Things to Do

Manitou Springs brings the olde-timey weirdness

Wherever you go, chances are that not too far away from you is a hidden gem tucked away in some off-the-path corner of the landscape, a weird little spot that somehow got bounced off the flatbed of time and just kind of stayed there -- to find it, you just have to know where to look. Where I'm from in Michigan, that's a town called Frankenmouth, a little one-street oasis in the middle of nowhere where it's Christmas all the time. Around here, I submit that it's Manitou Springs -- a little one-street Oasis where it's, well, kind of Christmas all the time.

Except during the winter, interestingly, when the North Pole, Manitou's hilarious Santa-themed amusement park, is closed for the season. But while I was a little disappointed we couldn't hit up the Pole during our jaunt down to Manitou yesterday -- seriously, it's the crown jewel: It looks like the sky vomited the 1960s all over the side of Pikes Peak -- there's still plenty of stuff to do to keep yourself amused for a day in Colorado's most awesome side-show attraction of a town.

Stuff, for instance, like the Arcade, six buildings' worth of nostalgia for anyone born in about the last 100 years -- "arcade" meaning not just in the more recent place-place-to-play-video-games sense, but also in an old-school moving picture sense (turn the handle and flip the pages), in a boardwalk-style carnival-ride sense and even occasionally in a mildly pornographic sense -- very mildly, but still, if some of the games in there are indications of the eras they come from, pretty much every era was just a sex-obsessed as ours. Not only did your grandparents have sex, kids, they thought about it just as much as you do. Gross.

There's also a beautiful array of pinball tables from several decades -- probably the most hilarious of which is Captain Fantastic featuring Elton John. Unlike many self-consciously "antique" attractions like this, though, it's not just all about the nostalgia of your parents and grandparents -- even as an 80s baby, I found some nostalgia for my own adolescence in the original Virtua Racing for Sega Genesis (one of the first games ever released on a 3D-graphics platform), and the place also sports newer titles like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

And that's mainly what's so great about it: Other than that there are games, there is absolutely no theme here. Just a random hodge-podge of the weird stuff that entertains us, past and present.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte