Sometimes the best way to learn more about Manitou Springs is simply to notice how others react when they come to visit.
Every day, in the course of our personal lives, we see and encounter everything our city has to offer, and often as a result we take Manitou’s uniqueness for granted. We think we live in typical small-town America.
That’s not the case. We’re more special than most of us probably realize.
Sometimes the affirmations come in the way of news stories, ranking Manitou Springs among the nation’s best small communities for one reason or another. The latest comes from USA Today, with one of its annual “top 10” online surveys (voting continues another three weeks at 10best.com) already showing Manitou as having one of America’s best small-town arts scenes.
We’ve been recognized for that honor previously, but it never hurts to add another accolade — especially when it’s the result of national online voting, not just one observer’s opinion. Manitou Springs ranked No. 9 in 2021, and currently sits at No. 4 in the 2022 survey. Right in there with Taos, Tubac, Gatlinburg and Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Here’s how that website describes us:
“Sitting at the base of Pikes Peak is the tiny town of Manitou Springs, a resort town ever since the area’s mineral-rich waters were discovered in the 1870s. The small downtown area is filled with art galleries and eclectic boutiques. The Manitou Art Center features a maker space for digital artists and hosts courses in both traditional and non-conventional visual arts.”
Sure, those of us in the “wordsmithing” business might make a few tweaks to that, adding some of our other notable assets. But we don’t have that luxury, so let’s just appreciate the fact that any national publicity from a source as well-known as USA Today is a good thing.
Over the past few summers, three couples — good friends from Florida and Pennsylvania — have come to Manitou Springs as part of driving trips around the West.
Their reactions have been remarkably similar. They have been blown away by the scenery, of course, especially driving through Garden of the Gods. They have loved everything about our downtown. They appreciate the fresh air and breezes, along with the lack of humidity. They enjoy the different restaurants and bars, the variety of storefront businesses, and the people who live and/or work here.
And guess what? They don’t complain about the traffic, parking or crowds. That comes with traveling to fascinating (and popular) little towns.
One couple returned last summer for more than just a weekend drop-in. They had passed through for a few days in 2019 on a long summer road trip and later realized that wasn’t enough. For their encore, this was the destination — for a month. So they could go back a second time (or more) to places like Adam’s Mountain Café, the Keg Lounge, Tapateria in Old Colorado City or the many hiking trails around us.
Something else made a deep impression. They were mesmerized by Manitou Springs’ array of public art, from downtown to the east-side urban renewal area. Their photos of the various public installations made it onto Facebook, where thousands of friends and acquaintances could see them.
Yes, we might realize our imperfections, our problems and our areas that need to be addressed. But before we venture too far down the road of negativity, we should pause and remember that — to almost anyone visiting from the outside world — Manitou Springs truly stands out as being remarkable, enjoyable and even unforgettable.
“You’re living in one of the best places in the world,” one of our visitors has told me several times since seeing Manitou in person a few years ago. To that, there’s only one response.