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.
The super-premium ice cream at Glacier Homemade Ice Cream & Gelato—which represented Colorado on Serious Eats’ list of America’s Best Ice Cream—is proof that less is more. Their chief concern is “overrun,” a term that refers to how much air is mixed into each batch of ice cream. Some less delicious ice creams can contain up to 50% air; however, Glacier’s flavors contain only 5%–7% air, yielding richer flavors and a creamier texture.
Also lauded by outlets such as the Denver Post and Colorado Daily, Glacier has a catalogue of more than 800 flavors, up to 60 of which are on hand and ready to scoop at all times. Their ice cream wizards create a new flavor every two weeks, resulting custom tastes such as chocolate raspberry truffle, caramel Oreo, and espresso chocolate buzz with a double-strength coffee base. They also craft premium Italian gelatos with skim milk, producing rich frozen treats with half the fat of ice cream in flavors such as chocolate hazelnut, peanut butter fudge, and pistachio.
No matter the flavor, Glacier uses fresh ingredients such as hand-squeezed limes, ripe strawberries, and homemade chocolate. They’ve also committed to staying Colorado-local whenever possible, receiving produce from local food producers in Penrose, Rocky Ford, Palisade, and even stocking local Umpire State Coffee, local Jerry's Nut House, imported Italian candy and using local produce like apples, melons, and peaches.
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.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.