Central Colorado Springs offers great daytime places in three major flavors: coffee shops, museums and art galleries. There's also a bunch of cool, if tough-to-categorize, stuff not to be missed.
While you'll find your obligatory Starbucks sites, local establishments have grabbed market share here, too. Montague's Coffee House (1019 S. Tejon St., 520-0672) on the far south end of downtown, is heavy on the European appeal with cushy furniture, fringy lamps and an impressive bar. Shuga's (702 S. Cascade Ave., shugas.com), its bohemian counterpart, oozes nighttime coolness, but it's a lovely spot for a hot lemon ginger tea during the day, too.
Want something more casual? The Coffee Exchange (526 S. Tejon St., 635-0277) is a pretty cozy place to hook up your computer and work. The downtown location of Coffee & Tea Zone (25 N. Tejon St., #101, coffeeandteazone.com), nestled amid the clubs, is a source for Boba tea as well as design-your-own frogurt. Around the corner on Kiowa Street, you'll find Mountain Brew Espresso (115 E. Kiowa St., 577-4347) and, a little farther down, the Kiowa Corner Coffee Café (501 E. Kiowa St., 434-3040).
The granddaddy of all downtown coffee stops, though, would have to be Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea House (14 S. Tejon St., pikesperkcoffee.com), whose upper level teems with natural light and comfy seating. Rico's Coffee, Chocolate & Wine Bar (322 N. Tejon St., poorrichards.biz) in the Poor Richard's complex is only five years old, but has already found the perfect mix of cool, without pretension.
Off the main drag, Lofty's (287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0024), Dogtooth Coffee Company (505 E. Columbia St., #100, dogtoothcoffee.com) and Raven's Nest Coffee (330 N. Institute St., facebook.com/ravensnestcoffee) are other nice hangouts. And while highly trafficked Fillmore Street doesn't make for much of a neighborhood vibe, Colorado Coffee Merchants (302 E. Fillmore St., coloradocoffeemerchants.com) roasts beans for the Ümpire Estate brand and serves the best brew on that strip.
Coins and cartoons
Take your pick of art, money or history. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org), home to a permanent collection of excellent Native American, Spanish Colonial and Western painting, is a fabulous institution that hosts numerous community-interest events such as ArtBar (pairing socializing with a brief educational lecture on art), Family Exploration Days, monthly free admission evenings and more. Watch for ultra-cool extracurriculars during special interdisciplinary shows.
Directly next door to the FAC sits the Money Museum (818 N. Cascade Ave., money.org). Folks tend to brush it off, but there are fascinating displays on coinage minted during the Civil War, a look at some of the ugly mugs printed on coins, and the first steam coinage press from the Philadelphia Mint. Cool, huh?
For local history, do not miss the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St., cspm.org). In fact, do not miss it at all. It's free, it's got a working cage elevator, and despite its genteel demeanor, it's a bitchin' place. Take, for example, the displays of old-fashioned dental and surgical equipment.
This past year has brought shakeups in the downtown gallery scene, with closings, openings, new management, the works. There's a lot of new energy.
Marmalade at Smokebrush (219 W. Colorado Ave., smokebrush.org), now in the spacious Trestle Building, is a prime example. Under the direction of Don Goede, Marmalade encompasses visual arts, healing arts such as yoga, and large-scale community projects.
In Smokebrush's old Arts Depot building, Purple Mountain Coffee Roastery and Kreuser Gallery (218 W. Colorado Ave., abigailkreusergallery.com) shares space with the b>Commons and Bridge (thebridgeartgallery.com) galleries.
The Modbo (17C E. Bijou St., themodbo.wordpress.com), anchor of the "Alley District," stands as an outpost for edgy local art and experimental music. Owners Brett and Lauren Andrus have expanded their mission into the neighboring building with a venue called S.P.Q.R. (17B E. Bijou St.); expect painting exhibits, indie concerts and art classes from both venues.
The city's three major colleges also represent their art programs in galleries downtown. Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space (825 N. Cascade Ave., coloradocollege.edu/ideaspace) and Coburn Gallery (902 N. Cascade Ave.), run by Jessica Hunter Larsen, compete with the FAC with their fine programming, which this past year included a retrospective on May Stevens and installations by Idris Khan. GOCA 121 (121 S. Tejon St., #100, uccs.edu/~goca) is a satellite gallery for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Standing for the Galleries of Contemporary Art, 121 is a sleek affair that often caters to high-concept installations.
Pikes Peak Community College's Downtown Studio Art Gallery (100 W. Pikes Peak Ave., ppcc.edu/departments/art/pppcc-art-gallery), led by local artist Laura Ben-Amots, is the most traditional in the sense that it most often displays student work. And PPCC's students prove themselves time and again to be some of the most skillful around, particularly in the realm of drawing.
East of downtown lies sprawling Memorial Park (1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., springsgov.com), home to a host of destinations, including the Colorado Springs Recreation Center, Prospect Lake, Sertich Ice Center, Memorial Skate Park and numerous memorial tribute spots for veterans and fallen fire fighters. A block away lies the U.S. Olympic Training Center (1 Olympic Plaza, teamusa.org). Free tours of the center happen year-round and take you through actual training facilities, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and, of course, the gift shop.
For other active pursuits, consider indoor climbing or paintball. The folks behind CityROCK (21 N. Nevada Ave., climbcityrock.com) revamped the old Ute Theater two years ago into an enormous indoor climbing gym with 43-foot vertical walls and more than 13,000 square feet of climbable surfaces. They serve all ages and climbing types.
Meanwhile, All Star Paintball (400 S. Sierra Madre St., paintballallstars.com) was, as of press time, set to open in mid-April. For as little as $25, it's promised to outfit you with all brand-new gear and 200 rounds of ammo, so you can punish your enemies in an 18,000-square-foot facility complete with turf and bunkers.
If you'd rather swab paint than shoot it, there's Splash (115 N. Tejon St., splashsprings.com). In a concept new to the area, you can enjoy an end-of-week night out as a painting instructor leads you and others through putting martini glasses, outdoor scenes or other images to paper. Instruction is meant to be pressure-free, but manager Eric Schwers acknowledges that with art being so intimidating to some, "The liquor license is really important to this concept."
One more place where alcohol and art come together: Kimball's Peak Three Theater (115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., kimballspeakthree.com), which is entering its 16th year as the lone outpost of indie and foreign films. Its bar serves wine, beer and espresso.
As a volunteer Coach and Mentor in my third year at The First Tee of…