Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the most famous venues in North America, attracting people from all around the world because of its importance and stature. Beyond the grandeur of the name and fame, the actual amphitheater is a sight to behold, often leaving the performers of the venue in awe. Visiting Red Rocks is a bucket list item for most music lovers, and distance is no measure for the strong-willed and committed. Unfortunately, the venue is a 30-minute commute from Denver, with Morrison — the charming, but small town nearest to the venue — hosting little to no overnight accommodations for the concert-goer. This is where Origin Red Rocks steps in.
Origin Red Rocks Hotel is a three-mile drive from Red Rocks’ Trading Post, making it the closest hotel to the venue. It’s the official partner of the amphitheater as well, providing customized services, amenities and design choices catered to concert-goers. We stayed the night at Origin Red Rocks on the eve of Interpol’s inaugural Red Rocks performance to see what all of the fuss was about. Whether you’re an out-of-towner looking for clarity, or an avid Red Rocks goer who’s tired of waiting in the endless car line at the end of the night, our guide is at your disposal.
Looking up the hotel online is a wholly different experience than walking through its lobby. The aesthetic from an outsider’s perspective is confusing. The building is modern and minimalistic, with unassuming architecture similar to the Holiday Inn’s you find off the highway when you’re on a road trip. Adding to that environment is a gas station and liquor store within 200 feet of the hotel’s entrance. Nonetheless, it all clicks when you enter through the glass doors.
The hotel caters to the outdoorsy-type, offering bike rentals and in-room yoga set-ups. The walls are made of exposed concrete, with the signatures of bands that stayed the night sprawled around the room. There are homages to iconic musicians and refurbished guitars in the lobby. There’s an outdoor cornhole area for all of the Colorado locals who can’t get enough of the game at Snooze. The decor is unassuming because their angle is all about catering to Red Rocks’ musical history and everything that the Colorado mountain-town life has to offer, without falling into cliché territory.
The room had a view of the hills and the parking lot, which felt a bit bleak, especially considering it was an overcast day. Even so, it had an incredible king size bed that parallels to some type of cloud-like metaphor in comfort. Everything was modern and well taken care of and at a decent size for the price tag. It was a quick turnaround at night — with the dinner reservations waiting for me within the hour and the concert an hour after that. But the accommodations left me longing for sleep almost immediately — which is a good sign for any space meant to do just that.
The dinner for two at Nomad restaurant was reserved for 5:15 p.m. on the phone. The dining room is as unassuming as the exterior of the hotel, and the glassware reflected the same sentiment. Nonetheless, the quality of the cocktails stood out as reminiscent of downtown Denver artisanal cocktail lounges without all of the pretension that lingers around the trade. The coin style margarita ($8) was strong enough to make for a great precursor to any Red Rocks show, meanwhile, the Bee’s Knees ($8) tasted like a portable spa with the lavender gin and freshly squeezed lime juice.
Our server suggested some appetizers off of the southwestern-inspired menu that hit the spot, with the Esquites ($8) out-shining anything else including the staple appetizer of any hip restaurant — Brussel sprouts ($8) with some type of twist. The patatas bravas ($7) was bland and not worth your time, missing the mark on what makes Oaxaca cheese so indispensable in southwestern cuisine through a mixture of densely similar flavors.
The grilled mahi-mahi ($24) was a favorite, with the bed of rice and beans underneath exploding with flavor that felt comfortable and genuine. And, of course, the homemade churros ($6) were also a highlight, with a street-vendor taste that has to be in any form of churro unless you’re willing to deal with sacrilege.
Overall, when it comes to cuisine dipped in so many fusions of culture, the responsibility lies on the chef to illustrate the history of the cuisine with an innovation that doesn’t hone on erasure. Although there were several successful homages throughout the menu that will satisfy most customers that stay at this hotel, there’s definitely room for improvement, especially in terms of the service. Most of the staff besides our server seemed confused and overwhelmed, with our server taking on an array of jobs outside of her job description that felt unfair when paralleled with her outgoing personality and food knowledge.
Most importantly to note about the shuttle is that it doesn’t stop at the box office, so if you’re a procrastinator like myself, then I’d go up to Red Rocks beforehand and get your tickets unless you’re willing to walk all the way down from the Trading Post. The shuttle takes the trip to the venue entrance at two occasions — either an hour and a half before the show, or 30 minutes prior. It takes you all the way to the top of the amphitheater, making it easy to access. It arrives back up there 30 minutes after the end of the show, driving you back to the hotel. The lines aren’t long, the walk is nonexistent, the entire experience feels like a luxury we didn’t know we wanted out of a Red Rocks experience.
There’s a comfort in knowing that you have a safe way of getting back where you need to be during a show at a venue that is notorious for its various forms of intoxication and irresponsible driving. Furthermore, the shuttle also goes to downtown Golden and the light rail when it’s not lugging concertgoers. I applaud the effort by the hotel and think the shuttle is one of its most important assets.
The hotel is new and feels new. It’s still learning how to walk. The rooms are wonderful, the shuttle is vital, the location is prime. But more than anything else — this hotel needs new management. My experience in terms of service was less than ideal. After reserving a room for the night, I arrived to a confused staff who continued to ignore or disengage with me throughout my stay. The staff’s ignorance of my review gave a bleak and rather honest picture of the average day at this hotel as it finds its identity.
Overall, there’s so much potential for this location, but the hired employees look miserably detached. It’s hard to work in the hotel business, I would know. I worked in the service industry for years and did a stint in hospitality as well. The hours are incredibly long and the pay-off rarely seems worth it. Honing in on accountability and excitement in an industry that gravitates towards over-worked, apathetic employees is an almost impossible task. Nonetheless, it’s vital for the success of this place, because the gloom was as evident that Wednesday as the terrible weather.
I want this hotel to succeed because of the innovation behind it and the overall love for Red Rocks and everything that it entails, but it needs a management makeover in order to truly do so. The lodging is top-notch and the attention to detail in every other way makes for a potentially incredible hotel. For a location that caters to bands and such an exciting destination like Red Rocks, I would recommend a revamping of their prioritization to create a more positive outlook for staff. Hopefully, this happens before peak Red Rocks season, because this hotel deserves to be at capacity with happy customers as they make their way to an unforgettable Red Rocks night.