Hallmark Holiday Hotels – Part II

Experience The Magic
Jesse Wilson

Editor’s Note: The article was written based on the author’s experiences prior to the pandemic. Some of the lodgings, restaurants, and activities described in this article may be limited today. If you visit, please follow local, state, and federal safety protocols and social distancing practices to keep yourself and others protected.

 

Last year, we featured three Colorado Front Range hotels that offer an extra-special dose of holiday magic. As loyal readers, you asked for more properties that dress up for the holidays. So this year, we’ve expanded our selections to other parts of the state that provide their own holiday experience. Here are a couple that dazzled me and my family.

Hotel Colorado

526 Pine St., Glenwood Springs, 800-544-3998

We visited Glenwood Springs to stay at the historic Hotel Colorado. As we drove up to the hotel, we could see more than 500,000 lights draped from the roof, and multiple holiday light displays adorning the courtyard. These elaborate displays continued, as Christmas-themed displays covered mantle places and every corner of the hotel’s interior. My daughters were enamored to see animated carolers, reindeer, and dancing snowmen in a half dozen displays.

For more than 30 years, Hotel Colorado has been putting up these displays with holiday lights, music, characters, and hundreds of poinsettias throughout the property. It just so happened, the night we arrived, a local high school choir was singing Christmas carols in the lobby. After listening to a few songs and sipping some hot chocolate, we joined a Christmas movie viewing party of The Polar Express in one of the newly renovated banquet halls, where a different family-friendly holiday film is shown every Thursday night from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

As I put the girls down to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but smile at the gentle glow of holiday lights strung throughout the courtyard just outside our window. Despite the winter chill, it provided a peaceful glow through the gossamer curtain that lulled our family into a long winter’s nap.

My youngest daughter woke up at 5:45 a.m., so to let my wife and other daughter sleep a bit longer, I took her down to the hotel lobby. I grabbed some coffee at Legends coffee shop, which was decorated as a gingerbread house, using real gingerbread cookies, and for the next 30 minutes, we wandered around, examining every snowman, tree, and Christmas present on display.

Legends coffee shop, in Hotel Colorado, is decorated with real gingerbread bricks. Courtesy of Hotel Colorado

Once the others woke, we grabbed a delicious breakfast at Baron’s before taking the short walk across the street for a morning dip in the Glenwood Hot Springs pool. The natural hot springs created a cloud of steam in the chilly winter air and provided the perfect antidote to a long drive into the mountains, with its relaxing waters and fresh air. I couldn’t think of a more enjoyable way for us to start our day.

We did some shopping downtown, then took the gondola at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park up to “Winter on the Mountain.” Each holiday season, this mountain-side amusement park turns into its own winter wonderland, with snow, lights, holiday music, and even a visit from St. Nick himself. Hundreds of thousands of lights hang from the park’s rides, storefronts, and trees, providing plenty of photo opportunities. After taking what seemed like hundreds of family selfies, my daughter and I zoomed down the Alpine Coaster together, enjoying the multi-colored Christmas lights that surrounded the track.

Warming up by the fire at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park's Winter on the Mountain. Courtesy of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

After a few more rides and a visit with Santa, we warmed up with hot chocolate in the café, admiring the incredible view of Glenwood Springs below. We listened to holiday music, and caught the last glimpse of the setting sun, before we rode the gondola back down the mountain.

What’s great about Glenwood Springs is the holiday spirit isn’t limited to one location, it’s on full display throughout town. Because of this, I recommend reserving a room well in advance. The holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day) is extremely busy at Hotel Colorado (and others I’d imagine). Everything kicks off on Black Friday, with a holiday arts and crafts show, holiday lighting event with singers and dancers, and even Santa Claus stops by for a visit.

Hotel Jerome

330 E. Main St., Aspen, 970-429-5028

Every inch of the Hotel Jerome, including its lobby, is decorated with classic elegance. Courtesy of Aspen Chamber/David O. Marlow

Aspen is a town that really needs no introduction. Famous for its snow and ski slopes, as well as a popular celebrity getaway, Aspen is also almost a surefire bet for a “White Christmas” experience. Driving through town, my wife began to point out how picturesque the snow-covered streets looked—all aglow with holiday lights, nestled snugly under the white slopes of Aspen Mountain.

Fitting perfectly into this Thomas Kincade-like holiday scene is the AAA Four Diamond-designated, Hotel Jerome. Every inch of this property was decorated with classic elegance. The entryway and lobby had their usual early 1900s décor beautifully adorned with garland. Shimmering white holiday lights were draped between archways and faux birch trees, making the interior feel like a peaceful forest grove in winter.

After checking in, there was still about an hour or so of daylight left, so we took a walk through the snow-lined streets of downtown. Our daughters, decked out in their snow gear, found a fun, albeit snow-covered, playground a few blocks away, adjacent to leafless trees twinkling with green and blue holiday lights. With some coffee in hand, we watched our two little ones frolic on the frozen playground and snowbanks before heading back to the hotel for an elegant dinner.at Prospect. Known for its extensive wine collection and fine Rocky Mountain cuisine, it made for a relaxing way to wind down the evening.

When we got back to our room, we were pleasantly met with a cute tray of hot chocolate options (with a few individual bottles of Bailey’s for just mom and dad) to provide one last treat before settling down for the night.

The next morning, a fresh layer of snow had fallen, reminding my daughters of the snowman-making kit the concierge gave us when we checked in. We spotted a snowy field a block from the hotel and tramped over to create one of our first snowmen of the season, compliments of Hotel Jerome, which quickly developed into a playful snowball fight.

For lunch, we headed up the mountain via the Silver Queen Gondola to dine at the Sundeck Restaurant. Our girls loved riding in the carriage, pressing their faces against the windows for snowy views of the Aspen valley below. Sitting at 11,000 feet, the Sundeck is a popular dining spot for skiers and non-skiers alike, offering a variety of cuisine options and excellent views.

The Silver Queen Gondola takes vistions to to 11,000 feet and offers spectacular views of a winter wonderland. Courtesy of Aspen Chamber

Afterward, we browsed through some of Aspen’s famously high-end shops before warming up back at Hotel Jerome’s The Living Room amidst elegant strands of lighted garland and holiday music. Choosing a plush, oversized couch by the roaring fireplace, we grabbed two winter signature cocktails: a Fire & Ice (homemade hot chocolate, with chocolate sorbet, a giant marshmallow, and topped with flaming rum), and a Silent Night (a holiday cocktail made with gin, elderflower liqueur, egg whites, and more).

Later that evening, we walked a few blocks across town for The Little Nell’s free Christmas Tree lighting event (not planned for 2020, but other festivities will be offered). Hosted in the AAA Five Diamond-designated hotel’s courtyard, this event offers fun and music, along with free holiday cookies, snacks, and hot chocolate. Our family huddled together, as the snow fell, singing Christmas carols with a local high school choir.

I always like to try the local pizza wherever we go, so for dinner I found New York Pizza (one of the more economic options in Aspen), which we chose to enjoy in the warmth and comfort of our hotel room while watching a Christmas movie. As I headed back, with pizza in hand, the falling snow provided a gentle hush over the mostly empty streets, which were illuminated by thousands of LED lights hanging from trees and decorating the shop windows—a wonderful end to our stay in Aspen.

Jesse Wilson is a Denver-based writer, who visits a handful of new Colorado towns every year to discover the state’s known and not-so-well-known locations.