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.
Briarhurst Manor Restaurant has overlooked Garden of the Gods Park in the shadow of Pikes Peak since 1876, when Manitou Springs town founder Dr. William Bell constructed the pink sandstone Tudor-style manor. The English country architecture showcases elegant flourishes such as a tiled fireplace, dark-wood boiserie, and a garden room where sunlight streams through towering windows. Not surprisingly, Briarhurst Manor has been hailed as one of the 100 most romantic restaurants in the country according to OpenTable's 2012 and 2013 Diners' Choice awards.
The cuisine matches the interior?s opulence: Chef Neal Moreno glazes duck-shank confit in a gooseberry cassis, and augments the flavor of Colorado lamb chops with chestnut fig jus. Cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays from Napa Valley punctuate the restaurant's extensive wine list and give beer a reason to feel as insecure as a styrofoam rabbit marooned amid a pack of real wolves.
Set within a century-old Tudor-style edifice that once played host to Bing Crosby and Cary Grant, Craftwood Inn graces modern-day diners with gourmet interpretations of wild game meats and stunning views of nearby Pikes Peak. Executive chef Brother Luck relies on a staff of woodsy huntsman to track down the choicest cuts of Colorado elk, venison, and buffalo, which he then daubs with French-inspired sauces that vary in accordance with a rotating seasonal menu. Wines culled from the inn’s expansive cellar fill clinking glasses with reds and whites that shimmer in the glow of chandeliers, fireplaces, and lingering rays of sunlight that filter in through stained-glass windows. Craftwood Inn's large and small dining rooms welcome special-occasion banquets, weddings, and hacky-sack cotillions for up to 150 guests.
Abdul Nasser grew up eating his family's homemade hummus, shawarma, and baba ghanouj. He now shares his passion for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine with others at Taste of Jerusalem Caf?, stocking the menu with fresh and healthy recipes based on the comfort foods from his childhood. Toasty pita bread holds everything from crispy falafel to marinated lamb. Chicken and beef kebabs, hand-rolled grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice, and flaky, rich baklava round out the selection of hearty dishes. The food won Taste of Jerusalem a spot as the Colorado Springs Independent's Best Middle Eastern pick of 2009.
The dining room is casual but bright, with lipstick-red chairs and booths surrounding the simple wooden tables. The sand-colored walls hold murals that reflect Nasser's Mediterranean heritage, including one of verdant palm trees and a desert city enclosed by a towering wall, presumably to keep intruders from stealing its falafel.
Meat is the primary item on the menu at Flatiron's American Bar & Grill. Blank-angus steak comes in three cuts—the signature Flatiron, the rib eye, and the New York strip—and shares a plate with a choice of veggies and potato. Orders of chicken wings, whether coated in spicy buffalo sauce or honey-chipotle glaze, weigh in at one pound, making for a hefty appetizer or a delicious paperweight. Although it's technically meat-free, the three-cheese mac-n-cheese comes with a “robust bread-crumb crown” and benefits from the addition of shredded spiced chicken, according to food critic Nathaniel Glen of The Gazette. On a daily basis, the restaurant’s chefs inspect each meat shipment to ensure top-notch quality and freshness.