Check In and Check Out: Colorado Springs
Sneaking out of town for a weekend is a treat that most of us don’t indulge in often enough. It sounds like a grand plan, but it’s usually scrapped in favor of kid stuff, or house stuff, or the fact that we’re just too miserly. And that’s a shame, because it’s easily one of the most rejuvenating gifts we can give to ourselves, and I mean that in both a physical and spiritual sense.
One of my favorite destinations from Denver is practically the easiest of all: Colorado Springs. When I mention this to someone it’s not unusual for them to raise an eyebrow or give me the fake smile that (unsuccessfully) masks their aura of skepticism. Colorado Springs?
Yeah. This excursion took place a whopping 75 minutes from my house, and involved gorgeous accommodations, charming history, interesting scenery, and a pork chop.
Okay, so I’m not the first to gush about The Broadmoor, but, honestly, if you want your getaway to be perfect, this is where you need to stay. (Otherwise this piece could be titled Three Mediocre Days in Colorado Springs.)
Nestled up against Cheyenne Mountain, it’s the closest you or I will ever come to feeling like a movie star - and plenty of them have refused to stay anywhere else in the Springs. In fact, the small security checkpoint that you must pass through reminds me of the guard shacks that filter people onto Hollywood lots. I like that touch, and once they know your name you’ll hear it at almost every encounter. (More on that later.)
Meticulously groomed and cleverly flowered (if that’s not a real adjective, it should be) the grounds are nothing short of spectacular. After the escalator deposits you on the second level, walk straight through the glass doors and drink in the combination of sunshine, mountains, and man-made Cheyenne Lake. Then turn left, walk into the Hotel Bar, and drink in the wine. (In my opinion, this bar has the best free snacks in Colorado to go along with your cocktails.)
I’ve stayed at The Broadmoor before, but this was my first time to experience the South Lake suites. I hope it’s not my last - these are incredible rooms. Ask for Room 2404 and you’ll be treated to a sumptuous living room, a king master, a large bathroom with separate tub and shower, and a comfy balcony that overlooks the lake. It couldn’t be snazzier.
Call room service and you’ll be greeted using your name. Call the valet to get your car, and they’ll call you by name. With every transaction - whether it’s at one of the bars or restaurants, or even the shops - you’ll be personally thanked using your name. Don’t think it’s a big deal? You’re crazy; it reinforces an atmosphere of personal service and attention to detail.
(Side note that was fun: Late one night I ordered a pepperoni pizza from room service, and the guy who showed up with it - Mario - was on his first day of work at The Broadmoor. In fact, I was his first delivery ever. And you know what? He couldn’t have been more charming, friendly, and professional. With a tip of his cap and a “thank you, Mr. Testa,” he was off to navigate his second assignment.)
The Broadmoor is sneaking up on its 100th anniversary, and I have no doubt that in it’s second century it will continue to set the standard for service and luxury.
Okay, besides those snacks at The Hotel Bar… and the pepperoni pizza from room service. Cut a guy a break, will ya?
Three meals stood out. The first was at the hotel, and it’s the incredible Sunday brunch in the Lake Terrace Dining Room. What? You say you’ve been to other brunches before, so what’s the big deal? Uh, let me just say that if you’ve never been to The Broadmoor’s Sunday brunch, you haven’t really experienced one, my friend. A billion choices, all cooked to perfection, and even a dessert selection to tantalize you after you’ve already made a pig of yourself. It’s my favorite brunch on the planet.
(Side tip: Ask for a table in the Crystal Room. It gets you out of the stream of traffic, yet you can still hear the piano player.)
The second meal is just a block away, at the legendary Golden Bee. This traditional English pub dishes up the standard pub fare you’d expect (bangers ’n mash, etc) along with pints and yards of beer. I had the fish ’n chips after an appetizer of fried pickles (long spears, rather than the usual slices; not sure I’m a fan of that style), and - I have to put this in all caps - BODDINGTONS ON TAP. Listen to me, if you find a pub that serves Boddingtons, you don’t go anywhere else. Period.
The Bee, as it’s affectionately known, has been around more than half a century, and continues to entertain people. The food is not the best pub food ever, but the service is outstanding, and the piano sing-along (after 9:30pm) keeps slightly-intoxicated people in a lively, jolly mood. Going solo or as a couple is okay, but bring a group of friends to really experience The Bee to the max.
The third meal is a ten-minute drive from the hotel in a building that’s deceiving. From the outside The Blue Star looks . . . okay, I’ll say it, it looks kinda mangy. So avert your eyes if you must until you’re inside - it’s so worth it.
After choosing to spend a few minutes at the bar before being seated, let me give kudos to the bartender who wouldn’t hear of making a standard Old-Fashioned or Manhattan. He insisted on making his own invention, a mashup of those classic drinks that he labeled a ManFashioned. Damned good. Both times.
But everything’s good at The Blue Star, and on this night I tore into the pork chop. Although the menu suggested that a serving of mashed spuds would grace the plate, it turned out to be the fingerling variety, which was equally tasty.
I especially like the dining room’s view of the kitchen, which at many joints can come across as kitschy; at the Star it fits. A perfect night of food, beverage, and (interior) atmosphere.
Most people take the free shuttle from the hotel to Seven Falls, but, unless you have a physical condition that prevents it, I strongly suggest you walk it. That takes about twenty minutes, and you’ll pass Penrose House on the way. (Detour into the grounds of Penrose if the gate is open, and mingle with the deer.)
Seven Falls, which has been a tourist spot since the late 1800s, was privately owned and operated by families until The Broadmoor purchased the attraction following a devastating flood that damaged the property. Closed for about two years to get things refurbished, it reopened in August of 2015.
If you’re bold, take the 224 steps up from the base and explore the trails at the top of the box canyon. When you’re ready to descend, my advice is to focus only on the step in front of you - it’s a bit intimidating on the way down those stairs.
And don’t think this is a daylight-only affair. A cascade of colored lights provides a beautiful nighttime experience.
If you can’t be bothered to leave the hotel grounds, a few laps around Cheyenne Lake will provide you with exercise and a chance to mingle with the wildlife - including a pretty cool black swan that cruises around like it owns the place.
Odds and Ends
There’s a movie theater about ten minutes from the hotel if you feel like catching a flick during one of your days. Also, if you’re making the trek to Colorado Springs from Denver, I highly recommend avoiding I-25. Sure, it might be more convenient in some ways, but the congestion - and frequency of accidents - makes it no fun whatsoever. Plus, it looks like an interstate highway.
Instead, give strong consideration to cruising highway 83; that way you can stop at The Stagecoach in Franktown and grab one of their burgers. (And, if it’s a weekend, you can get an eyeful of all the realtors and accountants from Denver who pose as Harley dudes. Nice leathers, man; how’s the market today?)
Three near-perfect days in Colorado Springs. It gets you out of town and into some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll find in the state. Burn a vacation or sick day, combine it with a weekend, and go pamper yourself. You could use a little perfection in your life, no?