Aurora, Colorado: Going Beyond the Boardroom
April 30, 2019
Now offering 1 million square feet of meeting space and more than 13,000 guest rooms, Colorado’s third largest city is making a name for itself as a destination abundant with options beyond the walls of a meeting room. Aurora artfully melds capacity and an ideal location near Denver International Airport and the Rocky Mountains with plentiful areas to get outdoors, award-winning chefs and craft breweries, and a wide range of activities.
While there is plenty to talk about in terms of meetings and event space, like the opening of Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in December 2018 and transformation of a former aviation factory into a bustling marketplace the year before, it’s beyond the boardroom where Aurora also excels in hosting a gathering.
Chef-led themed cooking classes at the new Create Cooking School are sure to impress with the hands-on approach that teaches cooking skills and results in creative dishes made from scratch and shared at the table. A big plus is Create’s location in Stanley Marketplace with lots to do before or after putting a chef’s apron on! As Colorado’s largest indoor marketplace and former headquarters of Stanley Aviation, the market is home to meeting and event space, boutique shopping and an impressive array of food and beverage choices.
Staying on the topic of aviation, get your game on at Punchbowl Social Stapleton, located in the control tower of Denver’s previous airport. Groups can return their tray tables and seats to the upright position after meetings and land on Punchbowl Social’s 14,000-square-foot patio. Inside, travel around the three bars, bowling lanes, vintage arcade games and private karaoke rooms.
Mathew Yamali and David Jagodzinski used brainstorming sessions during their restaurant days to launch Roll It Up Sushi Truck, serving restaurant-style sushi and bringing all the supplies and expertise needed to teach groups sushi-rolling at private events. Painting and sipping beverages also is a snap when Painting with a Twist provides step-by-step instructions to guide anyone, regardless of experience, to design a masterpiece.
Reserve a spot at Mission Escapes, Aurora’s reality escape room complete with two different missions that engage groups in hunting for treasure or participating in a lunar escape. On the other end of the spectrum, Stampede rents its 35,000-square-foot, two-story club to groups and offers lessons for line dancing and country western dancing along with private instruction.
Another great choice is spending an afternoon or evening at Southlands, a popular outdoor lifestyle center specializing in shopping, dining and entertainment. Catch a new movie at the AMC Dine-In Theatres, paint pottery at Color Me Mine, and mix and mingle at Bar Louie or the new Bent Barley Brewing Company. Throughout the year, plug into a variety of Southlands events, including a summer farmers’ markets, evening concerts, and winter ice skating.
With Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine annually and Aurora’s temperate climate, spending time outdoors is the norm. The city’s nine golf courses are playable much of the year, and Pedego Electric Bikes at Southlands rents a variety of bike styles and offers tours. It’s only one mile to Aurora Reservoir, where there is an 8.5 mile trail to ride along with white sand beaches, picnic pavilions, and equipment rentals.
Or head to Cherry Creek State Park featuring Pelican Bay at Cherry Creek, complete with a marina, Lake House and nautical-themed pub. The Lake House can host up to 200 guests, and the marina rents boats, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards. At the park, groups can get out on horseback with 12 Mile Stables. Groups of up to 250 can be accommodated with additional options like hay rides, sunset dinner rides and western-style catered meals complete with horseshoes and volleyball.
SAMPLE CRAFT BEVERAGES
More than 10 percent of the nation’s craft breweries are located in Colorado, with Aurora claiming its fair share. Dry Dock Brewing Company was the first local microbrewery to open more than a decade ago and has two locations—South Dock and North Dock—as well as The Brew Hut, which sells supplies and offers learning opportunities like a beer sensory class, mozzarella cheese making, and how-to instruction about making brews, wine and hard cider.
Pilothouse Brewing Company and Bent Barley Brewing Company are the newest additions, sailing onto Aurora’s beer scene in 2018, whereas Cheluna Brewing Co. in Stanley Marketplace is rooted in Mexican culture and brews unique flavors like Lowrider Mexican Lager, La Bomba Belgian Blonde and Coco-Xoco Porter. At Two22 Brew, the mission is rooted in creating great craft beers that people can feel good about drinking because $2.22 of every $10 is donated to local charities.
“Craft” in Aurora’s exploding beverage scene isn’t limited to suds. At Haykin Family Cider, hard cider is made and bottled on-site from only two ingredients: yeast and apples grown in Colorado. Two former chefs own Dragon Meadery and create meads that span the spectrum of style, flavor and sweetness and utilize seasonal produce and locally sourced honey. Infinite Monkey Theorem represents a counter culture in winemaking, operating from distinct locations and leading the global trend for alternative packaging like cans. The IMT team turned the former Stanley Aviation break room into a funky taproom on the third floor of Stanley Marketplace.
MORE TO THE STORY
With award-winning chefs like Caroline Glover who brought her culinary career to a new stratosphere with Annette and Fabian Ludwig who has worked around the globe and is now executive chef at Gaylord Rockies, there also are many options to enjoy amazing cuisine but that’s a story for another time. When meeting in Aurora, getting outside the boardroom (and ballroom) for downtime is an easy assignment!