Updated: Jul 16
Garden of the Gods is 2.14 sq. mile park located in Colorado Springs, CO that contains numerous stunning formations of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone. The naming of this park, was due to an ante-bellum cerevisaphile mentioning that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". Awestruck by the impressive rock formations, his friend exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why, it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble". More details on it's naming and history can be found here.
If you want a step by step guide on how you should inspect the park, click here.
If you just want a light breezy overview containing some glib comments and stunning photos then just continue reading.
1. Balanced Rock: This is the most iconic formation in the park. It was once private property and fenced, to ensure that tourists could only see it for a fee. Note to Self: Find stunning rock formation, charge tourists to view it.
- Visit this formation first, you need to get there early, as the rock will eventually topple and you need to beat the rest of those damn tourists, all of whom will attempt get in the way and mar your photographs. After all who wants a photo of Balanced Rock with a guy in a tank top with a wife whose t-shirt reads "I'm with stupid ---->".
- Try and take a photo of just the rock, proudly standing alone, a natural marvel that has outlasted time and the elements - a majestic wonder. If you must, take a photo of someone who pretends to hold it up (like this dork).
2. Sleeping Giant is probably the second most famous formation, though if you ask me it looks like Snoopy. The little divot by his feet is called the Keyhole Window.
3. The Main Parking Lot Park enables you to park your car and inspect numerous formations.
- Just south of the lot there may be mule deer grazing (named because they have big ears like a mule).
- Scan the ridge line of White Rock for tightrope walking bighorn sheep (named because they have big horns).
4. Parking Lot 3 (P3): This is more of a put in, then a parking lot. Either way pull over and take a photo looking south along the spine of the park. It reminded me of the back of Godzilla (Oh no, there goes Tokyo).
5. Kissing Camels is also quite famous, though honestly not that romantic.
6. Unless you crave, Indian dolls, beanie babies, spatulas, gummy bears, honey, and non-alcoholic moonshine (??!?), give the independently owned and operated Trading Post the go-by, there are more than enough tchotchkes at the official Visitor Center to pacify any hoarder's cravings.
After touring the Garden of the Gods, you will be parched (at least I was) and as it will be getting close to Beer O'clock, may I recommend:
1. Royal Tavern: Your cell phone Maps app may list this as a dive bar, which while not necessarily a bad thing, is not 100% accurate. It's about a 10 minute drive from the park to Manitou Springs. Located on the main drag, it has huge storefront windows for people watching, serves cold beer at reasonable prices with friendly service, and has a pool table.
2. Make a left out of the Royal Tavern and walk about 100 feet and you will come across the Shoshone Springs Font. Manitou Springs is famous for their . . . springs. They dot the place like measles on the face of Jenny McCarthy's children. Take a sip of the effervescence water that is chock full of minerals. There are organized tasting tours of all the springs in Manitou, but that all seems a little too "fussy".
3. The Keg: Located a further 100 feet down. A good place for an after beer nosh of Berry Salad for her (add the salmon) and a Turkey Club for him (just go with the chips). Wash it down with a 31° Bud draft. Sit in a booth directly to the left or the right of the door.
4. Parking in Manitou Springs is metered. It's either 30 minutes for free or pay if you need to stay longer. Either way you need to get a receipt from a parking kiosk and put it on your dashboard. You could just keep going back to the parking kiosk every 30 minutes to get a new receipt for free parking (this, of course, is just a hypothetical).
Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs Miscellaneous
• Alchemy: This place is the most aptly named bar I've ever patronized. The word "alchemy" means the "attempt to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir". This place is attempting to convert a base Irish pub into to a gold, hip and trendy cocktail bar (and presumably make money from both ends). It is appointed with all the required Irish pub accoutrements: the mirrored Jameson sign, Guinness on tap, and in this case a mashup¹ of the Irish and Colorado State flags (which presumably may be offensive to both "ethnicities"). The menu includes the requisite Irish beer to which the requisite craft beer has been added ("Nitro Milk Stout" anyone?). To all this, has been added "Libations" such as "Frozen Irish Flag", "Lava Lowball 10" and "Fire & Water". I got an extra bad vibe about all of this when our "mixologist" started comparing the Simpsons tattoos on his forearm with the Simpson tattoos on a patron's forearm (what are the odds?!), so I decided to play it safe by going with an unscrewupable "Jim Beam on the rocks", but he screwed it up . . . by using crushed ice. My wife tried the "Akira" (Cilantro, Coconut, Vodka, Ginger, Citrus) which believe it or not was so unpalatable that I had to help her out (a reverse give it to Mikey . . .). I decided to pass on the entrée, as I didn't think they could pull off the "Dublin Lawyer"(Shrimp, Lobster, Gnocchi, Whiskey-Mushroom Cream). So in the end this attempt at alchemy was quite unsuccessful (which is, actually part of the definition). Ohhh, and the service was extremely slow.
• Benny's: The Simpson patron from Alchemy recommended this place and I went there for a drink anyway. It's a very nice and spacious version of the classic sports bar: tv's everywhere, pool tables, dart boards and cheap beer. Benny was a former ballplayer (possibly in the Cardinals organization) and local broadcaster who opened the bar in 1953 and covered the place with some really interesting photos of old time baseball players. Be the first to name the ballplayer in this photo and you will be rewarded with an official After Action Report Mug (a $50 value).
• Jives Coffee Shop: The manager/part owner is from Croatia and has set this place up like a European café where I can sit outside, enjoy my coffee (and nosh) and people watch. The other part owner, Randy is a former Zoomie, entrepreneur, and renaissance man (knowledgeable about everything from procreation to databases to Exodus 21:20-21).
• Maté Factor Café in Manitou Springs: This place may or may not be run by a cult, which either way provides friendly service and tasty sandwiches in a fantasy mountain cabin setting (imagine if Bilbo Baggins built a café . . . for normal sized people). One of the "members" was carrying a month old baby and when asked what the baby's name was, replied "I don't know, we haven't named her yet, but it will be something Hebrew". My wife humbly volunteered her name, which may (or may not) meet the specs, I guess we'll see.
- At this point you may be asking yourself what exactly is maté? Well it's a tea-like beverage, popular in many South American countries, brewed from the dried leaves of an evergreen shrub called the yerba mate.
Note: The name of the drink (or the café) can be spelled mate or maté in English, the latter represents a hypercorrection to distinguish its pronunciation from that of the common English word mate. It is never spelled with an acute accent in Spanish, as maté in Spanish means “I killed.”
- Adam’s Mountain Café: A 2,500 calorie cinnabon drenched in sugar and butter. Cross it off the bucket list.
• Rented the laconic *Cozy getaway in Old Colorado City! Cozy prices! for $99/night (inclusive of a Cleaning fee: $150, Service fee: $112 and Occupancy taxes and fees: $82).
- Cell phone Map apps, as well as the owners directions have you arrive at the front of this Airbnb, which is nothing but trees and overgrown grass growing out of a small hill, with no sight of a "Cozy getaway". Which can all be a little unsettling when you arrive at dusk after a long drive. To access our accommodations required driving down a small, unpaved alley located in the rear (like the road to the Bat Cave). First impressions³ do matter and we were not off to a good start.
- I'm going to assume that by "Cozy prices!", they mean "a ridiculously high price for small basement apartment that lacks sound insulation and smells like Febreze!"
- The smart tv (via three remotes) allowed me to access my Amazon and Netflix accounts (which was nice), but to watch "tv", my only option was Xumo, which according to Wikipedia is an "a free, advertising video on demand (AVOD), internet television service that primarily offers a selection of programming content through digital linear channels designed to emulate the experience of traditional television programming, and supported by revenue generated from video advertisements inserted into the service's programming streams in designated conventional television-styled commercial breaks". Got that? Well if you ask me it is a "free service that plays all the channels you've never heard of". Want to watch the HiYay!, MMAjunkie or the Real Nosey channel? Then Xumo² is for you. If you would rather watch a channel with tv shows you've heard of, then it's not. You know, sometimes you just want to watch what's on tv, and when that's the case Xumo just doesn't cut it.
- A few days in, the Missus figured out how to access xfinity tv (she's a lifesaver).
• The area of our lodgings is called Old Colorado City, it and nearby Manitou Springs are filled with numerous classic roadside motels many of which have names like LaFun, Silver Saddle Motel and Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ I'm a hard-ass when it comes to flag etiquette and am disappointed with people who would never think of defacing the U.S. flag, but think nothing of defacing another country's flag (like, say . . . Ireland). And don't even get me started by all the Colorado State Flag doormats I see throughout the Centennial State.
² To paraphrase Robin Williams, Xumo is "180 channels of chrome plated cacka"
³ First and Last Impressions: Regarding romance, blogs and airbnbs you need to focus on primacy and recency, as people forget everything in between.