An Exclusive Inside Look at Denver’s Dinosaur Hotel
Ethan Gilsdorf reports on the most awesome hotel in the country. Meet Stanley the Stegosaurus and friends!
In an effort to stand out from their competition, hoteliers will try all sorts of gimmicks. They’ll build hotels from former jails, refurbished castles or retired railroad cars. They’ll float boat hotels, make teepee hotels, and dig underground and underwater hotels. From a Beatles fan fantasy hotel to, yes, a B&B shaped like a giant beagle, hotel owners cater to practically every imaginable oddball interest.
Now, add paleontology to this list of niche themes.
The formerly mundane Best Western Denver Southwest has been transformed into a Jurassic period playground. The new “digs” feature dinosaur relics and quirky paleontological touches, from sandboxes where kids can go digging for fossils to a Pteranodon weathervane.
Located just outside of downtown Denver, the Best Western Denver Southwest is owned by husband and wife team Greg and Meredith Tally who, emerging from the Great Recession, knew their hotel needed a facelift to keep attracting visitors. Then came inspiration. One day, Greg was out hiking in the Dakota Hogback region of the Rockies, near Dinosaur Ridge, one of the world’s most fertile fossil sites. “That set a light bulb off and made me realize, ‘Why not remodel celebrating some of that unique paleo history we have right in our immediate area?’” he remembered.
Two years and almost $5 million dollars later, the renovated “Dino Hotel” opened for business in October of 2013. Greg and Meredith’s vision was to create “an immersive experience,” Greg said, “where you feel like you’re walking into a 19th century explorer’s club in the Gilded Age of dinosaur exploration.”
While a staff handles the hotel’s day-to-day operations, the couple oversees big picture vision and strategic planning, in between home schooling their two kids, Caroline, 14, and Joe, 12. Greg describes himself as a self-trained “armchair enthusiast” of paleontology, “more P.T. Barnum than E. D. Cope or O. C. Marsh,” the two infamous dinosaur hunters whose rivalrous and backstabbing “Bone Wars” lasted from 1877 to 1892.
Naturally, the hotel is situated near Dinosaur Ridge, “where the first Stegosaurus came out of the ground,” Tally said. Same with the first Apatosaurus (commonly known as Brontosaurus). These “rock stars of the dinosaur world,” Tally said, are “just ten minutes from our front door,” as is Dinosaur Ridge’s Triceratops Trail. Also nearby are the Morrison Natural History Museum (10 minutes) and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (40 minutes), making the Tallys’s hotel a perfect base for a dinosaur-themed vacation.
There’s a lot riding on the hotel’s success, including a mountain of debt. But the Best Western Denver Southwest’s first summer has been “very busy,” Greg said, and the Morrison Museum of Natural History has been “busier than it’s ever been before” in part due to the Dino Hotel. Meanwhile, the husband and wife are gaining a reputation “as the ‘Dino Guy’ and ‘Dino Gal’.” At FantasyCon in Salt Lake City this July, Tally served on a panel with world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker and Morrison Curator Matthew T. Mossbrucker. Their event, “Dinos Vs. Middle-earth,” compared Tolkien’s dragons, fell beasts and oliphaunts to dinosaurs, mammoths, and the fossil record. Tally later took the stage with “about a third of the cast of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings,” he said in a recent Reddit AMA. “In terms of popular culture, dinosaurs never go out of fashion.”
Interest in the extinct lizards is only going to grow in 2015, when both Jurassic World (to be released in June), the fourth in the Jurassic Park film series, and the Pixar kiddie cartoon The Good Dinosaur (November) will be hitting theaters.
The Best Western Southwest Denver’s rather corporate website hardly does justice to the hotel’s cool dino elements. In fact, aside from some concept drawings, there’s little on the site to indicate this hotel has anything to do with paleontology. (Perhaps that’s because the Tallys don’t want their lodgings to be “off-putting to your average business traveller,” Greg said.)
To better showcase the Tallys’s big gamble, I asked Greg to give us an exclusive virtual tour. So get out your shovel and mattock, put on your Indiana Jones fedora, and keep your eye out for stray T-Rexes as we enter the Dino Hotel.
All photos courtesy of Best Western Denver Southwest
Leaves of Grass? He probably ate them now and then. A scholar at the University of Houston in Texas has discovered a 13-part, 47,000-word series by Walt Whitman, published by the New York Atlas in 1858, under the pseudonym Mose Velsor. Under that most macho of aliases, “Manly Health and Training” amounts to a “part […]
Retro Report did a short feature on the moral panics about D&D in the 1980s. It’s a fun, 13 minute look back at the moment when D&D totally changed a bunch of kids’ lives, only to be vilified and literally demonized by opportunistic members of the religious right.
What do you do if you’re a powerful, belligerent, racist drunk who’s used to getting your own way, and you’re visiting Prohibition-wracked America?
You never know when new projects, ideas or opportunities can drop into your lap at a moment’s notice. That may require you to learn a new programming language like Python. Or maybe you need a primer on 3D game development. Or you might realize you could use a serious brush-up on iOS mobile creation.Point is, […]
Isn’t it about time to stretch what your Mac can do? I mean, you’ve got plenty of great programs now…but don’t you think you could use some new tools to get your creative, analytical and organizational juices really flowing? It’s spring, so we cleaned up a whole bunch of super-cool apps lying around and packaged […]
In the world of app development, there’s no greater arena to find success than with Android users. About 80% of the smartphones in use today worldwide operate on the Android operating system, so if you build a great app that Android users love, you’re an international rock star. You’ll be able to make sure your […]