Even though the outsourcing of heavy industry has rusted Pueblo's 20th-century reputation as the "Steel City," its cultural landscape has grown more robust in this century. So, provided you don't already live there, it can definitely be worth the 45-minute drive south from downtown Colorado Springs — as can a number of other locations along the way.
At Pueblo's Downtown Bar (103 Central Plaza, 719/544-1499), the much-loved Haunted Windchimes played some of their first gigs. The bar also has great taste in beer: Coors and Coors Light are conspicuously absent, in deference to a rotating selection of Colorado microbrews on tap. At any given time, some 50 whiskeys are on-hand, and the venue continues to get artists and bands who can't play the Springs because of contract agreements with Denver booking agents.
Other venues with that geographic advantage include the biker-friendly Kim's Pixie Inn (440 S. Santa Fe Ave., Pueblo, 719/542-8370), where touring acts like the Adicts and C.J. Ramone have held court. The same goes for Smitty's Greenlight Tavern (227 N. Santa Fe Ave., 719/543-2747) and Phil's Radiator (109 E. C St., 719/671-5503). The latter is housed in an old mechanic's shop, complete with beer garden and regular visits from punk legends like Agent Orange.
Also, if you want to catch some mellower music in late August or very early September, the state fair in Pueblo actually brings in some high-quality acts; in recent years, it's welcomed Smokey Robinson and Merle Haggard.
The fair's craft beer judges, meanwhile, for three years straight have awarded a gold medal to its hometown Shamrock Brewing Company (108 W. Third St., shamrockbrewing.com). Take a seat at its vintage mahogany bar and order up a Scotch Strong Ale or Bessemer Steel Lager, and don't forget the Irish Ale Cheese Soup.
Forty miles west of Pueblo, in Cañon City, is the Royal Gorge Brewing Co. (413 Main St., royalgorgebrewing.com), a spacious, kid-friendly restaurant in the historic downtown district with plenty of house-made microbrews on tap as well as a standard brewpub menu.
Just east of Fort Carson, 10 miles south of Colorado Springs, lies the city of Fountain, which welcomed the 2012 opening of the Country Bar (606 S. Santa Fe Ave., 382-5361). A fairly cavernous space located just off Interstate 25, it has karaoke and live music offerings that, not all that surprisingly, lean country.
Over on the southwest side of town, you can hit the Hatch Cover (252 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., hatchcover.biz) for 17 HD TVs, rib-eye steaks, and all-day 50-cent wings. A neighborhood institution for 40 years, the Hatch has weekday happy hours and karaoke on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
On Thursday nights, you'll find 39-cent wings and karaoke at Eddie's Yukon Rock and Roll Bar and Grill (525 S. Circle Drive, 465-2395), which earlier this year announced extensive renovations ("new paint, new stage, new lights, new games, new menu, new specials, new staff, and new peeps!!"). It now boasts two separate bar areas, each with its own stage, so patrons get their choice of deejays, along with the occasional live band, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Those who prefer polished classic rock in a posh atmosphere can visit the south side of Colorado Springs, where Tavern at the Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com) is a destination of choice. Each Thursday through Sunday, the seriously talented guitarist Lewis Mock leads the Tavern Orchestra through renditions of hits by the Beatles, Beach Boys and the Monkees that'll have you forgetting the last several decades ever happened.
Meanwhile, the Broadmoor's Golden Bee, a replica 19th-century English pub, just underwent a major renovation and expansion. As of press time, it was set to reopen with a cool rooftop patio in early April — the same time the property launches a brand-new feature in Broadmoor West called PLAY, which is a lounge and restaurant featuring a games parlor and bowling alley.