Within 20 minutes of Downtown Colorado Springs you can admire Garden of the Gods, begin to summit Pikes Peak, and even rub elbows with Olympians at the Olympic Training Center. But be sure to plan an extra day (or two) to explore all the city center has to offer. Whether you have two hours or two days, it’s easy to spend your downtime in Downtown.
A cool breeze, setting sun, seasonal beverage and delectable bites… nothing says summer like patio dining. While visiting someplace new, it’s easy to spot the sidewalk cafes, but sometimes the real gems are hidden from view. Here’s your insider’s guide to patio dining in the heart of Downtown Colorado Springs.
Shuga’s is an institution – an early star in the evolving southwest Downtown district. The 1910 building first housed a grocery store, but for the past 16-plus years the restaurant and bar has garnered a strong and loyal local following for their spicy Brazilian shrimp soup, the Lavender Martini and the Adult Juicebox, among many other favorites. While limited seating is available on the busier front porch, the back patio provides a quiet place to relax with friends, and a sweet view of Pikes Peak. 702 S. Cascade Ave.
For more than 40 years, locally owned Jose Muldoon’s has served up piping hot tortilla chips, icy margaritas and Tex Mex dishes at their Downtown location. Kids eat free on Sundays, but the real treat is the spacious back patio. Opt for a table in or out of the sun, and keep up with the latest game on one of the outdoor TVs. 222 N. Tejon St.
Known for healthy options and environmental sustainability, Poor Richard’s Restaurant (pictured) takes it one step further by growing their own herbs in their cozy back patio. Pergola-covered and surrounded by murals painted by Springs artist Douglas Rouse, the patio has a European vibe and is the perfect spot for a glass of wine and slice of pizza. 324 N. Tejon St.
To-MA-to/to-MAH-to. It might be a case of semantics, but whatever you call the bricked alleyway tucked between the Mining Exchange Hotel and Springs Orleans (pictured) restaurant, it’s delightful. Bistro tables and lamp posts add a touch of old-world flair, and you can enjoy Cajun-inspired food and a full cocktail menu. 123 E. Pikes Peak Ave.
Not all treasures are buried, but you will have to look down for this one. The sunken garden patio at MacKenzie’s Chop House is perhaps the most hidden patio of all, tucked into a cozy subterranean nook. Shaded from view by trees and flowers, it almost feels like a hidden garden from a fairytale – until your martini arrives, then it suddenly feels very grown-up. 128 S. Tejon St.
Downtown Date Night
Take an Uber/Lyft to the Wild Goose Meeting House (pictured) to kick off the evening with live music and an appetizer on the beautifully lit patio. Walk or bike (PikeRide station located at Wild Goose) three blocks south to The Rabbit Hole for dinner. Don’t be disconcerted that the dimly lit venue was home to the city morgue during the influenza epidemic of WWII, this only adds to the intimate ambiance of the location. Nibble on fried bunny bites or (our personal fav) the truffle cauliflower mac n’ cheese. After dinner, it’s a quick one block south to Kimball’s Peak Three Theatre, a historic Downtown icon since 1937. Enjoy a glass of wine with your popcorn (is there any better combo?) and relax in the city’s only independent film house. Need a sweet treat? Grab a scoop at Josh & John’s (next door) and enjoy it during your movie. Not ready to make it a night? Grab a cocktail at Shame & Regret, the city’s newest cocktail lounge inconspicuously located in Arts Alley. (Two blocks north and one block west of Kimball’s.) Time: 6-7 hours
Park at the garage at Nevada and Colorado avenues, then walk half a block to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (free). From there, walk north on Tejon for two blocks, which takes you past a handful of public art sculptures. Turn east on Pikes Peak for Josh & John’s ice cream (and a little more public art). Continue east to Nevada, and admire the historic Mining Exchange building (now Mining Exchange Hotel) then head back south to the garage. Time: 2-3 hours
For the Foodies
Reserve a spot on the Delicious Downtown Food Tour offered by Rocky Mountain Food Tours and featuring five award-winning Downtown restaurants. (Saturday and Sunday tours are 2-5 pm and must be reserved in advance; private tours can also be scheduled.) Once inspired by your culinary adventure, head to Sparrowhawk Cookware, the largest Le Cruset distributor west of the Mississippi, and outfit your kitchen with all the tools necessary to create your own gastronomic masterpiece. Wander a few doors down to stock up on hand-ground spices from around the world at Savory Spice Shop. Time: 4-5 hours
Family Day ouT
Start at the movie-theater-converted-to-climbing gym, CityROCK. Take your tyke to traverse the “Climbarium,” an aquatic-themed area where little ones can slide, climb and zip-line through an “underwater” odyssey. For the rest of the family, there are a variety of climbing walls and even indoor spelunking – 225 feet of cave formations complete with electronic sensors triggered by touch. Make it a game of Mom vs. Dad or Parents vs. Kids in a quest to escape the cave activating the least number of sensors.
From there, take a five-minute walk to Bingo Burger for burgers and fries cooked to order paired with creamy milkshakes and malts. Bingo even makes boozy shakes and serves icy cold Colorado craft beers for mom and dad. Take your lunch to go and have a picnic at Acacia Park across the street. Home to the musical Uncle Wilbers Fountain (open noon-evening, June through August), a full-sized playground, picnic tables and lots of shade. After lunch, check out free giant Connect 4, chess, Jenga or bocce from the Acacia Park Hub (open from 11:30 am – 6:30 pm) or try your hand at shuffleboard. Time: 2-3 hours
Downtown on a Dime
Located in the center of the city, the carefully preserved former El Paso County Courthouse is a fan favorite for both visitors and locals alike. Featuring over a dozen permanent and rotating exhibits, spend a few hours or the entire day exploring the history of the “City of Sunshine”. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm.
Hear the stories about Downtown public art from artists and arts advocates themselves by using your smartphone. Download the free GPS-based app Otocast via ITUNES or GOOGLE PLAY. Downtown Ventures has added more than 30 new audio clips for works that are part of the city’s permanent collection of public art. Icons on the Public Art Map indicate works with audio clips, and the app will automatically display the featured works with audio.
Free and open to the public, First Friday Downtown features new art, live music, and special events on the first Friday of every month from 5-8 p.m. at dozens of galleries, retailers and nonprofits throughout Downtown Colorado Springs. Explore the entire Creative Corridor (includes Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs) on Peak Radar free shuttle bus from April through October.
Change it up. Learn about the history of money, check out a coin making demonstration on the mini-mint machine and visit the Kids Zone filled with interactive activities the kids will love. Free admission every third Saturday of the month.
Explore dozens of galleries featuring both rotating and permanent collections. Free admission every third Friday of the month. And don’t forget, 4th graders (and their families!) can claim their free Passport to the Arts which includes a one-year membership as well as free admission to several live performances.
As part of the “Free for Kids” program, children ages 7-17 are invited to discover the beauty of the Philharmonic. Two free tickets per adult ticket purchase. More info here.
This stunning twenty-one-acre park sits adjacent to I-25 and the brand new U.S Olympic Museum (opening 2020) and is edged by the Midland Trail and Pikes Peak Greenway Trail. The magnificent 24 ton Julie Penrose Fountain acts as both a stunning work of public art and a refreshing water fountain that operates from 11 am – 5 pm during summer months (weather permitting).
The funky bunch
Park at the garage at Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue, then head east on Bijou for the two most eclectic blocks Downtown. Explore comic books and characters at Escape Velocity, upscale thrift and consignment at Redoux, and award-winning artisan stationery at Ladyfingers Letterpress. Grab a crafted-for-this-altitude cuppa at the tiny house Story Coffee Co. at Acacia Park (named most beautiful coffee shop in Colorado by Architectural Digest) and if you’re so inclined, run through the Uncle Wilber Fountain. Time: 1.5-2 hours
Fashionistas and shopaholics
Find trendy yet affordable apparel and accessories at the various boutiques along Tejon Street, from Boulder at the north to Kiowa on the south. Colorado Co-op, Halo boutique, Terra Verde, Regina’s and Tailored West are just a few of the fashion boutiques along this three-block stretch. Have some extra time? Stop in the galleries, gift and specialty shops, too. Time: 3+ hours
Something for the ’tweens
Start with pancakes at Urban Egg then head up the street to Podiatryst for playful shoes, bags and accessories. Next, grab a Taiwanese Boba Tea (bubble tea) at the Coffee and Tea Zone, then cross to The Candy Bar for a sweet-tooth fix, and My Colorado Store for a Centennial State T-shirt or ballcap. Pop up one more block for a burger at the Skirted Heifer or around the corner to Bambino’s Urban Pizzeria. Time: 3-4 hours
Start your day by fueling up the way many Olympians-in-training do, at Ola Juice Bar. Have an açaí bowl or Thai Avocado Medjool – a powerful blend of avocado, cashews, dates, lemongrass, vanilla, coconut milk, coconut water & raw agave. Then, head west to Monument Valley Park and the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail where you can run, bike or walk on miles of trails (both gravel and paved). If you’re looking for an indoor workout, try a class at Cycology Studio. Your first ride is always free and includes free shoe and locker rental. To wind down, try REST Float Solutions for 90 minutes of uninterrupted, zero gravity relaxation and float therapy. Time: 3-4 hours
For the guys
Men, treat yourself to a fresh cut complete with hot towel and shampoo at To the Nines Barber Lounge and you’ll never want another do-it-yourself clipper cut again. Then, pop in next door to Cycle Gear for motorcycle parts, clothing and accessories. Next, head up the block to FH Beerworks (formerly Fieldhouse Brewing) for a pint. Looking for a quick bite with a killer view? Head across the street to Atomic Provisions family of businesses including Fat Sully’s Pizza (the biggest pizza you have ever seen), Denver Biscuit Co. and Atomic Cowboy. Time: 2-3 hours
Sometimes a little bit of pampering does wonders for the soul, so grab your best friend and make a day of it. Start out your morning with a fresh croissant and latte at La Baguette. Next, head up the street to the MX Spa, located in the cozy basement of the Mining Exchange Hotel, for a deep tissue massage. Afterward, head back down Pikes Peak Avenue to the MX Market for a lunch of build-your-own-panini, gourmet salads, and soup. Then, head to Beauty Bar for a manicure and pedicure, accompanied by wine or a seasonal cocktail. Finish the day with chocolates from Cacao Chemistry. Time: 3+ hours