Colorado Springs’ neighborhoods are neatly divided into the old and the new—before and after the 1960s, when its population boom really began. The old neighborhoods, the most interesting, are where all the attractions and many of the best hotels and restaurants are located. The older part of the city, from the compact downtown area toward the foothills to the west, offers a mix of homes and businesses, interesting shopping and locally owned restaurants. The city’s tallest buildings (not very high, so as not to obscure the views) are here, and there’s a mix of very old and very modern structures. The new part, anything east and north of Academy Boulevard, is suburban enclaves of clustered houses and shopping centers with big chain stores and restaurants. The newest north-south corridor, Powers Boulevard, experiences heavy, fast-moving traffic. Generally, though, traffic is manageable, but there is no really good east-west thoroughfare connecting the city’s two sides. Just outside of town two notable historic districts—Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City—are worthy of a visit for their restored buildings filled with boutiques and galleries.
The city’s oldest homes are located downtown, and they range from shabby to chic. The area around Colorado College often houses students in large, old three-story homes that have been converted into apartments. Other single-family residences have been refurbished and are coveted by those who want to live in the downtown area. The Old North End features more-elaborate, more-expensive homes that sometimes verge on being mansions; the eclectic mix of styles and sizes makes it interesting. Because the city was planned with broad streets, these neighborhoods lend themselves to easy traffic flow and lots of street trees. Downtown offers some of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants, as well as the city’s indie film house, Kimball’s Twin Peak Theater. The centerpiece of downtown is Acacia Park, where concerts in the old bandshell and other activities take place year-round. It’s also a popular hangout for the homeless on nice days.
Some of the city’s grandest homes are here in the Broadmoor area, so called because it surrounds the ritzy Broadmoor hotel complex. It’s fun just to drive around and look at some of them. A stately private academy, the Colorado Springs School, also is here. The Broadmoor is the gateway to Cheyenne Mountain with its unique mountain zoo, the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun (a striking memorial dedicated to the cowboy humorist), and the mountain itself. Public tours of NORAD, inside the mountain, are no longer offered. This area also features Cheyenne Canon, where you’ll find Seven Falls (a popular attraction), Helen Hunt Falls (requiring a hike), and the Starsmore Discovery Center (great for kids). Cheyenne Creek runs through the canyon, and it’s a popular picnic spot in the summer and fall.
Old Colorado City/West Side
Once a town in its own right, Colorado City was the place where folks went to have a good time, to drink and make merry. It had brothels and bars galore. It’s still a place to have a good time, with a few choice restaurants and lots of unusual shops. Check out Nice ‘N’ Naughty for lingerie, Mountain Moppets for cute kids’ clothes, or Piramide Boutique for unique clothing imports. There are no bawdy houses today, but you can find great French-style bakery goods, hand-dipped chocolates, jewelry and antiques. The diminutive old Territorial Capitol Building stands in Bancroft Park, where there’s a bountiful farmer’s market on Saturday in the summer. Homes in the area tend to be modest, and date back to the late-1800s and early-1900s. Some have been turned into B&Bs, tucked into the neighborhood.
Though it’s a separate city, Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs are separated only by a fine line on a map. But in character, they could not be more different. Colorado Springs strives to be modern, and Manitou embraces its past. But a multi-million—dollar renovation project upgrading its streetscape and infrastructure had gorgeous results. It still looks old- fashioned, but the plumbing works. Quirky houses set into hillsides and sometimes jutting out over streets make it feel like a scene from the movie Popeye. It’s a haven for hippies, artists and other independent types. Check out the antique amusement arcade, where you still can play pinball for a nickel, and the beautifully restored Cliff House hotel and spa defy any feeling of neglect here. And be sure to taste the mineral spring water for which the town is named; it may taste a little odd, but it’s good for you.
Northwest of downtown are several neighborhoods partially encircling the Garden of the Gods, the city’s most dramatic landmark, after Pikes Peak. Restaurants here provide fuel for hiking in the garden or one of the city’s many parks. Ute Valley Park, in Rockrimmon, is just steps away from major thoroughfares, but feels miles away. This is the hilliest part of the city, and it transitions into the foothills of the Front Range. The city’s founder built his own home here in a valley just north of Garden of the Gods. To the north of this neighborhood is the U.S. Air Force Academy; residents get to watch the Air Force Thunderbirds and other flying groups practice their stunts before major academy events, such as football games or graduation.
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