In early December, my husband Ron and I were itching to get out of town and engage in an entertaining — albeit brief — adventure.
We found the perfect place to go was a hop, skip and a jump up Interstate 25 from Colorado Springs: Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora. If you are looking for some fun, the opportunity to view fabulous lighting displays and a sojourn through the largest hotel in the state of Colorado, this is the place to go!
Gaylord Rockies has it all, and is a wonderful day-trip destination. Ron and I had visited the Gaylord in Nashville, Tennessee, and were so impressed that we knew we wanted to visit its sister facility in the Denver area that is near DIA. Opening in December 2018, Gaylord is now in the second year offering an entertaining Christmas and post-holiday experience. Spectacular decorations and a myriad of activities make it the perfect destination.
The wonder begins at the entrance to the sprawling hotel and convention center. Within the complex are 1,500 rooms and 500,000 square feet of convention space. You can get an idea of the vastness — that’s just the inside space! We arrived in late afternoon as the light displays were starting to twinkle in the crisp winter air.
The enormous lobby leads to a tumbling, rock-strewn waterfall that splashes under a railway bridge and into the indoor lake surrounded by native Colorado plants. Highlighted mid-lake was a towering Christmas tree reflecting thousands of tiny white lights into the sparkling water. Through the eight-story soaring atrium window beyond lies a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline.
A festive aura reigns in this massive space, with bars and restaurants lining the perimeter and plenty of seating to take advantage of the amazing views, both inside and out. We got a tasty carryout dinner from the Mountain Pass Sports Bar that we consumed at one of the dining tables within the Grand Lodge common area.
After viewing the lobby expanse, we were eager to move on to Glacier Point, offering a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities. First stop was snow tubing, where we climbed to the top of a high platform, and zipped down a steep slide of ice riding on enormous round inner-tubes. It was screaming-out-loud fun! Next was a ride on the ice bumper cars: giant inner-tubes that each have steering controls. You zoom around the ice backwards and forwards, bumping into or whizzing away from your fellow riders. It was laugh-out-loud fun for sure!
Ice skating and a merry-go-round were also offered, followed by a stroll through the magical light display. As dusk approached, the acres of outside lights became more and more luminous. The display is an experiential delight: as forests of lights change color, tunes can be played on oversized standing chimes and the walkways wind through arches of lights, and magical structures, all overlooking fields of dancing, multicolored globes.
The welcoming sights and sounds within the hotel drew us inside, and out of the brisk air. Our final destination was the walk-through, immersive experience, “I Love Christmas Movies”. Here you step into sets from iconic holiday films that re-create memorable scenes. The multi-sensory exhibit features holiday scents such as hot chocolate, audio clips from the featured films, and some of the most memorable Christmas scenes ever. A few highlights were the arrival of the wooden box labeled “Fragile,” containing the infamous leg lamp in “A Christmas Story,” the exploding turkey, and over-the-top light display at the Griswold home in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and the eerie arrival of the “The Polar Express” outside the bedroom window of a young boy on Christmas Eve. Moving through the various sets was both magical and merry.
Gaylord Rockies is marvelous year-round with continually changing events, an outdoor waterslide, lazy river, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Here is a place where “adults can feel like kids, and kids can be kids,” according to Director of Marketing and Public Relations Deanne French.
Ron and I were truly refreshed after a visit to Gaylord. For one day we could put our concerns about the world on the back burner, gaze about with amazement, be silly and relax in a magical atmosphere.
Winterfest will be running at Gaylord Rockies through Feb. 28. Included are the activities at Glacier Point, wild animal encounters and an indoor scavenger hunt. Details can be found at GaylordRockies.com.
Libby Kinder is a freelance writer and retired clinical mental health counselor. She and her husband have lived in southwest Colorado Springs for 16 years. Contact Libby with comments and travel ideas at email@example.com.