Colorado Springs is overlooked as a travel destination, its charms overshadowed by Focus on the Family, tales of Ted Haggard and the suburban sprawl along Academy Boulevard. But the downtown and west side make for a delightful two-day getaway that doesn't require breaking the bank for gas.
If you stay downtown and on the west side, and you'll love Colorado Springs.
No day in Colorado Springs is complete without a leisurely morning at Wooglin's Deli (823 North Tejon Street, 1-719-578-9443), reading the New York Times. You'll find yourself dreaming about the raspberry muffin and egg croissant here long after your vacation is over. After breakfast, take a stroll down Tejon Street past Colorado College and through downtown. Stop in Acacia Park (Tejon and Bijou streets) to wade in the Uncle Wilbur fountain or play a game of shuffleboard. While away a few more hours in Poor Richard's (320-324 North Tejon Street), four connected businesses that include a toy store with some great eclectic trinkets and a used bookstore that's a particular treasure trove. Mull over your choices with a slice of New York-style pizza in the restaurant or a cup of tea in the coffee shop.
Afterward, hit the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's modern extension (121 South Tejon Street, 1-719-634-5581) to view Portraits From the Modern Age of Jazz (through June 24) and recently uncovered photographs of Frida Kahlo, lover and artistic compatriot of Diego Rivera (July 1 through September 30).
For dinner, relax in the Warehouse Restaurant (25 West Cimarron Street, 1-719-475-8880) with a signature martini and such standouts as pecan-encrusted lamb loin and steak frite with truffle butter. Afterward, head back downtown to grab a movie (usually an indie) and an espresso or a glass of wine at Kimball's Twin Peak Theater (115 East Pikes Peak Avenue).
Venture a little farther out today, starting with a meal at Manitou Pancake & Steak House (26 Manitou Avenue, 1-719-685-9225), which is known affectionately as "biker breakfast." It's good, it's hearty, and all the bikers in town know it will kill any hangover. Drive farther up Manitou Avenue into Manitou Springs proper for a morning of arts-and-crafts browsing in the hippie-dippie mountain town. Be sure to stop in at Commonwheel Artists Co-Op (102 Cañon Avenue, 1-179-685-1008), a gallery filled with the work of forty local artisans. Then pack a snack from one of the markets and buy a ticket for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway ($32; 515 Ruxton Avenue, 1-719-685-5401) for touristy fun on the highest train in the United States. The route is 8.9 miles long and takes about three hours, but the view is remarkable.
Grab a late lunch at Adam's Mountain Cafe (934 Manitou Avenue, 1-719-685-1430), which is veggie-friendly but still tasty. Don't overeat, though, because the next stop is Garden of the Gods (free; 1805 North 30th Street, 1-719-634-6666), where the late-afternoon sunlight should be stunning on the rock formations. Take the Siamese Twins Trail for an easy one-mile walk through the park, or the Palmer Trail for a three-mile loop. Be sure to spy Balanced Rock and Kissing Camels.
For dinner, head back into Colorado Springs and grab a casual meal at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company (2 East Pikes Peak Avenue, 1-719-635-2800), which has dining downstairs and pool tables upstairs.
Where to Stay
Any room is great, but try to score the Buffalo Bill suite at the Cliff House at Pikes Peak. Check the website for frequent specials.
$199-$475 per night