Sunrise, Sunset Spectacular at Denver Airport’s Westin DIA Hotel

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The tents of the DIA terminal are reflected in the glass windows of the Westin Hotel. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA
The tents of the DIA terminal are reflected in the glass windows of the Westin Hotel. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA

A 6 a.m. flight out of Denver International Airport prompted me to book a room at the Westin DIA connected to the terminal. Not only did it give us a little more early morning shut-eye and was super convenient, it was a treat to spend the night at this gorgeous hotel at the fifth busiest airport in the country and 15th busiest in the world.

Sunrise at the Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.
Sunrise at the Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.

The all-glass structure built in the likeness of a bird in flight hovers over the iconic peaked roof of the Jeppesen Terminal. The roof symbolizes both the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and the teepees of the Native Americans who lived on that very site on the plains of Colorado. Sunrises and sunsets are magnificent!

The tented roof of DIA terminal seen from the Westin. Photo by Claudia Carbone
The tented roof of DIA terminal seen from the Westin. Photo by Claudia Carbone

The Denver Airport Station for light rail sits on the south side of the hotel. Trains run every 15 minutes (every 30 during non-peak hours) between the  transit center and historic Union Station in downtown Denver about 23 miles west, a pleasant 35-minute ride with six stops.

Westin DIA with train station in foreground. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA
Westin DIA with train station in foreground. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA

When entering the hotel’s ultra modern Sky Lobby, get ready to be wowed! My first impression was: space ship. Its curved lines, dome-shaped roof, geometric lighting and wall of glass give it an outer-space feel. It’s an exciting and fun place to be!

Sky Lobby at Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.
Sky Lobby at Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.

Rooms at The Westin DIA

There are 519 rooms and 35 suites occupying the top eight floors of the east and west towers. All have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows with unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains to the west, the expansive high plains to the east, the terminal tents to the north and transit center to the south. All windows are triple-paned to block out airport noise. And they do. . .only occasionally can you hear a muffled rumble if you listen for it, but nothing that would keep you awake. Rooms are efficient with contemporary styling and clean lines. They all have the Westin’s “Heavenly” amenities like crisp white sheets on a comfy bed; White Tea botanicals, rain shower head and vanity mirror in the bathroom; TV, coffee/tea service, desk and lounge chair; fridge, safe, iron/ironing board in the closest. Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) enjoy privileges like the keyless entry app and free Wifi in the room. All others pay $9.95-$14.95 per day; Wifi is free in common areas.

Dining at The Westin DIA

In shades of grey, Grill & Vine is the sit-down restaurant that overlooks the open-air plaza connecting the hotel with the airport. Doors open to patio seating, but on sunny days there are no umbrellas to shade the tables because that space is prone to wind. At dusk, though, it’s very pleasant. Food here is uncomplicated, fresh (salads are super crisp) and tasty. Menu includes the Westin’s “Superfoods” as well as American favorites like chicken breast, pork chops and mac ‘n cheese. A large bar sits on the other side of the eatery.

Grill and Vine Restaurant is a busy place. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Grill and Vine Restaurant is a busy place. Photo by Claudia Carbone

The Sky Lounge in the lobby is a fun place to have a cocktail or grab a bite from the small-plates menu. You can meet people traveling to interesting places, and we had a great time chatting with Justin the bartender. A grab & go eatery called Ingredients is the third choice for food.

Bartender Justin gets dramatic at the Sky Lounge in the lobby. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Bartender Justin gets dramatic at the Sky Lounge in the lobby. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Meeting Space at The Westin DIA

Though the majority of guests stay one night flying in or out of Denver,  the hotel’s award-winning large conference center is great for meetings. With its ideal location in the middle of the country—three hours by air from the East Coast and two hours from the West Coast—the hotel offers a convenient and beautiful place to gather without anyone having to leave the property. The open-air plaza is a versatile space too. Recently, there was a mini-golf course set up. Other activities and forms of entertainment are held there.

Pre-function room in the meeting space at the Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of the Westin DIA
Pre-function room in the meeting space at the Westin DIA. Photo courtesy of the Westin DIA

Exercise at The Westin DIA

One of the drawbacks to traveling is the interruption to my workout schedule. The Westin DIA addresses that with a gorgeous top-floor indoor pool with hot tub and well-equipped fitness center. Expect to find children in the pool, so swimming laps might be difficult. Forget workout clothes? No worries—for $5 you can borrow clean shoes, socks and athletic wear. You can keep the socks. How about a massage? The concierge can send a therapist to your room with advance notice. Just added: every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 a.m., a concierge leads a 3-mile walk/run on a path around the terminal.

Top-floor indoor pool and hot tub. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA
Top-floor indoor pool and hot tub. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA
A runner on the 3-mile path around DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.
A runner on the 3-mile path around DIA. Photo courtesy of Westin DIA.

Public Art at The Westin DIA

You will notice an array of art installations around the hotel as well as original artwork by local artists in all guest rooms. The first outdoor installation you see when arriving by train is “Shadow Array,” a display of 250 beetle-kill spruce logs (the pine beetle has devastated many of Colorado’s forests) on either side of the station. This work of Patrick Marold is artfully lit up at night; and like all artwork, pays homage to the state of Colorado with a distinct sense of place. Another is the wind-activated installation by Ned Kahn replicating the prairie’s wheat fields blowing in the breeze. It’s outside the restaurant.

Marold art installation of spruce logs at night. Photo courtesy of The Westin DIA
Marold art installation of spruce logs at night. Photo courtesy of The Westin DIA

Acclimating at The Westin DIA

For skiers flying into DIA, staying one or two nights at 5,335 feet altitude at the Westin DIA is the best way to acclimate slowly to the 8,000 to 13,000-foot altitudes they’ll find in the mountains. Racing up to the slopes right after landing is the surest way to bring on altitude sickness that can ruin a ski vacation.

The Westin welcomes children with activity books and their own menus.

Even if you don’t have an early flight, staying here takes the stress out of traveling. I will do it again in a heartbeat.

The Westin Hotel and Conference Center at DIA, 8300 Pena Boulevard, Denver, Colorado, 303-317-1800; www.starwoodhotels.com/westin

Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer based in Denver. Read about other hotels she’s visited in Sleepin’ Around.