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.
Since 1984, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with made-from-scratch dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable atmosphere. Amid sunlit dining rooms, diners seated at wooden tabletops can root for their favorite pixels on flat-screen TVs broadcasting live sports. In the kitchen, chefs prepare pastas with grilled chicken and roasted artichokes, pile buns with barbecued pulled pork and spicy buffalo chicken, and fill soft taco shells with grilled steak. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with wine and local craft beers on tap.
1950s ephemera decorate Gunther Toody's eight Colorado locations, lending an extra boost of Americana to plates of classic diner food such as burgers and meatloaf. The menu even draws its inspiration from American pop culture of yore, with Elvis fries, burgers named for Howdy Doody, and Big Bopper breakfasts served on platters of chantilly lace. Classic ice-cream treats including shakes, malteds, and black cows help lead each meal to a suitably sweet conclusion.
Once upon time, the Stagecoach Inn was as famous for its fried chicken and biscuits as it was for stuffing Dwight D. Eisenhower's tummy and pants pockets with mouthwatering comfort food. Though the clattering of President Eisenhower's cutlery has long since faded from the log cabin, the eatery's fried chicken continues to draw in crowds of hungry locals and travelers alike. Their chefs cook up a well-rounded menu of such time-honored classics as pork chops with molasses and bacon and their signature-stuffed steak, a local favorite. Bartenders uncork Colorado wines and local brews—including Bristol Brewing Company's award-winning Laughing Lab Scottish ale—as hungry guests dig into meaty burgers and classic fish and chips. The Stagecoach Inn's rustic décor evokes the warmth and comfort of dining at a friend's house across its café, lounge, and upstairs dining room. Guests can also enjoy their meals creek-side outdoors or by the warmth of a fire.
Though the Stagecoach Inn has long since established itself as a community staple, Manitou Springs' old-timers remember a time when the old stage stop upheld another distinctive honor. The structure also housed the town's first electric company—an important feat, since Manitou Springs enjoyed electric power before even New York. The rest of the inn's past, however, is a matter of western lore, but many believe this rustic log cabin served as American author and civil rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson’s summer cottage.
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.