Whether issuing orders over the sound of roaring rapids or getting soaked by jets of errant river spray, the guides at River Runners all share a common thought: this sure beats sitting in an office. For more than 40 years, they’ve ferried passengers down the Arkansas River on jaunts into Bighorn Sheep Canyon’s class III and IV rapids or the challenging class IV and V rapids churning throughout The Numbers. They also explore the waterways running through the 2,000-foot-deep canyons in Dinosaur National Monument, breezing down the Utah River on one-day jaunts or arguing about whether or not T. rexes could feel love during a five-day exploration of the Yampa River.
Nestled in the frosted pines of the San Isabel National Forest, Monarch Mountain Lodge wraps its slope-savvy guests in warm accommodations amid the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Despite its modest title, Monarch's Standard rooms cozily furnishes one or two beds and offers guests access to a wide range of amenities, including Direct TV and WiFi, as well as a fitness center to help keep unwanted pounds and unwanted Tony Little visits from ruining their vacations. Beyond the lodge's open-air hot tubs, indoor pool, and sauna, lie ski-able slopes, traversable bike trails, frothy river waters, and more. Due to the nearby South Fork Arkansas River's history of making lucrative deals with Mother Nature, the Monarch area enjoys a unique climate in which snow-packed mornings melt into hike-able paths in the afternoon, making it the perfect getaway for all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts.
Situated at the foothills of Pikes Peak, in a 19th-century hotel, the Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant is primed for romance. The restaurant's past life as a hotel means that tables scatter throughout various rooms and levels, giving diners the space to entertain private conversations and practice lighting candles with their mind. Meals might unfold in The Veranda, for instance, where mottled walls, green ivy, and a decorative streetlamp recall a Venetian street. The Wine Cellar, meanwhile, lines its walls with hundreds of bottles that encompass more than 80 varietals stretching back to the early 1900s. With such ambiance, it's no wonder Mona Lisa was selected as one of Colorado Springs Independent's Best Fine Dining restaurants in 2012.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Mona Lisa's romance is the food. The signature four-course fondue meal for two brings couples together with shareable pots of melted "Old World," "New World" or "South of the Border" cheeses before breaking into heartier offerings. Duos can dip tiger shrimp, flatiron filet, chicken breast, or even game meats such as mallard duck or Rocky Mountain Elk into six gourmet sauces. And like the best dreams, the interactive dinners end in a pot of warm chocolate fondue, ready to coat cakes and fruit.
Valley Hi Golf Course’s 18 fairways have been flourishing with rye grass and deciduous trees since 1954, when golfers first began cursing the course’s tricky water hazards and bunker-guarded greens with old-timey swear words such as "leaping argyle!" The 1st hole boasts the course’s longest fairway, whereas the 7th hole stops short to become the shortest par five – the best hope for a birdie. The putting green at the 18th hole keeps golfers on their cleated toes until the very end by demanding, like medieval kings, to be approached from the left and on one’s knees. Those hoping to hone their game can take lessons with a staff headed by PGA golf pro Mike Northern, whose more than 30 years in the game have netted him a full trophy case. Before hitting the greens in the morning, golfers drop by the Caddie Shack Restaurant and Bar to fill their bellies with omelets, and those finishing up a later round can bite into sandwiches or burgers.
Course at a Glance:
Claudette Hutchinson's passion for traditional Jamaican food is in her DNA. Coming from a large family of Jamaican cooks, she honors both the national dishes and Rastafari staples of her homeland on Spice Island Grill's expansive menu. Her steamy plates of curries and stews have earned her glowing reviews from the Colorado Springs Independent and ColoradoSprings.com.
On many weekends, a dance party sends modern Jamaican DJ sounds to mingle with the whir of blenders as the staff blends slushy tropical cocktails. Bright blue and yellow walls further reflect the restaurant's upbeat vibe, and posters of Bob Marley exhibit its unabashed love for reggae and tropical culture.
The trained dough tossers staffing the ovens at Louie's Pizza bake up a menu of family-tested recipes that have pleased palates for more than 40 years. Rev up eating engines with an order of freshly baked garlic bread (starting at $3.35) before testing culinary creativity with a customizable pie (starting at $6.49) with piquant permutations of 15 toppings and seven flavored crusts, including butter cheese, garlic, and mantle. Stumped snackers are free to try one of the pretopped specialty pizzas ($16.99 for 14"), such as the veggie alfredo, a crisp disk blanketed in a creamy quilt of tomato and black-olive patches, or the meatball pizza, a two-dimensional interpretation of the pasta-based classic.