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Best Day Trip Denver 2005 - Manitou Springs

Just an hour and a half from Denver -- and a short, soul-restoring drive out of Colorado Springs -- Manitou Springs has got to be one of the most wonderfully weird places in Colorado, if not the world. Laden with kitschy mementos of the auto-mad '50s, when travelers motored west to mountains and drive-up motels, Manitou is a combination tourist trap and liberal enclave, an artists' community with a disproportionately large number of cigar-store Indians and ice-cream parlors. Victorian houses lie in colorful clusters across a mountain valley, and nutritious, mineral-laden spring water runs freely from taps all along the charming main street. There's an old-fashioned arcade, complete with nickel pinball machines and shooting games, and kiosks that sell lollipops and rock candy. Santa Claus sets up shop here in the off-season. And who can blame him? Manitou's a quick, easy escape from city life -- and reality.

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