There are a lot of great neighborhoods to explore and spend the day at in Colorado Springs, but the top spot is Old Colorado City. For my fellow history nerds, this was the first capital of the territory of Colorado, dating back to 1859. Because of that, this area of town gives you a great old-Western atmosphere (without being excessive and gimmicky), kitschy signs and vintage charm. It’s that picturesque historic downtown we often see on tourist sites with lots of fun surprises. It’s a great place to shop, to dine and to just walk around and enjoy. It’s one of my favorite spots to go for a meal and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the scene!
Something unique about OCC is there are a lot of outdoor murals and artworks done by local artists. As I’ve state in previous posts, Colorado Springs (as well as other parts of Colorado) really appreciates and supports local artisans, and artist co-ops are a frequent finding her. It’s great to see a community rally around their neighbors by celebrating their work. The murals range from historical depictions of events that have occurred in OCC and Colorado, to modern representations of the mountain ranges using vivid and unexpected colors, to gorgeous depictions of people. As a nod to the mining history of the Pike Peak area, you’ll also find artistically placed vintage mining equipment, as if the miners from a hundred years ago left their gear on the sidewalk to stop into the local pub for a cold one. It ties in well with the dynamic and the scenery, it isn’t an eyesore. They really celebrate and appreciate the heritage here of this region, which as a history enthusiast I LOVE. But the best mural you’ll find, as everywhere in the Springs, is the mountains framing the town view. Yes, OCC also has a Hallmark movie set charm to it.
OCC really celebrates the history it holds. Many of the store owners, themselves, will share the history of their particular building and the area with you. In May, OCC goes totally all out to celebrate their heritage and history through a large festival called Territory Days (takes place for a couple days around Memorial Day). They close off the street for the event and all the stores, restaurants and bars take part. It was cancelled this year, obviously, so I’m sure next year they’ll make up for it by going even more all out! This is an event where all types of people gather to celebrate the heritage of Colorado and the Springs, yes, even cowboys! They also make a point to acknowledge and celebrate their Native American roots and history here with demonstrations and such. This is an area that has a large Native American footprint, and you see throughout the region a deep respect for those original settlers and their history. There’s a great sense of community in the Springs that is even more palpable in OCC. I actually have worked in OCC and the store owners and workers are all extremely friendly and everyone who works here has such a deep appreciation and love for this area of town. Many not only work here but also choose to live here. As a lover of historic homes and the idea of walking to get places, I’ve definitely considered living in this area of town myself.
Because it’s a historic area, you also get a lot of intriguing ghost stories! Yes, many of the buildings here have their own little ghosty tenant. Many store owners have their stories. I, myself, have experienced some supernatural activity at my workplace. There was some seedy activity in OCC back in the 1800s, it was a “wild west town” so there were brothels and drunken bar fights involving weapons. It was the Wild West! And who are we kidding, we all love a good wild west story. It’s part of the American history narrative and it’s a stereotype that most Americans proudly embrace. Where I worked, we had a female ghost who worked there when there was a brothel. Yes, my workplace was once a brothel! I think all the time about the debauchery that went on within the walls I stand in. She doesn’t bother anybody much, but paintings have occasionally fallen off the walls mysteriously and doors have been unlocked. Sometimes, when I’m alone in the store, it gets noticeably quiet and you suddenly hear a creak (but then again, it’s an old building, that’s normal). But I often think she’s there and I say hi to her, how ya doing? I have sympathy for her, being a prostitute had to be a really difficult life and who knows what she endured so I go out of my way to be nice to her. The ghostiest of ghosty spots in OCC are the secret underground tunnels. There were tunnels leading to the basement of the brothel. I can only imagine what goes on down there. Needless to say, I avoided the basement at my job at all costs. But as we all trade ghost stories from our prospective stores, all our stories are that of friendly, curious ghost friends. Nothing scary or alarming, they all seem tame and just wanting to observe without engaging with us (which is 100% fine with me!).
I have to give some of my personal recommendations of places to dine since I love going out to eat here. I will not reveal where I worked, because my recommendation may not be taken seriously then. But I actually got the job there because I loved the place, so it was a major recommendation even before I got my job there. For breakfast, a great place is Mountain Shadows Restaurant, it looks like a house at first (many of the businesses here are converted old homes) so it doesn’t look at first like a restaurant except for the sign out front, so keep your eyes peeled! I recommend the omelets and pancakes! If you like Italian food, there’s a couple options. Paravicini’s Italian Bistro has award-winning food and has a great atmosphere. If you’re looking for something more in-budget Dat’s Italian and Pizzeria Rustica are great options, the staff at Dat’s Italian has been really fun and engaging every time I’ve visited. If you prefer a more pub vibe, I recommend Mother Muff’s they have some great sandwich and burger options (they also have breakfast all day). I’m a big burger person and I enjoy the options here. Alchemy Pub is also really enjoyable, great outdoor dining and I love the way it is decorated and designed. It steps it up from the typical bar scene and menu we are used to, great menu!
If you like something a little different when it comes to cuisine, Jake and Telly’s Greek Cuisine is a great option and I love that they offer 2nd floor outdoor dining on a wraparound deck- the views of the town and the mountains are superb from here. They have friendly staff too! For a Parisian feel, La Baguette is a great place to stop and pick up something to go or take a seat and enjoy your meal. It’s quality “fast food”. Their breads and sandwiches are fantastic. And in the evening upstairs a Wine Bar opens up which is completely adorable and has a great variety of wines to enjoy! They have wines from about 100 or more countries, so tons of options! It’s a perfect night-out spot. For my fellow winos, I also recommend checking out Vino Colorado Winery at the Sweet Elephant (the Sweet Elephant is the name of the building it is in). They have all authentic Colorado wines (grown in Palisades in Western Colorado) and charcuterie boards to nibble on so you can keep on drinking! They have a wide menu of reds, whites and fruit wines for all tastes. It’s great place to hang out and enjoy a glass of wine. They also offer Wine Bingo nights where you can win free glasses and even bottles (I’m always up for winning free wine). Uchenna is an Ethiopian and Mediterranean restaurant for those looking to have a culinary adventure. A unique staple of this place is there are no utensils, you use fresh bread to pick up your food. For tapas lovers, TAPAteria is a great place to check out. If you enjoy High Tea, like me, The British Pantry & Tea Room is a MUST (they also sell British grocery items and fun goodies). Some other recommendations are The Mason Jar, which serves American comfort food and SOPRA, Italian American food with a great mountain view terrace. Many of the restaurants provide great outdoor seating with cute, ideal street views for people watching and great mountain views as well. It creates the PERFECT mood for getting together with friends and loved ones to enjoy a good meal, great conversation and a good glass of beer or wine (pick your poison!)
Whether a day trip or a night out, OCC is always a great spot to check out and immerse yourself in. Colorado Springs attracts tons of tourism, and this a must-see for any tourist but it’s also a place that locals treasure. I find, as a tourist, the best places to visit are the places the locals love. Old Colorado City is beloved by all, it perfectly captures the spirit, the history and the heritage of the Colorado and the Pike Peak Region! It’s quintessential Colorado history!