Long before Old Colorado City was "Old," it was the first (unofficial) capital of the Colorado Territory. So dismiss any urge to skip the Old Colorado City Historical Society's History Center (1 S. 24th St., occhs.org); this free museum will set you up right before you start your stroll. You also may want to check out the Old Colorado City Library (2418 W. Pikes Peak Ave., ppld.org/old-colorado-city-library), part of Andrew Carnegie's legacy.
Then get ready for some art.
Cucuru Gallery Cafe (2332 W. Colorado Ave., cucuru.santuario.com) deftly mixes its works with music and food. Moving west on Colorado Avenue, you'll find old-timey little sculptures at the Michael Garman Museum (2418 W. Colorado Ave., michaelgarman.com); keep in mind that above the shop, 20 completely separate artists' studios (thesecondfloorstudios.com) open up from 5 to 8 p.m. the first Friday of every month. Also, the Range Gallery (2428 W. Colorado Ave., longshotphotography.com) displays gorgeous camera art — including Kathleen McFadden's "third dimension" photography.
Stay on the north side of Colorado Avenue as you continue to the 2500 block, where you'll see the Velez (2506 W. Colorado Ave., velezgalleries.com) and Hunter-Wolff (2510 W. Colorado Ave., hunterwolffgallery.com) galleries. The Laura Reilly Fine Art Gallery (2522A W. Colorado Ave., laurareilly.com) may hold more paintings per square inch than anywhere on the planet.
If you're inspired at this point to create your own art, stop by Puttin' on the Paint (2616 W. Colorado Ave. #21, 633-5330) and glaze a few ceramic pieces.
But then it's time to cross the street to El Dorado Gallery (2627 W. Colorado Ave., eldoradogallery.net) and Studio 101 (2609 W. Colorado Ave., studio101.biz), the latter of which offers children's art classes. On to the Squash Blossom (2531 W. Colorado Ave., squashblossom.com), then Arati Artists Gallery (2425 W. Colorado Ave., aratiartists.com) and the puppet-loving Simpich Showcase Theatre (2413 W. Colorado Ave., simpich.com).
South of OCC, the Ghost Town Museum (400 S. 21st St., ghosttownmuseum.com) gives kids the chance to pan for gold during the summer. West of the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center, Rock Ledge Ranch (3105 Gateway Road, rockledgeranch.com) re-creates the area's past; check the site for information on docents and special events including, but not limited to, sheep shearing.
Just minutes farther north, Glen Eyrie (3820 N. 30th St., gleneyrie.org) is a castle that was home to Colorado Springs' founder, William Jackson Palmer. Tours and teas are readily available.
Heading into Manitou Springs, the first daytime attraction you might see is the Business of Art Center (513 and 515 Manitou Ave., thebac.org), a creative hub that hosts exhibits, studios, a gift shop and much more. (Disclosure: I do PR there.) The Manitou Springs Library (701 Manitou Ave., manitousprings.colibraries.org) will follow, as will Green Horse Gallery (729 Manitou Ave., greenhorsegallery.com) and Mountain Living Studio (741 Manitou Ave., mountainlivingstudio.com). They display local artists' work, as does the venerable Commonwheel Artists Co-op (102 Cañon Ave., commonwheel.com). At Mountain Living, look for paintings by Liese Chavez, Indy readers' pick for Best Local Artist.
A few blocks west, find more paintings at Darpino Studio Gallery (934 Manitou Ave., darpinostudiogallery.com), Duryea Fine Art (1003 Manitou Ave., duryeafineart.com) and Fare Bella Studio & Gallery (16 Ruxton Ave., farebella.wordpress.com). Miramont Castle Museum (9 Capitol Hill Ave., miramontcastle.org) is a must-see — unless you're drawn instead to the Manitou Arcade (930 block of Manitou Avenue, 685-9815), with its brightly painted animal rides, classic photo booth, and dozens of old-school arcade games.
Head west on Highway 24, taking note of the North Pole and Santa's Workshop (5050 Pikes Peak Highway, Cascade, santas-colo.com) amid other tourist spots, and watch for the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (201 S. Fairview St., rmdrc.com) and its displays of the herbivores and carnivores whose bones have been found around these parts. Also be aware that Seven Arrows Gallery (118 W. Midland Ave., 7arrowsgallery.com) is the unofficial headquarters for the art scene in "The City Above the Clouds."
Back on the highway, continue west to Divide. Just 1.5 miles past the stoplight, you'll see a sign on the left for the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (wolfeducation.org); go another 1.5 miles on Twin Rocks Road. The CWWC, which houses a sanctuary, offers walking tours with knowledgeable guides, by reservation only. And beyond Divide, the Florissant Fossil Beds (15807 Teller County Road 1, Florissant, nps.gov/flfo) take you even further into the region's past.
We'll start in Manitou Springs, because you can barely go five feet without running into a coffee spot, or something like a coffee spot — hello, Maté Factor (966 Manitou Ave., 685-3235). Even the innards of Venue 515 boast their own Canvas Café (515 Manitou Ave., 685-1861).
But let's backtrack a minute to Marika's Coffeehouse (739 Manitou Ave., marikascoffeehouse.com), because it's going to meet most of your needs. The Georgopoulos co-owners are frequently behind the counter, making a drink you can take with you as you enjoy hanging artwork by local luminaries, check your Pinterest on the free-to-use computers, or spend a minute on the piano.
FRIENDS Coffee & Espresso (934 Manitou Ave., friendscoffeeandespresso.com), across from the endlessly thrilling Manitou Arcade, offers parents a little pick-me-up when the little ones have decided they're NOT setting the light gun down on Area 51. Lastly, for a damn decent mocha, hit Spice of Life (727 Manitou Ave., manitouspiceoflife.com). It does more herbs, flavorings and food than java, so we'd also recommend you grab the Hot Man Sandwich.
Old Colorado City's also doing just fine in the bean area. You've got the Agia Sophia Coffee Shop & Bookstore (2902 W. Colorado Ave., agiasophiacoffeeshop.com), where I've lost more than a few games of chess on the inlaid table downstairs. Additionally, the upper level offers some of the best and most distinctive corners in the city for meeting and studying. (Check out the 360-degree views on the website.)
Jives Coffee Lounge (16 Colbrunn Court, jivescoffeelounge.com) is another OCC haunt with wood floors, live music and great personality.
— Bryce Crawford