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, museums, lots of hiking trails, as well as creative street arts on display. This vibrant community is located about 7 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, reasonably 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 round.
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 its intentions being a scenic health resort in which he opened Briarhurst Manor. This National Register of the Historic estate is still open today to the public as a 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 is a vast mural painting by Monty “El Mac” McGregor and Larry “Fuse” Masters in depicting Floyd Tunson face. He is an internationally known local Manitou Springs artist.
Mural of Floyd Tunson
Welcome to Manitou Springs
Lodging is available in the historic downtown, such as The Cliff House with its unique 1800’s Victorian style. If you want small lodging establishments, several bed & breakfast accommodations are available. Some secluded lodging is also available, such as cabins or small cottages and RV Parks & campgrounds along the water’s edge in town. Many luxury wellness resorts also offer rooms that are sure to meet your needs and re-energize your spirit.
GALLERIES/ ART STUDIOS
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, photographers, and potters.
Mountain High Gallery and Gifts
Horse Hair Pottery
Our eyes were drawn to a pottery store 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, mixed colors and then fired. Next, while the piece is red hot, horsehair is applied in a style-manner, 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 that I had to stop to snap a few pictures of it.
Under the painted mural i
s Radiantly Raw Chocolate, (business closed) which sells raw chocolate from 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.
Standing out on the sidewalk were three wooden carved black bears, which we had to stop and pose for a picture. Many interesting gift shops selling t-shirts and Christmas ornaments were open for business.
Another amazing gallery is the Green Horse Gallery. Pieces of pottery filled the shelves with unique designs and patterns. The gallery featured several local artists, painters, and wood craftsmen. One particular artist who caught our eyes and attention designed decorative images of flowers out of paper.
Manitou Springs is home to many internationally famous historic restaurants. Dining options in Manitou Springs range from high cuisine to street food. The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant offers a romantic four-course fondue meal located in the historic Pikes Peak Hotel. A second restaurant, 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 restaurant options.
Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant
Pikes Peak Ice Cream
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.
Heading back to our car, we could see a series of shops on the upper west side, 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 1940s, many are still in good condition and operational. You can spend hours playing pinball machines, skeeter, and fighter games if you have the time. 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, shop, and relax in the mountains’ clean atmosphere. 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.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.