Vintage Charm in Downtown Denver

Must Try

By Alex Miller

There’s no shortage of fine hotels in Denver, but when occasion calls for something special, one name always rises to the top: The Brown Palace. Continuously open since it was built in Downtown Denver in 1892, the Colorado city’s “Grand Dame” glows above the rest not only in the quality of its accommodations but in the unmistakable stately aura she projects.

Travelers accustomed to cookie-cutter hotel rooms will marvel at the ornate detail, the Byzantine wallpaper, the marble floors, and tile walls – and that’s just in the bathrooms. Enter the Brown Palace and be instantly transported to a time gone by, where wrought-iron rails and old-world chandeliers festoon the extraordinary lobby and inner atrium that extends all the way to the ceiling. Enhancing the sense of period, there’s daily afternoon tea, with grand piano accompaniment in the lobby.

No, my dear, this is not the Holiday Inn Express.

Expectedly, such a rarefied atmosphere doesn’t come cheap, but a room at the hotel is probably far more affordable than you might think. The Brown Palace has also introduced a new program for Colorado residents to sweeten a stay at the Brown. Called Palace Preferred, it delivers a variety of perks, including a preferred rate, 20 percent off the valet parking, free in-room wi-fi, restaurant discounts, and tickets good for a couple of drinks.

Signing up for the basic Palace Preferred is free, or you can upgrade to Palace Preferred Gold, which kicks in after you’ve stayed twice at the Palace in one year. Gold gives you free valet, automatic room upgrades, complimentary access to the Denver and Colorado athletic clubs, and a $25 voucher good at any of the hotel’s bars and restaurants. Register for Palace Preferred on the hotel’s website.

On a recent stay, I found the Brown as charming as ever and the staff as gracious as one would expect in a top-flight hotel. We had one of the corner king rooms, a lovely space that mirrors the unique rounded prow of the building itself. With a large oak desk, regal bed, and vintage drapes, the room conjured images of some old Colorado mining or railroad baron staying here, even among such definitely 2011 upgrades as air conditioning, iPod-compatible alarm, and a rain-style shower.

No stay at the Brown is complete without a pint at the Ship Tavern or the Churchill Bar — or the opportunity to sip tea or a cocktail in the lobby during the Friday or Saturday evening jazz performances. Sundays, go all out and enjoy the Dom Perignon champagne brunch at the contemporary American cuisine Ellyngton’s, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The hotel has a spa as well, featuring everything from massages and facials to manicures, soaks, steam rooms, and mud wraps. The spa also features a list of services specifically designed for men.

Located on 17th Street downtown, the Brown Palace is a great base for everything Denver has to offer. You can walk to many of the area attractions, although the hotel also provides a complimentary car for any location in the immediate vicinity.

In a world where so much is cheap and rushed, a night or two at an old-world hotel like The Brown Palace may be just the thing to remind us to slow down a little bit and enjoy something special.