does now. The updated space shows off a vibrant palette of colors while paying homage to Colorado’s natural splendor and inviting a childlike sense of excitement through various “playgrounds.” These spaces were designed by DLR Group and Sage Studio (a division of Sage Hospitality Group, which manages the hotel), who worked together to concoct a sense of nostalgic family fun, with plenty of “wow moments,” as Raudenbush calls them. Highlights include a Red Rocks–inspired mural, a faux-pool work area, a projection screen for movie nights, and, behind the front desk, an Easy Bake Oven to warm the cookies all guests receive at check-in.

“With all of the new inventory and renovations in Denver [hotels] over the last three years, it was really important to us to stay relevant, to evolve,” Raudenbush says of the refresh. “Unique hotels have become the norm, so how do you stay different?” Let’s take a look:

When guests first walk through the front doors, they’re greeted with Colorado sunshine and a ski lift chair—the perfect photo-op. Rendering courtesy of the Curtis

The rainbow-colored ropes that shroud the front desk are meant to simulate climbing ropes; the adjacent ski lift chair (from Colorado Ski Furniture in Manitou Springs) and sunburst installation symbolize Colorado’s outdoors, a major tourist draw. Colorful directional signage near the front door references local destinations, other hotels, and even some movies (stop by to see how many you can pick up on).

To the left of this scene is the starry-skied Red Rocks wall, fronted by a bike beverage cart that will host a weekly lemonade stand: On Friday afternoons, guests and the public can nab complimentary glasses of spiked or regular lemonade or a hot drink; optional donations will benefit a nonprofit beneficiary (currently: Camp Southern Ground).

Movie time! Photo by Daliah Singer

A neon marquee presides over a turf-floored “drive-in” movie theater (there’s a small sofa in the back of that blue car in the top rendering), where a projector screen—fronting a sunrise-hued, geometric-patterned wall—will show old-school movies, news, and, if Denver teams can ever get it together, the Big Game.

Who says a working vacation has to be boring? Rendering courtesy of the Curtis

Work can be fun—at least, that’s the idea behind a faux-indoor pool that functions as a community workspace. The table is designed to look like a diving board, and the cheeky tiki stools (among other furniture) were fabricated by Denver’s Make West. Across from the flamingo-studded turf wall is a computer kiosk backed by a throwback “You’ve Got Mail” sign (Tom Hanks not included). In the background is the five-and-dime, a small marketplace with shelves crafted from skateboards and snowboards, and ski-boot-locker-like designs below them.

If the goal of the refresh was to bring smiles to weary travelers’ faces, we’d call this a smashing success.

Room rates average $169 to $179 per night; 1405 Curtis St., 303-571-0300

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at