The Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center is indeed equal parts “resort” and “convention center.” Just opened in December 2018, it caters not only to vacationing couples and families with its fun indoor/outdoor water park, but also convention and meeting goers with its whopping 485,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Gaylord Rockies is a short 15-minute drive from Denver International Airport. So, I suppose you could just overnight here, say, before hopping on a morning flight. But with all the things to do at this sprawling property — not to mention a bevy of on-site restaurants and watering holes — I encourage visitors to consider making the resort a centerpiece of a Colorado vacation.
Here’s why you might book a (long!) stay at the Gaylord Rockies or say, “Yep!” when your boss asks if you’d like to represent the company a convention here.
The hub of family entertainment at the Gaylord Rockies is the indoor/outdoor swimming pools. The indoor pool has water sprays and slides; there’s also a lap pool just for adults. Outside, find an outdoor infinity pool (open year round) and lazy river (open seasonally), plus a couple of hot tubs, and plenty of chairs for lounging.
I appreciate that kids’ life jackets are available at no cost (safety first!), and if your children get tired of splashing in the pools, they can play a game of giant Jenga, giant Connect Four, or cornhole.
Steps away from the outdoor pool are pickleball, tennis and basketball courts (ask at the swim desk to use complimentary racquets and balls), plus a mini-golf course and bikes to borrow — with recreational paths nearby to cycle, as well.
To round out ways to remain entertained at the Gaylord Rockies, there’s an arcade room with a handful of video games; a spacious fitness center with all the cardio and strength-training machines you’d need for a vacation workout; and a full-service spa with an “ice fountain” for cooling off before hopping in the steam room or sauna.
Finally, the 75-foot television screen in the Mountain Pass Sports Bar is worth checking out — even if you’re not a huge sports fan. I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of its size until I saw it in person. If there’s a national sporting event or big game on while you’re at the Gaylord Rockies, this is definitely the place to view it. Better yet, if there are a bunch of key games on simultaneously, watch them all — the mammoth viewing screen can be divided into up to 45 smaller screens at once. Cozy chairs, with spots to rest drinks, makes this a fun place to hang out with like-minded guests.
Besides the cavernous Mountain Pass Sports Bar — a casual place to nosh on burgers, sandwiches, pasta, and salads with a slew of draft beers — the Gaylord Rockies feeds guests at the more upscale Old Hickory Steakhouse (a signature Gaylord Hotels restaurant found at other Gaylord properties). There’s also an Asian-themed restaurant and sushi bar, plus an Italian restaurant that doubles as a breakfast spot in the morning.
On my (too short) overnight stay this winter, we found the breakfast buffet plentiful — your typically array of offerings from cereal, oatmeal and toast to yogurt and fruit to sausage, fancy French toast and an omelet bar. We didn’t make it to the Rockies Marketplace or The Cocoa Bean for more casual grab-and-go menu items all day long.
Location, location location
As noted, the Gaylord Rockies is not far at all from DIA. So, your Colorado vacation can begin within minutes of landing on the runway.
Now, it’s key to know that the resort doesn’t offer complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport (like most of the area’s budget-friendly hotels do). It does offer free shuttle service to and from the light-rail station at 61st and Pena, and from there it’s a short jaunt to the airport on this clean, reliable public transportation option.
You can also take the light-rail into downtown’s Union Station — which is ideal since downtown parking can be pricey, and sometimes a pain in the neck to find on the street. Downtown Denver is where you’ll find dozens of brewpubs; kid-friendly sights like Elitch Gardens amusement park, Downtown Aquarium, and the U.S. Mint; the Pepsi Center for sporting events and concerts; tons of boutique shopping and great restaurants; and museums like the Denver Art Museum, Denver History Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Denver.
I love the idea of staying at the Gaylord Rockies as an alternative to staying downtown, which is where my family has typically rented a room (or two, with my teenagers!) when we’ve visited the big city from our home in the mountains. I’ve got nothing against Denver’s high-rise downtown properties at all; they’re certainly convenient to a lot of the city’s must-visit attractions. But if you’re visiting Colorado from out of state, the Gaylord Rockies definitely has more of a “I’m on relaxing vacation” vibe to it versus staying in an urban high-rise. Plus, as noted, downtown is easily accessible via public transportation from the Gaylord Rockies.
If you’ve got a car and planning day trips in and around Colorado’s Front Range, the Gaylord Rockies makes a fabulous home base as you don’t have to fight downtown traffic, and you can easily hop on I-70 or E-470 to make your way to the college town of Boulder, hit the outlets in Castle Rock, or hike around Red Rocks Park & Ampitheatre.
You’ll know you’re in Colorado the moment you set foot in the Gaylord Rockies, as its décor and style capture the state’s sense of place. Nods to nature are everywhere
— whether it’s subtle tree rings in the meeting-room carpet or landscape photography on the walls in the elevator bank. Guest rooms feature lumberjack plaid print pillows, animal artwork, Native American symbols etched into the bathroom mirrors, and state maps in the closets.
It’s in the massive Grand Lodge, just below the main lobby where you’ll check in, where you might just feel as if you’re actually outside in Colorado’s great outdoors — for two reasons. First, the 75-foot-tall (eight-story) atrium window offers an unparalleled view west of the Rocky Mountains. Second, flowing waterfalls, a pond, boulders, sandy spots, trees, and other plant life are reminiscent of what you might actually see on a hike not too far away.
In other words, this property was built and designed specifically to pay tribute to what makes Colorado so special — and it couldn’t be picked up and plopped down, say, in the middle of Georgia without feeling out of place. But since it’s right at the foot of the Rockies, and serving as a gateway to all the experiences and places that get you close to nature in my home state, the laid-back and outdoorsy vibe certainly fits the bill.
Let us know if you check out the Gaylord Rockies! We’d love to know what you think.