Best Of 2015


Best Of 2015: Daylife 

The best of the Springs' daytime activities and destinations — galleries, yoga studios, cultural organizations and more

Adventure Company

click to enlarge Adventures Out West - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Adventures Out West

Adventures Out West

1680 S. 21st St., 578-0935,

Adventures Out West started in Pueblo in 1973, when Bruce Wellens decided he needed a hobby. "He was just bored and looking for an adventure, and so he bought a hot air balloon," his son Greg Wellens recalls. "Then people started asking for rides." Greg now runs the operation his father started (it moved to Colorado Springs many years ago), offering balloon rides, Jeep excursions, Segway adventures, zip line tours and more. Next summer, the company will put on the COS Rodeo, Wednesday nights at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. Attendees can eat a cowboy meal, watch balloon glows, sit around a campfire, see a full rodeo, and even participate — the truly adventurous may ride a bull.— J. Adrian Stanley

Place to Buy Skis/Snowboards
Place to Buy Skateboards

Blindside Colorado

600 S. 21st St., #150, 636-1554,

Skaters and snowboarders of the pre-Internet era may recall the CCS catalog as the go-to for the sickest equipment and apparel — because it had the most popular logos and brand names. Luckily, those days are long gone, and we have Blindside to help save us from our poseur selves. The shop's focus is on quality boards and accessories, many of which are local, and "getting customers stoked on the product, even if they don't buy anything," according to manager Logan Dickerson. In other words, your visit won't be ruined by a commission-driven staff member, and what you buy will last. If local products aren't enough, how about local talent? Blindside hosts competitions and demos on a regular basis, usually tied to its seasonal sales. — Craig Lemley

Easy Biking Trail

Santa Fe Trail

Woodmen Road to the Palmer Lake Recreation area,

The rain-caused closure of part of the Santa Fe Trail certainly worked against it this year, but still this trail earned your vote. And there's reason to believe the future is bright. For one thing, El Paso County Parks has just extended the easement for the affected part of the trail, which runs through the U.S. Air Force Academy. For another, Tim Wolken, county parks' director of community services, says if we all work together — AFA and county officials, and users — we can get the trail reopened soon. Now that's the "Best" news! — Carrie Simison

Bike Shop

click to enlarge Old Town Bike Shop - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Old Town Bike Shop

Old Town Bike Shop

426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589,

John Crandall started Old Town back in 1976, and says that running a bike shop is more exciting than you might think. Take the time about six years ago when a guy stole a bike and rode off. An employee grabbed another bike, chased and tackled the crook, and then an off-duty police officer who witnessed the takedown arrested the thief on the spot. There was also what Crandall calls the "Ted Bundy Case." The guy in question was polite and handsome and looked at bikes for about a month before taking three and leaving a hot check. He ended up getting caught with the bikes and a stolen Porsche in Memphis, and serving time in prison. Still, Crandall says with a laugh, he showed up at Old Town about two years ago "as if nothing had ever happened." Excitement aside, Crandall says he just loves helping people find their next bike, and the shop is willing to go the extra mile to make that happen. You know, as long as you pay for it. — J. Adrian Stanley

Local Sports Store/Outdoor Outfitter

click to enlarge Mountain Chalet - BRYAN TRYON
  • Bryan Tryon
  • Mountain Chalet

Mountain Chalet

226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732,

Open since 1968, Mountain Chalet is an institution in downtown Colorado Springs. But for Jim and Elaine Smith, the business is brand-new. The Smiths were looking to buy an outdoor store when they saw Mountain Chalet on a trip to the Springs. They gave the owner a call and asked if they could purchase the store. The deal was finalized in March. "It's a passion of ours that we wanted to do for a long time," Jim says. "... We were like, 'This shop is awesome.' It really spoke to us." He adds that it's been smooth sailing since, with the couple having benefited from the store's longtime employees and loyal customer base. — J. Adrian Stanley

Difficult Biking Trail (tie)

Captain Jack's, North Cheyenne Cañon Park

3440 N. Cheyenne Canyon Road

The Chutes, North Cheyenne Cañon Park

3440 N. Cheyenne Canyon Road

We asked local shredder, world champion mountain biker, and two-time Olympian Alison Dunlap about our winners, both located in the Stratton Open Space/North Cheyenne Cañon area. The Chutes, she says, is "a great trail because it's not terribly steep, a lot of the turns are banked, [and] it flows very well." Captain Jack's, meanwhile, is "challenging because it constantly changes with the amount of rain and erosion we've had. ... Traction is pretty much nonexistent, so it's very challenging at high speed." She adds, "There's some whoop-de-doos and things that can catch you off-guard if you're not paying attention and send you over the handlebars." For the record, though, they have not sent Dunlap over the handlebars. — J. Adrian Stanley

Easy Hiking Trail

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

3550 W. High St.

It says something when the category is "Easy Hiking Trail" (singular) and the winner is an entire park. With over a dozen trails — many of which are actually "intermediate" or "advanced," according to the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department — Red Rock Canyon Open Space is arguably the most popular park for locals looking to hike, run or cycle close to home. With so many good trails, it's no wonder that Red Rocks enjoys such a following. Now we just need to figure out which trail is the best. — Hiking Bob Falcone

Difficult Hiking Trail

Manitou Incline

7 Hydro St., Manitou Springs

There's no doubt that the Manitou Incline is difficult to conquer. Really difficult. World-class, Olympic-training-level difficult. But really, climbing it is more of a fitness activity than anything else — the only "trail" part of the Incline is found on a return trip down Barr Trail. Regardless, the former railcar route, revamped earlier this year, has a rabid following and has become an iconic attraction for fitness buffs and visitors looking for an elite workout at 6,400 feet. Every hike should have a reward at the end — other than just having done it, of course — and the reward here is a great selfie opportunity at the top. — Hiking Bob Falcone

Martial Arts

Tai Chi Association of Colorado Springs

219 W. Colorado Ave., #310, 375-8339,

The Tai Chi Association of Colorado Springs is led by Sifu Michael Paler, who's arguably among the most notable tai chi practitioners in the country. He recently completed training under Wei Xi Lan, daughter of the late Grand Master Wei Shu Ren, in China, and can teach the original "Old Six Roads" form of tai chi, according to his wife, Julie Paler. TCA hosts a gamut of classes, all geared toward promoting physical and mental health while teaching martial arts techniques. It even promotes calmness and wellness outside of the school, facilitating the local celebration of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day each spring at different venues around town. — Craig Lemley

Place to Work Out in the Winter

click to enlarge YMCA - KAREN ROBARDS
  • Karen Robards
  • YMCA

YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region

Multiple locations,

Membership rates at the Y are competitive, says Carrie Bair-Norwood, vice president of marketing and development, but the Y is also pouring $1.1 million this year into its program to subsidize membership for those who can't afford it. With other funds, Bair-Norwood says, "We've been adding state-of-the-art equipment at our locations, and we want to continue adding to that equipment to give people good options." All that, plus more than 400 group activities in any given week, and a network of facilities across the country? Sounds like a winner to me. — Pam Zubeck

Music Festival

click to enlarge Meadowgrass Music Festival - CAMERON MOIX
  • Cameron Moix
  • Meadowgrass Music Festival

MeadowGrass Music Festival

"We learn something new every year," muses Steve Harris, who as Rocky Mountain Highway executive director helms Colorado Springs' premier outdoor music festival. Just weeks after Colorado College's Llamapalooza Festival was literally drowned out, MeadowGrass barely dodged the bullet, but still had to weather its messy aftermath. "For the past six years, we've assumed that our big tent insulates the festival from the effects of the rain," says Harris. "But it turns out that the tent only protects us from rain falling from the sky. When May turned out to be the rainiest month on record in Colorado Springs, it was standing water in the meadow that created problems instead." Yet despite a rash of heavy motor vehicles getting stuck in the mud, the three-day weekend of top-flight Americana acts once again made it all worthwhile. — Bill Forman

Annual Outdoor Fest

Territory Days

Territory Days celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, and continues to draw up to 150,000 people over Memorial Day weekend. Besides oodles of food and craft booths spanning four blocks — turkey leg, anyone? — it offers live entertainment including Native American dancing, Wild West reenactments and street performance. It also pauses for a more solemn observance of fallen military members with a moment of silence, a color guard, and the playing of "Taps" in Bancroft Park on Memorial Day afternoon, says organizer Jim Wear. Best of all, it's free, as are shuttles that eliminate the aggravating search for a parking place. — Pam Zubeck

Performing Arts Group/Program

click to enlarge Ormao Dance Company - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ormao Dance Company

Ormao Dance Company

10 S. Spruce St., 471-9759,

Thanks to autocorrect, my not-so-smartphone turned "Ormao" Dance Company into "Lmao" Dance Company. Though Laughing-My-Ass-Off Dance Company has a pleasing ring to it, the name Ormao (pronounced or-MY-oh) actually references a Greek term meaning "to set in rapid motion, stir up, incite, urge on." That definition fits the innovative dance organization, which offers professional and youth performances, public classes for all ages in modern, hip-hop, ballet, tap and yoga, and even "Mathtastic," a unique program that teaches math skills through movement. This weekend (Oct. 23-25) in addition to its Indy win, the group will celebrate its 25th Anniversary with a special fall concert. — Jill Thomas

Place to See Emerging Artists Place to Buy Art Gallery

click to enlarge The Modbo - KIRSTEN AKENS
  • Kirsten Akens
  • The Modbo

The Modbo

17C E. Bijou St., 633-4240,

Most of us grow up thinking it's a good idea to avoid back alleys. Evidently no one told The Modbo — the gallery is located in a modest space off a downtown alley between Cascade and Tejon. Of course, unconventional thinking might be precisely what makes The Modbo (short for "Modern Bohemian" and Latin for "hipster") so special that it's a triple winner with our readers this year. Not only is the hidden little gallery a great place to enjoy art and discover new artists at First Friday openings, it's also an affordable place to buy art, with shows like The Biggest Small Works Show Ever, which runs each year in The Modbo and its sister gallery SPQR. — Jill Thomas

Yoga Studio

cambio. Yoga

3326 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 229-1188,

"Everyone is perfect just as they are," asserts cambio. Yoga in the guiding principles that grace its home page. Even so, it's perfectly natural for people to want to improve various aspects of their lives, and numerous Indy readers agree that cambio. is a really good place to do it. The studio offers more than 100 classes per week — including Prenatal Yoga, Power Vinyasa and 60-Minute Candlelight Hot Yoga — as well as instructor training programs. In addition to providing a down-to-earth atmosphere that welcomes all beliefs and body types, cambio. classes operate on a give-what-you-can donation basis. What more could you ask? — Bill Forman


Liese Chavez

Liese Chavez is an artist's artist, almost as much as she is a people's artist and advocate. Within a minute after meeting, she draws my attention to her easel and shares the nuanced symbolism planned for the piece she's working on, "Cat House." She fully engages even the most casual of art enthusiasts, as she jumps at every opportunity to explain the intricate techniques, subjects and media she chooses in the most accessible and humble way. Call her work nostalgic, but familiarity is a part of the approach. "It's safe enough to feel that the magic is still possible," Chavez says, and the success of her work is proof that she's right. — Craig Lemley

Affordable Family Fun

Manitou Springs Penny Arcade

900 Manitou Ave., 685-9815,

Confession: I am a childless adult who loves the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade. What's not to love about this time capsule, really? Many games take pennies, nickels or dimes and feature wooden mechanical figures or hand-painted moving backdrops. Pinball machines from every era stretch out in long rows. Children try out Skee-Ball machines that are older than their parents. There are newer games, too, along with rides for the kiddies, air hockey and even a photo booth. Bonus: Collect enough little red tickets and you can "buy" small toys or candy. Hey, you're never too old for taffy. — J. Adrian Stanley

Cultural Attraction/Museum Art Exhibition

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center/Eloquent Objects: Georgia O'Keeffe

30 W. Dale St., 634-5583,

The selection of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Eloquent Objects as "best" in these respective categories makes perfect sense in 2015 (The Year of O'Keeffe, according to the FAC). Of the four institutions to host the traveling exhibition nationally, the FAC is geographically closest to O'Keeffe's landscape muse. And the museum's deep ties to the American Southwest radiated from the lower galleries throughout the building thanks to impressive and diverse pieces from its permanent collection. They served both as stunning support to the visiting works of O'Keeffe and 25 of her contemporaries, as well as the aesthetic connector responsible for transforming the FAC into an eloquent object in its own right. As former Indy Arts Editor Edie Adelstein noted in her coverage of the exhibition in June, "The arts center itself may be the real star of the show." Indeed. — Vanessa Martinez

Place for a Wedding

Briarhurst Manor Estate

404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864,

"We've done more weddings here than anywhere except the Broadmoor Hotel," says Briarhurst President Ken Healey, "and we've been doing them longer than anywhere else except for the Broadmoor Hotel." The 1876 Tudor-style mansion and surrounding grounds will accommodate up to 800 people, but smaller, more intimate weddings can be equally extravagant at this property. "It's a very romantic setting. It's secluded. It's not in the middle of the city. There's plenty of parking," Healey adds. Customized wedding cakes are the icing on this matrimonial favorite, which also takes first place in the Best Restaurant for a Wedding Reception category this year (see the Food & Drink category winners in Best of Colorado Springs 2015, Vol. 1, at — Pam Zubeck

Movie Theater

Kimball's Peak Three Theater

115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 447-1945,

Nothing against sterile corporate chains, because God knows we all love 'em, but indie movie houses are still one of the best barometers of a city's cultural vitality. Thankfully, discerning cinephiles can count on Kimball's for the kind of films that would otherwise require a trip to Denver. This summer's offerings have ranged from a much-acclaimed Amy Winehouse documentary and a Brian Wilson biopic to Sundance-ready fare like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Oh yeah, and there's a fully stocked bar, too. Let's see Tinseltown top that. — Bill Forman

Reception/Banquet Facility

The Pinery

775 W. Bijou St., 634-7772; 12375 Black Forest Road, 495-9499,

In the picturesque Pikes Peak region, you'll often hear someone say, "If I could just bottle that view ..." So you'll be happy to know that when you book an event at The Pinery, the breathtaking views are included for free. Whether you're planning a wedding, prom, reception, family reunion, holiday party or corporate event, you're likely to find a perfect setting at one of The Pinery's two venues. The Pinery at the Hill offers multiple ballrooms, a chapel, meeting rooms, a fully stocked bar and lounge, plus spacious patios with panoramic views of the city lights. The Pinery at Black Forest features five acres with both indoor and outdoor chapels as well as an elegant ballroom, lighted waterfall, reflecting pool and gardens. — Jill Thomas

Cannabis Club

Studio A64

332 E. Colorado Ave., 930-9846,

Hail to the king, baby — the Springs' first cannabis club is still the best. When I visited to tell owner KC Stark that our readers selected him as a Best Of finalist, he was working with his staff on an autumn and winter drink menu. With the cold weather coming in, he's switching the smoothies out for a list of mocktails and coffee drinks, all to be named for famous weed strains. And with monthly theater and burlesque shows nailed down, Stark is now trying to land a regular cabaret show. It's good to be king. — Griffin Swartzell


Bronco Billy's Casino

233 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719/689-2142,

When you've got extra pocket change and want more "Ka-ching!" in your life than Candy Crush offers, head to Bronco Billy's Casino. You'll find round-the-clock entertainment designed to feed your dopamine needs for flashing lights, bright colors, simple games and seductively intermittent wins. And when your taste buds need their own stimulation, you can take a break in one of the casino's five eateries — ranging from a steakhouse to a snack bar — or grab a brew in the Tap Room, now serving 24/7. A Las Vegas firm just agreed to buy the successful complex for $30 million; here's hoping they don't change a thing. — Jill Thomas


The Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave., 634-7711,

Whether you stay in the historic Broadmoor Hotel, the longest-running 5-star hotel in the country, or book at one of the newer "luxury wilderness" retreats, you're bound for something special. The Broadmoor, which has entertained U.S. presidents and foreign dignitaries, offers amenities including a private lake with paddleboats, three golf courses, a spa and an infinity pool. Impeccably trained staff members remember your personal preferences and greet you by name. And then there's the food. The hotel's seven restaurants range from casual to formal, but it's the Lake Terrace Dining Room that wins Best Sunday Brunch, with 150-plus offerings that together compose an unparalleled flavor orgy. — Jill Thomas

Bed & Breakfast

Avenue Hotel Bed and Breakfast

711 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1277,

Want a place for friends and family that feels "homey," but isn't your home? The Avenue Hotel Bed and Breakfast's historic Queen Anne-style main house on Manitou Avenue features seven rooms — each with its own private bath — while the neighboring Carriage House offers two units complete with bedroom, bath, kitchen and living/dining rooms. You'll find all the amenities you might expect from a good hotel, but it's the extras like hot breakfast, free snacks, garden hot tub, family room fireplace, and official inn pets (Ollie, Zoey and Rena) that make it really feel like home. — Jill Thomas

Tourist Destination

click to enlarge Garden of the Gods - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods Park

1805 N. 30th St.

The oldest formations in Garden of the Gods, such as Kissing Camels, started as sand dunes some 300 million years ago. It's a magical place. So we're beyond fortunate that the Perkins family gave 480 acres of the park to the city in 1909 — with the stipulation that it always remain free to enter and open to the public. Since then, the city has expanded the park to more than 1,300 acres. In addition to the famous rocks, the Garden is also home to a nonprofit-owned visitor and nature center, which recently was expanded and remodeled. It now features state-of-the-art exhibit halls where you can explore the area's geology, flora and fauna; learn about early explorers; and even look at photos of the Garden from each of the past 365 days. — J. Adrian Stanley


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