The world comes to Glenwood for summer vacation
Passing through Glenwood Springs was a must for Warren Blum, a self-described cowboy in another life who, in this life, is on a cross-country trip with his wife, Laurre. He had to see the famed Doc Holliday trail and grave site.
“I’m a Western aficionado. Part of my bucket list,” Warren, a retired police officer, said in a thick Boston accent. “I love the cowboy days. I feel like I was born 160 years ago.”
The Blums, heading back home to New England, arrived in town Wednesday from Reno, Nevada.
As summer gets into swing here, they are joined in Glenwood Springs by pretty much the world.
Since the beginning of June, the Glenwood Visitors Information Center has kept a log that has recorded tourists from such places as the Czech Republic, Australia, England, Germany, Canada and Sweden. Within the United States, visitors so far this summer have stopped by the center from Michigan, Alabama, Chicago, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Iowa.
They are drawn by the Hot Springs Pool, Hanging Lake, rafting, biking, hiking, family tradition or some combination of these.
“Part of having visitors is we gain from them; they tell us great stories,” said Suzy Alcott, co-manager of the Visitors Center.
When visitors come in, their questions vary from where to park, where to get groceries, the population of Glenwood and where the Hot Springs Pool is.
“A lot of people fall in love with the place and want to move here,” Alcott said. Those people usually end up asking about real estate.
According to the Tourism Promotion Quarterly Dashboard, 2,394 people stopped at the Visitors Center in January, Glenwood’s tourism off season, with the number reaching 2,964 in March. Tourist numbers jump dramatically in summer.
“There’s been a lot of promotion of Hanging Lake,” Alcott noted, although the parking area and trail for the turquoise lake just off Interstate 70 east of town is frequently jam-packed.
The lake is what brought Cruz Ramirez and her son Diego from San Diego to Glenwood, along with visiting relatives.
When Ramirez went to Hanging Lake, it wasn’t crowded, at least until the way back down.
“It was awesome. The hike up was awesome,” Ramirez said.
‘EVERYONE IS SO FRIENDLY’
They were also took in Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and planned to go to Aspen next, but she couldn’t say enough nice things about Glenwood and its residents.
“I would recommend people to live over here. The atmosphere is so peaceful,” Ramirez said. “Everyone is so friendly.”
Grandparents Stephen and Jan Stock, native to the area, also were at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park entertaining their grandchildren Preston and Vivian, who were visiting from Atlanta.
Preston and Vivian were munching away on snow cones under the shade of the outdoor tents.
“I like everything. I liked the cave tour,” Vivian said.
Aside from the park, they’ve been to Hot Springs, played mini-golf and visited Vail.
Nancy Heard, general manager of Glenwood Caverns, said the park also gets a lot of Amish visitors from Kansas and other parts of the Midwest coming in on Amtrak. A lot of people from Texas and California or just passing through on I-70 stop by, she added.
“We don’t see a lot of international travel until July/August,” Heard said. “It’s really driven by the school calendar.”
The caves are the main attraction, she said, but families also love the rides. The Alpine Coaster, a self-directed roller coaster through the mountain, is one of their most popular with all ages and demographics, she said.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association pushes hard to sell Glenwood all over the world, and the number of unique visitors to the Web site, visitglenwood.com, reflects that.
Cristin Oldenburg, the tourism marketing project manager, provided data on visitors to their site. While not every person that visits the site necessarily visited Glenwood, it’s a good sampling of how far the marketing’s reach goes.
In-state, most of the traffic to the web site comes from Denver — many Front Range families have visited Glenwood for generations.
Oldenburg said the site had 109,021 unique users over the past 12 months. For comparison, Colorado Springs’ tourism site had 37,596 sessions.
Outside of Colorado, Texas, California, Utah and Illinois provide the most visitors to the site. Globally, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany bring in the most online traffic flow.
Lisa Langer, Glenwood’s vice president of tourism and marketing, said in an email that Colorado has become very involved in marketing to international travelers. Glenwood partners with the Colorado Tourism Office to further expand its reach.
Visitglenwood.com itself speaks to this, with nine translated international landing pages. The site includes videos in Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and German.
In the last week, in fact, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association hosted a German FAM group (FAM is short for familiarization). The group, Langer said, consisted of eight German travel agents who were “quite impressed with Glenwood Springs.”
The city’s recent consideration of two new retail marijuana shops in the downtown (both were denied) brought renewed discussion over whether the marijuana shops are good image for the town and its tourism efforts.
Dan Sullivan, owner of the Green Joint on Grand Avenue, said the novelty of marijuana’s legality brings in a lot of people from all ages and all walks of life. He estimated that about half of his visitors are from out of state.
“’I can just walk off the street and buy marijuana?’” Sullivan said visitors ask.
Tourists seem most interested in edibles and vaporizers. The younger generations are also interested in the various marijuana shirts sold at the shop.
Sullivan said his business is community-oriented and works closely with the Glenwood Police Department.
“It’s not anti-family at all. And it doesn’t take away from our community at all,” Sullivan said.
Alcott said the visitor center doesn’t get a lot of marijuana questions.
Likewise, up at Linwood Cemetery, Laurre Blum said she hear get any jokes from friends about marijuana prior to passing through Glenwood.
She and Warren found the memorial to Doc Holliday, then he chatted up a family from California while she took pictures.
“He knew he wanted to be here,” said Laurre, a special education teacher. “We’ve been all over the country; this place has a half-Nevada, half-New England look.
“I like how it feels; this is gorgeous,” Laurre said.
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