Approaching the entrance of The Broadmoor, a AAA Five Diamond property that has graced Colorado Springs since it formally opened in 1918, I could've sworn I spotted a deer leap into my peripheral view.
"Wait, was that real?" I asked my passenger, Maureen. A moment later, we spotted another half dozen whitetail cavorting in that same spot. What a memorable welcome those creatures made as we entered one of the oldest five-star resorts in America.
To call The Broadmoor a resort almost misses the point. Set on 5,000 acres, this property was originally modeled after the grand villas surrounding Lake Como in Italy. Since its opening over 100 years ago, the property has expanded to include 20 restaurants, cafes and lounges with dress codes from casual to formal (The Broadmoor has a four-paragraph treatise on Dressing for the Occasion), a variety of lodging options in multiple buildings, and more than 20 specialty, boutique and retail shops that include an art gallery, pet boutique, sports outfitters, jeweler and brand name clothiers. There's also a Forbes Five-Star spa and fitness center with hair and nail salon, and activities that include championship golf, tennis and pickleball.
Thinking about the vast array of dining options made us hungry, so we tore ourselves away from our stately and balconied guest room and its garden views to take in some dinner.
We arrived at Ristorante del Lago, whose Adam Tihany-designed fireplaced dining room is a vision in terra cotta tile, wood beams and windows open to the lake. The atmosphere is formal, but the food is all comfort. Over a bottle of smooth Brunello di Montalcino, my friend and I shared house-made pasta, wood-fired pizza, savory meatballs with polenta, and a plate of roasted cauliflower. All plates were exemplary, including a dessert of textbook-perfect tiramisu.
The next morning, we enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour at Café Julie's, a Parisian patisserie in the hotel lobby where a dedicated Valrhona chocolate kitchen turns out irresistible specialties every day. Then it was off for a leisurely Cadillac Escalade ride to the nearby Seven Falls, where water splashes hundreds of feet down a series of seven granite shelves. And for a real challenge, you climb 224 steps to the top and then rappel or zipline back down.
Three of the most unique wilderness experience adventure packages are offered outside The Broadmoor property, offering countless outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, fly fishing, archery, falconry, paintball, mountain biking and yoga. As we continued in our drive, we passed through a zoo (no longer owned by The Broadmoor) along the Cheyenne Mountain Highway that leads to Camp Cloud, which is 3,000 feet up from The Broadmoor (Camp Cloud is 9,200 feet above sea level). The Escalade stopped halfway up the highway so I could switch up my mode of transportation: I rode the rest of the way up on the back of a mule named Nora, who proved herself to be stubborn and required a strong pull on her reins for half the uphill trek.
The history of this land is fascinating, and before dinner, we gathered on the veranda outside the dining lodge to learn that in 1893, a woman named Katharine Lee Bates hiked up Pike's Peak — a noteworthy feat in and of itself — and was so inspired by the breathtaking view below her that she sat down and penned the lyrics to a song: "America the Beautiful." At Camp Cloud, this beloved anthem is played nightly from May through October, accompanied by a moving sunset flag ceremony.
Every aspect of dinner in the main lodge was like a dream, as was the chef's presentation of local Steelhead Trout á la Provençale. The next night, after I spent the day hiking and shooting archery, I was ready for another chef demonstration. This time, the chef deboned chicken wings and stuffed them with Italian sausage. They were crunchy and unique. After dinner, I hiked around a bit, and although tempted to soak in one of the two al fresco hot tubs, I opted for a spot at the campfire to conclude my evening with cognac and s'mores. Magical.