Manitou Springs Again Captures National Attention

Smithsonian Rates Manitou as Top Small Town For 2021

Gabriel Paulson

For the third time in almost as many weeks, Manitou Springs has once again gained national recognition after being named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 15 best small towns to visit in 2021.

The recognition was announced in June by the magazine, which is published by the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian is one of the top magazines for travelers and art/museum-goers.

“It is the perfect spot for visitors,” resident Amy Mogck said. “Manitou Springs is the perfect combo of Mother Nature, friendly people, and a robust arts and culture scene.”

The list, which is not in any particular order, lists Manitou Springs as number five, and with the exception of Hatch, New Mexico, it reigns as one of the smallest small towns on the list. The article focuses on reasons why  Manitou Springs is an ideal place for big city residents wanting to escape the post-pandemic lockdowns.

The article states that Manitou Springs, tucked between Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, both national historic landmarks in their own right, is an ideal spot for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

“This mountain town gets its name from the eight mineral springs around town, each one sporting its own special properties, like the Navajo Spring’s natural bubbling waters and the strong flowing waters of Twin Spring, popular for making mineral water lemonade, and taste,” the article states.

The article goes on to mention the numerous hiking areas available throughout town and in the nearby Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the Incline. It also mentions the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, known as the highest railway in America and the world’s highest cog train. The article also mentions the recent overhaul of the railroad, complete with new cars and tracks.

“Visitors will often see moose and bighorn sheep along the slopes,” the article stated. “The peak itself is home to the new sustainably-built Pikes Peak Summit House and Visitor Center and tourists must fill up on the specialty of the house, homemade donuts.”

The article goes on to highlight Green Horse Gallery, which showcases works by local artists; The Ten Spot, where all items are on sale for $10 or less; and skeeball at Arcade Amusements, which the article describes as a penny arcade with an old school prize counter.

“Round out the arcade experience with a visit to nearby Patsy’s, a more than century-old concession stand, where popcorn, funnel cake and salt water taffy are the norm,”  according to the Smithsonian article. It then goes on to mention local craft brews and elevated bar food on hand at Manitou Brewing Company and the gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at the Swirl. The article also gives a shout-out to Armadillo Ranch for barbecue and live music.

“At first I thought the secret was revealed,” Jenna Gallas, co-owner of Armadillo Ranch and spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce. “People know the wonders of Manitou here. This recognition is worth it and I am excited to see where we are going next.”

On any summer day, the town is filled with visitors from near and far on short trips or longer vacations and many local businesses report that this is one of the busiest summers over the past few years.

“People just want to get out and reconnect with people and places following a long year of lockdowns,” Mogck said. “It is really good to see so many enjoying our little town and now, there will be more people enjoying their visit following this recognition. There are some people who just like to visit places that are recommended by magazines, especially when it’s as famous as Smithsonian.”

“Everyone goes through our downtown and supports our small businesses,” she said. “In that spirit, they know that this has been a tough year and they are ready to spend their tourism expenses right here and help boost our economy. As we head into the warmer months and near the end of the pandemic, tourism becomes more active.”

Susie Hawkins, who owns Red Wing Motel, said, “As always, we see a lot of repeat businesses, but there are also first-time visitors to Manitou Springs. They are from the east coast, from the west coast, from the south, and from the north.”

According to Hawkins, the business at the motel was hit hard last year, because of the pandemic and construction, so it is refreshing to see more people coming.

“Like all other businesses, it was the hardest last year. It was the hardest I’ve ever seen, but this year it just exploded,” Hawkins said. “People are trying to get back to their roots, feeling comfortable and seeing them visiting and coming with family and friends.”

The city was recently recognized by FEMA for its emergency management plan and as the number third in a list of the ten best small towns for local art.