Manitou Springs is an earthy little town in the foothills above Colorado Springs. Here you will find an assortment of stores, restaurants, attractions, and entertainment, tucked into a historic mountain valley whimsically winding toward the base of Pikes Peak. If you are in the vicinity of Colorado Springs this is a must-do stopover for at least a portion of the day. There are many worthwhile things to do in Manitou Springs and in this article we will discuss what we consider the ten best.
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These are the things we would consider high-end tourist attractions and would prioritize them over all else in the area.
First things first, these cliff dwellings were moved from another location near Cortez, Colorado. This doesn’t make them any less interesting (for most folks), but it should be mentioned. The preserve of cliff dwellings was first opened to the public in 1907. Visitors to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings can walk all throughout the pueblos, which is fascinating. It really is one of the best preserved representations of ancient Ute people’s homes.
After touring the dwellings head into the museum. Here you can see an abundance of historic artifacts and learn more about the Ute peoples and their way of life. There is also an impressive gift shop that winds into the rocks like a cave. Manitou Cliff Dwelling Website Link.
The Manitou Incline is a man-made staircase that gains 2,000′ of elevation in one mile. It is located in the town of Manitou Springs, an earthy little hamlet outside of Colorado Springs.
There is no cost to climb the Manitou Incline… unless you count the lives of those that have died.
Ba-dum-bum. It’s true. They have a sign and everything. The problem is, if you have significant cardiac problems up on the mountain medical help will take hours to arrive. So be sure you are in good health before attempting the Manitou Incline.
If you’d like to learn all about climbing the Manitou Incline, here’s a link to our in-depth article.
Garden of the Gods is considered the best city park in the United States of America. It sees 4.5 million annual visitors, more than all but three of our National Parks. The reason why is clear: How many places of such astonishing beauty reside in the middle of a large city (that is an hour away from an even larger city)? Honestly, we don’t know the answer. It was rhetorical.
The highlights of the park are dramatic views of 300′ sandstone fins that protrude from the ground like a stegosaurus spine. In the Central Garden you can stroll amongst the largest of the rock formations, and from the perimeter trails you can take in views of the garden from every angle. The garden is an easy-to-visit, easy-to-love kind of place; surreal and beautiful like a walkabout daydream.
Manitou Springs is a charming town with an abundance of shops to peruse. Some of the most popular are Ruxton’s, the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, the Glassblowers of Manitou, Christmas in Manitou, Savelli’s pizza, the Manitou Brewing Co., and Adam’s Mountain Cafe.
Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs is one of two 14,000′ mountains in the USA that allow visitors to summit by car. That’s out of 96 total fourteeners. Mt. Evans outside Denver (14,160′), and Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island (13,803′), are the only other drivable mountains that top 12,500′.
Driving to the summit of Pikes Peak costs $15 per adult, $5 per child under 15, and $50 for a carload of five or fewer (plus gasoline). Compared to a train ticket driving is much more affordable. An d furthermore, the best part of visiting Pikes Peak is driving up and down the mountain road.
These are things we would recommend, but do not consider must-do.
Two brothers named George and John Pickett discovered a 4 million year old cave in 1881, a cave where the Apaches said the “Great Spirit of the Wind” resided. Today you can continue the search for the elusive spirit by visiting Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
The mountain park features not only the original cave tour, but also a multitude of modern attractions. For $25 the Pioneer Package gives unlimited access to the Wind Walker Challenge Course, Bat-A-Pult Zip Line, Cliff Hanger Climbing Wall, and Geronimo’s Leap. It’s a good value and can keep the kids entertained for a couple of hours.
There’s also an adventure slide, panning for gems, and the most claustrophobic looking device called the “caver’s crawl”. It’s a box the size of a prison cell with tiny crawl spaces for your pre-schooler — be sure to send them with a sack lunch just in case.
You will also find a restaurant, gift shop, as well as breathtaking views of the canyon.
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If you didn’t get enough of the strange and surreal beauty at the Garden of the Gods, two miles away is a whole other universe of craggy rock formations at the Red Rocks Canyon Open Space. Here’s a MAP between the two areas.
Red Rocks Canyon is a 1,400 acre park with 11 trails that range from 1.7 miles to 5.4 miles. There are two trailheads for visitors, only a few hundred yards apart, both accessed by the same park entrance, with different parking lots. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, but we recommend hiking far enough up the hill for the big views, then traversing the hillside to exit the trail at the opposite trailhead from which you started. FWIW, the east trailhead is more popular, as it passes by the small, picturesque lake almost immediately.
Equal parts nostalgia and entertainment, old-time video arcades provide hours of trashy fun for those humble enough to slap some buttons and get passionate about things that don’t really matter.
The Manitou Springs Penny Arcade is better than most because it has a few things going for it: 1. There are hundreds of games. 2. Some of the games are atypical gaming machines that have existed since long before the video game boom of the 1980’s/90’s. 3. Prices range from a penny to a dollar. Many of the funky old machines cost $0.05 or $0.10 to play (so put that ashtray pocket change in your car to good use). 4. A fair amount of the arcade is outdoors.
This is a great place to bring the kids (young or old) for a couple of hours.
Historic Colorado City is almost as great as Manitou Springs, and it draws a fraction of the crowd. The two towns are only three miles apart and essentially occupy space on the same road. We prefer Manitou Springs because of the natural surroundings, but Colorado City is easier to visit.
If you (or your kids) like video games, be sure to stop in at Nova West, where they have about 20 classic arcade games and four Skeeball machines. Nova West is a tavern with adult beverages, but all ages are welcome until 8 pm.
Could-do refers to anything we’ve done that was memorable enough to mention but not quite interesting or fun enough to give a solid rec.
You wouldn’t be a visitor to Manitou Springs if you weren’t sampling the town’s namesake spring water. There are a few different springs available for public consumption, but Shoshone Spring is the easy to find and artfully constructed.
Honestly, the water is gross. It was an immediately regrettable decision. Maybe don’t drink it.
This is the single most touristy thing on the list, a Christmas-theme park with rides suitable for small children. They say, “Experience the Magic!” It really feels like a traveling carnival gussied up in Christmas schlock. Anyone can wander around the park for free (except in November/December), but if you want to ride the rides you’ll buy an all-you-can-ride wristband for $32. North Pole Santa’s Workshop link.
Manitou Springs is the perfect place to anchor you vacation to Colorado Springs because it is minutes from everything. It addition to the charming town(s) and high-quality attractions nearby, this is one of the more beautiful city settings in the entire USA.
We stayed for 9-nights but could have easily hung around for another couple of weeks. This is a truly an amazing place.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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