Do you enjoy galleries, museums and public art? How about historic hotels, vintage “barcades,” intimate live music venues, and deliciously festive made-from-scratch doughnuts? Then this is the perfect itinerary for your weekend stay in Colorado Springs.
As Executive Director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, your host Andy Vick loves fostering collaboration between the arts scene and the broader community. You’ll benefit from his wide-angle variety and knowledge of insider hot spots as you explore the Springs from the angle of a visual artist.
“My wife and I used to be visual artists, so that’s how we like to travel,” Andy says. “We like to find cool galleries. We like to find great places to eat. We like to hear live music. We like to find fun ways to see public art. Really, most everything about this itinerary is focused around the visual arts.”
Where to Stay: Lodging
The Mining Exchange: A Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa
The Mining Exchange is a fully restored, Four Diamond hotel and spa located in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs at 8 S. Nevada Avenue. Now stylish and historically refined with a comfortable, creative flair, the Mining Exchange was once the hub of financing for the barons of the Cripple Creek and Victor gold district. You can still see the massive door to the vault in the lobby. Built in 1902, the Mining Exchange opened as a 117-room boutique hotel in 2012.
“When I invite people to the community, I always recommend the Mining Exchange Hotel because it’s so convenient to everything,” Andy says. “It’s a beautiful historic building that has been lovingly renovated. I love the lobby area. It’s so bright and light and open, and they also have amazing happy hours here. It really is a wonderful place to stay.”
What To Do
If you really want to make the most of exploring Colorado Springs art gallery scene, time your visit to arrive on a First Friday Art Walk, which happens — of course — on the first Friday of each month from 5-8 p.m.
“It’s an opportunity to visit galleries, meet the artists and see new shows that are opening — and also great time to go out to dinner with family or friends and check out all the stores,” Andy says. “There’s energy and activity everywhere with gallery openings and people milling about. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy a Friday evening and see interesting new artwork.”
The main local hubs for First Friday celebrations are downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. Andy’s itinerary focuses on downtown, and his recommendations include Kreuser Gallery and the adjoining G44 Gallery, Cottonwood Center for the Arts, and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, just to name a few.
“Kreuser Gallery is one of my favorite galleries. It’s owned by Abby Kreuser, who is a photographer herself, so she really understands artists and how to present their work in the most professional way,” Andy says. “She shows a lot of local artists, and it’s always first rate. I always love coming to Kreuser Gallery, especially on First Fridays.”
Where to Eat and Drink
For dinner, head to the Odyssey Gastropub at 311 N. Tejon Street. You’ll find original art on the exposed 110-year-old brick walls — no neon beer signs, even though the craft beer menu is vast. The menu features entrees such as Fish Tacos, Chicken and Waffles and a Bulgogi Bowl, but don’t miss the signature Odyssey Burger or the delicious sharables like Crispy Brussels and Banh Mi Nachos. “It’s got a great vibe and great burgers, but I’ll tell you what, the crispy Brussels sprouts are amazing!” Andy says.
You’ll find Andy’s next recommended stop just around the corner at 111 E. Boulder Street. “If you love vintage pinball and video games like I do, then stop into the Supernova Bar and Arcade for a drink and a blast from the past,” he says. “Be sure to bring a roll of quarters!” From pinball to classic video games such as Centipede, Defender, Asteroids and many, many more, you’re sure to find your favorite.
What to Do
Start your morning with some shopping and more gallery browsing in Old Colorado City. “Old Colorado City is a really neat historic part of Colorado Springs,” Andy says. “In fact, it actually predates Colorado Springs, and now it’s lined with galleries and retail and restaurants, all within a few blocks.”
Founded in 1859, Old Colorado City was the first capital of the Territory of Colorado and a Wild West enclave known for its saloons and brothels during the 1890s. Now you can stroll up and down Colorado Avenue and find boutiques, cafes and a high concentration of art galleries, including Hunter-Wolff Gallery, 45 Degree Gallery, Laura Reilly Gallery and more.
Plan your afternoon around a drive west up Highway 24 through Ute Pass to Green Mountain Falls. The idyllic little mountain town is home to Green Box Arts and the new James Turrell Skyspace, a sort of creative observatory that showcases a kinetic experience that shifts one’s perception of nature and sky through contemporary light, color and space. Organizers call it “an experiential work of art unlike anywhere else in the world,” and it is the renowned artist’s first Skyspace in Colorado. Be sure to also check out the other pieces of public art that can be seen near the lake in the center of this small mountain town.
For the evening, start with a quick happy hour in the Mining Exchange Hotel lobby, and then head back to Manitou Springs to take in some live music at Lulu’s Downstairs. The schedule features a wide range of regional and national performers, and the scene is relaxed and comfortable. “I like it because the owner is a musician, and he really understands music. He knows how to get great regional and national acts to come and play there,” Andy says. “It’s a fairly intimate venue, so you’re right up close to the music.”
Where to Eat and Drink
Plan your lunch or brunch at the Crystal Park Cantina in Manitou Springs. It’s an easy stop between Old Colorado City and Green Mountain Falls. You’ll find it tucked into a quiet canyon at 178 Crystal Park Road. The margaritas here may just be the best in town. And you don’t want to miss the Huevos Rancheros if you’re brunching. Grab a seat on the hillside patio and enjoy the “chill” mountain atmosphere.
For dinner, Saigon Café is just a couple of blocks from your hotel downtown at 20 E. Colorado Avenue. You’ll find great Vietnamese food in a casual and comfortable environment.
What to Do
Spend your final day’s activity enjoying the outdoors as you explore the Art on the Streets public art in downtown Colorado Springs. The annual installations are in parks, alleys, medians, street corners and on the sides of historic buildings. You can download a free app that will direct you through a self-guided tour with information about each installation.
“There are so many different ways you can enjoy that public art,” Andy says. “You can walk it. You can take a PikeRide public bicycle, or you can grab a scooter and ride around to check out all the different pieces of artwork. So much of it is close together, but you can get to even more artwork on the PikeRide bikes or scooters.”
Where to Eat and Drink
Who needs a formal sit-down breakfast when Amy’s Donuts features a diverse selection of the most delicious doughnuts anywhere? “I’ve always considered myself a doughnut aficionado,” Andy says with a smile. “When my wife and I discovered Amy’s donuts, we were blown away. They have an amazing selection of doughnuts. They’re fresh; they’re delicious. My favorites are the apple fritter and the old-fashioned blueberry.” But you can get as funky as you like with colorful gourmet toppings and flavors, ranging from Oreos and Lucky Charms to Bananas Foster and Maple Bacon Jalapeno. They’re all made from scratch, and you’ll find them south of downtown at 2704 E. Fountain Boulevard.
For more substantial lunch fare, head to downtown’s New South End to the Fat Sulley’s/Denver Biscuit Company complex at 528 S. Tejon Street. “If you like New York style pizza like me, you have to try Fat Sulley’s,” Andy says. “ The pizzas are huge and delicious — definitely something you don’t want to miss for a casual lunch.”
Before your weekend getaway is over, be sure stop in at the renovated Ivywild School. The community hub at 1604 S. Cascade Avenue is the home of multiple restaurants, cocktail bar The Principal’s Office, favorite local distillery Axe and the Oak Whiskey House, and Bristol Brewing Co., one of the Springs oldest and favorite craft breweries. Be sure to check-out the Cultural Office’s Art-o-Mat machine in the main hallway and take home a small piece of handmade art for just $5!
Map Your Itinerary
Want to build your custom Colorado Springs itinerary? Use the Visit Colorado Springs Trip Planner tool to enter your destinations and create your maps and schedules in one spot.
For up-to-date event information when you’re in town, be sure to visit PeakRadar.com, the cultural calendar for the Pikes Peak region.
Watch for more Creative Stays itineraries in the coming months!