7 Reasons to Drive to Manitou Springs, CO

There’s much more than just the Incline.

Garden of the Gods Resort
Garden of the Gods Resort

Just over an hour’s drive south on I-25 (about 76 miles) is a destination brimming with entertainment. Manitou Springs, Colorado is close enough to Denver to provide a mountain-town getaway that can stretch from a half-day visit to a full weekend of fun. Explore natural, local adventure spots and dive into the town’s history, fill up on all things sweet, savory, and boozy, or shop and browse art to your heart’s content at a variety of charming boutiques and galleries. Whatever you’re looking for, Manitou Springs has it.

Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant
Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant

Calling all foodies to Manitou Springs

Despite Manitou Avenue not even stretching a full mile, it comprises a ton of tasty food options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. Swirl Restaurant and Wine Bar is the self-proclaimed locals’ favorite, with a menu of sandwiches, salads, and a long list of wine, beer, and other boozy beverages. Find mouthwatering Mexican food at The Loop or indulge in Middle Eastern cuisine at The Sahara Cafe. Looking for something more romantic (or just more hands-on)? Head to the Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant for a four-course night to remember. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more casual, check out Townhouse Sport Grill for pub bites and an extensive tap list, or Armadillo Ranch for some live music to accompany your meal. One place you can’t miss—the delights of Totally Nuts, where you can enjoy cinnamon roasted nuts, a variety of fresh-squeezed lemonades, and a lot more to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Manitou Brewing Company
Manitou Brewing Company

… and whet your whistle while you’re at it

Fancy a drink? If you’re in downtown Manitou Springs, you won’t have to look very far. Aside from the array of drink menus at the popular food spots in town, breweries and wine bars are in abundance for a quick sip, tasting, or kicking back and relaxing for a while. The Keg Lounge serves fresh and fruity cocktails in mason jars and also has a pretty long list of beers, seltzers, and wines by the bottle. Manitou Brewing Company is your go-to local brewery, serving up everything from full-bodies stouts to hoppy pale ales and everything in-between, plus wine, spirits, seltzers, and more lip-smacking pub bites. Enjoy a glass, bottle, wine tasting, or even create your own unique wine at D’Vine Wine, and maybe catch a glimpse of winery mascot Maya while you’re there. And not all drinks have to be boozy while you’re visiting Manitou Springs—check out the Maté Factor Café for fresh, sultry teas in a cozy atmosphere.

Manitou Art Center
Manitou Art Center

Shop to your heart’s content

If anything, Manitou Springs is a perfect spot to do some shopping. (For you, for someone else, for you… who’s keeping track?) There are a bunch of art galleries showcasing local artists, including the Green Horse Gallery, the Commonwheel Artists Co-Op, Fare Bella Studio and Gallery, the Manitou Art Center, and local sculptor Fred Darpino’s Studio Gallery. For some unique shopping, check out Boulder Nepal Arts and Wear for eclectic clothing, jewelry, and knick-knacks as well as yoga materials and handcrafted items from Nepal, Tibet, and more. The Vault is also a popular gift shop featuring locally made art, decor, and jewelry, and the Southwest Silver Company is the place to go for brilliant gemstone and silver jewelry.

Garden of the Gods Park
Garden of the Gods Park

...and find adventure around every corner

If “Manitou” sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of the popular hiker’s challenge nearby that is the Manitou Incline. With 2,768 steps getting you over 2,000 feet in elevation, the views at the top—and the bragging rights—are most definitely worth the trek. Also around the corner is the breathtaking Garden of the Gods park, good for a quick drive-through for some epic scenery or a full-on hike, and a perfect photo-op destination, too. There’s no shortage of hiking trails to satisfy the avid hiker, and of course, the city of Colorado Springs is just a hop, skip, and jump away from downtown Manitou Springs, boasting its own intrigue and adventure. Oh, and there’s this little mountain called Pike’s Peak that people are always chattering about, too.

Miramont Castle Museum
Miramont Castle Museum

Manitou Springs is not short on history

The now bustling mountain town has a history that stretches back to the 1800s, and likely even before that, from its natural water springs to a flocking population of tuberculosis sufferers seeking healing waters. There are currently eight public, cold-water drinking springs (that lend the town its name) to check out while perusing downtown, plus the nearby Rainbow Falls that make for a beautiful and easy hike to a historic Colorado site.

Or, for a more immersive historical experience, check out Miramont Castle Museum for tours, events, or an afternoon visit to the Tea Room.

Cliff Dwellings Museum
Cliff Dwellings Museum

Feel encouraged to bring the kids (all of them!)

Manitou Springs is one of those places that truly has something for everyone. So when it comes to entertaining the kids, there’s no shortage of things to do and fun to be had. One of the biggest draws for youngsters (and parents, too) is the Penny Arcade smack in the middle of Manitou Ave. You can also get an old-timey photo with the family at Old Tyme Photography, complete with old-school clothes and props to put you right back in the Old West. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are also hard to miss and just as hard to resist, combining adventure and history in the same exciting experience. Cave of the Winds Park also offers tours, rides, ropes courses, and an abundance of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

Sunwater Spa
Sunwater Spa

Manitou Springs is a sneaky spa destination, too

Last but certainly not least is Manitou Springs’ emphasis on good ol’ R&R. The Garden of the Gods Resort has one of the most comprehensive wellness offerings in Colorado, making it an exceptional place to get a single service or stay for a full weekend of restorative relaxation. Sunwater Spa is also a highly acclaimed spa that offers the works—enjoy a soak in its mineral water tubs and sauna, join a yoga class, or book services that cover everything from eyebrow maintenance to full-body massages to specialized skin treatments.

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Erica Buehler is a Thrillist contributor.