Colorful rocks, mountains and downtown make this an ideal getaway


When my husband and I were looking for a weekend getaway destination, we thought of all the usual Colorado mountain town suspects, but nothing spoke to us. Then someone mentioned Manitou Springs. A quirky, beautiful town nestled in the mountains without having to deal with I-70 traffic? Sign us up! Perched between the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, Manitou has one of the best settings you could ask for. It also has a vibrant downtown, good restaurants and more going for it than you think.


The Garden of the Gods Park is 1,367 acres of grasslands, woodlands and, of course, the stunning red rock formations that inspired its name. Whether you walk or drive around them, or climb on top of them, you’re sure to get an awe-inspiring view.

Just above town are the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, where the ancient Anasazi made their home. Explore this archaeological wonder as well as the accompanying museums dedicated to Native American culture.

Journey underground to the Cave of the Winds, where you can get down and dirty while climbing and crawling through passageways lit only by flashlight. (Or take the easier, better-lit, walking tour if you’re not in a down and dirty mood.)


The Cliff House at Pikes Peak is the sort of romantic, Grand Hotel that I imagine classy, Victorian people frequented. And who doesn’t want to feel like a classy Victorian on vacation? Nearly 150 years old, this stately stunner still retains its glamour and charm. The rooms are spacious and well-decorated, the staff is friendly and attentive and the location can’t be beat – just off the main shopping drag. You may not want to go back to the modern world.


There is really good barbecue to be had in Manitou Springs. Suzy Q’s smokes up lots of meat – ribs, chicken, pork, brisket, turkey and links – but it’s the ribs that are the standout. Meaty and flavorful with just the right amount of give, these are some of the best we’ve tasted in the state. Tip: Go for lunch. On busy days they sell out by dinnertime.

While downtown boasts loads of casual options, The Dining Room at the Cliff House is the clear choice for fine dining. The setting is historic and opulent, while the food is simultaneously classic and innovative. Think seared ahi tuna with tempura rice, rack of lamb with a fig demi-glace and a flight of crème brulee. It’s luxurious food in a luxurious setting.


What’s a Colorado mountain town without a brewery? Don’t worry, you won’t have to find out; the Manitou Brewing Company has got you covered. Offering a variety of styles brewed on-site as well as favorites from around the world, MBC has something for everyone. Check out the Manitou Common, a clean, crisp amber lager, or, if your tastes lean fruitier, the Honey Orange Rye Saison.


One of the bumper stickers you’ll see around town says “Keep Manitou Weird.” Camino Real Imports is doing its part. With its colorful array of metal art in front, you can’t miss this shop. From flying pigs to bobbing peacocks to a crop of kaleidoscopic flowers, you can’t help but smile at the zany creations.

For more than 40 years, the Commonwheel Artists Co-op has been promoting Colorado artists. The store on Canon Avenue displays an excellent selection of jewelry, pottery, paintings and more – all guaranteed to be Colorado-created, one-of-a-kind gifts or souvenirs.