The Manitou Arcade (930 block of Manitou Avenue, 685-9815) smells like wet wood and funnel cakes. It's the perfect place to play Operation Wolf, or to get your future told by a nuclear-era slot machine (you're destined to be a go-go dancer!), or to rack up tickets in Skee-Ball.
Once you've earned a rubber finger-puppet monster, though, it's time to kick around the rest of Manitou Springs. You can taste the water at all nine springs locally; visit manitousprings.org/mineral_springs.aspx to download a chart of the mineral content with each. (Iron and Shoshone appear particularly hearty.)
Along the way, there's plenty to see: Works Progress Administration-era paintings by late local artist Archie Musick in the Post Office (307 Cañon Ave., usps.com); local legend Charles Rockey's studio on the corner of Lovers Lane and Cañon Avenue; and some great art galleries, first and foremost Mountain Living Studio (741 Manitou Ave., tinyurl.com/mtnliving), which features the work of fantastic locals like Liese Chavez and Chris Sedgwick.
Drop into Commonwheel Artists Co-op (102 Cañon Ave., commonwheel.com) and Green Horse Gallery (729 Manitou Ave., greenhorsegallery.com), both close by, for more art and décor, but don't forget to swing by the Business of Art Center (513-515 Manitou Ave., thebac.org) down the road, where you can not only purchase great artwork, but also tour its galleries and peek in on the artists in its in-house studios. And to see art in architecture, try the Miramont Castle Museum (9 Capitol Hill Ave., miramontcastle.org), where nine distinct styles merge in one gorgeous, sprawling manse.
For refreshments, there's wine, coffee or maté. Wine, served with a nice collection of cheeses, cold cuts and a European feel, comes courtesy of Swirl Wine Bar (717 Manitou Ave., swirlwineemporium.com) just behind Swirl Wine Emporium. Enjoy the chic atmosphere inside or on the back patio.
For coffee, the best mocha around hails from Marika's Coffeehouse (739 Manitou Ave., marikascoffeehouse.com). Like Swirl, it's a cool place that boasts fabulous art, but the coffee reigns supreme, being all-organic and fair-trade. And The Maté Factor: A Common Ground Café (966 Manitou Ave., 685-3235), everyone's favorite ultra-granola restaurant that could've been in The Hobbit, makes yerba maté-infused drinks friendly to newbies and also serves tasty sandwiches and wraps. Don't worry about all the religious material stuffed into the corners; if you're not interested, they won't bother you about it.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway (515 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, cograilway.com) is understandably celebrated for its role in making "America's Mountain" accessible. But you can also get to the top via the Pikes Peak Highway (where you'll also find the North Pole/Santa's Workshop, a Christmas-themed amusement park-ette for tykes). Weather permitting, for $4 to $12 per person, you can drive to the summit (pikes-peak.com/Attraction/22.aspx) to enjoy a stale doughnut and a view to Kansas. Remember on the way down to use a low gear to control your speed, or to stop frequently to let your brakes cool.
There are lots of outdoor options around this part of the Peak — click here — but you need not program a GPS to enjoy a picnic at the North Slope Recreation Area (pikes-peak.com/Attraction/22.aspx) or the gazebo in Green Mountain Falls.
Farther up the pass, in Woodland Park, you can get a latte with some sweet or savory bread pudding at Gold Hill Java (757 Gold Hills Place, goldhilljava.com), then visit local galleries, including Seven Arrows (118 W. Midland Ave., 7arrowsgallery.com), or thrill the kids at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (201 S. Fairview St., rmdrc.com).
If you still feel like going west, take U.S. 24 to Divide and Florissant — whose Fossil Beds National Monument (Teller County Road 1, nps.gov/flfo/index.htm) captures traces of prehistoric Colorado — and beyond. Or give in to your visions of big money and play the craps tables in historic and beautiful Cripple Creek (visitcripplecreek.com).
Regardless, fall is a great time to go for drives, when the aspen leaves turn. Roll all the way to Wilkerson Pass, where you can stop at the nature center and look out over South Park, a basin ringed by snowy mountains. It's a view you won't soon forget.
Back down in the lower elevations around Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and the west side are much more than just segues into downtown. Colorado Avenue can be as touristy as Manitou Avenue, but among the traps are gems like Kathleen McFadden's Range Gallery (2428 W. Colorado Ave., longshotphotography.com), which offers the best art photography in town, and Michael Garman Gallery (2418 W. Colorado Ave., michaelgarman.com), which dishes statuesque charm in the form of schlumpy characters and dingy street scenes. Hunter-Wolff Gallery (2510 W. Colorado Ave., hunterwolffgallery.com), Cucuru Art Gallery & Café (2332 W. Colorado Ave., cucurugallerycafe.com), Arati Artists Gallery (2425 W. Colorado Ave., aratiartists.com) and hip newbie Domino (10 S. 25th St., domino80904.com) also are worth a visit.
Bookending the headier portions of OCC are hangouts Agia Sophia (2902 W. Colorado Ave., agiasophiacoffeeshop.com) and Jives Coffee Lounge (16 Colbrunn Court, jivescoffeelounge.com). A truly unique place, Agia is all about the Orthodox thing, with Byzantine-esque icons on the walls and literature scattered through its dark, cozy rooms. Food and drink service is tasty, if not always quick. Meanwhile, Jives hosts a casual, college-y environment, with a spacious, open floor plan and contemporary art hung somewhat haphazardly on its walls.
Nearby is the Simpich Showcase (2413 W. Colorado Ave., simpich.com), which houses a museum of the Simpich family's storied dolls and puppets, and a theater, where craftsman David Simpich writes and performs plays with his original marionettes. Though that might sound a tad creepy, trust that these aren't your average sock puppets.
Should the little ones be terrified of puppets no matter how well-crafted, head north along 30th Street to Rock Ledge Ranch (3202 Chambers Way, rockledgeranch.com) for a peek at frontier and Native American life. In the shadow of Garden of the Gods, Rock Ledge offers numerous special events year-round — an old-fashioned baseball game, a sheep shearing festival, etc. — but head over any old Wednesday through Saturday in the summer for living history demonstrations, from the forge to the barn to the pioneer kitchen.