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“Tourism Star” awards are presented to organizations and attractions that had a significant impact on Denver’s tourism industry during the preceding year.
On April 5, 2021, Denver was awarded the 2021 MLB All-Star Game and MLB Draft. Normally, it takes 2 years to prepare to host this event. Denver had 13 weeks. It took more than a village to pull this off. It took the entire state. In the end, 49,184 fans attended the game in the largest public event in Colorado since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Hundreds of thousands more participated in dozens of events around the game including the MLB Draft and Playball Park. The game was broadcast across the world in 60 media platforms in 14 languages in 197 countries. The economic impact based on previous games exceeded $100 million. More important, it showed the world that Denver was open for business and ready to host major events. The event could not have been possible without the help of Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, The Colorado Rockies and Denver Sports, who should all share in making this a 2021 Tourism Star.
More than 144,000 fans came to Empower Field at Mile High for the 2021 Concacaf Nations League Finals. This was the final tournament of the 2019–20 edition of the CONCACAF Nations League, the inaugural season of the international football competition involving the men's national teams of the member associations of CONCACAF. The tournament was held June 3-6, 2021, between four group winners of Nations League A. The tournament consisted of two semi-finals, a third-place play-off, and final to determine the inaugural champions of the Concacaf Nations League.
The United States defeated Mexico 3–2 after extra time in the final to become the first champions of the Concacaf Nations League. Not only did the games fill Empower Field and bring economic development to the area, but through International coverage they showed that Denver was capable of staging major sporting events. The success of the games will definitely help Denver’s bid to host the World Cup, and proved that when it comes to hosting sports events, Denver and Concacaf are Tourism Stars.
Another major development for Denver’s tourism product opened to the public in October 2021 with the long-anticipated opening of Denver Art Museum’s Lanny and Sharon Martin Building, Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center and Sturm Grand Pavilions well as new outdoor public spaces. After almost four years of construction and installation work, the $175 million project offers a unified, expanded campus complete with new welcome center, educational spaces, and more inclusive collection presentations, as well as a complete renovation of the historic Gio Ponti-designed building, now dubbed the Martin Building. The new offerings include a gorgeous new restaurant; the repurposing of two rooftop areas into outdoor gathering spaces with spectacular views; 30,000 sq. ft. of new exhibition space over seven floors; and the brand-new welcome center that greatly improves the visitor experience. News stories across the country heralded this as one of the biggest cultural events of 2021. Already one of the top attractions in the Rocky Mountain region, the new Denver Art Museum has become a “must visit” and a “must re-visit” attraction that will bring tourists back to Denver again and again.
In addition to the renovation, Denver Art Museum also staged two major exhibitions in 2021 that brought people to the city during a pivotal time period. First, Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Véronique and Gregory Peck examined the evolution of fashion as women’s role in society changed throughout the 20th century through one of the most famed and fashionable couples of the time. Then, Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France (running through March 13, 2022), unveiled the first comprehensive examination of France’s stylistic impact on American painting from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. For these accomplishments and additions, Denver Art Museum is certainly one of the Tourism Stars of 2021.
Started in 2018, the Freyer – Newman Center opened in 2021 as a physical manifestation of the Botanic Gardens’ final step in a four-phase Master Development Plan. The new building is a celebration of the fusion of science and art and houses the Helen Fowler Library, the Sturm Family Auditorium, art galleries, herbaria, classrooms, the School of Botanical Art & Illustration and a coffee shop, the Copper Door. Housing each of these different elements in a single facility makes them more accessible to the public and greatly enhances the experience the Denver Botanic Gardens offers to visitors. The building name honors Robert and Judi Newman and Ginny and John Freyer, who together contributed the final amount of funds to make possible the construction of the new center for science, art and education.
In addition, the Botanic Gardens hosted a five-month exhibition in 2021, Salvador Dali’ – Gardens of the Mind, which showcased rarely seen fanciful color lithographs on loan from The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. Mixing flora with the artist’s signature motifs, the images of fruits and flowers unsettle viewers, making them question what they think they know about reality by juxtaposing seemingly incongruent elements. The exhibition of nearly 40 works was a popular attraction in the spring and summer, making it unquestionably, a tourism star in 2021.
Beginning in March 2016, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts embarked on the most ambitious project in their master plan. The renovation of the Bonfils Theatre Complex was a $54 million investment to reimagine a world-class home for magical theatre and memorable events. Completed in 2021, it resulted in tremendous upgrades to the main entrance, technology, accessibility, backstage and support areas, and the renovation of two theatres: The Marvin & Judi Wolf Theatre (formerly Stage Theatre) and The William Dean Singleton Theatre (formerly Ricketson Theatre).
In addition, DCPA helped bring Van Gogh Alive to Denver, a large-scale, COVID-safe digital art experience, giving visitors the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into Van Gogh’s artistry. Visitors had the opportunity to find themselves interacting with art in ways they never imagined. From start to finish, spectators were surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound and fragrance that has been called an ‘unforgettable’ multi-sensory experience. Van Gogh’s masterpieces came to life, giving visitors the sensation of walking right into his paintings, a feeling that was simultaneously enchanting, entertaining and educational.
For these huge improvements to the theatres and for bringing a fun, interactive art installation to Denver, DCPA is truly a tourism star in 2021.
In 2021, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science staged three fantastic exhibitions that brought visitors from around the nation. SUE the T. rex is the most complete, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, and the traveling exhibition SUE: The T. rex Experience brought the 40-foot-long, 13-foot-tall dinosaur to Denver in all her frightening glory with animations and a fleshed-out replica of what SUE would have looked like while once roaming Denver. Stonehenge, the groundbreaking exhibition, included 400 artifacts, plus breakthrough science behind some of the latest discoveries about this prehistoric monument. GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World (running through April 17, 2022) is a fascinating exploration of the science, sound, history and pop culture behind the world’s most popular instrument, including a chance to strum the world’s largest playable guitar, measuring in at 43.5- feet-long and certified by Guinness World Records. Together, the three shows helped Denver attract visitors and provide captivating glimpses of the world – past and present.
Luminova Holidays made its Colorado debut at Elitch Gardens in 2021 with more than 3 million dazzling lights. Every evening, the holiday spectacle transformed the theme park into a winter wonderland with Santa, rides and more. There is a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 25-foot snowman that never melts, 200-foot candy cane tunnel, gigantic ornaments and presents, a 300-foot wall of lights, rides on limited Elitch Garden attractions, interactive activities, strolling holiday entertainers and a gala show with Old Saint Nick and his elves in the Trocadero Theatre. The event is sure to become a holiday tradition and another reason that Denver is becoming a major national destination during the Mile High Holidays.
Located in the heart of Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), adjacent to Coors Field, McGregor Square ushers in a new shopping, dining, entertainment, food, and sports center for the city. With 12 restaurants and bars, five retail outlets including a fabulous new home for the Tattered Cover, a new 182-room Rally Hotel, and a gigantic 17,000 square foot plaza complete with a stadium-sized LED screen, McGregor Square is a new meeting place for tourists. Just two blocks from Union Station and light rail, the center of the square is the outdoor plaza, a pre- and post-game gathering place for Rockies fans, as well as a year-round destination for concerts, festivals, and movie nights. A new Rockies Hall of Fame Experience and unique gathering spaces combine with urban retail and restaurants, multi-family residences, a hotel, and office spaces to create a rich sense of place and an inspiring vacation destination. Opened in 2021, McGregor Square has already become one of the focal points of downtown Denver and a true “Tourism Star.”
Meow Wolf’s third permanent exhibition, Convergence Station, opened in Denver in September 2021 and is an unforgettable, transformational and not-to-be-missed experience. Four years in the making, Convergence Station uses art from 300 creatives, including more than 100 from Colorado.
The four-story exhibition is home to more than 79 unique installations, rooms and portals. Together, they tell a wildly imaginative, cathartic tale of what happens when a Denver city bus crashes into a rift during a rare cosmic event and opens a portal to four converged alien worlds. In addition to the immersive art experience, the exhibition includes function rooms for meetings and gatherings, a fusion café called HELLOFOOD with grab-and-go food and drink options from local vendors, and a 488-capacity live music and private events venue called the Perplexiplex. In just a short time, Meow Wolf has become one of the most talked about and nationally publicized attractions in Denver, making it without question, a Tourism Star of 2021.
In 1919, Denver’s Civic Center Park was created to become the civic and cultural heart of the city, a mission that it has certainly fulfilled a century later. Surrounded by the State Capitol, City & County Building, Denver Public Library and Denver Art Museum, Civic Center Park is a 12-acre urban oasis that sits at the intersection of government, community and culture while anchoring one of the grandest architectural centers in America. Buildings by famed architects Michael Graves, Daniel Libeskind and Gio Ponti are all visible from the park, in addition to a historic Carnegie Library, the McNichols Civic Center Building. It is also home to the largest public art collection in the city, boasting bronze sculptures, fountains and murals throughout the park.
In 2012, these 12 acres were designated as a National Historic Landmark – the only space in Denver holding this honor. The designation recognizes that Civic Center is one of the most complete and intact City Beautiful-era designs remaining today, a fact that is honored by the nonprofit Civic Center Conservancy, whose mission is to restore, enhance and activate this important space, bringing to life the visions of the city's founders 100 years ago. Civic Center Park is now one of the most visited – and one of the most photographed – sites in the state, hosting more than one million visitors per year.
In 2019 the park was home to Denver’s largest festivals including PrideFest, Cinco de Mayo (the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the U.S.), The Biennial of the Americas and Taste of Colorado. When Time Magazine “Person of the Year” Greta Thunberg came to Denver in 2019, she spoke to large crowds from the Greek Amphitheatre stage in Civic Center Park. Thanks to the Civic Center Conservancy, the space also hosted the 2019 World Cup Ice Climbing Finals; Civic Center EATS (the largest weekly food truck roundup in Denver); Civic Center MOVES; Civic Center Art in the Park; and the wildly popular Independence Eve concert and fireworks.
Civic Center Park has also long been a site for civic discourse and rallies, hosting one of the largest Women’s Marches outside of Washington, D.C., and the Greater & Greener International Urban Parks Conference closing reception in 2019, as well as many other significant events throughout its century in existence.
For these reasons, Civic Center Park and the Civic Center Conservancy are honored as a 2019 Tourism Star.
The Denver Art Museum rose to new heights in 2019 as the sole U.S. venue for Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades. In the midst of one of the largest renovations the Denver Art Museum has ever undergone, the celebrated cultural facility drew multiple sellout days throughout the run of the Monet exhibition. The beloved exhibition featured more than 120 paintings spanning Monet’s entire career and focused on the celebrated French Impressionist artist’s enduring relationship with nature and his response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked. It had a major influence on Denver’s tourism during off-peak periods, drawing visitors from around the country to the city center for the cultural event of the season.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science continued to show why it is one of the great museums of America with three large-scale exhibitions in 2019. In October, the museum announced that it would be hosting an exhibition that details the most significant paleontological discovery of our time, After the Asteroid: Earth’s Comeback Story, based on the findings of some of its own scientists. A newly discovered trove of remarkably preserved prehistoric fossils at Corral Bluffs near Colorado Springs brought into sharp focus how the Earth recovered after the devastating asteroid impact 66 million years ago – the explosion that eradicated the dinosaurs. The exhibit provides an opportunity to see the fossils, speak with some of the scientists and facilitators and explore the environments where the discovery was made.
Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius brought the most comprehensive exhibition about Leonardo da Vinci ever presented in Denver in honor of the 500th anniversary of his death. Known for his contributions in art, engineering and science, the exhibition featured models of some of Leonardo’s inventions and how he laid the groundwork for things like helicopters, airplanes and automobiles. One entire section of the exhibition was solely dedicated to the creation of the Mona Lisa, one of the most famous pieces of art in history.
The Science Behind Pixar showcases the science, technology, engineering, art and math concepts used by the artists, mathematicians and computer scientists who help bring Pixar’s award-winning films to the big screen. With more than 50 interactive elements, the exhibition exemplifies how the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is able to make every subject fascinating and educational to both Denver residents and millions of national and international visitors, further validating the Museum’s role as a 2019 Tourism Star.
A river of beer flows through Colorado’s past, and History Colorado’s Beer Here! exhibit brings it all back to life, elevating Denver as the world’s best destination for beer lovers. Visitors learn that saloons were not just saloons in Colorado’s early beginnings and the gold rush days; they were post offices, restaurants, hotels and social clubs. But then Colorado banned alcohol – four years before Prohibition hit the rest of the country. By the 1970s, beer was big business again. Really big business. As the industry grew in Colorado, homebrewers went pro, Denver became home to the world’s largest beer festival and new local craft breweries began opening with more and more frequency. The exhibition explores the city’s brewing past, present and future with brewing equipment, a massive bottle breaker from Prohibition days, the nation’s first aluminum beer cans, and a wealth of other artifacts from the state’s hoppy history. Visitors can walk into a nineteenth-century saloon, a Prohibition-era “drugstore,” and the actual kitchen of previous Tourism Hall of Fame winner Charlie Papasian, where the modern craft beer industry began. Beer has become one of Denver’s chief visitor draws, and no exhibit has ever shown this link better, which is why History Colorado is being honored as a Tourism Star.
The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) defeated number six Australia, 5-3 on April 4, 2019 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,264 fans at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The record-setting number of spectators watched as team co-captain Alex Morgan scored the 100th goal of her career and local hero Mallory Pugh notched two goals in front of her hometown crowd. The USWNT went on to claim its record fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title with a win over the Netherlands in Lyons, France in July.
Before their 2019 bid for the World Cup, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Denver soccer fans gathered in Civic Center Park to honor Denver natives Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh with Challenge Coins, Denver’s version of the key to the city, as well as send them and their teammates off to Europe with luck and support. The team’s 2019 journey was filled with records, milestones and honors; and the American women have now won half of the eight World Cups since 1991 – becoming world champions four times over in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019.
The USWNT game versus Australia rallied Denver’s enthusiastic soccer fan base and showcased Denver as a top destination for international sporting events, earning the event the honor of 2019 Tourism Star.
It was the railroads that transformed Denver from a dusty frontier town into the most sophisticated city within a 600-mile radius, and nowhere is that story told better than at the Colorado Railroad Museum. At one point more than 2,000 miles of narrow gauge railroad connected the towns of Colorado together, bringing mail, food, supplies and passengers to the mountains, and carrying back gold and silver. The very first tourism efforts in Colorado were all conducted by the railroads, and two of the state’s top attractions since the 1970s have been two of the last remaining steam train railroads (Durango & Silverton and Cumbres & Toltec) in the south and southwest corners of the state.
The largest collection of narrow gauge cars and locomotives was preserved at the Colorado Railroad Museum, but it was mostly a static historic display and Denver had forgotten much its steam railroad history. All that has changed in the last decade. Under the leadership or executive director Donald Tallman, attendance at the Colorado Railroad Museum has doubled (it has been one of Denver’s Top 10 paid attractions for more than 10 years), the budget has increased 70%, the museum has added weekend rides on the Galloping Goose and monthly steam train rides on a half mile circular track, bringing live steam whistles back to the Denver area with rides like the Easter Bunny Express, a Steam Punk Railroad weekend, a beer train, dinosaur train, and Spooktacular Express at Halloween.
Biggest off all, the museum has brought the magic of the Polar Express to Denver. Running a steam locomotive in a Colorado winter is no easy task. How about running three full sold-out trains a night for 40 consecutive nights, no matter what the weather? That is what the museum has taken on and in 2018 the Polar Express in its third year was so popular that all 13,000 tickets sold out in 11 hours. The Polar Express has brought the magic of steam trains to thousands of children, many of them visiting from out-of-state for the holidays who will always remember a special place in their heart about Colorado and the thrill of boarding a steam train in the dark and having Santa come on board and hand them a silver bell.
It was the railroads that made Denver and today, it is the Colorado Railroad Museum that is making tourism memories that will last a lifetime.
In 2018, the Colorado Rockies had their best attendance since 2001 with more than 3 million fans attending games to cheer their team on to its fifth Postseason. Those 3 million fans equal the entire population of Metro Denver, and they did not come downtown just to watch baseball. They ate in restaurants, had drinks in breweries, shopped in stores, and a huge number of them stayed in hotels. A look at a map of the US with cities that have MLB teams shows that Denver is the most isolated in the nation – serving an area of the country with a radius of more than 600 miles in which there is not another MLB team. The Rockies are followed by fans from more states than any other team, a fact that has helped Denver achieve 13 years of consecutive year-over-year tourism growth.
Some 75 million fans have attended Rockies games in their quarter-century of play in Denver, and Coors Field has become an economic engine that has transformed lower downtown Denver and the surrounding neighborhoods of RiNo, Ballpark, LoDo, LoHi and Five Points, filling the area with new restaurants, breweries, distilleries, shops, galleries and residences. For a quarter-century of helping Denver tourism and for their outstanding record and attendance in 2018, the Colorado Rockies are recognized as a tourism star.
Most museums in the midst of a major expansion would slow down for a year, but not the Denver Art Museum, which staged two major exhibitions in 2018. Degas: A Passion for Perfection showcased prolific French artist Edgar Degas’ works from 1855 to 1906. More than 100 works consisting of paintings, drawings, pastels, etchings, monotypes, and sculptures in bronze were on view, focusing on the most prominent and recurring themes throughout Degas’ 60-year career. Well-known masterpieces highlighted his strong interest in horses, opera and dance and showed his transformation from a portraitist and painter of historical subjects to one interested in the contemporary life of late-nineteenth-century Paris. The DAM was the sole American venue for this extraordinary exhibition, bringing visitors from across the nation.
A second exhibition, Dior: From Paris to the World opened in November 2018 and will continue until March 2019, surveying more than 70 years of the House of Dior’s enduring legacy and its global influence. A selection of more than 200 couture dresses, as well as accessories, costume jewelry, photographs, drawings, runway videos, and other archival material, traces the history of the iconic haute couture fashion house, its founder, Christian Dior, and the subsequent artistic directors who carried Dior’s vision into the 21st century. The chronological presentation, showcasing pivotal themes in the House of Dior’s history, focuses on how Christian Dior cemented his fashion house’s reputation within a decade and highlights how his successors, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri, incorporated their own design aesthetic. VIP hotel packages have been created for this incredibly popular exhibition and will have a major influence on Denver’s tourism during one of the slowest winter months of the year.
In 2018 there was only one word for perhaps the most coveted ticket in Denver’s history: “Hamilton!” Tickets sold out in hours, with an additional 40 lucky winners selected each day in a lottery in which tens of thousands of hopeful people participated. The huge Broadway hit took Denver by storm, and as the only city in which it was playing in a gigantic geographic radius, Hamilton attracted tourists from across the land. But the Denver Center for Performing Arts is about much more than one hit. The center attracts 1.1 million visitors a year and is an economic engine that generates $193 million in economic impact for Denver annually. Other hits in 2018 included the national tour launch of Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away, making 2018 one of the most exceptional years in history for live theatre and musicals.
Denver’s largest museum continued to show why it is one of the great museums of America with two huge exhibitions in 2018. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibited one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. As the story goes, in 1947 young Bedouin goatherders happened upon a cave along the shore of the Dead Sea, near the site of the ancient site of Qumran and made a remarkable discovery. They found an assortment of clay jars, inside of which were scrolls wrapped in linen. Eventually, more than 900 remarkably preserved scrolls were recovered, leading to decades of extraordinary scrutiny, preservation, debate and awe, providing an incredible window to the past. Museum visitors had an opportunity to actually see and learn about these amazing historic items.
The museum next provided an opportunity to soak up the vitality of the Caribbean’s largest island nation – all without a plane ticket. ¡CUBA! is a lively exhibition for all ages, offering a chance to be immersed in the extraordinary biodiversity, cultural traditions, and daily life of this intriguing country. Visitors get to stroll along a “plaza” lined with activities and displays sharing the stories behind Cuban icons such as poster art, cigars, coffee, baseball, and vintage cars. They can also peer into beautiful re-creations of the island’s habitats, introducing them to distinctive animals both modern and extinct. Exhibits were presented in both English and Spanish, helping to increase multicultural and international tourism to Denver. The Museum worked with the Cuban community in Denver to enhance the experience, by adding live musical and dance performances at times during the exhibition’s run and contributing to exhibits with profiles and personal mementos from local Cuban Americans.
In 2017, Kirkland Museum opened a new 38,500 square foot museum to world acclaim. Located at 12th and Bannock, near the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum, the new museum makes Denver’s Golden Triangle District one of the principal art tourist attractions in the United States with three world-class art museums adjacent to each other. The new building was designed by Seattle-based architect Olson Kundig and features three collections containing over 30,000 works by more than 1,500 artists and designers, with more than 4,400 works currently on view. All three collections are displayed together in salon-style:
Hugh A. Grant established the Kirkland Foundation in 1996 to document, rediscover, collect, preserve, exhibit and publish Colorado artists.
In its first full year of operation in the new location in 2018, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art set new attendance records and helped Denver become recognized in national media as one of the major art destinations of the United States.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located in Hangar #1 of the former Lowry Air Force Base in eastern Denver. It was transferred from the United States Air Force to a group of volunteers in 1994, and today, the museum boasts more than 182,000 square feet of hangar space full of iconic aircraft, space vehicles, artifacts, military uniforms and much more. Visitors can also experience thrilling flight simulators and discover Wings Aerospace AcademyOpens in New Window, an aerospace enrichment program for 6th-11th grade students. The museum welcomes 160,000 annual visitors representing all 50 U.S. states and 33 countries around the world. In 2018, the museum hosted ABOVE AND BEYOND, an exhibition celebrating the power of flight. This traveling aerospace exhibition featured immersive simulations, interactive design challenges, iconic historical touchstones, visionary concepts for the future, and inspiring stories from game-changing innovators, past and present. Visitors could design—and test-fly—their own supersonic jet, pilot a drone into the eye of a hurricane, experience flight as a bird or take an elevator ride to the edge of space. Above and Beyond went above and beyond to transform Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum into one of Denver’s most popular tourist attractions in 2018.
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 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 its 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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 July 13-15, 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.
The NCAA Division II National Championships Festival brought more than 750 student-athletes to the Metropolitan State University of Denver in May for a competition that featured 76 teams and 20 other qualifying individuals competing for NCAA titles in six sports: men’s and women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, softball and men’s and women’s tennis. The festival also included opening and closing ceremonies and community engagement activities throughout the week. The festival is unique in the NCAA championships mix because it has an Olympic feel and is structured specifically to enhance the student-athlete experience for those who earned berths to the Division II championships. This was the ninth NCAA Division II national championships festival and the first one to be held in the Western region of the country. Opening ceremonies took place Monday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (now Empower Field at Mile High). This event was particularly important for Denver since it showcased to the NCAA the ability that Denver has in hosting major sports events, and opens the door to future NCAA championship events.
The first outdoor NHL game in the history of the Colorado Avalanche was a smash success, playing before a sell-out crowd as well as on prime time NBC television across the country. The game, witnessed by 50,095 people, shows the possibility of outdoor winter sports in Denver and Colorado, and coming on the heels of last year’s World Alpine Championships in Vail, establishes Denver and Colorado as a center for outdoor winter sports. The Avalanche played their arch rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, who they have faced six times in playoffs (the winner going on to take the Stanley Cup in four of those years). Between the two teams, they won the Stanley Cup five times in a seven year period. Unfortunately, the Red Wings won this game, but Denver was the real winner with a wildly successful and popular outdoor winter event.
In 2016, the Denver Art Museum opened Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume, a dramatic presentation of more than 70 original costumes from the Star Wars™ saga, including 300 additional objects sourced directly from Skywalker Ranch. Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C3-PO, Queen Amidala, and Darth Vader are among the many iconic cinematic characters featured in the exhibition. The creative process, a driving force behind the exhibition narrative, focused on bringing characters to life by presenting historical design context and artist concept drawings in a quest to transform the essence of George Lucas’ memorable characters into a dynamic reality. Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and in consultation with Lucasfilm Ltd, and will be on view at the Denver Art Museum through April 2, 2017.
In 2016, for the second time in three years, the Denver Outlaws won the Major League Lacrosse Championship, becoming the definitive champions of this growing sport. The Outlaws have led league attendance for nine of the past 10 years, and were also champions in 2014. But the Denver Outlaws are an organization not only committed to winning MLL Championships, but also to growing new lacrosse fans, making a positive impact on the community, and providing superior entertainment, value, and service. They have been a strong partner to the tourism industry and to Denver and are one of the reasons that Denver has been called “The Sports Capital of the U.S.A.”
Denver PrideFest, produced by the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, is the largest LGBT event in the Rocky Mountain West, which in 2016 not only celebrated its 41st anniversary, but also set huge attendance records with an estimated 380,000 people attending the two day festival at Civic Center Park. The Coors Light PrideFest Parade had a record 147 entries with more than 120,000 spectators watching the parade as it marched down Colfax Avenue. PrideFest attracts visitors from across the nation, and particularly from the Rocky Mountain West, where there are a limited number of similar events. “This is a wonderful expression of how we celebrate diversity and inclusivity in Denver, and we are grateful to PrideFest, not only for the tourism they bring to the city, but for their 41-year history of bringing music, art, and fun to Civic Center Park,” Scharf said. This year’s PrideFest was particularly poignant because six days before the festival, 49 people were killed and 53 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Instead of responding with fear, PrideFest turned out record numbers with participants flocking to a special memorial at the center of Civic Center Park created by local artist Lonnie Hanzon. Guests wrote their thoughts and expressed their emotions with colored chalk on a giant black cube created in memory of the Orlando victims.
Denver Zoo hosted Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea, presented by CH2M, an exhibit that was as much fun as it was educational. Some 15 giant sea sculptures from sea turtles to parrot fish were made from debris that has washed ashore on beaches around the world. The exhibit chose a whimsical way through art to educate the public about the challenges of pollution. Lead artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi organized people of all ages to help her remove thousands of pounds of debris from beaches and then turn it into gigantic works of art, 90 percent of which were made from petroleum-based products such as plastics, nylon ropes and fishing nets. This was the first time this exhibit had appeared in a land-locked city, helping children and adults understand the dangers that pollution presents to our oceans.
Even with 9,525-seats, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is not large enough to hold all the accolades, awards and distinctions it has already received as the greatest outdoor concert venue and amphitheater in the world. But for its 75th Anniversary, it was time for the tourism industry to recognize how much Red Rocks has meant to Denver. “There is probably no greater single icon for Denver that is more revered and known around the world than Red Rocks,” Scharf said. In its 75th year, Red Rocks staged numerous special events and photo contests and city officials began preparations to add an additional 98 acres to the park, which will allow for more hiking trails. In recent years, Red Rocks has dramatically grown the number of paid events at the amphitheater, setting a record high 138 paid shows in 2016 that drew more than 1 million people – nearly three times the amount who attended paid shows in 2006. In addition to these shows, the venue hosted many other activities including the world renowned Film on the Rocks, high school graduations, fitness programs, weddings, private meetings and a wide range of tourists visiting from across the country and the world. The revenue generated from all these events not only pays for all Red Rocks operations, but also helps fund other Denver cultural facilities and events.
In 1988, metro-Denver approved a first-of-its-kind regional Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), funded by a dedicated sales tax of one cent on every $10 spent. Today, SCFD provides financial support to nearly 300 small and large cultural facilities with an estimated $50 million of funds each year. Since the district began in 1989, attendance at cultural facilities has climbed 95 percent and today SCFD provides funding to twice as many cultural organizations as it did when it was created. SCFD has a tremendous impact on the region’s economy, generating $1.8 billion in annual economic activity, creating 10,731 jobs. Equally important to the tourism industry, it spurs $520 million in tourism spending every year. For residents, SCFD funding provides 4 million educational experiences for school children. More than 100 free days are provided by recipient organizations annually. “If we look back at the history of Denver, certainly the turning point in the city’s reputation as a cultural destination was the creation of SCFD, and we are thankful to the organization and to the voters in Metro Denver for once again re-affirming this valuable addition to the city,” VISIT DENVER President & CEO, Richard Scharf, said.
The AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star Game took place on July 29, 2015 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids, with live televised coverage on Fox Sports and UniMás in the U.S. and TSN and RDS in Canada. The MLS All-Stars defeated England’s Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in front of a soldout crowd. In addition to the game, there were numerous concerts, events and player appearances in and around Denver. World superstar Kaká, who plays for Orlando City SC, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, scoring one goal and adding one assist. The MLS All-Star teams are now 9-3-1 in the current format, having outscored the opposition 24-21. MLS teams are 5-2-1 vs. teams from the English Premier League in the All-Star Game.
David Ingemie joined SIA in 1976 as marketing director and became president of the non-profit organization in 1981. Over the span of his 39-year career at SIA, David worked diligently to grow snow sports and turn SIA’s annual Snow Show into the largest snow sports trade show in the world. Six years ago, Ingemie and SIA signed the largest convention contract in Denver’s history, committing the Snow Show to the Colorado Convention Center for 11 years. The show continues to bring record audiences each January with more than 20,000 attendees generating in excess of $35 million in spending. David Ingemie will be stepping down as SIA president after the January 2016 Snow Show in Denver. In honor of his great contributions to the city, the state of Colorado and its ski industry, David and SIA will be presented with a Tourism Star.
In 2015, the Denver Art Museum hosted In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism, which explored the development of floral still-life painting in the impressionist era with 60 paintings by famed artists such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh.
Denver Botanic Gardens hosted Deborah Butterfield: The Nature of Horses, which featured 15 life-size bronze sculptures of horses created by Montana artist Deborah Butterfield. The works appear to be made of wood, but are cast bronze from molds of tree limbs, welded into graceful horses. They were displayed throughout the York St. garden settings. The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are among the many places displaying Butterfield’s work.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science continued its string of blockbuster exhibitions with Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids. From Bigfoot to a 17-foot-long dragon, the exhibit featured dazzling statues and models depicting legendary creatures that have captured people’s imaginations for centuries, using real fossils and cultural objects to examine some of backgrounds behind these enduring fantastical beings.
Denver Zoo featured Nature Connects, Art with LEGO Bricks. Created by artist Sean Kenney, the exhibit offered 38 animal and plant sculptures made from LEGO bricks. The life-size (and sometimes even larger than life) sculptures were scattered throughout the zoo grounds and included a 400-pound bumblebee, a hummingbird with an eight-foot wing span and a full-scale African lion. The exhibit was designed to fill children with a fondness of science, engineering, technology and math.
The 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek represented the largest and most impressive collection of ski racing talent in the world, second only to the Olympics with racers from 68 countries. Since 1950, the event has only been held in the United States four times – all of them in Colorado and three of them in Vail Valley. More than 220,000 spectators attended the opening and closing ceremonies and racing events, setting a new U.S. record for number of attendees at a ski racing event. For two weeks, the event was broadcast around the world with global broadcast viewership of more than 800 million, and racking up more television broadcast time in the U.S. than any previous ski racing event in history.
The History Colorado Center presented Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, a whimsical exhibition of themed rooms that encouraged visitors to play and let their imaginations run wild. From Barbie and Mr. Potato Head to Slinky and Hot Wheels, the exhibit examined the stories behind the toys, from their inventors to the adults who bought them, and showed how these toys were a reflection of changing American life.
In 2014, the Denver Art Museum brought the world exclusive showing of Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century. Continuing a string of exclusive, Colorado-only exhibitions, Brilliant showcases priceless gems, jewelry, timepieces and precious objects, many that were previously owned by royalty and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, J.P. Morgan, the Aga Khan and other luminaries. Future bookings are strong due to hotel packages created around the show.
Denver Botanic Gardens broke all attendance records and created another blockbuster attraction for Denver hotel packages with their day and nighttime exhibition, Chihuly. Chihuly Nights became so popular that it sold out a month early, making the “golden tickets” available with hotel packages the only way to see the exhibit, thereby greatly increasing the number of tourists who stayed overnight. The amazing artworks became an internet sensation with thousands upon thousands of images flooding social media, boosting Denver’s image worldwide as a major cultural destination.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science created one of their largest shows ever: Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. This was the largest exhibition about the ancient Maya ever to be displayed in the United States and used a combination of never-before-seen artifacts, hands-on activities and immense walk-in environments to explore the rise, accomplishments and eventual decline of the ancient cities of the Maya. It was the first exhibition in the Museum’s new Anschutz Gallery, which is located in the Museum’s new 126,000-square-foot addition, the Morgridge Family Exploration Center.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver also created an exclusive, one-of-a-kind show: Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. This retrospective exhibition brought together the first comprehensive presentation of Mark Mothersbaugh’s art and music to date, from the beginning of his career in the early 1970s through the present. Though well known around the globe as a founding member of the popular band DEVO, Mark Mothersbaugh has been a prolific artist since before the band’s inception, and continues to produce work that makes the case for his position as an important figure in contemporary culture.
The 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championship, July 10-19, 2014, was the first time US Lacrosse hosted this world championship since 1998. The event featured 38 countries, the most ever in an international lacrosse competition, and is the furthest west the competition has ever been held, offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience for lacrosse fans who traveled to Denver from around the globe. International television coverage highlighted this great family entertainment that included an International Village and ten days of competition for 215 amateur youth and men’s teams at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The 2014 BMW Championship, September 1-7, 2014, brought some of the world’s top golfers to Cherry Hills Country Club. The William Flynn designed course has hosted seven Major Championships and two U.S. Amateur Championships since it opened in 1922 and is one of only three courses to have hosted the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open. Special international coverage on the Golf Channel highlighted Denver around the globe as a major golf and tourism destination.
The Denver Broncos filled local establishments with the help of two exciting home playoff games on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII, helping to set new records in January 2014 for hotel occupancies and average room rates. The Broncos clinched their fourth consecutive AFC West title in the 2014 season, building an enormous national audience, generating millions of dollars of publicity for Denver and initiating thousands of overnight stays from Broncos fans across the country. In October 2014, a Harris Poll found that the Denver Broncos had become the most popular team in the nation and were able to take hold of the title, “America’s Team.”
One of most exciting projects in Denver’s history opened in July 2014 with the complete restoration of the city’s Union Station. The historic, Beaux Arts 1914 train station and terminal reopened with ten new restaurants and bars, the new 112-room Crawford Hotel, and a selection of fine retailers including a branch of the popular Tattered Cover Bookstore. Union Station is also fulfilling its original role as the “Grand Central Station” of Denver – the city’s major ground transportation hub, serving as a station and transfer point for AMTRAK, Light Rail, regional buses and local circulators, with direct commuter rail service to Denver International Airport starting in 2016. For their work in preserving this historic gem and transforming it into a centerpiece of Denver for entertainment, dining, shopping and transportation, Tourism Star Awards are presented to the two principal developers: RTD and the Union Station Alliance.
In 2013, the Denver Art Museum presented Passport to Paris, an original exhibition that helped book hundreds of hotel packages.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science created Mammoths & Mastodons and brought in the highly popular Mythbusters exhibition, while finishing its new space, the 126,000 square-foot Morgridge Family Exploration Center, in preparation for the opening of Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed in early 2014.
The Denver Center Theatre Company staged the world premiere of Sense & Sensibility, which played for two months, while Denver Center Attractions presented an array of blockbuster Broadway shows in the Buell Theatre, including the return of the national tour of The Book of Mormon, making it one of the busiest theatres of its size in the nation.
Denver’s Mountain Park system is unique. With legendary parks like Red Rocks Park and the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, this 14,000 acre park system covers four counties and ranges in elevation from 6,000 to 13,000 feet. It is one of Denver’s most cherished tourism icons. From grasslands to glaciers, bison to Buffalo Bill, Denver’s 46 Mountain Parks are unique not only for their incredible range of scenery and activity, but because all of them are located outside of the city’s borders, most less than an hour’s drive away. The Mountain Parks preserve examples of every life zone found in Colorado, from windswept prairie to alpine tundra high above timberline, they have been bringing tourists to the Mile High City for 100 years.
Jennifer Jasinski had an incredible year in 2013, helping to gain national publicity for Denver’s culinary scene by both winning the James Beard Foundation’s 2013 “Best Chef Southwest” and by competing well on Bravo Channel’s nationally televised “Top Chef Masters.” Jasinski opened her first restaurant, Rioja, in Denver’s Historic Larimer Square to critical acclaim in 2004, featuring a menu inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by local and seasonal products. She and business partner Beth Gruitch acquired Bistro Vendôme, a French bistro across the street from Rioja in 2006. The pair will open Stoic & Genuine at Denver’s Historic Union Station later this year. Chef Jen was named 2004 Colorado Chef of the Year and 2005 Western Regional Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation. Rioja is consistently listed among Denver’s top restaurants by The Denver Post, 5280 Magazine, and the Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Guide. Jasinski has been named Best New Chef, Rising Star, Best Chef and more in Denver Magazine, Restaurant Hospitality, Nation’s Restaurant News, The Denver Post, and 5280 Magazine.
The 2013 Solheim Cup held at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado, the week of August 13th – 18th is a biennial team competition that showcases the world’s best female professional golfers in a match between the United States and Europe. Similar to the PGA’s Ryder Cup, it is a three-day match play event between teams of twelve players. Although the European Team was victorious with a recording-setting score of 18-10, the real “winner” was Colorado. The state was promoted across several media platforms and received the most television coverage in the event’s history, reaching 77 countries and over 190 million households particularly in our top tourism markets in Europe. The event generated millions of dollars of publicity, and millions of direct spending by players, sponsors, fans, and media.
Denver hosted the 2012 NCAA Women’s Final Four last April, a marquee sporting event that brought 30,000 visitors to the city and generated more than $20 million in spending in The Mile High City. ESPN broadcast the games, which were distributed to approximately 177 countries around the world. In addition to the national coverage and spending, the NCAA brought a series of free events for Denver citizens and visitors alike including Tourney Town™ Refreshed by Coca-Cola Zero™, Mile High Dribble, 4Kay® Run Hydrated by POWERADE ZERO™ and more. The lasting legacy of the 2012 Women’s Final Four on the Denver community included the NCAA Middle School Madness®, NCAA Pinnacle of Fitness®, POWERADE® NCAA Youth Clinics, NCAA Junior Journalism Workshop, Denver Community Challenge, and equipment donations through Wilson® Sporting Goods Co., altogether impacting more than 25,000 Denver middle school and elementary age children. The total contributions of the NCAA Women’s Final Four to Denver schools and charities was more than $150,000.
In 2012, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) raised the national and international recognition of Denver as a major cultural center by hosting two unique blockbuster shows, both of which generated outstanding press and visitors from all over the world. Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective was a sweeping examination of the designer’s 40 years of creativity, featuring a stunning selection of 200 haute couture garments along with numerous photographs, drawings, and films that illustrated the development of Saint Laurent's style. The exhibition was held in Paris and Madrid, before coming to Denver. The DAM was the only United States venue for the exhibition, which attracted a huge local, regional, national, and international audience, and also sold more than 1,000 hotel packages. The museum followed this up with the world-exclusive Becoming Van Gogh, an in-depth exploration of Vincent Van Gogh’s unconventional path to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable artists. The exhibition displayed more than 70 paintings and drawings by Van Gogh, along with works by artists to whom he responded such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Camille Pissarro. The show was wildly successful, selling out an unprecedented period where the museum was open for 40 hours straight for the final weekend. Together, these shows generated press around the world establishing Denver as a major center for the arts.
In May 2012, Denver International Airport (DEN) and United Airlines announced that United Airlines will launch daily nonstop service between Denver and Narita International Airport (NRT) in Tokyo, Japan. With its joint venture partner All Nippon Airways, United’s passengers will benefit from connecting service in Narita to more than 20 destinations across Asia. The flight is scheduled to depart Denver at 12:25 p.m. and arrive in Tokyo at 3:30 p.m. the next day, with the return trip departing Tokyo at 5:00 p.m., arriving in Denver at 12:50 p.m. the same day. The flight is expected to generate an annual impact of $130 million to the state’s economy and bring more than 30,000 new visitors.” In 2011 DEN ranked as the fifth busiest airport in the U.S., and 11th-busiest in the world with more than 1,700 daily flights, including more than 170 worldwide destinations.
The largest project in the history of Denver Zoo opened to international acclaim, not only for its beauty, but for its sustainability. The $50 million, 10-acre exhibit contains six large animal habitats with more than 100 animal transfer gates managed from a control center, connecting two miles of trails for animals to explore. It can hold up to 12 Asian elephants, including eight male bull elephants, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. Toyota Elephant Passage is the first large animal exhibit complex in the country to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification at the Platinum level, the highest green construction certification available. Record-breaking crowds helped boost Denver Zoo (consistently the top paid attraction in Denver) to break the 2 million visitor mark for the first time, setting an all-time attendance record in 2012.
Imagine pairing History Colorado's creative vision for storytelling through immersive, hands-on, high-tech exhibits and programs with a stunning and green-built 200,000-square-foot cultural facility designed by Denver firm Tryba Architects with a goal to create a modern-day museum experience that connects its visitors from what “was” to what’s “next.” That is the new $110 million, experiential History Colorado Center. Visitors get a sense of Colorado’s diverse geography when they walk into the History Colorado Center’s four-story-high, sunlit Anschutz Hamilton Hall, where kids and grown-ups alike explore a 40-by-60 foot terrazzo tile floor map by pushing around a Jules Verne-inspired storytelling "time machine" on top of it. Inside its spacious galleries, immersive experiences abound that tackle a variety of topics, some serious and some fun, and all designed to spark a greater interest in both Colorado and history. Visitors of every age explore places like Keota, a dryland farming town from the 1920s; "drive" across the eastern plains in a real Model-T Ford; "yearbook" themselves with early 20th-century styles to post to Facebook; try memorizing a dynamite pattern in a Silverton hard rock mine before pushing the plunger; trade goods at Bent's Old Fort with Chief Yellow Wolf and Kit Carson; learn how to soar off Steamboat Spring's Howelson Hill in a ski jump simulator; and discover the heart, art and whimsy of the city of Denver, starting with "A for Adrenaline" and ending with "Z for Zombies." During their visit, museum-goers may also catch a live performance, museum theater program or speaker, or even attend a workshop in the Stephen H. Hart Research Library. Since its April 28, 2012 debut, this signature cultural attraction and Smithsonian Affiliate has provided urban enhancement to downtown Denver's Golden Triangle Creative District, brought food and retail to the area through its Rendezvous Café and museum store, and has attracted new and larger audiences while inspiring statewide tourism. Whether holding a special event, exhibiting Smithsonian or History Colorado artifacts, opening a new core exhibit or bringing in a major traveling show, visitors can expect that something new and exciting is always happening at the History Colorado Center.
The Clyfford Still Museum opened on November 18, 2011, becoming the newest cultural tourism attraction in Denver. The museum opened to rave reviews and incredible publicity in the “New York Times”, “Washington Post”, “Wall Street Journal” and many other tourism and art magazines. It is being heralded as yet more proof that Denver is indeed becoming the cultural and art center of the Rocky Mountain West. The museum reintroduces the life and work of one of America’s most significant, yet least understood artists and houses 94% of Clyfford Still’s total creative output from his 60-year career. The museum’s collection of approximately 2,400 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, the majority of which have never been on public display before, provides an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the full scope of Still’s legacy and his profound influence on American art. From the stunning building, designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture, to the amazing collection of art, the Clyfford Still Museum is a unique cultural attraction that will increase cultural tourism to Denver by art lovers around the world.
After nearly a year of work and due diligence, along with the leadership of Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver International Airport and Icelandair announced that a nonstop flight from Denver to Reykjavik, Iceland would begin in the spring of 2012. From its hub in the nation’s capital, Icelandair serves more than 20 cities in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, opening up a new, low cost airfare alternative for Europeans to travel to Denver. More than 80 percent of the people using Icelandair are not from Iceland, but are Europeans and Americans using the airline to reach other destinations. This is the first new transatlantic flight for Denver International Airport in several years, following British Airways and Lufthansa as European airlines serving the Mile High City, and will bring more than $28 million in economic impact to Colorado while creating 300 new jobs. Most important, it provides a boost to Denver’s ever-growing international tourism efforts, providing a simple, easy, low cost, one-stop flight to the Mile High City from most major European capital cities. Icelandair launched the introduction of the new flight with major marketing efforts, promoting Denver as the gateway to Colorado and the American West.
The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge was the most demanding bike race ever held on American soil, with racers experiencing breathless altitudes for seven consecutive days. It was also one of the biggest tourism promotions ever for Denver and Colorado, sending spectacular images of the state to millions of television viewers around the world. From August 22-28, 2011, 135 of the world’s top athletes raced 518 miles through some of America’s most beautiful scenery, including Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs before finishing in front of a gigantic crowd in downtown Denver. Nearly one million spectators viewed the race in person from the roadsides along the route, while millions more in 161 countries and territories around the world watched the race on television, with major broadcasts by NBC and Versus. In just its first year, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge became one of the largest cycling events in United States history with World Champions and the Tour de France podium winners Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck among the racers. On the final day, Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack was awarded the Quiznos Leader Jersey and crowned the first-ever champion of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “I don’t know if I’ve ever raced in a place where the fans have been so appreciative,” said Cadel Evans, 2011 winner of the Tour de France. The race generated more than $83 million of economic impact for Colorado.
The first Biennial of the Americas celebrated the culture, ideas and people of the 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Held from July 1-31, 2010, the Biennial offered cross-cultural experiences through a wide array of art exhibits, live music and special cultural programming. Emerging leaders in the arts, culture, sciences, politics, economics and technology convened at roundtable discussions designed to create a shared vision for a more cohesive hemisphere. The event generated international press and prestige for Denver, bringing many distinguished visitors to the city, as well as providing a top summer attraction.
More than 30 million people, including children, have taken this fantastic voyage exploring the mysteries and wonders of the human body. This new BODY WORLDS exhibit, with a special focus on the heart, the hardest working organ of all, included more than 200 human specimens, including whole-body plastinates, organs and translucent body slices. It was a huge hit for both the city and the museum, attracting visitors to have another up close and personal look at the human body.
Denver launched the first bike-sharing program in America on April 22, 2010, offering 500 red B-cycles at nearly 50 stations throughout Denver. Visitors and convention delegates could purchase a 24-hour membership at any B-cycle station for just $5 using a credit card, and then take unlimited rides up to 30 minutes for free. Stations were located at major attractions, from the Colorado Convention Center to Denver Art Museum to Cherry Creek Shopping Center, making it easy for visitors to use the city's 85 miles of paved, off-street bike trails to get around town. The program resulted in national press attention and reinforced Denver's brand as a green, bike- and pedestrian-friendly city.
Downtown Denver was transformed into a massive free rock concert on May 29, 2010, when 20 bands took to four stages for the second Annual Denver Day of Rock. Held as a fund-raiser for Concerts for Kids, the day-long event attracted huge crowds and helped sell out downtown hotel rooms, giving Denver one of its busiest Memorial Day weekends on record. The Romantics, Fishbone, Roger Klein, Epilogues, Angie Stevens, Something Underground and the Heyday were just some of the bands that brought the busiest crowds Downtown Denver had seen since the Democratic National Convention.
Twenty monumental works by acclaimed British sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986) were the highlight of Moore in the Gardens, a landmark exhibition of monumental works displayed in landscape settings, providing the perfect backdrop for work which demanded to be seen in the open. Home to 33,000 plants in 45 different individual gardens, the Denver Botanic Gardens is recognized as one of the top botanic gardens in the western United States and this show certainly helped cement that reputation. Visitors were able to view these pieces in a diverse array of landscape - from prairie wildflowers and serene reflecting pools to cacti or a rugged alpine rock garden.
Boasting 130 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun and other famous Egyptian pharaohs, this incredible exhibition brought many items to Denver that had never been seen in the U.S. before, including a rare 10-foot statue of Tut, the largest image of the boy king yet discovered. In a special family area, kids could dress up as an Egyptian ibis or owl, make an Egyptian collar or kick back with a book on ancient pyramids. The critically acclaimed exhibit attracted visitors from throughout the metro area and across the entire Rocky Mountain region.
In 2009, the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) celebrated 20 years of helping to reshape the landscape of Colorado into a world-class cultural center. The SCFD is an unique, seven-county collaboration that through a .1 percent sales and use tax raises approximately $40 million annually that is distributed to more than 300 cultural organizations. In addition to improving the quality of life, Denver’s art and cultural community generates more than $1.7 billion in economic activity annually, much of this as result of SCFD funding.
SportAccord, held March 23-27, 2009 in Denver, was a gathering of 1500 members of more than 100 international sports federations, as well 5,000 interested parties and media. This was the first time this prestigious meeting was held in North America and it offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Denver to showcase its sports facilities and amenities to the most influential sports leaders in the world. As a result, Denver has already been considered for several prestigious international sporting events.
The nation’s largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders took place in Denver, Sept. 16-19, 2009, when the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) hosted their 30th Annual National Convention in the Mile High City. The four-day event attracted 2,000 Hispanic business leaders for educational workshops, meetings and a free Business Expo in the Colorado Convention Center that was open to the public. Denver hosted some of the top Hispanic decision-makers from corporate America, key political leaders and officials from President Obama’s administration for this convention.
The largest gathering of museum executives in the nation took place from April 27-May 1, 2008, providing Denver an opportunity to showcase its museums and cultural facilities to thousands of influential stakeholders in the cultural community. Founded in 1906, the American Association of Museums (AAM) is dedicated to promoting excellence within the museum community. AAM currently represents more than 16,000 members – 11,500 individual museum professionals and volunteers, 3,100 institutions, and 1,700 corporate members. Every type of museum is represented by the more than 3,100 institutional members, including art, history, science, military and maritime, and youth museums, as well as aquariums, zoos, botanical gardens, arboretums, historic sites, and science and technology centers.
The MEDAL OF HONOR is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the United States Armed Services. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States in the name of Congress, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. At the time of Denver’s Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention, September 16-20, 2008, there were just 101 living recipients - 60 of whom attended making this one of the greatest gatherings of American heroes in the country’s history. Among those honored at the Denver convention was Clint Eastwood, who was presented the Bob Hope Award. A special exhibit dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients was seen by tens of thousands of people at Cherry Creek Shopping Center.
The largest event in Denver’s history attracted 50,000 visitors, including 17,000 national and international media. The event generated $266 million of economic benefit for Metro Denver, including $134 million in direct spending. The Denver Host Committee was responsible for putting together every aspect of this event: from fundraising to creating welcome signage, from staging events to hosting the opening media reception, from organizing 17,000 volunteers to working with the media to generate stories on the event. Denver received hundreds of millions of dollars of worldwide publicity from the Convention.
A total of 3,739 members of the performing arts community - representing 1,813 organizations across the globe - attended the 2008 National Performing Arts Convention in Denver. This prestigious event is held only once every four years, beckoning visitors from all 50 states and many international destinations. Mayor Hickenlooper attended the 2004 inaugural event in Pittsburgh, and was instrumental in helping Denver win the convention. For four days, Denver was the center of the nation’s performing arts community, with national leaders discussing issues such as education, creativity and the impact of new technologies. NPAC offered an important opportunity to elevate Denver’s image as a national center for performing arts.
The NCAA 2008 Men’s Frozen Four Hockey Tournament is the hockey equivalent of college basketball’s Final Four and was held at Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) from April 10-12. The sold out four-day tournament with a combined total of 55,000 attendees, 15,000 of them coming from out-of-town, was the fourth largest crowd in Frozen Four history, and the opening Thursday night game was the largest attendance ever for that day. This prestigious sporting event generated an estimated $10-13 million of economic development for Denver, and coverage of the games gave Denver national exposure as an important sports center. When Denver won the games in 2003, it was the first time a city was awarded both a regional games and the tournament, again establishing Denver as a center for major sporting events.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises recently scored another winning goal with the opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City this April. The complex, which is the new home of the Colorado Rapids, is the largest and most state-of-the-art professional soccer stadium and field complex in the world, with an 18,000 seat stadium and 24 full-size soccer fields that are attracting thousands of fans, youth soccer players, and adult leagues 365 days a year. The new complex hosted the 2007 Major League Soccer All-Star Game, one of many sold-out events at the complex this year. That’s proof that fans of the most popular sport in the world are now flooding into the most popular sports city in America to watch world-class soccer teams compete.
Colorado produces more beer than any other state and Denver produces more beer than any other city. The Great American Beer Festival is the grand daddy of all US beer fests and a Denver tradition for 26 years. In their quest for the best in suds, this year more than 100 professional judges sipped 2,793 beers from 470 domestic breweries, the largest array of US beers ever gathered together in one setting. The Festival - presented by the Brewers Association - is not only the American brewing industry’s top public tasting event, it is an annual reunion for the nation’s craft brewers, drawing thousands of visitors each year from all over America and the world.
The Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors on October 28th of this year.
The loss of state tourism funding in 1993 resulted in a 30% drop in Colorado’s leisure market share and an annual decline of $2 billion dollars in visitor spending. By 2001, Colorado ranked 35th among all states in tourism marketing dollars and was struggling to attract visitors. Colorado Senator Jack Taylor and Representative Al White recognized that without a permanent source of funding for Colorado tourism, visitor numbers would continue to fall and local businesses would suffer. These tireless legislators had the business acumen to understand what needed to be done, and the leadership and persistence to pull it off. This year they triumphed with the passage of House Bill 1201, creating the largest tourism marketing budget in our state’s history, a full 19 million dollars.
No building in Denver’s history has generated more publicity or anticipation than the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind. From the New Yorker to The New York Times, major arts, architecture and travel publications around the world have covered this remarkable new building. Housed within the $90.5 million, 146,000 square foot expansion’s cantilevered walls and uniquely shaped galleries are permanent collections for some 60,000 pieces of modern and contemporary, western American, African and Oceanic art. The crown jewel of Denver’s recent cultural boom, The Frederic C. Hamilton Building provides the opportunity to experience a true urban gem and is sure to entice visitors near and far for many years to come.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science picked a clear winner with BODY WORLDS 2, the internationally renowned anatomical exhibition. By its closing date, attendance topped an astonishing 687,000 visitors, 80,000 of them from out of state. To generate these huge numbers, the museum created a number of innovative marketing techniques, including extending their normal operating hours and running the exhibit 24 hours a day during the last week of the show. The third largest touring exhibit in the Museum’s history, BODY WORLDS 2 presented more than 200 authentic human specimens preserved by a process called Plastination. This genuinely unique experience captured the imagination of attendees and became one of the largest tourism events in Denver’s history.
Denver International Airport (DEN) celebrated its 10th Anniversary in high style in 2005, setting the all-time monthly record for traffic with 4,275,728 travelers using the airport in July 2005 – the most ever in one month. Through the end of August, the airport was 2.3 percent ahead of last year in passenger traffic and on pace to set a new annual record. But DEN has been making other achievements than high volume. The FAA consistently ranks DEN as one of the top on-time airports in the nation, allowing visitors and conventions quick and easy access to Denver and Colorado. The airport’s excellent on-time performance, record of reliability and financial stability helped attract Southwest Airlines back to Denver after more than 20 years.
The new $92 million, 2,268-seat Ellie Caulkins Opera House (affectionately known as "The Ellie") opened in Sept. 2005, completing the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) by providing a first-class, natural acoustical home for opera, ballet and chorales. This state-of-the-art lyric opera house has come to life inside the walls of the historic 1908 Newton Auditorium and offers beautiful lobbies, grand staircases and four levels of seating with unobstructed sightlines and views. The Ellie serves as the "crown jewel" of DPAC, the largest arts complex in the world under one roof featuring 10 performance spaces connected by an 80-foot tall glass roof. The Ellie has already garnered much national press and is being declared one of the finest acoustic halls in the nation.
Hotel occupancies, average room rates, restaurant taxes and sales taxes in metro Denver jumped as much as 32 percent during the four-day NBA All-Star Weekend, Feb. 18-21, 2005, compared to the same weekend the year before. Figures from Smith Travel Research prove that this colorful national sporting event generated more than $30 million in economic impact for Denver in just four days. But the NBA All-Star Game brought much more than money to Denver. National television coverage helped showcase the changes that have taken place in Denver’s dining, shopping and entertainment. More than 1,300 media were in town to cover the event, 250 of them from overseas. The game was broadcast in 48 languages to 3.1 billion people in 214 counties.
The Denver Zoo is the fourth most popular zoo in America based on paid attendance and was ranked in the Longwoods 2003 tourism study as Denver’s second most popular paid attraction. In 2004, the Denver Zoo opened the $25 million Predator Ridge, the largest tourism attraction to open in Denver this year. At Predator Ridge, visitors encounter 15 species of animals as they walk through rock outcroppings, winding past thorn bushes to special viewpoints where they can look out on to a scene replicating the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya. The new exhibit is just one of many new additions to the Denver Zoo and is part of the Zoo’s $125 million master plan.
Founded in 1994, Frontier is Denver’s hometown airline. Frontier provides service from Denver to 43 destinations in 23 states spanning the nation from coast-to-coast and to five cities in Mexico. The airline is the second largest jet carrier at Denver International Airport with an average of 225 daily system-wide departures and arrivals. In 2004, they were selected as one of the top 10 airlines in the world by the readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine. Their new creative and award-winning ad campaign has helped establish them as one of the nation’s most prominent low cost carriers. Frontier has been a partner in promoting Denver as a destination and in 2004, Frontier introduced a new in-flight magazine and video concept that will offer additional opportunities to promote and market Denver as a travel destination.
In 1969, Larimer Square became one of the first revitalized downtown historic districts in the nation. Today, it remains the most lively and exciting block in Denver, filled with great shops, trendy restaurants and nightspots and host to numerous colorful events, including the nation’s second largest Oktoberfest celebration. In 2004, Larimer Square held the second annual La Piazza dell’Arte, an event that features professional, amateur and student artists who over the course of two days transform Larimer Square into a beautiful street museum of bright and colorful images. In addition to the visual feast of La Piazza dell’Arte, guests enjoy music, Italian food and beverages. By bringing this colorful event to Denver, Larimer Square has created a new reason for tourists to visit the city.
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival has become Colorado’s signature cultural event and the largest 4th of July event in the state, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the Cherry Creek Shopping District for three days of art, food, music and cultural events. The Arts Festival offers visitors a rare opportunity to meet and talk with exhibiting artists who work in virtually every medium, including ceramics, digital art, painting, photography, mixed media, sculpture and more. The festival has become one of the most competitive outdoor juried arts festivals in America – and one of the most recognized, consistently being ranked as one of the top arts festivals in the nation. Last year, the International Festivals and Events Association presented the Cherry Creek Arts Festival with seventeen awards in thirteen categories. They were competing for these awards with 223 of the world’s top festivals and events. The Cherry Creek Arts Festival functions year-round, fulfilling its mission to provide access to the arts. Through its annual programs, the Art Festival brings art education to more than 85,000 people a year. For creating a major cultural event that has brought international prestige to the city, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a Denver & Colorado Tourism Star.
As a young girl in Denver, Cleo suffered from medical difficulties and was told by doctors that she would remain bedridden her entire life. Cleo refused to believe that. To overcome the pain of her body, she threw herself into dance and by the age of 15 she was teaching dance at the University of Colorado. Today, she is the artistic director and choreographer of one of America’s most respected and well-known dance groups – the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble – a group she created in 1970. The mission of this ensemble is to foster appreciation and develop new audiences for dance. In the process of doing that, Cleo has also developed Denver’s reputation in the arts on both a national and international scale.
Peter Meersman has been the president and CEO of the 1,700-member Colorado Restaurant Association since 1989, helping to grow and transform Colorado restaurants into one of the state’s major industries. Today, Colorado restaurants generate $7.3 billion in annual sales and employ over 169,000 workers – four out of every ten retail workers are employed at one of Colorado’s 9,000 restaurants. In 2002, consumers spent $20 million a day in Colorado restaurants, generating $438 million in state and local sales taxes. As a leader and spokesperson for this industry, Peter has been instrumental in helping Colorado’s restaurant growth outpace the nation, even in these challenging economic times. His ProStart program to help high school students prepare for careers in the restaurant industry won a national award, as did his Dine Out to Help Out fund-raiser, which helped bring Colorado restaurants together in the aftermath of September 11. The new Big Bite program was launched last summer to raise money for charities that fight hunger, and CRA has been on the frontlines of water conservation since the beginning of Colorado’s drought. For leadership in one of the state’s more important industries, Peter Meersman is truly a Denver and Colorado Tourism Star.
Since 1941, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has been one of Denver’s top attractions, but in 2003 the spectacular concert venue entered a new era with the opening of the new 30,000 square foot Visitor Center and Museum. Built to harmonize with the beauty of the surroundings, the new center will become a premium location for receptions, meetings and conferences, accommodating up to 2,000 people. The new Ship Rock Grille will become one of Denver’s most unique restaurants. A new Hall of Fame gallery will tell the geological history of the rocks…and the history of the rock ‘n roll that has taken place here. The new visitor center will be open year-round and will offer coordinated tours between Red Rocks and the Coors Brewery in Golden and Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison for a genuine Colorado adventure.
For more than a decade, Tom Healy has been a leader in Denver’s tourism industry. As the general sales manager for United Airlines in Denver, Tom was responsible for United Airline’s sales efforts with travel agents, corporations and at the ten United ticket offices in the Front Range area. He served as chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1996, a crucial period in the convention center expansion process. He also served as chairman of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Foundation, helping to establish the Salute to Tourism Stars gala as the preeminent tourism industry event, while building a substantial base for future scholarships to students pursing careers in travel. His generous contributions on behalf of United Airlines have helped virtually every charitable organization in Denver.
One of the most exciting events in Denver’s professional sports history took place on February 4, 2001, when the NHL All-Star Game at the Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) set an all-time record with 26 goals. But there was a lot more action in Denver that week than on the ice. The NHL All-Star Weekend and NHL FANtasy, January 31-Feb. 4, 2002, attracted 85,000 visitors and fans to a series of exciting and colorful downtown events that turned a normally slow period for Denver into boom times. Hotels and restaurants were full, and Denver received worldwide media coverage. This excitement was continued when the Colorado Avalanche went on to win the 2001 Stanley Cup. For an entire year, Denver was the place for professional hockey with an event and world championship that brought media attention and economic benefits to the Mile High City.
With 1,600 dancers from 98 tribes the Denver March PowWow is one of the nation’s largest gatherings of Native Americans – and one of the most colorful. Indians from 38 states and three Canadian provinces come together in the Mile High City to sing, to dance and to honor the heritage that has been passed down to them from their ancestors. Now in its 28th year, the Denver March PowWow attracts more than 60,000 spectators, who attend to see the dancing competitions, sample Native American foods, shop among 170 traders for Native American arts, jewelry and merchandise and immerse themselves in this fascinating culture. With 68 different drum groups keeping the beat and signing traditional songs, while hundreds of dancers are on the floor, it is an amazing spectacle of color, beauty and history. Longwoods research shows that one of the key reasons people visit cities instead of other destinations is that they want to see cultural events, sample new foods and experience something they can’t see at home. The Denver March PowWow provides all these experiences, making it a worthy winner of a 2002 Tourism Star.
Mary Mitchell has been a staple of Denver’s hospitality community for more than 25 years. As the owner of Mary Mitchell Presents, she has probably brought more music and entertainment to the Mile High City than any other person. She has booked some of the top name acts in the music industry and represented hundreds of local musicians, entertainers and singers, arranging entertainment programs for many of the top conventions that have come to Denver in the past quarter century. But more important, Mary has been a champion of Denver’s hospitality community with strong involvement and dedication to all of the industry’s trade associations. She has been a Bureau board member for seven years, is the current vice president of HSMAI Mile High Chapter (having also served as their president), and is a board member of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, a group that inducted her into their Hall of Fame in 2001. With her British bulldog spirit and diligent support of the industry, Mary has become a legend in Denver’s entertainment field, and a deserving winner of the Tourism Star award.
It is hard to imagine anyone who has brought greater credit to the hospitality industry or done more to help feed Denver’s less fortunate than Noel Cunningham. His work on behalf of Share Our Strength has made this annual fundraiser for the hungry and homeless one of Denver’s most successful fundraising events. Noel is also involved in “Quarters for Kids” – a program that educates children about hunger relief. Since its inception, the program has raised over 114,000 quarters for children in shelters. In 2001, he once again stepped up to the plate to help Habitat for Humanity’s Women Building a Legacy project. This program brought hundreds of women volunteers to Denver to build five houses for low income families. Denver’s hospitality community hosted the group and was faced with the daunting challenge of feeding over 300 volunteers twice a day for seven days. Through his efforts, breakfast and lunch were supplied every day to every volunteer. He was instrumental in contacting area restaurants, securing donations, coordinating delivery and serving many volunteers. Without his help, the meals would not have been possible.
When John Hickenlooper was laid off as a geologist in the mid-1980s, Denver was still living under archaic laws dating back to the days of prohibition that prohibited brewing and selling beer in the same establishment. John decided to open Colorado’s first brew pub. The rest is history. Today, the Wynkoop Brewing Co. is recognized as the largest in the United States, second largest in the world. Denver has gone from a city of having no brewpubs to being considered the “Napa Valley of Beer,” the home of the nation’s largest beer festival and America’s largest beer-producing city. John Hickenlooper played a role in all this development. He first lobbied to change the brewing laws, then opened Colorado’s first brewpub in an area that would come to be called “LoDo.” As an urban pioneer, he built some of LoDo’s first lofts and is credited with leading the re-development of this area, which now ranks as Denver’s second most popular tourist attraction. From development of LoDo to the creation of Denver’s microbrewing industry, John Hickenlooper has proven himself a Denver tourism star.
In 1988, NEWSED produced Denver’s first Cinco de Mayo – Celebrate Culture Festival along Santa Fe Boulevard to showcase Mexican heritage and the economic turnaround of the neighborhood. No one could have predicted the success this festival would enjoy. By 1995, the festival had outgrown its neighborhood location and was moved a few blocks to Denver’s Civic Center Park. . Today, it has grown to become the largest outdoor Cinco de Mayo Celebration in the United States, attracting a two-day attendance of 450,000 people. It is ranked as one of the top three celebrations in Colorado and has become a major tourism event drawing visitors from throughout the state, the region and the world. . Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of freedom and culture. It commemorates the victory of a heroic people in their struggle for freedom. It is also one of Denver’s most colorful and popular festivals that has enriched the cultural diversity of the city.
The acclaimed world premiere of Tantalus, a spectacular 10-part play about the follies of war and mankind, has placed Denver at the heart of the international stage and forever changed the world’s perception of theatre in the Mile High City. Funded by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Tantalus is unlike any undertaking in the history of the theatre. More than 160 journalists from five countries produced articles and stories about Tantalus that reached 276 million newspaper readers, 63 million magazine readers, 16 million radio listeners and 2 million television viewers. Theatre patrons from 44 states and 12 countries traveled to Denver to see this piece of theatrical history. Time Magazine ranked Tantalus as one of the ten best theatrical productions of 2000. The Chicago Tribune called it “a landmark theatrical event,” while The New York Times wrote that Tantalus was “a theatrical feast of a production.” . Perhaps best summing up why Tantalus is a Tourism Star was the report from the London Times that said Tantalus “will become one of those have-to-have-been-there events.” Thousands of international and domestic visitors were here, making this production one of Denver’s great Tourism Stars.
For the past 15 years, Ilene Kamsler has been the executive vice president of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, the premier trade association for the lodging industry in Colorado. The 1990s were an amazing decade for Denver’s hotel industry. From 1990 to 2000, the lodging supply in metro Denver increased by 50 percent, while demand increased 70 percent. Throughout this period of incredible growth, Ilene has been the spokesperson for Colorado’s hotel industry. Whether fighting for a new funding mechanism for state tourism promotion, supporting the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center or representing the industry on numerous panels and boards, Ilene has been a powerful voice for the state’s second largest industry.
When Denver Mayor Wellington Webb decides to throw a party, get ready for the event of the century. An estimated 250,000 people came to the 16th Street Mall to celebrate the true millennium, while hundreds of thousands more watched the biggest party in Denver’s history on television. Hotels were sold out, restaurants set business records, and the entire family-style event was fun, safe and an explosion of color and sound. . Two of the world’s most renowned fireworks experts designed the show at the D&F Tower, firework artist Pierre-Alain Hubert of France and Gary Caimano of Western Enterprises. Private contributions were solicited to pay for a large percentage of the event, while Denver’s cultural facilities opened their doors with a free day. Traffic planners, police and safety officials orchestrated an event that kept downtown safe, fun and open for business.
The National Western Stock Show has become such a fixture in Denver that it is hard to imagine January without it. The first stock show was held in 1906 and attracted 15,000 people, who came to the site in the Denver Stockyards by horse drawn carriage and steam locomotives. The rodeo was added in 1932 and in 1953, the Denver Coliseum was dedicated with the Westernaires making their first appearance. By 1991, the Expo Hall and Stadium Hall had opened and in 1995 the Events Center became one of the nation’s top state-of-the-art equestrian arenas. In 2000, the all time attendance record was set with 631,801 paid admissions, helping to make this event the world’s largest stock show and indoor rodeo. But equally important, the National Western has become the largest single economic driver for Denver in January, making it a true Tourism Star.
As he is fond of telling the story, when he grew up as a boy in Iowa, Paul Stewart was always made an “Indian” when playing “cowboys and Indians” because his friends said there were no Black cowboys. Years later, while working as a barber in Denver, Paul met an older African American cowboy who had worked on the great cattle drives. From him, Paul learned that not only were there Black cowboys, but that about a third of the cowboys on the great cattle drives were African Americans, many of them freed slaves who migrated west after the Civil War. This encounter started Paul on a life-long quest that was to take him over 100,000 miles around the country. Armed with a tape recorder, he sought out and interviewed every living Black cowboy he could find. He collected old photographs, guns, boots, clothing, uniforms and anything he could discover that was used by Black pioneers in the West. At first, his collection was housed on a Denver campus and finally it was loaned as the founding collection to the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. Located in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford (Denver’s first Black woman doctor), the museum has been able to tell the forgotten story of Black cowboys, as well as detail all the contributions that African Americans have made in settling the West. Smithsonian Magazine wrote a 10-page article about Paul and his collection, calling it one of the best collections of Black history in America. The museum he founded has been featured in dozens of magazines and television programs and is influencing the way the history of the West is being taught in schools and portrayed in films. In fact, a character based on Paul Stewart was used in a recent Hollywood movie, The Posse, to introduce the story of Black cowboys and lawmen in the Old West. Paul Stewart has been a great credit to Denver’s tourism industry, creating a museum that has generated press around the world and brought to life an exciting chapter of American history.
In its first year, this $93 million world class aquarium attracted more than three quarters of a million visitors, creating a major new attraction for Denver and an important reason for visitors to stay longer in the city. Ocean Journey brings to Denver an exciting new appeal since it is the only aquarium in the Rocky Mountain region. The facility generated an amazing amount of publicity across the country and around the world, proudly proclaiming that after 70 million years, the ocean has returned to Denver.
With their block buster Impressionism show, the Denver Art Museum set new attendance records in 1999, attracting visitors from throughout the region and across the nation. The approval of their expansion in 1999 will allow the Museum to attract even more large international art exhibits in the future, as well as showcase more of their permanent collection. Already considered one of the top tourist attractions in Denver, the Art Museum is to be commended for the work they have done in bringing major international art exhibitions to Denver.
This $100 million, two square block entertainment center opened little more than a year ago, and already its gigantic “Denver” sign is becoming one of the most popular photographic images of the Mile High City. With its extended late-evening hours, numerous special events, colorful design and exciting mix of retail and entertainment, the Pavilions has transformed the southern end of the 16th Street Mall, creating a vibrant new “after dark” entertainment center for visiting tourists and convention delegates.
Tourism is the second largest industry in Colorado and yet Colorado is the only state in the nation without a state-funded tourism office. Senator Lacy is changing that. Starting in 1997, she was responsible for tourism promotional funding being added to the State’s annual budget with $2.1 million in 1997, $1 million in 1998 and $5 million in 1999. She is the Senate sponsor of HB1224 which will combine the Colorado Travel & Tourism Authority and the Colorado Tourism Board into one new agency, the Colorado Tourism Office. This will create one official state tourism office for Colorado for the first time since 1993. A native of Las Animas and a State Senator since 1992, Elsie Lacy is currently chairman of the Joint Budget Committee and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
The Cherry Creek Shopping Center was once again the top tourist attraction in Denver for 1997. Rather than being content with its ranking, Cherry Creek continues to upgrade and expand its facilities. In 1998, Cherry Creek brought to Denver the city’s first Rainforest Café, Billy Martin and Tiffany & Co. among many other new stores. Cherry Creek continues to set the standard for high class, high quality shopping in the metro Denver area.
The Colorado Rockies played their first game in Denver in 1993, and have since broken every attendance record in Major League Baseball. In addition to bringing major league excitement to Denver and Colorado, Coors Field has acted as an economic catalyst for LoDo, helping to start one of the most incredible downtown revitalization’s in history. In 1998, the Rockies and Coors Field again put Denver on the map by bringing the All-Star Game to the city, which drew thousands of people to Denver and generated $40 million in spending.
The Denver Museum of Natural History has consistently set new records for attendance as one of the city’s premiere attractions. In 1998, the blockbuster IMAX® production of “Everest” drew over 650,000 people to the museum. In addition to its permanent exhibits such as the award-winning “Prehistoric Journey,” the museum continually brings in new and exciting exhibits several times a year to entertain both Denver citizens and visitors alike.
A tireless leader in the hospitality community, John Schafer helped make Denver a first-class destination for both business and leisure travelers. In 1991 and 1996, he chaired the Tourism, Arts and Entertainment Committee for the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force and also served as the chair of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. John was recently named General Manager of the Year for 1998 by Hyatt. He was also responsible for the Denver Alliance 1000, which brought the Hyatt and Hilton Denver City Center together to answer the demand for a 1,000 room convention center hotel. His philanthropic work with Denver and the arts community, partnered with his efforts on behalf of the hospitality industry, makes John one of Denver’s 1998 Tourism Stars.