Manitou Springs, CO is truly a unique place with a very interesting history. When I was in high school, one of my friends worked at Penny Arcade. We would spend hours wandering around in the shops, checking out the mineral springs, and visiting her at work. We loved playing games at the arcade, especially Derby. Manitou Springs has a spirit of whimsy about it. I have memories of wandering through shops and looking at wizards and dragons and tie-dyed shirts.
Manitou Springs sits at the foot of Pikes Peak. I worked at a campground when I was in high school and I made many reservations for guests to go on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. A train ride to the top of Pikes Peak was truly a fun way to go. Unfortunately, this railroad has been shut down, but there are plans to reopen it in 2021.
Barr Trail, one of the trails that can get you to the top of Pikes Peak, begins in Manitou Springs, and the impressive Incline looms above the city. There is much to see and do in Manitou. It is a true tourist destination sitting right next to Colorado Springs. Here are 30 things to do in Manitou Springs, CO.
1. Tackle the Manitou Incline
The Manitou Incline is the most popular hike in the Colorado Springs area. What started as a route for a cable car to carry materials up to build pipelines on Pikes Peak turned has into an intense hike. Once the cable car line was damaged and the cars no longer ran, residents began hiking up the remaining ties.
Even though this was illegal to do at first, because of crossing private property, it is now legal. The parking lot for the Manitou Incline is located in Manitou and there is a fee to park there. The Manitou Incline is just under a mile long but climbs 2,000 vertical feet. World-class athletes can complete the entire incline in about 20 minutes, most people take a bit over half an hour.
Although there are no official rules about not coming back down the Manitou Incline, it is recommended to only go up the incline for safety. The most popular way of coming back down is to go to the left after completing the incline and then connecting to Barr Trail.
2. Cave of the Winds Below Ground
Cave of the Winds has a rich history starting with the Jicarilla Apaches who spoke of a cave near Manitou Springs in which the Great Spirit of the Wind resided. Over time, various explorers excavated and discovered more wonders. Guided tours began in 1881 and have been going on ever since.
Today, there are three tours to choose from. The Discovery Tour is great for a family, as it takes place in the electrically lit portion of the cave. This tour lasts 45-60 minutes and is $23 for those 13 and up, $17 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids 0-5. The Lantern Tour is a bit more spooky, as participants explore by candlelight.
This tour lasts 90 minutes and is $34 for those 13 and up, $24 for kids ages 6-12, children 5 and under are not permitted on this tour. Caving 101 is the final option for a tour. This tour allows participants to explore the undeveloped portions of the caverns by walking, crawling, and climbing. This tour lasts 2 to 2.5 hours and is $59 for those 13 and up. Children 12 and under are not allowed on the tour. Winter special and military discounts are available.
3. Cave of the Winds Above Ground
In addition to the adventure below the ground, Cave of the Winds offers many attractions above ground. There are two zip lines that sit 80′ above the canyon floor. Rock climbing is available in the canyon. The Magic Lantern Virtual Reality Theatre will send you flying, speeding, and experiencing new places.
Get shot into the sky on the Bat-A-Pult or launched into the canyon at nearly 100 miles per hour on the Terror-Dactyl. Strap into a maze of steel beams, ladders, and ropes on the Wind Walker Challenge Course. With a 600 foot drop into William’s Canyon, the views are spectacular.
All of the rides have height requirements and prices vary. Packages can be purchased to have unlimited access to certain attractions. In addition to these, there is a climbing wall, adventure slide, the opportunity to pan for gemstones, a nature center, a gift shop, and a restaurant.
4. Cliff Dwellings Museum
I recently visited the Cliff Dwellings Museum as a chaperone on my daughter’s field trip. All of the kids had a really great time. There are two museums located on-site inside a building meant to mimic a Pueblo with very interesting artifacts.
Guests are also allowed to explore the authentic cliff dwellings, which were moved here from their original location in extreme southwestern Colorado in 1907. A group of people wanted to protect these treasures from looters and worked hard to get the dwellings to their current location.
On my daughter’s field trip, the children got to watch a historical film, grind corn, paint a pot, tour the museum, and explore the dwellings. Regular admission is only $10 for adults and $7.50 for kids. Season passes are also available in the huge gift shop.
5. Manitou Springs Penny Arcade
I have so many fond memories of spending time at this arcade as a teenager. We would often come and visit my friend who worked here. There is skeeball, air hockey, outdoor rides for little kids, classic arcade games, vintage arcade games that cost only a penny, nickel, or dime to play, derby horse racing, and much more.
The arcade consists of many small buildings, each one with a unique feel and different games. Earn tickets and pick out a prize before you go. Bring the family or enjoy a fun date night. It is in a great location and you can walk to many shops and restaurants before or after playing the games.
6. Miramont Castle
Information is still being gathered about this historic landmark, but the earliest deed of the land dates back to 1862 and the Miramont Castle was built in 1895. Explore 30 rooms that have authentic Victorian furnishings, come for tea at the Queen’s Parlour Tea Room, and watch for many special events throughout the year.
7. Manitou Springs Fire Department Museum
Located within Miramont Castle, this museum is a great place to bring a young firefighter enthusiast. There is a variety of antique and vintage fire memorabilia from all over the Pikes Peak region. The oldest piece is an 1880 hose cart, which is not only the oldest thing here, but is the oldest registered fire apparatus in all of Colorado.
8. Briarhurst Manor
The Briarhurst Manor is a lovely Victorian Manor House that was built in 1876. Today, it is a full service restaurant that can seat up to 500 guests. There are nine rooms in which to dine in and there are really nice views of Pikes Peak. This is also a popular place to hold a wedding or other event. The grounds are nicely landscaped, making an outdoor wedding an event to remember.
9. Get a Sweet Treat
There are many great places to get a sweet treat in Manitou Springs. I will highlight two of them. First is Patsy’s of Manitou Springs. Patsy’s is located near the Penny Arcade and is one of the most iconic stops in town. It has been in operation since 1903 and is an open-air concession stand.
Stop in for gourmet popcorn, a pretzel, salt-water taffy, soft-serve ice cream, cotton candy, funnel cake, a hot dog, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and many more options. Another really tasty place to visit is Colorado Custard Company. I am a fan of good custard and this place has it. Go for an Avalanche, which is custard blended with toppings, or try a sundae, float, shake, or banana split.
10. Go on a Beer Tour
Springs Beer Tours offers a few options for exploring Manitou Springs. The Original 1872 Tour lasts about two hours and visits three craft beer establishments. Participants will learn more about the history of Manitou Springs as well as how the unique handcrafted lagers and ales are made.
There will also be opportunities to taste some terrific beer. If you would rather walk through Manitou Springs and learn more about its history without the beer, this can be done on the Prohibition Tour. The cost for the Original 1872 Tour is $39 per person and the cost for the Prohibition Tour is $20 per person.
11. Manitou Springs Aquatics and Fitness Center
Although the pool was built in 1971, the facility has received many upgrades throughout the years. Most notably, the pool includes ozone-treated water. This provides a much more refreshing experience. Try out the indoor 25-yard pool, the outdoor kiddie splash pad and pool, an indoor Jacuzzi, an outdoor hot tub, a fitness room, and a multi-purpose room. Drop-in rates are available as well as punch cards and passcards for a greater discount.
12. Pikes Peak Tour by Gray Line
With the Cog Railway closed down, for now, the Pikes Peak Tour by Gray Line is another good way to get to the top of Pikes Peak. This tour lasts about four hours and spans about 60 miles. There are several stops on the way to the summit, allowing all riders to experience gorgeous scenery, stretch their legs, and slowly acclimate to the elevation.
The drivers are excellent tour guides and all will learn about the plants, animals, geology, and history of the mountain. At the top, everyone will get 30-40 minutes to experience life at 14,114 feet. The Summit House offers tasty snacks, coffee, and hot chocolate. Be sure to try the famous hot donuts, which are made with a special high altitude recipe.
13. Adventures Out West Zipline Course
Adventures Out West offers many adventures in the Colorado Springs area. Try out a jeep or bike tour, hot air balloon ride, segway tour, day hike, and more. The zipline is located in Manitou Springs and uses cliffs and natural wooded forests for platforms, no artificial ones. Soar over the canyon with the highest line being 100 feet above the canyon floor. The lines vary in length from 225 feet to 650 feet and give a big boost of adrenaline to all riders.
14. Manitou Springs Heritage Center
Learn more about the history of Manitou Springs and the surrounding area at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center. There are some great exhibits about such topics as The Pikes Peak Cog Railway, education in Manitou, the Manitou Incline, local pottery, bridges in Manitou, and many more. There are also many events held throughout the year, with the largest being the Heritage Brew Festival every fall in Memorial Park.
15. Iron Springs Chateau Historic Melodrama Theater
Enjoy dinner and a show with an old-fashioned flair at the Iron Springs Chateau Historic Melodrama Theater. Dinner consists of a three-course meal complete with coffee or tea and dessert. Reservations are available at 6:00, 6:15, and 6:30 p.m. and the doors to the theater open at 7:30 and the show begin at 8:00. Be ready to laugh, applaud, and feel like part of the show during the melodrama. The show changes a few times a year, and they are always entertaining.
16. Blue Moon Haunted History Tours
Manitou Springs is known to be a spiritual sanctuary for Native American Indians. The land was considered sacred and the mineral waters were important to many tribes. When settlers came, they began bottling the water and selling it, which angered the Native Americans and led them to curse the town. Later on, thousands of patients suffering from tuberculosis came to Manitou.
Many died at the old hospital, which is now known as Miramont Castle. Because of all of these events and more, the city is known to be haunted. Learn more and experience the legends on a Blue Moon Haunted History Tour. There are some especially great events near Halloween.
17. Ruxton’s Trading Post
Stop in to appreciate the historic building and all of the interesting wares for sale. Find cowboy and Indian antiques and collectibles as well as Native American art at Ruxton’s Trading Post.
18. Commonwheel Artists Co-Op
Local artists have the opportunity to showcase their talents here. Stop in to see what is being featured. Many events are also hosted here throughout the year, with the largest being the Annual Labor Day Art Festival.
19. Explore the City Parks in Manitou Springs
Memorial Park is one of the most popular parks in Manitou Springs. You can park here and catch a shuttle to the Incline, there are restrooms, access to the creek, a playground, a free mineral springs, and more. Other great parks in town include Soda Springs Park, Schryver Park, Deer Valley Nature Park, and Mansions Park.
20. Celebrate Mardi Gras
The CarniBall Masquerade Ball is a fun opportunity to get all dressed up in masquerade attire. There is Cajun-inspired food, drinks, live music, and lots of fun. A Carnivale King and Queen and Court are announced each year. In addition to the ball, there is also a Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off and Carnivale Parade.
21. The Great Fruitcake Toss
Everyone is invited to fling fruitcake through the air each January. What started as a small group of locals getting together to throw fruitcakes in the park in 1996 has turned into a big celebration. This event happens in Memorial Park and includes a variety of fruit cake tossing games, a costume contest, a fruitcake bake-off, and much more.
22. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The Race to the Clouds takes place on the last Sunday of June every year. A variety of categories of vehicles race to the top of Pikes Peak. This has been a tradition since 1916 and attracts the best drivers from around the world. It is truly a spectacle to experience.
23. The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon
Automobiles racing up Pikes Peak are truly impressive, but maybe even more so are people. The Pikes Peak Ascent starts in Manitou Springs and goes to the Summit of Pikes Peak. That is 13.32 miles and an elevation gain of nearly 8,000 feet. The Pikes Peak Marathon not only races up to the summit but then back down again. All participants must complete a qualifying event before registering since this event is so much tougher than a regular marathon or half-marathon. This event takes place in August.
24. Emma Crawford Coffin Races
Yes, you read that correctly, there are coffin races held in Manitou Springs every year near Halloween. The story goes that Emma Crawford came to Manitou Springs searching for a cure for tuberculosis. She fell in love with the town but unfortunately died in 1891. She wished to be buried at the top of Red Mountain, which she was.
In 1929 after a very wet winter and spring, Emma and her coffin raced down the mountainside. Some say that she still haunts Red Mountain. The town honors her with a festival, hearse parade, and coffin races. Teams create coffins and then race them down the street. It is truly a unique event that is not to be missed.
25. Manitou Springs Wine Festival
The Manitou Springs Wine Festival takes place every June. It is a great opportunity for wine enthusiasts to try new wines. More than 30 Colorado wineries are represented. There are also vendors, live music, and food at the event in Memorial Park.
26. Go Shopping
The downtown area is buzzing with great little shops to check out. There are so many unique items and opportunities to grab some souvenirs. Be sure to stop into 6,412′ Shirt Company, Christmas in Manitou, Colorado Ski Chairs, Flying Eagle, Manitou Outpost, Mushroom Monday, The Glassblowers of Manitou, and CK Comics.
27. Check out Art Galleries
Manitou Springs is known for its art. There are many galleries in town to explore. Be sure to stop into The Eagle Dancer, Green Horse Gallery, Cherokee’s of Manitou and the Manitou Art Center. There is also a self-guided “Art on the Avenue” walking tour available. Find the map in the Manitou Springs official site.
28. Go on a Mineral Springs Tour
Learn all about the natural mineral springs in town and sample them. During the summer, there are guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The tours are free, but donations for the maintenance and upkeep of the mineral springs are appreciated. If you would rather go on your own, a map for a self-guided tour is available on the Manitou Springs official site.
29. Rejuvenate and Indulge in Self Care
Sunwater Spa is a great destination for renewing yourself. You can stay here for a time or just visit for a day, event, or class. There are opportunities to soak in the mineral water, have a massage, facial, or any other holistic wellness practices.
If you are looking for all-natural skincare products, stop into Brazen Bee. This small business owned by women manufactures their skincare products right in the shop. They have a variety of products that are plant-based and chemical-free.
30. Summer Concerts
In addition to art, music is a big part of life in Manitou Springs. There are many opportunities during the summer months to experience free concerts. There is a drum circle and dancing every Thursday, May through September.
The Summer Concert Series at Soda Springs Park takes place every Monday and Thursday from mid-June through mid-August at 7 p.m. There are also concerts on the lawn of the Manitou Springs Library on Tuesdays June through mid-August. Just replace the snow in the above picture with some nice green summer grass.
Marie has lived in the Colorado Springs area for most of her life. She has spent lots of time in Manitou Springs, especially at the Penny Arcade, shopping, dining, and attending events.