The first thing you will need to understand is that the city of Colorado Springs (or 'Colo Spigs' as it is known locally) was originally founded as a tuberculosis colony. William J Palmer wanted to see if the clean Rocky Mountain air would help heal the terminally ill, and when it didn't, he decided to build a city instead. There is, in fact, a statue of ol' Willie J in the middle of downtown. Actually, it's in the middle of a downtown intersection, right between a high school and a city park, with the predictable result that more than 10% of all traffic accidents in the city occur around that statue, which ties up traffic all over downtown for hours in each direction. The city administration has debated whether or not to move the statue into the middle of the park it sits next to, where it would conceivably create fewer traffic accidents.
People will tell you that living in Colorado Springs is great because of the scenery and the open countryside. So many people agree with this notion that they are perfectly willing to move into the middle of said scenery, therefore ruining the view for everyone else. Take a look at Cheyenne Mountain, which sits just southeast of Pikes Peak, and you'll see the housing developments slowly creeping up into the hills and valleys of what was once pristine alpine countryside. Move your gaze to the north (or, for Outlanders, the right), and you'll see what locals refer to as 'the scar', a tremendously ugly patch of rock that is the result of years of strip mining the top off of what was once a perfectly nice mountain.
There are a few places a tourist can go to see natural beauty that haven't been completely ruined. The Seven Falls, off Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard is gorgeous when lit up at night in the winter, when the falls have frozen into weird flowing shapes and have rainbow hues cast through them. Also, Pulpit Rock Park, off to your right when driving north on Interstate 25, is fairly accessible and great for day hikes.
Some Observations Concerning Driving and Traffic
Do not attempt to drive anywhere in Colorado Springs. At least, not if you can help it. If you have to drive, then be sure to understand some of the 'rules' that the locals appear to drive by:
Turn signals are strictly voluntary. Do not expect people to utilise their turn signals to indicate their intention to turn, and do not interpret the use of a turn signal as an indication that the person truly intends to turn.
When travelling on the highway, the left lane is to be used for cruising. True, everywhere else in the country the left lane is normally for passing others, but here you can generally just wander about the lanes as you choose.
When turning left across a median where there is no left hand turn lane, it is acceptable for multiple cars to be in the intersection at the same time, and for the faster and larger cars to proceed through the turn before you do, even if you were the first into the intersection.
Large SUVs are perfectly acceptable for three-person families, as their cargo space is ideal for hauling massive amounts of goods from Sam's Club. Therefore, most vehicles on the roads now can be classified as SUVs, and the vehicles that are not are tiny sports cars that are driven by middle-aged men and women who are trying desperately to recoup just a little bit of their lost youth.
If you plan to travel during the winter, be aware that you are probably more skilled at driving on ice and snow than the locals. Often times you may witness 4x4 SUVs with snow treads, ABS, and traction control systems sliding about the roads with all the grace of an olympic figure skater. And on some hills, it may be easier to simply slide down the hill backwards, and try to straighten yourself out at the bottom. Pray that no one else is using the streets at the same time you are. Many drivers here feel that they are protected by angels, spirits, or in special cases, by the direct Hand of God. They will display stickers to this effect all over their cars, and perhaps this accounts for their firm belief that even though 90% of all accidents occur in SUVs while the driver is eating and using their cellular phones, it'll never happen to them.
But enough on traffic. Horrendous as it is, the tourism industry continues to thrive thanks to the bits of natural scenery that have not had houses built on them. The Garden of the Gods, for instance, has been marred only by parking lots and large numbers of teenagers who carve their initials into the rocks. And if you haven't had enough of the roads, you can actually drive up Pikes Peak. There's a race every year called the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, where drivers take all kinds of cars - from funny cars to racing-modified Lorries - up the side of the mountain and in some cases, down it. There's also a restaurant at the peak where you can purchase special donuts that are made at 14,000 feet.
If you're just keen for a walk, there's a decently sized park system right in the middle of the city. You can reach this park just about anywhere downtown, but it's easiest to drive on Cascade St until you get to Dale St. Turn west (towards the mountains) on Dale and park in the lot across the bridge.
It should also be said that Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic Training Center. The centre was put here because of the high altitude but some folk question the belief that because your body adjusts to the lower levels of oxygen in the atmosphere above 5000 feet, your body will be more efficient at absorbing the oxygen back at normal altitudes.
Lodging and Survival
Here the two major grocery stores are Safeway and King Soopers. Both of them use cards to provide discounts instead of coupons, and they use those cards to keep track of your purchases and send you information in the mail about deals you might wish to take advantage of. The area is sufficiently civilised to carry not one, but two Super WalMarts, even if their locations aren't exactly accessible.
The best hotel to stay in is by far the Broadmoor, made famous in the film Austin Powers as the site of Austin and Vanessa's (Mike Meyers and Elizabeth Hurley's) honeymoon at the end of the movie. Each room comes equipped with a nice view of Pikes Peak or the surrounding territory. If you can't quite afford their horrendous rates, then try for the Econo Lodge on the corner of Nevada and Dale St. It houses an excellent restaurant called J's that serves hardy home-style breakfasts for reasonable prices.
Currently, and for the foreseeable future, Colorado Springs is locked in the grip of multiple simultaneous construction projects, which assures that no matter where you need to get to, there will be some sort of construction hazard to slow you down. Because of this drivers are particularly susceptible to the terrors of road rage.
The best place for coffee is Boulder Street Coffee Roasters, on the corner of Tejon (a Hispanic name pronounced 'Tey-hone') and Boulder St. They roast all their beans in the store, and so if you are wandering by there one fine day and the roof appears to be on fire, do not call the police. It's all from roasting coffee beans.
There are no good places for seafood, but the best view of the city can be had at the Fish Market, on the top of the hill on Bijou (pronounced 'Bee-zhou') Street. If all you're looking for is a decent clam chowder, then Bell's Deli, 154 E Cheyenne Mountain Blvd, is the best you're going to find. Good French pastries can be had at La Baguette on Pikes Peak Avenue between Tejon and Nevada; real Italian meals at Luigi's on South Nevada, and nearly perfect Chinese at China Town on Nevada and Colorado Ave. Mexican is handled competently here by bright pink La Casita locations, even though the original restaurant, a converted maintenance garage, is being torn down to make way for a new Interstate on-ramp.
The locals are generally good at giving directions, but be aware that everything is explained not using left or right, but all the cardinal directions. The Mountains, which take up the entire horizon to the west, are the primary means of determining direction. Just know that the mountains are to the west, and base everything else off that. If you're having problems finding any of these locations, just ask three people at random on the street, average their replies, and then do the exact opposite. You will generally find whatever you were looking for.
There any number of neon-bedecked hipster eateries downtown, and the one with the best beer is the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company, on the corner of Cascade and Pikes Peak. Jose Muldoon's on Tejon and Platte makes the largest margaritas in the world (no lie!). While it doesn't have much in the way of food, Tony's is the best watering hole this side of the Mississippi. Go there only if you wish to forget the week immediately proceeding this one, or have an insatiable desire to learn about angry poultry ('Mad Chicken').