Denver’s more than $5 billion tourism industry will honor some of the cultural facilities, events and organizations that helped lead Denver to another record-breaking tourism year in 2017. The awards ceremony will take place at the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame dinner on Wednesday, March 14 at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The 19th annual gathering will also induct four people into the Tourism Hall of Fame: Stephen Bartolin, the 24-year president and current chairman of The Broadmoor; former Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, the longest serving member of the Denver City Council until he was tenured out; and Gary DeFrange, the immediate past president of Winter Park Resort.

A special posthumous award will be presented to one of the most famous figures of Colorado’s hospitality industry, Barney Ford, an escaped slave who came to Colorado in the gold rush and struck it rich opening a series of restaurants and hotels.

The Tourism Hall of Fame Dinner is the premier annual event for Denver’s travel industry – which registered its best year ever in 2016 with 17.3 million overnight visitors, generating more than $5.3 billion in spending. The industry supports more than 57,000 jobs in the metro area.

The gala is a fund-raising event for the VISIT DENVER Foundation, which has awarded a total of $913,000 in scholarships to 332 Colorado students pursuing higher education in the fields of tourism and hospitality.

For ticket information, please contact Meagan Logan at or 303.571.9405.

Ten Tourism Stars

Ten “Tourism Star” awards will be presented to organizations, attractions and events that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during 2017.

“There are many people and organizations behind Denver’s phenomenal growth as a tourism destination; but with these awards we like to recognize those who went above and beyond in 2017 to help our economy, while improving the exciting lifestyle that we enjoy in Denver and Colorado,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Arts & Culture

Arts and culture comprise a large part of Denver’s appeal as a tourism destination, and 2017 was an exceptional year for the following five cultural organizations, which will be named Tourism Stars.

  • Denver Art Museum
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Denver Center for the Performing Arts
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science
  • Denver Zoo


Denver Art Museum presented Her Paris, Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, which included remarkable works created by women in Paris from 1850 to 1900. This was a time of great social, cultural and artistic change. The exhibition featured more than 80 paintings by 37 women artists from across Europe and America, who had migrated to this epicenter of art to further their careers. They range from well-known artists such as Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Rosa Bonheur, to painters who are lesser-known in the United States, including Anna Ancher and Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Even though Paris was known as a cosmopolitan city, Parisian society was still very restrictive for women. They were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) – the country’s most important art academy – until 1897, and it was not socially acceptable to frequent public spaces, such as cafés, to work on their art and mingle with their peers without a male companion. At a time where the role of women in American society is still being debated, this was an exceptional show to have in Denver, where it generated much press and visitation.

Denver Botanic Gardens presented Calder: Monumental featuring works by American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976). He is considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century and is known for his bold, energetic sculptures. These iconic works of bolted steel plate – which rise in sweeping curves, or puncture space with geometric lines, revealing the artist’s exploration of forms, volumes, and voids – were placed throughout the Gardens. Using shapes that resonate with the natural world, Calder’s large lively abstractions interacted with the surrounding landscape and offered new vistas of art in every direction in the Gardens, bringing back return visitors, while also generating new ones.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway presented the pre-Broadway debut of Disney’s Frozen. Over a seven-week period, Disney’s hit musical drew 125,900 people to 47 performances at the Buell Theatre, generating more than $30 million in economic impact. People attending performances not only paid for theatre tickets, but also went to dinners and lunches, visited museums, and shopped downtown before and after the show. In addition, as the only city to host Frozen before its Broadway debut, the show attracted patrons to Denver from throughout the Rocky Mountain West, who also used local transportation, hotels, services and other restaurants and entertainment during their stay. The pre-Broadway debut of Frozen continued DCPA’s long relationship with Disney touring shows, which have generated $73 million in box office receipts over the last 20 years, with an estimated economic impact of $267 million to Denver. 

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science presented Vikings: Beyond the Legend, a myth-busting exhibition that had already captivated a million people around the world. Bringing this show to Denver laid waste to the one-dimensional stereotype of bearded barbarians with horned helmets. Instead, it showed a culture of surprising refinement, complexity, and achievement, as well as a supernatural world inhabited by Thor, Odin, and other gods and giants. Fresh insights revealed through new archaeological discoveries and more than 500 treasures, many never before seen outside of Scandinavia, show why the Vikings will always capture our imagination. Unique to Denver, six enactors created historically accurate characters and interacted with guests to tell personally interesting and relevant stories, fostering truly custom and memorable exhibition experiences for guests. The show continued the museum’s dedication to bring popular world class exhibitions to The Mile High City.

The Denver Zoo showcased DINOS! Live at Denver Zoo, supported by Your Hometown Toyota Stores. The exhibit featured 21 of the “terrible lizard” sculptures, 18 of which were animatronic, and offered guests a chance to see these prehistoric creatures brought to life among the Zoo’s living animals. Dinosaurs were placed near animals with which they had something in common. For example, an Edmontonia, a leaf-eating dinosaur, was positioned in a garden near other plant-eating animals, while a Utahraptor, a feathered species, was placed outside Bird World. From the familiar Tyrannosaurus rex to the lesser known Carnotaurus, guests could watch the dinosaurs move and roar, while one dinosaur, a Dilophosaurus, even sprayed water. A fossil dig gave budding paleontologists the chance to get their hands dirty while discovering dinosaur bones. The exhibit served to educate guests about prehistoric zoology while also exposing them to the amazing animals living at the Zoo every day. DINOS! Live at Denver Zoo helped Denver Zoo retain its title as one of the top attractions in Denver, while also bringing first-time and repeat visitors to Denver.


Denver International Airport had a spectacular year of living us to the “international” part of its name by following up on the success of nonstop flights to Tokyo and Munich with new successes such as Norwegian’s nonstop flight to London, Gatwick, U.K. , Copa Airlines’ nonstop flight to Panama City, Panama, Southwest’s nonstop flight To Belize City, Belize and United’s nonstop flight to Cozumel, Mexico. Also coming in 2018 will be United’s nonstop flight from London Heathrow, U.K., new airline Westjet from Calgary, Canada, Norwegian Air from Paris, France, and another new airline, Edelweiss, from Zurich, Switzerland. DEN currently serves 26 international destinations in 11 countries and 25 airlines and has nonstop flights to more than to 190 cities, 160 of them in the U.S. In addition, plans for a major refurbishing of the airport’s terminal were approved by Denver City Council in 2017 and work will begin shortly on both an expansion of the number of gates and a complete redesign of the Jeppesen Terminal. For its stunning collection of successes in 2017, DEN is clearly a tourism star.

Sports Stars

In the area of sports, two major events brought worldwide attention to Denver in 2017:

  • The Colorado Classic and Velorama Festival
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup


Colorado Classic and Velorama Festival was a first time event that brought together men’s and women’s professional bike racing, world-class music and a downtown music, food and beer festival that celebrated all things cycling. Together, they created an event like no other in Colorado history. The Colorado Classic brought professional bike racing back to the state with a four-stage, four-day race that took men and women competitors over 313 miles and climbed more than 20,000 feet in altitude. The women kicked off the event in Denver with a circuit race in RiNo (River North) Art District on Friday night. The third stage of the men's race on Saturday used the RiNo neighborhood as a start and finish, heading up to Gilpin County and then circling back downtown, allowing tens of thousands of spectators to view the race for free. On Sunday, the men finished their race with a thrilling 7.5-mile city circuit from RiNo to City Park, allowing thousands of fans lining the streets to watch 10 laps of high-speed racing until the dramatic sprint to finish. Velorama, the companion three-day music and cycling fan festival provided premium views of the race’s start, finish and criterium, allowing fans to sip a Colorado craft beer and shop from local artisans as they watched some of the world's top cyclists in action. When the racing was over, Velorama provided an extravaganza of music and event entertainment with headliner bands Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Saint Motel, the Old 97s and the Jayhawks plus local Colorado acts such as Rob Drabkin. The festival also had special events, a bike and lifestyle expo, a craft marketplace, nearly 50 local food trucks and craft beer from 13 Denver brewers. The event will be back even bigger and better August 16-19, 2018 and will become an annual Colorado tradition.

Denver and Mile High Stadium were proud to host two important games of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup in July 2017. This was the 14th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the biennial international men's soccer championship of the North, Central American and Caribbean region organized by CONCACAF, and the 24th CONCACAF regional championship overall. Four soccer squads faced off in Denver: El Salvador played Curacao , followed by Mexico vs. Jamaica. Ultimately, the United States team won their sixth title with a 2-1 victory over Jamaica in the final. The games not only brought 50,000 fans from all over the world, but helped put Denver in the spotlight once again as an international soccer fan city. In addition to the game, a Futbol Fiesta at the stadium offered food, music, beverages and CONCACAF Gold Cup merchandise.

Culinary Awards

Denver’s growing reputation as a great culinary center was highlighted in 2017 by two special events, both being honored with Tourism Star awards.

In July 2017, Denver welcomed the culinary world for Slow Food Nations, an international festival to celebrate and explore good, clean and fair food for all. The weekend event combined the energy of a street food festival with the rigor of an academic conference and cultural exchange as chefs, food experts and food writers from around the world gathered in The Mile High City for dozens of interactive workshops, delicious tastings, local tours, educational talks, information exchanges with local chefs and dozens of meals and parties. Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. It connects farmers and families, leaders and eaters to share stories and shape the future of food. The show was such a success in Denver in 2017 that it will return in 2018, once again shining the world spotlight on Denver as an international culinary destination.

Bravo Network’s smash-hit culinary competition series Top Chef sent judges and competitors to the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado for its 15th season, currently airing Thursday nights on the network. Episodes take place in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. Padma Lakshmi returns as host alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot. Top Chef typically recruits a roster of chefs from many cities across the country to compete, but also includes a plethora of cameos made by food-universe stars, such as Richard Blais, Curtis Stone, David Kinch, Wylie Dufresne and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, who are among the many guest judges appearing this season. Of course, many of Denver’s own chefs appear on the show, which showcases the dining and culinary scene in the Mile High City and throughout Colorado. For all that Top Chef will do for Denver dining, they are to be honored with a Tourism Star.