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Wow Factor Aplenty at the New Westin DIA

untitled-105-X3There’s a buzz going around about the brand new Westin at Denver International Airport (DIA). People everywhere are talking about it, much like when the airport opened 20 years ago on the plains northeast of the city. Back then, people mused about the unique design of the white fabric tents atop the terminal roof, which invoke the majestic mountains and the teepees of the Native Americans who lived on that very land.

Now people are asking, “Is it a boat?” “Is it a cruise ship?” Is it a mustache?” They are calling the new hotel many things. In truth, the sleek structure shimmering in the sun was inspired by the imagery of flight and aviation and meant to resemble a giant bird with extended wings hovering above the iconic peaks of the Jeppesen Terminal at DIA.

The innovative structure by the global design firm Gensler features a striking exterior entirely made of glass. Inside, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows in each of the 519 guest rooms and 35 suites offer unobstructed views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range to the west, the expansive high plateau to the east, the terminal tents to the north and the transit center to the south. Even with that much glass, there is nary a noise from outside. “The windows are triple-paned, allowing for no noise disturbance,” says Laurie Meza, a spokeswoman for the hotel. The thick windows make the guest rooms quiet enough for a baby to sleep.

Interior of the new Westin DIA

The Leed-certified 14-story hotel and conference center opened November 19 and is like an oasis on the plains at the fifth busiest airport in the country and the 15th busiest in the world, with 53 million passengers passing through each year. Business travelers will love the conference center that features a three-story floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall that provides calming views of the sweeping landscape in the spacious pre-function area. Two ballrooms, 15 meeting rooms with various dimensions and 19 break-out rooms complete the 37,000 square-foot facility that can hold as many as 2,500 people. Thirty-five suites, including 15 executive suites and two hospitality suites, complement the convenient resources for business clientele. With its ideal location in the middle of the U.S.—three hours by air from the East Coast and two hours from the West Coast—the hotel allows business to be conducted without anyone ever having to leave the grounds.

Heavenly Westin

Whether business or leisure travelers, guests in the streamlined contemporary rooms that occupy only the top eight floors of the building will find all the pampering amenities and latest technology that are signatures of the Westin, a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.  Beginning with the Heavenly® shower system that releases water like cascading rain, to the Heavenly® White Tea Aloe bath botanicals and extra-large luxurious cotton bath towels and robes in the bathroom, to the Heavenly® bed draped with 250-thread count crisp white sheets for a perfect night’s rest—all the comforts you expect from a Westin are there.  A top-floor fitness studio and indoor swimming pool with a hot tub help make a stay at the airport hotel both invigorating and relaxing. The domed-roof 6th-floor lobby is an airy gathering place with an urban feel for meet-and-greet activities.

Keyless entry

Members of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program can bypass the front desk by opting in for the SPG keyless entry system, the new technology that was introduced by Starwood to the industry a year ago. SPG members can use their smartphones to check in, get their room number and unlock their door. The keyless technology works through the SPG app that can be downloaded for iPhone and Android by members with an SPG number. To become a Starwood Preferred Guest, go to www.starwoodhotels.com.

“Constantly seeking to fulfill our brand promise “For A Better You,” we are equally as excited to be offering Starwood’s latest SPG Keyless technology, redefining the traditional hotel experience and allowing guests to get to their hotel rooms quickly after a long day of travel,” said Tom Curley, general manager of the Westin DIA.

Dining

Three dining options are offered at the Westin: Grill and Vine, Ingredients and Sky Lounge. Grill & Vine is a tavern-style contemporary restaurant with American cuisine offering breakfast and all-day menus. “Complementing Westin’s core brand values, our menu supports wellness with simple, light, fresh foods while also focusing on locally sourced items,” said Jeremy Sullivan, director of food and beverage outlets. “Choose from our SuperFoods favorites or ‘simply grilled’ items. While the food plays a starring role, there is also a wide selection of fresh, handcrafted cocktails and a considerable wine program featuring 16 wines by the glass, including organic selections, that can be enjoyed at the large and inviting bar,” he said.  At the casual grab-and-go eatery called Ingredients, customers choose from a variety of healthy breakfast and lunch items to be made to order for eating on the go. And at the Sky Lounge in the hotel lobby, customers can enjoy small plates and quick bites with a cocktail, glass of wine or a beer.

Transit Center

Getting to downtown Denver from DIA (or DEN as the new logo now says) will be a breeze when the east rail line of Denver’s light rail system begins operating from the Denver Airport Station just outside the hotel’s entrance next spring. It will take only 35 minutes to travel to historic Union Station, the beautiful newly remodeled transit hub in the heart of downtown about 25 miles west. From there, guests can reach the city’s culinary scene, sports arenas, art galleries and shops on foot, bike, pedicab or via the light rail or 16th Street Mall shuttle. The stainless-steel electric rail cars on the east line are bigger and heavier than those on the rest of the system, running on 25,000-volt AC power instead of 750-volt DC power. The commuter train will travel at 79 miles per hour, versus the lighter cars’ speed of 55 mph. Its higher platforms flush with the train make it easy for passengers wheeling luggage and for those in wheelchairs and walkers to get through the doors. The east line will make six stops during its 23-mile trip to Union Station. It will leave every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes the rest of the time.

Perhaps the most convenient aspect of the new transit center is the ability for passengers to tag their luggage at a kiosk right there and drop it off for security screening and transport to their plane. Passengers can go directly to their gates without having to stop at the ticket lobby to check their bags.

Public Plaza

A gorgeous open-air public plaza the size of a football field and two basketball courts connecting the hotel with the terminal adds a dimension to the airport hotel not seen anywhere in the United States. The 82,000 square-foot space partially covered with a stunning glass-and-steel canopy that invokes Star Wars is Denver’s latest venue for art and exhibitions, entertainment, markets and shows of all kinds. It can accommodate as many as 2,000 people meandering about and as many as 4,500 for special events. The ease of getting there via the train is expected to draw visitors from around the metro area for events managed by Denver Arts & Venues.

Public Art

Thanks to Denver’s Public Art Program established in 1988, one percent of any capital improvement project more than $1 million must be set aside for art. Since its opening, DIA has maintained an active public art program; accordingly, the Westin and Transit Center displays artwork symbolic of Colorado’s landscape from mostly local artists selected through a competitive process.

Exterior installations include “Shadow Array,” an artful display of 250 beetle-kill spruce logs (the pine beetle has devastated forests throughout Colorado) above native grasses on the sides of the train platform by Denver artist Patrick Marold; “Air Field,” a wind-activated installation by California sculptor Ned Kahn in the open-air plaza; and “Water In All Of Its States,” a luminous design for the train hall and video imagery on the escalator walls between the train platform and the plaza on level 5 by Paris-based lighting artist Yann Kersalé.

Interior artwork, all by Colorado artists, can be viewed in the hallway of the hotel entrance and on the west and east walls of the pre-function area of the conference center. Mindy Bray created an abstract mural of the Platte River on the 150-foot-long entry walls; Wopo Holup’s three-dimensional aerial map view of the Colorado River on the west wall is made from water-jet cut aluminum; and on the east wall is Heather Patterson’s mixed-media landscape abstract on nine separate panels that create one large image.

Artwork of eight local artists is featured in all of the guest rooms and suites, commissioned and funded by the decorating budget of the hotel.

“Two of the main factors we considered in choosing the art were that we wanted to feature really unique artwork that speaks to the place and to showcase local artists who haven’t been seen much in public spaces,” said Kendall Peterson, hotel and transit center public art manager.

Acclimate

Lastly, the hotel is a boon to flatlanders who come to Colorado to ski. Staying one or two nights at 5,335 feet at the Westin DIA is the best way to acclimate slowly to the 8,000- 13,000-foot altitudes they’ll find at the resorts in the mountains. Racing up to the slopes right after landing at the airport is the surest way to bring on altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness, that can ruin a ski vacation.

“Denver’s International Airport’s new Westin Hotel, transit center, commuter rail connection and open-air plaza bring new amenities to our passengers that enhance their experience and help us remain competitive,” said DIA’s CEO Kim Day. “We look forward to sharing this new experience with passengers and showing them why sleeping at the airport just became ‘heavenly’.”

Author bio: Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist and native of Denver. She’s proud to be living in the city during these exciting times.

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