In the lobby of the St Julien Hotel & Spa, the windows soar to take in the scenery – a snow-covered Front Range landscape of trees rising into the flatiron formations and Green Mountain summit beyond. Inside, the space is filled with tables, chairs, sofas, plants and people, all awash in light and warmth, especially where my family sprawls on this Saturday afternoon, in front of the modern, open fireplace.
I’m not spending the night here, and I never have, but I live nearby, and my New York relatives who are passing through town wanted a downtown hotel. In Boulder, that doesn’t leave many options. The 201-room St Julien was built in 2005 for $36 million. It was the first new hotel built in downtown Boulder in almost 100 years (the previous arrival was the Hotel Boulderado, the only other downtown lodging with any real class, which opened in 1909).
There are 13 of us – six adults and seven children. The thought of dealing with downtown dinner reservations is overwhelming, so I seek out one of the servers clearing the Saturday afternoon tea to ask what we can order. She hands me a happy-hour menu from the in-house Jill’s Restaurant and Bistro and the T-Zero martini bar, and the next thing we know, we’re tucking into small plates of fried dumplings, pork sliders, pizza, and gourmet tater tots, only a few dollars each. The toddlers are toddling, the adults are swilling cocktails, the fire is almost too hot, and everybody’s happy.
I’ve often walked through the St Julien lobby on my way to the public library, Boulder Creek Path or the Pearl Street Mall (each of which are a block away). I’ve entered the lobby doors with a sleeping baby in a stroller, and I’ve come alone, to work on my laptop and pound coffee. I’ve seen the indoor and outdoor event spaces decked out for all kinds of occasions, including a raucous New Year’s Brazilian samba party.
In fact, there is live music five nights a week – with no cover charge or age limit – during most of the year, usually featuring a world beat, African or Latin flavor. Fridays are the most danceable and popular. Bryan Amarro, beverage and entertainment manager, estimates he’s seen as many as 800 revelers spilling out of the lobby and onto the outside deck, especially in spring and summer. Outdoor decks can provide people with more space to be able to entertain, especially when it comes to larger parties. We’d heard that many people even decided to have a look into getting some composite decking for their homes so they can have just as much fun in their yard as they did here. Not only that, but decking can enhance the appearance of your home so who wouldn’t want to get any. Anyway, enough about that.
Saturdays are more subdued. We didn’t plan on spending four hours in a hotel lobby, but here we are. Our kids draw mermaids, then play hide-and-seek. I watch as the lobby scene shifts from high tea to cocktails to a quietly milling pre-dinner crowd.
As our family reunion winds down (read: the 2-year-olds start to get cranky), a five-piece jazz band, the Robinson Quintet, begins setting up around the baby grand behind our sofa. It’s just another set change on the St Julien lobby stage, and it’s time for us to make our exit.
– This article originally appeared in the Denver Post. Joshua Berman is the author of “Moon Nicaragua” and “Moon Belize.” He can be found on the Web at JoshuaBerman.net and on Twitter at @tranquilotravel
ST JULIEN HOTEL & SPA
Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro and T-Zero Lounge happy hour 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. daily (draft beers $3, house wines $5). Saturday afternoon tea seatings at noon and 2 p.m., $29.95 adults, $19.95 children (reservations at 720-406-8208). Room rates start at $250. stjulien.com, 720-406-9696