Sunday, September 12, 2010

Visit the “Best Big City to Live In” Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs was given this distinction by Money Magazine, Kiplingers and MSNBC-- and for good reason. Also, Women’s Health Magazine calls Colorado Springs a “Top 10 Place in the U.S. to Be a Woman” (whatever that means!). I’ll admit, this Southern Chick initially wanted to visit Colorado Springs to escape from the 100+ degree temperatures in Texas. However, I was abundantly surprised to discover this playground for fun and relaxation.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort
Cheyenne Mountain Resort has the look and feel of an upscale mountain lodge, built into the side of hills and using wooden exterior. It is a comfortable feel with a touch of class. If you can spring for it with your group of chicks, I’d highly recommend reserving the Dove Lodge Suite, which can sleep 6-7. This “presidential suite” features a spacious living area and dining room, a small kitchen, 3 bathrooms, a king bedroom, and a bedroom with two double beds. The kitchen is lacking an oven/stove and dishes, but you have a small refrigerator, a microwave and can ask for dishes from room service.
Initially, you’ll love the marble foyer, but what you’ll really be impressed with is the wrap-around porch that overlooks the mountains. If you reserve the full suite, you’ll have porch on three sides. I highly recommend brewing the in-room Starbucks coffee and enjoying it out on your porch in the comfort of your robe.
If you choose to go with a less-expensive option, their double and king guest rooms are roomy, clean and extremely comfortable. During your stay, you can also enjoy the in-room movies, resort pool, and access to the Country Club of Colorado next door. As a guest, you get access to the country club’s fitness facilities, pools, tennis courts, bike rentals, beach (bordering a nearby lake) and walking trails. The Country Club of Colorado also boasts a beautiful golf course which offers scenic views of the mountainsides, along with a dining room, pro shop and club house.
If you’d rather relax, choose a day of pampering at Lotus Day Spa, just a few blocks from the resort. Within walking distance, the day spa offers a package called “All Day Indulgence”, which is seven hours of renewal, sampling many of the spa’s treatments (facial, massage, manicure, pedicure, hair treatment, make-up application and lunch, all for $330). What a bargain, ladies! I found that the spa offers several unique touches, such as a comfortable couch to sit on for pedicures, a paraffin dip during the pedicure, side and tummy massage, and sunscreen added after a facial.
www.cheyennemountainresort.com
www.lotussalonspacs.com


Pikes Peak Attraction Pass
I was amazed at how much there was to do around the area, and mostly outdoors, which is a welcome change. You’ll want to purchase a Pikes Peak Attraction Pass, http://www.pikes-peak.com/pluspass/, if you’re there to experience the area. For one fee, you get entry into a majority of the sights around the area. Colorado Springs is ranked one of the country’s Fittest Cities by Men’s Fitness and one of the Healthiest Cities by Cooking Light Magazine. Get ready to be outdoors and enjoy the scenery and activity. Here are my top five suggestions:
  1. Pikes Peak Highway—This 19-mile road going up, up, up is a slow climb and not for the weak of heart. With a maximum speed limit of 25 MPH, it takes approximately one hour to drive up the highway and one hour to drive down. Warning: there are many places along the roadway where there are no guard rails and you’re feet away the edge of a massive cliff. If you’re OK with that, you’ll eventually make it up above the clouds. The view from the top is like no other and you’ll find many great photo opportunities. The most visited mountain in America, Pikes Peak summit sits at 14,115 feet above sea level. And, since the summit is typically 30 degrees cooler than down at the toll booth, it truly takes your breath away! www.pikespeakcolorado.com
  2. Historic Manitou Springs—Named one of the “10 Coolest Small Towns” by Budget Travel; this one-road town is a chick’s paradise! With adorable shops (including one just for Christmas ornaments) and delicious small restaurants, you can spend an entire day walking the streets, shopping and eating. While strolling the revitalized Victorian streets, grab a map and taste from the seven free mineral water springs throughout the town. You can also walk through Miramont Castle, www.miramontcastle.org, while you’re there. www.manitousprings.org
  3. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo—Called America’s only mountain zoo, CMZ is just a few miles from Cheyenne Mountain Resort. Applauded for their mountainside environment and trying to offer the animals a natural habitat, the zoo boasts over 30 species of endangered animals, from Sumatran orangutans to African elephants. The zoo has the largest reticulated giraffe herd of any zoo with 190 births since 1954. www.cmzoo.org
  4. Garden of the Gods—Over 100 years old (dedicated in 1909), this is a free park with miles of hiking trails over its 1,350 acres. What makes this site world famous are the magnificent red sandstone rock formations. Don’t miss enjoying a Buffalo Burger for lunch at the Balanced Rock Cafe and the 15-minute movie at the visitors’ center. During the historical movie, you learn that “America the Beautiful” was written while at Garden of the Gods, which is beautiful. www.gardenofthegods.com
  5. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park—Featuring one of the world’s highest suspension bridges, you’ll loom over the grandest canyon in Colorado, passing over the Arkansas River. An engineering feat, the bridge was constructed in 1929 for $350K and would cost a whopping $15 million today. It is said that this is one of the only places in Colorado where “looking down is even more breathtaking than looking up.” You can walk or drive across the bridge and enjoy the park for an all-inclusive price. The fee seems almost as steep as the gorge, but the view is spectacular. www.royalgorgebridge.com
Delicious Dining
From comfort food, to Mexican to pub grub, the Springs have a little of everything. I found that most locations were concerned with serving the freshest ingredients and also pride themselves on originality. Here are a few of my faves:
  1. Squeak Soda Shop—This artsy soda fountain calls themselves the “purveyors of fizzing living” and they are truly into the bold. Our server knew everything there is to know about creating these yummy drinks. You can choose a flavor and a color for your soda. They also serve homemade style ice-cream (highly recommend the mint chocolate chip) and old-fashioned candies we enjoyed as kids, like Pop Rocks and Fruit Striped Gum. They also sell chocolate by the pound. You can order lunch, too (try the California Melt). With their colorful atmosphere, they were not kidding with the sign out front- Warning: Extreme Happiness Inside. www.squeaksodashop.com
  2. Stagecoach Inn—When you’re spending the day in Manitou Springs, make sure and dine here for classic comfort food such as: fried chicken, stuffed steak, trout almandine and cowboy pot roast. The atmosphere is great. If you sit outside, you’re sandwiched between the bustling street scene and a babbling brook. With great service, you can’t beat this place for lunch or dinner. www.stagecoachinn.com
  3. Craftwood Inn—The more upscale option in Manitou Springs (same owners as Stagecoach Inn), this classic bistro offers date night specials where you can choose from a 4-course pre fixe menu for a nice price and enjoy this savory meal with a bottle of wine. www.craftwood.com
  4. Jose Muldoon’s—As a Southern chick, I was missing Mexican food so this spot was a welcome respite.  This award-winning downtown Mexican restaurant spices up fresh ingredients and creates a blend of dynamite dishes! You must try the Grilled Chicken Fajita Burrito and the service is superb. After you finish your meal, you can walk across the street to a nice city park and walk off your hefty meal. www.josemuldoons.com
Even after spending four days in the Colorado Springs area, I only touched the tip of the tourist iceberg and I look forward to my next ChickVacation in the mile-high city. Pack up your hiking boots, sweaters (anytime of year) and your fascination with scenic beauty and get yourself to Colorado Springs. While you’re there, you can find out what Women’s Health Magazine means by “top ten places to be a woman”.
Marika Flatt, Southern Chick, has been a freelance travel writer since 2002, writing for publications such as: GoodHousekeeping.com, AustinWoman magazine, FamilyTravel.com, Plate & Vine, and several others. Her travel writing has also appeared on NPR.org. She lives with her husband and 3 children (who love to travel) in Austin, Texas.