Cultural Exploration Destinations North America

The Art Scene in Manitou Springs

After a couple of days in Colorado Springs, we decided to take a short drive to Manitou Springs. Manitou Springs is a “vibrant” artisan community, with well-known artists and their galleries, lively pubs, restaurants, theaters, arcades museum, lots of hiking trails, as well as creative street arts on display.  

This vibrant community is located about 7 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, fairly close to Pikes Peak Mountain and Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Many tourists come here to either stay or pass through it to see other sites Colorado has to offer all year around.

Manitou Springs received its name from the Native American Indians meaning “great spirit.” Throughout this historical town are eight naturally carbonated mineral spring fountains. Many of the natives believed that these springs had healing powers that cleansed the mountain air, so this area became popular among tourists to venture for a healing experience. Today, health and wellness centers continue to attract travelers to visit many of its holistic and spiritual retreats.

Manitou Springs has a long history starting in 1880, when Pikes Peak Cog Railway ran up the mountain, beside the pine forest and rugged canyons to deliver people and goods. Dr. William Bell discovered Manitou Springs in 1872 with the intentions of it being a scenic health resort in which he opened Briarhurst Manor. This National Register of the Historic estate is still open today as fine dining restaurant.

Upon entering Manitou Springs I recommend a stop at the Manitou Springs Visitor Center to pick up information about various places to see as well as a walking map. You will know you’ve arrived in Manitou Springs when you come upon the retired train car with the City of Manitou Springs welcome sign on the right. Across the street at the Manitou Art Center. There is a vast mural painting by Monty “El Mac” McGregor and Larry “Fuse” Mastersin depicting the face of Floyd Tunson, who is an internationally known local Manitou Springs artist.

Lodging is available in the historic downtown. Options like the The Cliff House with its unique 1800’s Victorian style are a tourist favorite. If you want small lodging establishments, several bed & breakfast accommodations are available. Some secluded lodgings are also available such as cabins or small cottages, as well as RV Parks & campgrounds along the water’s edge in town.  Many of the luxury wellness resorts also offer rooms that are sure to meet your needs and energize your spirit.

After parking the car, we started walking up Arcade Street to the main corridor. We stopped into Mountain High Gallery and Gifts. Several artists are on display at this gallery from painters, wood craftsmen, jewelry designers to photographers and potters.

Our eyes were drawn to pottery called Horse Hair Pottery. Each piece is hand poured and sanded until smooth, then cleaned to ensure that each feature is well defined. Each piece is painted from natural ingredients, misted, colored, and then fired. Next, while the piece is red hot, horse hair is applied in style,  giving each piece its originality.

We couldn’t walk away without purchasing one of these unique pottery pieces and it is a good thing we left with making only one purchase because there are so many beautiful pieces. We continued our walk and few steps later we found a large mural painted on the side of a building which of course I had to stop to snap few pictures of it.  


Under the painted mural we found Radiantly Raw Chocolate which sells raw chocolate from unrefined fruit of the cacao tree, without added sugar, milk or vegetable oil. After tasting a few samples and making a purchase, we walked into the adjoining store called Anna’s Apothecary selling various herbal remedies as well as oils and soaps.

As we continued our walk, we decided to stroll south on Manitou Avenue. If glass art is something you collect, visit Glass Blowers which has been in business for 44 years offering gorgeous pieces to purchase.

Standing out on the sidewalk were three wooden carved black bears which we had to stop and pose with for a picture. Many interesting gift shops selling t-shirts to Christmas ornaments were open for business.

Another great gallery is the Green Horse Gallery. Pottery filled the shelves with unique designs and patterns. The gallery featured several local artists, painters and wood craftsmen. One particular artist caught our eye. The artist designed decorative images of flowers out of paper.

Manitou Springs is home to many internationally famous historic restaurants. Dining experiences in Manitou Springs ranged from high cuisine to street food carts. Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant offers a romantic four-course fondue meal located in the historic Pikes Peak Hotel.  The Sarah’s Cafe serves Mediterranean Greek style gyro’s for eat-on-the-go type meals. Depending on the time and type of dining experience you wish to have, Manitou Springs offers many restaurants to choose from.

Ruxton Street is another famous street to visit in Manitou Springs. Several murals can be found here as well as Tracy Mills Art Gallery. My husband stood in front of the chalk mural of inflated balloons for a picture created by Audrey Richter. If you want to go on an antique treasure hunt while in Colorado, many antique dealers are located on Ruxton Street.

I had fun photographing many of the storefront street signs. Totally Nuts & Co. had a long line waiting for a tasty sweet treat. The Oldest Hemp Store offered natural products for various health conditions.  Colorado Custer Company offered customers a sample of their yummy flavored frozen custards.  

As I am always on the lookout for murals, in front of the Piazza Navona Gallery and Café is a replica painting by Jessie Woodard of the Piazza Navona in Rome.

Heading back to our car, we could see on the upper west side a series of shops, and the Great Spirit mural portraying the healing powers of Manitou Springs created by Manuel and Natalie Pulido. In addition to the murals, there are numerous metal art sculptures to enjoy throughout Manitou Avenue as you shop or dine.

Before reaching the car, we stopped at one of the oldest Penny Arcades in the country. The Arcade has games built in the 1940’s, many still in in good condition and operational. You could spend hours playing pinball machines, skeeter and fighter games. We stayed to watch a group of people play a horse racing game. Little kids could ride Donald Duck or in Tommy the Cat scooter.

The historical Manitou Springs is an enjoyable place to visit. You could spend a day or weekend exploring the art galleries, shopping and relaxing in the clean atmosphere of the mountains. If exploring the outdoors is more your style, Manitou Springs offer hiking, river rafting, rock climbing and much more. Manitou Springs is a fabulous destination for a much needed vacation.

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6 Comments

  1. So cool. I love Native American history a lot! 🙂

  2. I wish had seen this before our trip to Colorado! We only drove through on our way back from Pike’s Peake. I didn’t know there was so much there. I’ll be saving this for our next trip!

  3. This is so cool! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!

  4. The trip sounds amazing! I would love raw chocolate, I can’t seem to find any around that’s really good here.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of horse hair pottery!

    -Lauren

  6. Wow very unique art. Didn’t know there was an art scene in Colorado!

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