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.
Heart of Jerusalem Cafe, a Dining Guide winner, embodies its name from its menu of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine to its decor. Inside the rustic dining room, palm-tree murals offer background to faux stonework and high-arched porticos. Intricately decorated glass lights dangle from the ceiling like exotic ornaments, casting a soft glow on grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and shish kebabs skewered with lamb and fantail shrimp (available at the Manitou location only). Hummus, tabbouleh, and baganooj eggplant dips spread effortlessly across slices of Zaatar pita and warm flatbread fresh from the oven. Heart-shaped falafel and vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available. Diners may retreat to the outdoor patio for an authentic Greek dessert, such as a slice of homemade baklava baked fresh daily, or to remind themselves that they are, in fact, still in the United States.
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.
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.
Sri Lankan culture incorporates distinctive southern Asian roots along with influences from the various European nations that have ruled it. As a result, the cuisine typically features a m?lange of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and Malaysian flavors. At Sri Lanka Curry Leaf Restaurant, Lana Hillstrom remains true to the flavors of her native Sri Lanka, filling the menu with her country's eclectic cuisine. Pork and sliced mango simmer in aromatic curry, distinguished from familiar Thai or Indian versions by a signature powder that uses 21 fragrant ingredients, according to the Colorado Springs Independent. The rest of the menu includes Sri Lankan interpretations of Asian standards such as chicken tikka, fried rice, and mulligatawny soup.
Channeling the same vivaciousness as the menu, the dining room bursts with color from its sunshine-yellow walls, draped with leafy foliage and imported Sri Lankan rainbows. Framed pictures and woodwork also adorn the walls and add to the room's homey ambiance.