Sep 212011
Authors: Lydia Jorden

Flashing plastic swords, a mariachi band, a dark cave and a moderately sized gift shop: these are all things that make Casa Bonita the second happiest place on Earth.

“Just a confirmation reminder, since I know your schedule is difficult: Friday equals Casa Bonita night. It’s on and you’ll love it.”

This poetic and beautiful greeting was posted on my Facebook wall by the equally poetic and beautiful Allison Sylte in preparation for, what I now refer to as, “the best night of my life.”

On Friday, I learned that this very restaurant, Casa Bonita, that I was soon to attend, is one of the top 10 roadside attractions in the country. This sparked my interest, as I am a seasoned roadside attraction visitor. With the Flying W Ranch and Terry’s Bison Ranch under my belt, I knew I needed to put the Casa Bonita stamp in my “hokey places visited” passport.

My friends and I departed Fort Collins at 5 p.m. in an effort to arrive early enough to bask in all of Casa Bonita’s magnificence. Unfortunately, my friends’ bladders had other arrangements.

Twenty minutes into our drive there were complaints of kidney pain. We had to immediately pull over at a sketch Shell station in Longmont for a bathroom break. We piled out of the car and headed to the restroom. Anticipating the arrival to Casa Bonita is clearly too exciting for the group of friends I went with.

Fifteen flushes later, we were back on the road and hit I-25 traffic. But we had our eyes on the prize — we were headed to Casa Bonita. Nothing, not even traffic, stood in the way of our excitement. We were also lucky enough to have Allison’s Busta Rhymes/Ludacris mix CD to pass the time.

After arriving and doing our “best spot in the lot” dance, we slammed the car doors shut and eagerly ran towards the welcoming fountain, which presented a prime photo opportunity.

The water cascading down the sides of the fountain caused a spontaneous glimmer in my eyes. The rushing stream made me reminisce about my childhood — swimming in pools, running in sprinklers — this was indeed a passionate experience. Feeling sensitive, I walked through the double doors and headed toward the line to purchase my food.

“…and the best part is that you can choose the color of your tray!” a friend told me, acting like she had just chosen the most magical thing in the world.

Hearing this news snapped me out of my emotional dismay and back into Casa Bonita mode.

After ordering an absolutely disgusting taco salad, and therefore only consuming one piece of lettuce, I decided to bask in the beauty of Casa Bonita’s endless sopapillas.

I can conclude that sopaipillas are what customers keep coming back to eat. Whenever a table feels a sopaipilla craving approaching, they raise a miniature flag that is attached to a stand that sits on the table, signaling a waiter to bring more delightful, doughy desserts! It really can’t get much better than that.

But, it did get better. Apparently, our large table appealed to the mariachi band so much that they decided to sing happy birthday to us. After all, they could not miss us when almost the entire table — less frugal me and my comrade Cameron — bought flashing swords. We’re all in our 20s.

The joy the mariachi brand brought to our table certainly foreshadowed the rest of our night.

Unlike other restaurants, when you’re done eating at Casa Bonita, you do not simply leave, but rather, you explore the surroundings.

As we walked over to the highly coveted cave, we stumbled upon a cliff diving show —the reason for the strong chlorine smell in the restaurant, and possibly the reason for my soggy taco salad.

Our eyes were glued to the Hollywood-worthy actors as they dove off the second floor into the pool below, some even clad in gorilla suits. After the exciting Broadway suggestive performance, we were lucky enough to stumble into a child’s piñata birthday party.

I made my way into the dark cave right past the screaming candy hoarders to seek shelter. Around every corner lurked a statue that desperately tried to scare the restaurant guests.

Our experience ended when the exit of the cave directed us to the gift shop. I didn’t want the night to be over, so the least I could do was purchase a Casa Bonita branded item to remember my experience.

As I use my new 10 color retractable pen, boasting the name Casa Bonita, I think about last Friday night.

Casa Bonita: Was it worth it?


Lydia Jorden is a junior business major. Her column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at

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