Pranava Yoga Center (718 N. Weber St., 444-8463, pranavayogacenter.com)
For four years, the first four since the Indy created the Best Yoga Studio category, CorePower reigned supreme. But in the most loving, kind and gentle manner, Pranava Yoga Center has unseated it this year, settling into a comfortable lotus position atop our scene.
What makes Pranava different from our other local studios, in founders Mike and Charlotte Matsumura's words, is a more spiritual component with a focus on all eight limbs of yoga: "The asana [physical] practice is just one part of yoga," says Mike. "We also practice pranayama [breathing], meditation and the other limbs."
Both Mike, 39, and Charlotte, 40, teach almost daily, along with 13 other regular instructors and occasional guest educators. All combined, the studio offers nearly 40 classes a week inside of five primary styles: Ashtanga, Dharma, Jivamukti, Vinyasa and gentle yoga.
Since it opened in January 2009, Pranava has enjoyed steady growth in student numbers that just last month spawned establishment of a necessary third practice area in their building's basement. It's a newly renovated, freshly trimmed space that holds 45 mats; their other rooms only hold 28 and 14, guaranteeing a relatively low teacher/student ratio.
"Our students are the best part of this," says Mike. "We meet wonderful people — this is their studio, too. It's a community."
You can read more about Mike, Charlotte and all the instructors and styles on the outfit's website, but not the whole story about how hard the couple has worked to make Pranava a reality. In addition to teaching nine classes a week, Charlotte works full-time as a mortgage processor for a local bank. Mike teaches 11 to 12 classes a week and has worked tirelessly to create and certify Pranava's 200-hour teacher training program; the first class will be welcomed in January 2011.
Some more fun trivia about the two: After falling in love in 2006 in New York City, where renowned yogi Sri Dharma Mittra had just initiated Mike as one of his disciples, Mike followed Charlotte to Colorado Springs, where he worked in room service at The Broadmoor for a stint before deciding to open Pranava. Prior to their time together, Mike was Al Pacino's personal assistant, home chef and property manager for 16 years. Yes, that's Al Pacino, the A-list actor of A-list actors. (FYI: Mike's reserved about discussing it at length, so don't ask him about it before he puts you in a headstand.)
Yoga's future in the West and the Springs: "It's going to get bigger," says Charlotte. "Once you take a class and get hooked, it tends to be something you stick with." According to Mike, "Every studio here is important to help make us a yoga town, like Boulder. The Springs could be the next big yoga town, just like how when people think about a spiritual town, they mention Crestone." — Matthew Schniper
Bear Creek (21st and Rio Grande streets, adm.elpasoco.com)
There's no better place to get your butt sniffed than at Bear Creek dog park. Established in 1997, the county park covers 25 acres, including a portion of the creek where dogs can splash or drink, and a small-dog area for the less socialized or more vulnerable. Roughly 100,000 people and their dogs enjoy the park annually, taking in the view in the Rocky Mountain foothill expanse, resting on several benches and hiking a three-quarter mile trail. What makes Bear Creek special is the active volunteer group, Lovers of Off-Leash Parks, who help maintain it. The group also contributes money, $5,000 so far this year, for maintenance. This dog park also has been recognized as one of the Top 10 dog parks nationally, according to El Paso County public works chief Tim Wolken.
Park plans: A $197,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado will fund a restroom facility and a dog wash area. It also will pave and light the parking lot, repair the drainage system at the park and repair the banks along Bear Creek, among other things. — PZ
Mr. Biggs (5825 Mark Dabling Blvd., 955-7220, mrbiggsffc.com)
Looking for something to do? Mr. Biggs has just about everything. Well, enough to keep the young and the old occupied for hours and to build memories worth storing. This 117,500-square-foot indoor play center, locally owned and operated since 2005, offers more than three acres of rides, games and other diversions for the family. Blacklight miniature golf, bowling, go-carts, laser tag, bumper cars, 80 arcade games, bounce houses, and even a new X-Treme Challenge Gladiator Fusion Arena will whet your appetite for on-site pizza and more. The best part: The prices won't break the piggy bank. — DK
The Money Museum (818 N. Cascade Ave., 632-2646, money.org)
Which country has an entire collection of coins dedicated to the adventures of Harry Potter? What does a nickel worth $4 million dollars look like? You can find out these answers and more at the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum. "We're the Springs' best-kept secret," says curator Douglas Mudd. "We're also the only money museum in the U.S." Kids can dig into a treasure chest to pick out the perfect coin to take home. Collectors can admire the only complete set of $3 gold pieces in the world. Interactive screens make it easy for anyone who wanders in to look up information on each piece. "Money gives a different perspective on history that most people don't know about," says Mudd. And money isn't all there is: You can check out Oliver Cromwell's death mask in an exhibit called "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," while "Money of the Civil War" comes with a cannon. — LB
Double Eagle Hotel & Casino (442 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 800/711-7234, decasino.com)
There's a reason Double Eagle has won this category ever since it was created five years ago: It puts players first, says marketing director Leslie Harris. "Customer service sounds so cliché," she says, "but we've become family with the customers." She says the casino, which covers a city block, has free valet parking, 158 hotel rooms, three restaurants and a coffee shop. As far as gaming goes, you get 700 machines and craps, roulette, blackjack and slots. Oh, did we mention the giveaways? This fall, it's offered windbreakers, binoculars, blankets and hats for players with points on their cards. "We try and keep it quality," Harris says. "The whole philosophy is about the players. We have customer comment cards we take very seriously." — PZ
Garden of the Gods (1805 N. 30th St., 634-6666, gardenofgods.com)
Doesn't matter how crowded it can be, or even how clichéd (among the most jaded of us) — Garden of the Gods still seems to be the place to go, even if you're a local. Everyone knows the scene: beautiful rising rocks, kissing camels, a balanced rock ... but nothing can compare to actually being at this unique city landmark. Two things are for sure: It brings our city together, and makes for great photo ops. — SW
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org)
For years, readers have named the FAC the area's top cultural attraction and museum, and when they opined on their favorite art exhibition, the 74-year-old institution cleaned up there as well. Though the results weren't exactly clear in this new category, readers had one idea in common when they voted for NASA | Art: 50 Years of Exploration, Conflict | Resolution, William Kentridge: The World Is Process and even 2008's blockbuster The Baroque World of Fernando Botero. "What we're striving to do, through exhibitions like NASA and Conflict | Resolution is to find ways to welcome the community in, in a more substantive manner," says museum director and curator of American art Blake Milteer. With an approach that usually includes lectures, discussion sessions and family days, the FAC has broadened its reach beyond art exhibits, plays and Bemis Art School classes. "One of the questions I always ask myself," says president and CEO Sam Gappmayer, "is one about relevance to our community. And that doesn't mean we're looking to dumb down or meet a common denominator, but there are artists dealing with issues that have deep relevance to the people who live here." — EA
Rubbish Gallery (17B E. Bijou St., 355-0280, rubbishgallery.com)
Rubbish's first-ever win in this category comes at a time of heavy transition for the gallery: Two of its three owners, Lorelei Beckstrom and Caitlin Goebel, are leaving for new ventures. But Rubbish has undergone plenty of changes over the years, and one of its original owners, Jon Lindstrom has always kept it afloat. And now Rubbish is getting some outside help, from gallery neighbor the Modbo: "Rather than just being a gallery, we're part of an arts district now," Goebel says. "We certainly could not have accomplished so much this year without the Modbo. I know that people love Rubbish and the Alley Arts District, and I think it's because we do a lot for the community out of our love for it." And, bottom line: "People know that most nights, there's a good chance they can go to Rubbish and have a good time — catch a great band, hear live poetry, and see beautiful art." — EA
What-If Festival (whatif-festival.org)
This year's inaugural What If festival that took place all over downtown deserves huge kudos. Sponsored by Imagination Celebration, the free daylong fest brought together an amazing variety of educational activities focusing on innovation and imagination for all ages. From African dancers to robot demonstrations, Parkour exhibitions to theatre improv classes, What If engaged people's minds, approximately 15,000 of them — a number we're sure will grow as the festival expands in 2011. — KA
Springs Salsa & Dance Fitness (2506 W. Colorado Ave., Unit C, 520-1201; 1220 Valley St., 591-1419, springssalsa.com)
In my past life, I was a yoga booty ballerina. A zumba dance floor queen. A sorceress of the salsa. I'm sure of it. Unfortunately, in this life, I am a klutz and a curse upon any dance instructor. Now, that said, I have taken a few casual classes with the good folks of Springs Salsa, and I gotta tell you, these people are patient and good-hearted. Not only were they helpful, but they corrected my misplaced feet and my jerky hips without making me feel like an idiot, and without taking the fun out of it. Springs Salsa, which has won this category all three years we've had it, offers about 40 classes a week at two locations in everything from Salsa to Masala Bhangra to (my favorite name) Yoga Booty Ballet. Co-owner Mark Wexler says the studio concentrates on fitness dancing, nightclub salsa, pole dance fitness — don't worry, you keep your clothes on — and TRX, a type of suspended-weights training system. Teachers are certified, and in many cases, Wexler and others have trained with the original inventors of new fitness dances. — JAS
Rebecca Hyde (hydehouseart.com)
Rebecca Hyde says she has creative ADD. "I will get really passionate and really involved in something, and then I get bored," she says, "so I'll just be crazy and do ceramics for a couple of months and then I'm done with it, and then I move on to the next medium."
And Hyde, 43, works in just about anything: paint, pen and ink, sculpture and stained glass, and she also creates artists' books (sculpture and book combined). Her inspirations range from anthropology to technology, song lyrics to art as catharsis.
She started creating art seriously in order to work through an emotional time in her life, back in 1999.
"Artists are very self-absorbed," she says with a laugh. "Unfortunately, a lot of artwork tends to be out of those strange sources of our personal life."
Hyde was born in Englewood, but grew up in Southern California. She eventually settled in Colorado Springs in 1990, working today as a graphic designer for a real estate company. Often, the best place to see her latest work is hydehouseart.com, but Hyde recently exhibited at East Library, displaying her artists' books and what she calls "future artifacts," found objects with a modern function that she's made to look as if dug up by someone in the distant future. She plans to work with Imagination Celebration on a show soon.
A crossover work that blends her "Future" series with the artists' books is "Drink Up Dreamers," made from sheets of copper normally used for circuit boards. It's beat up, tarnished and wrinkled, its text a series of bar codes that spell out "Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry," from a Peter Gabriel song.
In a similar series, Hyde fashioned scrolls printed with QR codes, which, when snapped by a smart phone, reveal a paragraph of text from a short story her sister wrote.
The story of Hyde's creative process may be one of the most intriguing aspects of her art. She says her concept or idea drives the decision on what medium to work with. "I'll be excited about a concept [which] works best in clay, and then I'll move on to a different concept and then that moves me into fiber art or into encaustic or into a book.
"I used to be frustrated by that," she says. "But what I've discovered it that I eventually come full circle. So I'll be mixed media and then I'll move into the next one and the next one, and eventually I get back to mixed media."
That variety makes it hard to market herself, she concedes, but it actually mirrors the way she views the greater art scene. When asked about area art, Hyde says, "There's a fantastic diversity in Colorado Springs, in general ... and that is witnessed in the artwork." — Edie Adelstein
Downtown is lovely, as are Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs, but there's much more to the Springs than those three areas. Here's our top pick for how to spend a day on the north end. Start at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, east of the Air Force Academy. One of the area's undiscovered gems, the museum features more than 4,000 artifacts on 27 acres. After getting your cultural fill, head back to the Promenade Shops at Briargate for a quick, but tasty and inexpensive, lunch at Bird Dog BBQ. Hit up some of the locally owned stores at the outdoor mall, including Gloss Denim Bar and Lucy & Louise Atelier, or take the kids to Color Me Mine to paint a ceramic masterpiece. Just a few minutes south off Interstate 25 and Nevada Avenue, visit the University Village retail area for an afternoon treat at Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato and a slice of resale heaven at XSThreadz. And then, assuming you've made reservations, do dinner at Margarita at PineCreek. A true oasis hidden off I-25 and Woodmen Road, the restaurant features fresh, local ingredients, family-farmed meats and some of the best vegetarian dishes in the city. — KA
Hans Paap's "Portrait of a Cowboy" (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 634-5581, csfineartscenter.org)
Between "Hank" downtown and Charles M. Russell everywhere else, I'd gripe that we reached cowboy-art critical mass a long time ago. But I can't, not after having seen Hans Paap's "Portrait of a Cowboy" from The American West: Cowboys From the Collection at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Though subtle at first, with time, everything about this work grows wonderfully strange. It's both colorful and dimly cast. Its composition is simple but strikingly immediate; a half-imposing character sitting right in front of you, likely on a rock over on a high vantage point. In contrast, the background is oddly indistinct, pastel hills and blotchy clouds. For such a ho-hum moment, the work feels incredibly dramatic. And mysterious — no one knows who this cowboy is. "We don't have terribly many portraits of cowboys," says Blake Milteer, FAC museum director and curator of American art. "They're always engaged in some sort of action, like a round-up or a calf roping or something." Paap was originally from Germany, but made a living painting the American West. Judging from the few other Paap works that can be found online, he formed a signature daubing style that's just, well, a touch weird. And it works. This piece will be on display through next March. — EA
CityRock (21 N. Nevada Ave., 634-9099; 16240 Old Denver Road, Monument, 481-9099, climbcityrock.com)
Colorado is famous for several things, but snow and rocks are pretty high on the list. Unfortunately, they're often incompatible. If you love the latter but not the former, befriend CityRock for the winter. Located in the former Ute Theater, the downtown branch has special features like slacklines, rappel caves and dry tooling setups for ice climbers. There's a smaller but similarly accommodating facility in Monument. By the time good weather rolls around again, you may not want to go anywhere else.
Gazing into the crystal crampon: Manager Matthew McKinley foresees that next year, "Pikes Peak erupts and gains 200 feet of fine rock climbing at Summit House." — CAS
Memorial Skateboard Park (1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., springsgov.com)
Visit springsgov.com and you can view four Memorial Park Skateboard Park webcams aimed at the 40,000-square-foot, Team Pain-built attraction. Roam the Internet a little bit more and you'll find comments about the park — one of the largest in the country — such as, "Combi bowl is the best bowl I've ever skated," and, "Pool is gnarly." Of course, a BMXer left this little tidbit on concretedisciples.com: "This park is fun to ride. One of my friends ... was dropping in to the bowl and clipped his back tire on the coping. The result of this was a 15-foot fall to concrete and he ruptured his spleen, broke out his two front teeth and fractured a disc in his back." On second thought, that's gnarly. Perhaps you don't want to visit the webcams. — KA
Raptor Captor (Manitou Arcade, 900 block of Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, 685-9815)
Some people play the games at the Manitou Arcade because it's fun. And some people play the games to earn tickets to get that awesome samurai sword set at the prize counter. Some people once saved up enough tickets for a faded, framed poster of Ricky Martin. Did I mention these particular high-rollers were in college? Or that they fed rolls of quarters into their game of choice, Raptor Captor, to get said prizes? Neon-hued with a dinosaur theme, Raptor Captor lives in the penny arcade room, and if you launch a plastic ball just right, you can get 1,000 tickets at once. Those are just the facts. A perennial sugar daddy in game form, Raptor Captor holds a dear place in my — I mean, someone's — heart. — EA
Motion Studies (4460 N. Chestnut St., 635-7844, motionstudies.com)
There are more than 20 Pilates studios in Colorado Springs, but little Motion Studies has some dedicated patrons making it this year's No. 1, up from No. 3 last year. Owned by Mary Ripper Baker and Diane Massik, Motion Studies schedules more than a dozen group classes every week. But you can also do a lot more than Pilates at this Chestnut Street treasure; it also offers message therapy, physical therapy and yoga. Ultimately, it's a wellness center — and not the kind with a green cross. — SW
By train, then foot
OK, I haven't actually tried this yet, so it's purely theoretical, and you'll probably want to consult a trainer or physician in order to avoid things like injury and death. But the idea is to take the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak, and then walk back down. The descent's downside, if you will, is that it can be tough on the knees. But you're also likely to get less winded, and at least one study suggests that hiking downhill lowers blood sugar levels — which can help reduce the risk of Type II diabetes — more than hiking uphill. One last advantage: You're less likely to give up halfway, since that would just mean turning around and going back up to the top. — BF
Marika's Coffeehouse (739 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-4438, marikascoffeehouse.com)
Good things just come together on their own when it comes to finding artwork to hang, says Marika co-owner Christine Georgopoulos. "Most of the time, we're lucky," she says. "It's almost out of our hands, in a weird way." Christine, who runs the hip but low-key coffee shop in Manitou Springs with her brother Alex, says sometimes the same day one art show ends, a new artist will walk in with an assortment of pieces. Christine and Alex review the work, which they try to keep local, and hang it in one of the shop's meandering rooms. But you'd have to say the two have just as much good taste for art as they do coffee. So far, the house has harbored works by an immensely talented group that includes Lorelei Beckstrom, Neil Fenton and Aaron North. And if you need any more nudging, go for one of Christine's incredible cupcakes — for the ultimate sugar-coma dream, look for the chocolate chip cookie dough variety. Also, anyone on staff can turn out a fabulous mocha. — EA
Kimball's Peak Three Theater (115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 447-1945, kimballspeakthree.com)
Could our favorite theater be behind the times? For one thing, Kimball's Peak Three never even showed the multi-mega-disaster film 2012. (The shame!) For another, every year their website text becomes obsolete. You know, that part that reads, "Kimball's has been voted best theater for 14 years ..." Yep, fellas, it's time to make that 15. Anyway, we'd tell you all the reasons it keeps winning — the great independent and foreign films, an on-site wine bar, more traditional snacks and the occasional special film-related event — but you know this already, and it all keeps Kimball's close to your heart. Still. Forever. Until the end of time. Or 2012. Whichever comes first.
The big-screen disaster we'll be watching beyond 2012: "Miley Cyrus wins an Oscar for Best Performance," quips Kimball's general manager Matt Stevens. "Now, that would be a disaster to me." — JT