OK, let's start by getting cultural. Some of our city's biggest and brightest museum destinations live in this district, beginning with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org), home to the exquisite Taylor Museum Collection of Native American and Southwestern art. The FAC tends to get multidisciplinary with its rotating efforts, and its Resilience project (up through May) is a good example: Of Mice and Men in its theater; Depression-era photographs, including Dorothea Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother," in its galleries; and a bevy of film screenings, lectures and family activity days.
Meanwhile, local history gets the star treatment at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St., cspm.org), an always-free time machine into our area's past. In addition to Native American art and artifacts, you can enjoy a reconstructed tuberculosis hut and old medical equipment. (We were a convalescence destination, after all.) The building itself is a lovely marvel with a working cage elevator and fully restored upstairs courtroom.
Are you more of a bottom-line type? Hit up the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum (818 N. Cascade Ave., money.org) for monthly demonstrations of its Mini-Mint, a small coin minter. While you're there, laugh at some of the faces that made it onto coinage (it's OK, really), and view money from the Civil War.
In keeping with the cultural bent, downtown in home to many art galleries, a few of which we'll mention here. Cottonwood Center for the Arts (427 E. Colorado Ave., cottonwoodcenterforthearts.com) is a great destination for more traditional work, as well as jewelry, pottery and ceramics. The converted office building is a veritable hive of personal studios, with proper galleries on the main floor hosting a variety of themed exhibits.
Under the Colorado Avenue Bridge, three galleries enliven the Depot Arts District Building (218 W. Colorado Ave.), including the Bridge Gallery (thebridgeartgallery.com), home to a collective of multimedia artists, and Purple Mountain Coffee Roastery and Kreuser Gallery (abigailkreusergallery.com), a coffee hotspot and showspace run by barista and photographer Abigail Kreuser. Those enterprises take turns curating the Commons Gallery, a smaller space wedged inside the Depot building.
Across the way in the Trestle Building lies the revamped Marmalade at Smokebrush (219 W. Colorado Ave., smokebrush.org), a lovely and roomy brick-walled space that hosts the usual artistic pursuits as well as the healing arts. Note Marmalade's busy yoga schedule — with many classes led by Smokebrush founder Kat Tudor — and numerous special events such as guest-teacher appearances, kirtan chants and more. Fridays at Marmalade can involve art receptions, Brazilian dance parties and the monthly Story Project, where locals take to the mic and share their life experiences.
Back uptown, but still in a low-profile spot, are the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. (17C and 17B E. Bijou St., themodbo.com), a pair of tiny galleries situated in the Bijou Street alley. Co-owned by Brett and Lauren Andrus, these spaces are home to some of the most nontraditional, contemporary art in the city. On top of shows featuring local and regional artists, the galleries offer activities nearly every weekend, from concerts to Dr. Sketchy sessions (live figure drawing with burlesque models).
All three of the Springs' major colleges have galleries downtown. Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space and Coburn Gallery (825 and 902 N. Cascade Ave., theideaspace.com), run by curatorial genius Jessica Hunter Larsen, are always good bets for brainy, cutting-edge works. The I.D.E.A. Space features rigorous programming as well, with panel discussions, artist talks and other activities such as dance performances and film screenings to accompany each of its exhibits.
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs has two attractions. The Galleries of Contemporary Art, GOCA 121 and GOCA 1420, run tandem exhibits organized by another inspired curator, Daisy McConnell. (Former director Caitlin Green has moved on to other pursuits, but helped build the rest of this year's exhibits.)
GOCA 121 (121 S. Tejon St., galleryuccs.org) lives in the Plaza of the Rockies, next to hip restaurant Nosh and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (121 S. Tejon St., #111, coppercolo.org), or COPPeR, where you can pick up brochures for local attractions, learn about A&E events, and view some artwork hanging in its office. There's more info on 1420 on p. 64, but rest assured that you can hit up either GOCA for enormous, involved installations, video art, and cool, conceptual work.
Lastly, don't count out the Downtown Studio at Pikes Peak Community College (100 W. Pikes Peak Ave., ppcc.edu/departments/art/pppcc-art-gallery). PPCC's gallery features the work of local artists as well as its own students, with shows curated by highly talented artist and instructor Laura BenAmots. Last year's docket included a show based on the theme of the chrysalis and cross-pollination.
And by the way, strewn about downtown streets you'll find both temporary and permanent outdoor sculpture. Art on the Streets is an annual enterprise that places new works from artists around the world in our fair city. Each June, the pieces are replaced — unless private funds and grants allow for purchase. Find a map at artonthestreets.com.
Spirits and splats
Plenty of active pursuits take place here as well. Climbers of all ages and skill levels can find a home at CityRock (21 N. Nevada Ave., climbcityrock.com), a huge indoor climbing facility housed in a remodeled theater. Challenge yourself on the 43-foot verticals or any of its 17,000 square feet of climbable surfaces. CityRock also arranges outdoor excursions such as guided climbs and camps, and even international trips.
Near the train tracks, AllStar Paintball (400 S. Sierra Madre St., paintballallstars.com) counts itself as one of the few indoor paintball facilities in the U.S. It specializes in speedball play, a fast alternative to the more tactical outdoor play like that at Dragonman's. (Read more on that on p. 79.) Newbies and pros alike shoot both early and often.
Ratcheting down to less adrenalized activities, we reach our only indie movie house, Kimball's Peak Three (115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., kimballspeakthree.com). Catch independents, foreigns and "an occasional blockbuster" at Kimball's, with the added bonuses of a full bar and espresso drinks to enjoy on-site.
You can also double-fist it at Splash (115 N. Tejon St., splashsprings.com), this time with wine and a paintbrush. Instructors here lead not-so-serious students through the steps of that night's set composition, minus the sweating of learning tricky techniques. Those who seek more traditional teaching can take art classes at the Bemis School of Art at the FAC, Cottonwood and the Modbo/S.P.Q.R.
For as long as I can remember, Montague's (1019 S. Tejon St., 520-0672) has owned the market on patterned chairs and couches you could find in Grandma's basement. But the solid coffee, large selection of loose-leaf teas, and counter full of cakes, muffins and pastries are what really make you ogle.
Right up the road is Coffee Exchange (526 S. Tejon St., 635-0277), which goes for a vibe that's half art gallery, half auto repair — the latter due to the large garage door that serves as one wall. Grab some good drip and blaze away on its fast wi-fi.
Moving into the heart of downtown, Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea House (14 S. Tejon St., pikesperkcoffee.com) occupies an iconic red corner building, offering two windowed floors perfect for people-watching while you pound the so-sweet-it-hurts Caramel Mountain; of course, it comes with enough espresso to offset any sugar crash, so you're good. Coffee and Tea Zone (25 N. Tejon St., #101, coffeeandteazone.com) and its bubble teas are within boba-spitting distance.
A little farther north on the Tejon artery are Gold Hill Java Downtown (332 N. Tejon St., goldhilljava.com) and Rico's Coffee, Chocolate & Wine Bar (322 N. Tejon St., poorrichards.biz). Gold Hill's the second location after the original in Woodland Park and sports a huge selection of fudge and strong black stuff, while Rico's is the rare spot where you can comfortably eat lunch alone, then return at night for a date on the patio. The food's great, the variety of chocolates impressive, and the drink specials divine.
Off the main street, next to the bus stop, lies Café Corto Coffee Gallery (115 E. Kiowa St., 577-4347); its new owners are offering local art, live music and a pretty decent mocha. Another newbie is 225 Coffee Shop and Venue (225 N. Weber St., 884-6225), a First Presbyterian Church-run secular spot sporting a nice live-music schedule and ever-tasty Numi Organic Tea.
In the Hard to Stumble Across Unless You're Looking for Them category sit Lofty's (287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0024) and the family-owned Dogtooth Coffee Company (505 E. Columbia St., #100, dogtoothcoffee.com). The former rests in the Lowell development — the New England-looking housing area almost south of downtown — and specializes in famous quotes on its Facebook page, spoken-word gatherings in the shop, and coffee from Solar Roast Coffee in Pueblo. The latter fills the corner of a neighborhood block with an L-shaped lobby that's full by mid-morning, and offers a nice selection of grub for the breakfast and lunch crowd.
Raven's Nest Coffee (330 N. Institute St., ravensnestcoffee.com), another neighborhood spot, describes itself as "an environment of complete sensory immersion." While I can't confirm that, there are definitely couches, in addition to fair-trade and organic coffees. Similarly socially conscious coffee can be caught via BuyWell — a local company started by some Colorado College kids — at Jasmine's Coffee and Tea Café (4120 N. Nevada Ave., 359-5895).
Finally, wrapping up your central coffee-spot tour: Colorado Coffee Merchants (302 E. Fillmore St., coloradocoffeemerchants.com) rests quietly on the side of a busy street and offers some of the better coffee to be found locally, roasted in-house. The purchase of a mug for some 50 bucks yields coffee for a year, or you can just drop in, have your drink made from memory before you can order it, and enjoy the view.
— Bryce Crawford