Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview from Northern Arizona: 10 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, & How to Fit In. These tips are courtesy of California transplant, Jacqueline Perez.
I was born in San Jose, California, and moved to Colorado Springs when I was three years old. There’s a popular bumper sticker in Colorado that says “Native” with mountains in the background; when that became popular, an alternative sticker was created that says “not a native, but I got here as soon as I could”. I guess you can say I got here as soon as I could. And like many, I have Colorado pride.
I currently live in Manitou Springs, which is 15 minutes west of Colorado Springs. My mom and I own and run a Mexican restaurant, though we’re now in the transition of selling it. When I’m not working, I’m hanging out with friends at breweries, hiking, or playing at a jam session.
What to do in Colorado Springs (the Basics)?
Garden of the Gods is a must see. The rock formations can be seen from your car or on foot while hiking easy family-friendly trails.
The Air Force base, on the other hand, is on my “not worth it” list. It takes most of the day to get a permit get on base. They also have strict traffic rules. It is more of hassle than anything. A cool (and better) way to see the base is off the 1-25 pull offs.
Downtown Colorado Springs is another must. It has great eats. The Kimball theater has rare independent films that aren’t shown at other theaters. The hotels are great. And the art center right next to Colorado College has some pretty interesting shows for reasonable prices.
Old Colorado City—a five-minute drive from downtown—with its beautiful historical buildings and homes is, in my opinion, the best place to buy all things Colorado (hats, shirts, key chains, all reasonably priced). It also has some one the best live music and karaoke spots in the springs (karaoke typically goes on between Wednesdays and Sundays).
And, of course, Manitou Springs is a must see. This town is located in a canyon at the foot of Pikes Peak (another must-see). The main road that goes through Garden of the Gods (yet another must-see) leads straight to Manitou Springs. And, conveniently, all these must-see spots are near each other.
Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers
Colorado has some of the most breathtaking hikes and outdoor scenery I have experienced. For more adventurous travelers, some of my must-see hiking and scenery spots are:
Seven Falls/Helen Hunt Falls. This hike can vary from easy to intermediate. If you stay on the Helen Hunt Falls Trail, its an easy 20-minute walk. Hikes around the area, such as Mt. Cutler can give you a bit more of a workout and challenge.
Cave of the Winds is every geologist’s dream. These caves contain unique minerals and have tours open to the public. Pro tip: If you are afraid of small, tight areas, the tour might be a bit difficult.
Red Rock Canyon is located on the west side of Colorado Springs, off Highway 24. This hiking trail is special in that back in the early 1900s, Colorado miners mined through these rocks leaving interesting formations. There are also dinosaur foot- prints that can be found in the rocks.
Back in town, The Broadmore is a beautiful neighborhood with a high-class hotel that is worth seeing and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a gem.
Where to Stay
I recommend the north or west sides of the city. The north side has a nice outlet, a few nice hiking areas (Ute Valley Park and Mount Blodgett). The north side is also closer to Castlerock and Denver, if you want to visit those places. The west side, on the other hand, has some of my favorite eats, bars, and hiking spots. There are a few hikes out there that make you feel like you are truly away from civilization. This side of town can get backed up with traffic, but there’s a nice straightaway from Manitou Springs to Old Colorado all the way to downtown.
Woodland Park is about a 40-minute car trip and in the fall season the drive is incredible. In the winter, it’s a beautiful win- ter wonderland. In the summer, there are many fun campsites (I suggest Crags Campground if you’re on a budget; it’s free, beautiful, and safe!).
Denver is only an hour away. It has the home stadium of the super-winning NFL team, the Broncos, as well as tons of great music venues.
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Where to Walk
Check out the suggestions above and the Sante Fe Trail, which is one of the oldest trails in Colorado (if not the oldest). It was used as a trading road for the pioneers. The trail goes all the way through New Mexico.
What & Where to Eat & Drink
Food is one of the dearest things to me. I am actually a chef and have worked in quite a few kitchens in this town. One thing to know about Colorado is that we love things to be local. We like our vegetables and meat and especially beer to be all local. The restaurants that have these qualities really win our community over.
Maté Factor Café (966 Manitou Ave in Manitou Springs) is a unique cafe that sells a healing and energizing tea called maté. Its definitely worth checking out.
My absolute favorite places to eat and drink around town are: Shugas (702 S. Cascade Avenue; phone: 719.328.1412) for its coconut shrimp soup and the “beet down,” a delicious beet- infused vodka drink;
Poor Richards (320 N. Tejon Street), where you can build your own pizza;
Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery (321 N. Tejon Street; phone: 719.685. 2420) for gluten-free cupcakes;
Burrowing Owl (1791 S. 8th Street; phone: 719.434.3864) for vegan taco salad and a drink called “The Watermelon Situ- ation,” which features whiskey and fresh watermelon;
Brother Luck Street Eats (1005 W. Colorado Avenue; phone: 719.434.2741) for Cuban sandwiches and peach tea;
La Baguette (2417 W. Colorado Avenue; phone: 719.577.4818) for baked goods;
Front Range (2330 W. Colorado Avenue; phone: 719.632.2596) for its chicken BBQ plate;
Red Leg Brewing Company (4630 Forge Road) for a Devil Dog Stout;
And 15C Club Martini & Cigar Bar (15 E. Bijou Street) for a dirty martini.
Some of our dive bars are my favorite places to go in town. Check out Benny’s, Mill Hill Saloon, Tony’s, and Royal Tavern. Or just look up happy hours; we have a ton.
How to Fit In
Please don’t assume every local is a pot smoker. Religion is a touchy subject in Colorado Springs…Christianity being a main one. And we are proud of our local beer so if you don’t like it…get out! (Kidding. Sort of.)
How to Meet Locals & Make Friends
Check out the bars, festivals, shows, and community work opportunities.
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