"The hills are alive with the sound of music,” sang Julie Andrews many years ago, and indeed they still are.
Music plus other wonderful arts experiences, including hands-on classes, group-friendly museums and annual festivals, fill the West’s mountain towns from Vail, Colo., to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Sun Valley, Idaho.
Read on for an impressive lineup of cultural ideas to consider when bringing a group to one of the following popular mountain retreats.
This gorgeous mountain town showcases the arts in various genres throughout the year, including via festivals such as the popular Aspen Music Festival and Aspen Laff Festival (now the “Laugh” festival).
Melissa Wisenbaker, public relations representative for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, also suggested Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Cafe series, during which visiting groups can attend intimate performances by a range of artists from Brazilian guitarists to New Orleans ensembles.
“The JAS Cafe shows allow groups to enjoy award-winning artists in various locations throughout Aspen, where one would not normally go for a concert,” she said, and cited the Cooking School of Aspen and the Aspen Art Museum’s rooftop.
The Aspen Art Museum, a non-collecting institution where the exhibits change every four months, is another terrific setting for a reception.
“From the rooftop guests, will marvel at the views and [they] can enjoy a delicious lunch or coffee, then head down and explore the exhibits on the three floors below,” Wisenbaker said.
The picturesque Vail Mountain and Vail Village boast amazing views that spark creativity and a deeper level of connection among group attendees, according to Pam Dixon, resort director of group sales at Vail Mountain.
“Our team has incorporated cultural happenings in Vail, such as the Vail Jazz Festival, to complement mountain meetings,” she said, and cited a global technology company that recently bought out The Arrabelle at Vail Square during the festival. “We were able to set up a private tented dinner for the group on the picturesque mountain lawn at the base of Vail Mountain and piped live music into the tent from the festival performance taking place simultaneously within Vail Square.”
And at the Edwards-based Alpine Arts Center, located near Vail, instructors facilitate teambuilding events specializing in different mediums, including painting and clay sculpture.
“Studies have shown that coordinating creative retreats for your employees not only produces a more enjoyable work environment but also increases corporate productivity,” said Lauren Merrill, owner, director and teacher at Alpine Arts Center.
Merrill added that Alpine Arts Center programs can also incorporate surrounding mountain scenery during an off-site session with groups at unique venues throughout the Vail Valley.
Groups convening in Colorado Springs are frequently encouraged to go on a tour, hold an event or take a class at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
“From the spectacular Smith Gallery Glass Corridor and outdoor courtyard to historical spaces like the cafe and theater, this venue creates a unique artistic ambience perfect for receptions and corporate meetings for up to 400 people,” said Chelsy Offutt, director of communications for the Colorado Springs CVB.
At Cottonwood Center for Arts, which also offers meeting space, groups can arrange a private class in hand-molding clay sculptures, mixed media and more.
And at The Broadmoor, which has an art collection valued at roughly $350 million, groups can take a free one-hour guided tour at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings or arrange a private tour for a fee, according to Shauna Sartori, the property’s director of concierge.
“Many of The Broadmoor’s meeting rooms are named after famous Western artists, with those spaces displaying works by those particular artists,” Sartori said. “Thus, the Maxfield Parrish room in Broadmoor West and the Frederic Remington room in Broadmoor South, for example, offer those treasures.”
In downtown Billings, groups can mix local art and refreshments for standout off-session activities, including a brewery/art walk and a cocktail/painting experience.
The former option, according to Stefan Cattarin, sales manager at Visit Billings, begins with a fresh beer on the patios of two neighboring craft breweries, Thirsty Street Brewing and Angry Hank’s Microbrewery.
“The walk will then take you down ‘art alley,’ which boasts colorful, expressive graffiti art,” he said. “You’ll also pass by local art galleries with open doors.”
The tour ends at the Western Heritage Center, which houses exhibits that showcase Montana’s rich Western culture.
“With soaring ceilings and original oak floors, this turn-of-the-century architectural structure is the perfect venue for a wrap-up reception featuring more tantalizing culinary treats and local drinks,” Cattarin said.
Another memorable outing begins with handcrafted cocktails at Trailhead Spirits before attendees head next door to the century-old Billings Depot, where blank canvases and coaches from Canvas Creek Team Building await them with a collaborative painting activity.
“[Groups can ] sip wine, eat delicious, locally catered hors d’oeuvres from Raven’s Cafe d’Art, and paint,” Cattarin said.