Downtown Comes to Life
Not so many years ago, you could have rolled a bowling ball down Tejon Street at 9:00pm on a balmy summer night and hit nothing–no cars, no bikes, no residents, no visitors…not even a stray dog. Downtown was sleepy during the day and asleep at night. Looking for bars, restaurants, art galleries, breweries, distilleries, coffee shops, bookstores, wine bars? Sorry, you’d better find another town! There just wasn’t much to do, but that’s all changed. Now there’s a new problem: There’s too much to do in our bustling, fun, and safe downtown. Here are a few ways to enjoy a leisurely summer evening in Colorado Springs’ historic downtown.
First, find a parking place. The meters are free after 6:00 p.m., but you’ll be lucky to find an available space. Your best bet is the parking structure on the corner of Kiowa and Nevada. Enter from Kiowa and park as long as you want for a buck. When you exit the structure, walk half a block west to Tejon, cross over to the west side, and then turn north. You’ll pass cool eateries and bar/restaurants as you stroll along, but keep going. Veer left on Bijou, walk half a block, and then take a few steps down the alley to the Modbo and SPQR, a couple of bite-sized art galleries/performance spaces where there’s always something going on.
Return to Tejon, and make your way a block and a half north. Pass the ancient and imposing El Paso Club (a men’s club whose members are almost as old as the building!), and continue to the Poor Richard’s complex. Owned by the amiable Richard Skorman (who moonlights as the President of the Colorado Springs City Council), the complex includes a vast bookstore, a toy store, a wine bar, and a restaurant. Both the restaurant and the wine bar have extensive back patios/back rooms, including a child-friendly playroom in the restaurant. Try the pizza—Skorman served a six-month apprenticeship in New York learning how to make a great pie some years ago.
Leaving Richard’s, head across Tejon, cross Boulder, and check out the Wild Goose Meeting House. Featuring great coffee and casual eats, it’s usually thronged with millennials. If you’re in the mood for an amazing cocktail, go next door to Ian and Nick Lee’s speakeasy, Brooklyn’s. You ring the bell, a peephole opens, and you’re either admitted immediately or advised to come back later. It’s a small place, and the owners don’t want to overcrowd it. When you get in, try Lee’s gin, our sublime local distillate. Head back south on the east side of Tejon and check out Odyssey, a friendly (and often crowded) moderately priced bar/restaurant.
Continuing south, pass Acacia Park and the delightful Uncle Wilber Fountain, and stop at The Famous, a traditional steakhouse. The food’s great (if pricey) and the horseshoe bar is a favorite local hangout. Too crowded? Walk a block south, and things really heat up. Turn right on Pikes Peak and you’ll pass Phantom Canyon, a three-story restaurant/pub/craft brewery with an outside patio on the second story. Stop, or keep going to the Antlers, a newly restored hotel that has anchored Colorado Springs for 50 years. Alternatively, turn left on Pikes Peak. First stop (especially if you have kids in tow): Josh & John’s ice cream shop. The amazing ice cream is all made on site, and your kids will never forgive you if you don’t stop—unless you’re going to the movies next door at the Peak Theater. Dating from the 1940s, the Peak is an old-fashioned movie house with three screens that feature both blockbusters and Indie films.
If you’re still in the game, walk another 50 yards to Springs Orleans and the adjacent Mining Exchange Hotel. The New Orleans-themed restaurant features a piano player you might recognize—Thomas Dawson of the Commodores—who usually plays on Thursday and Saturday nights. Take a seat at the bar, order the drink of your choice, and don’t forget the beignets! Built in 1902 to house the Colorado Springs Mining Stock Exchange, the Mining Exchange building had fallen into disrepair when entrepreneur Perry Sanders acquired it. After tens of millions of dollars in investment, it has been reborn as a luxury boutique hotel. Luxuriate in the MX Spa or wander down the street to the Gold Room, a renovated Art Deco building from the 1930s that Sanders has transformed into an intimate performance venue.
Exhausted? You’ve hardly scratched the surface! Here are a few more options:
COTTONWOOD CENTER FOR THE ARTS at 427 East Colorado Avenue. Cottonwood is to art galleries what the Burj Khalifa is to multistory buildings. Once a nondescript 70s office building, Cottonwood is now an amazing assemblage of 80 artist studios and a dozen performance/exhibition spaces. You won’t be bored!
Vaguely defined as the neighborhood bordered by Nevada, Rio Grande, Cascade, and Vermijo, the once-forlorn area is rapidly gentrifying. Craft breweries, bars, restaurants, and sleek coffee shops have replaced the boarded-up buildings and vacant lots that once defined the area. Our faves: Bar K at 124 East Costilla, Gold Camp Brewery at 1007 South Tejon, and Shuga’s
at 702 South Cascade.
NEAR WEST COLORADO AVENUE Just over the Colorado Avenue Bridge, this mixed commercial, industrial, and residential area has lots of interesting options. 503W at 503 West Colorado offers inventive cuisine, great cocktails, and live entertainment most Friday nights. Just up the street is Benny’s, a classic American dive bar with hard-rocking bands most Friday nights. Just one block west at 702 West Colorado is Cerberus, a spacious restaurant/craft brewery with great dog-friendly outdoor seating.
So take it easy and have fun as you enjoy our reborn Colorado Springs downtown!