Our Casa Bonita Adventure
Hello Joyful Travelers! I’m starting a series on Vacation at Home (sometimes called a Stay-cation) I live in Colorado, so I set about trying to find as many fun “travel” destinations close to home as I could, and then try and experience as many as possible before the snow starts falling. We usually have a really good snowstorm right around Halloween, but then we don’t see any of the white stuff again until January or so. So, hopefully I have a while to have my adventures right here at home!
My first adventure is one that is near and dear to my heart. (And, if you’re a South Park fan, will be familiar to you as well!) Casa Bonita, the amazing Mexican restaurant that feels a bit like a theme park. I can totally see why Cartman would want to get rid of some classmate to gain an invitation to a birthday party here! It’s a small-ish looking restaurant in the middle of a strip mall in Lakewood, CO. It sits between a Dollar Tree and a long-empty Hollywood Video store. The surroundings absolutely give you NO clue as to what is going to happen when you walk inside.
As you approach the restaurant you get an idea that something is a bit different about this place. There is a lovely bell tower out front behind a fountain. The theme of old Mexico is strong at the front door. There are assorted signs telling you about the amazing food that awaits (they may have overstated that a bit!) and other banners giving an idea of the entertainment that awaits. Gunfights, cliff diving, arcade amusements, puppet shows. The list goes on and on and they all sound absolutely amazing! (And, as it turns out, they actually are!)
After you walk in you go down a l-o-n-g aisle with pictures and descriptions of all of the menu items – really there’s not a big choice, it’s all between $16-$25 for a meal, and it is all low quality Mexican food, the kind you would expect to find in any strip mall restaurant. You have to consider the price of the meal as your “cover charge” to come into the mecca. You get to a cash register where you choose your meal. (I was able to find a discount coupon, $3 off the deluxe dinner on the Casa Bonita website) Then you move down another long hallway where you pick up your utensils, trays, and then your food and drinks. You follow, you guessed it, another long hallway to the entrance to the restaurant seating area. And boy, do they have a TON of seating!
Seating is a very important part of the Casa Bonita experience. Because, and you may not believe me, but I’ve got photographic evidence, there is a HUGE freaking waterfall right in the middle of the restaurant! And they do all sorts of shows, which usually ends up with someone diving off the cliff into the pool below. You definitely want to sit near the waterfall! There are lots of other seating areas that are cool (there’s one behind Black Bart’s cave that is stone and dark and all kinds of creepy!) but the waterfall is where the action is. We even saw a “escaped gorilla” during the show, which all the kids chased down to return the restaurant to safety. They really do have cute shows and great divers! Anyway, you’ll get seated, you get a server who brings your chips and salsa, and then you start on your meal.
Trust me when I tell you that the very last thing you’re there for is the food. You’ll eat your meal (Deluxe meal is a taco, two enchiladas, beans, and rice) But at the end of the meal you get something that is absolutely amazing and completely restores your faith in the restaurant. Sopapillas. Absolutely amazing little pockets of friend dough covered in honey. I could honestly make a meal just from these little treasures alone – and I nearly did! At left is what was left of our sopapilla basket when we were done with it. Don’t worry, we didn’t let the last one suffer alone, someone ate it!
After your meal you start to wander around the place. This is where all the fun stuff happens! We went yesterday, October 2nd, so they had all lovely Halloween decorations out. That’s me at right in one of the haunted rooms! There’s Black Bart’s cave, the puppet show, the arcade (upper and lower!) and the piñata area, where they have a piñata every couple of hours for the kids to demolish. Throw in a gift shop (yes, a gift shop in a restaurant!) a walking mariachi band, and random musical and water diving extravaganzas, and that is the beauty that is called Casa Bonita.
We easily spent three hours inside, having an absolute ball! It’s a little amazing to walk outside after all of that fun and discover that you are in a strip mall in the middle of Lakewood, Colorado. It’s absolutely not what I would have expected when I walked inside, and walking out is the same kind of surprise. I think that you have so much fun inside that you forget where you actually are. Walking outside is the ultimate of a dream-buster! But for me there was a happy surprise to discover that there was a Winchell’s Donut House right across the street. One of my favorites that we can’t get in Colorado Springs anymore, so I made sure that a dozen of those delicious babies made their way home with us as well. All in all it was a lovely adventure in a super iconic Colorado landmark that you literally have to see to believe!
Finally, on our way out, I had to get a shot of the sign that would send Cartman into a frenzy! Until next time, friends, Travel Joyful!