Manitou Springs, tucked between Pikes Peak and the towering natural sandstone rock formations of Garden of the Gods, won Smithsonian magazine's designation as one of the 15 best small towns to visit in 2021.

The quaint mountain community has long been a resort destination in the Pikes Peak region, known for its arts, culture, outdoors activities, proximity to natural land formations, historic and newly refurbished Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and its neighbor, Colorado Springs, to the east.

“Our natural surroundings, friendly folks and local shops make Manitou Springs a fabulous destination for a family visit,” Mayor John Graham said in a news release announcing the recognition.

Smithsonian magazine describes the city as “an ideal spot for anyone who loves the great outdoors,” encouraging visitors to check out nearby Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the Manitou Incline, take the cog railway to the 14,115-foot-tall summit of Pikes Peak, stop by the popular penny arcade downtown, and satisfy their sweet tooth at Patsy’s historic concession stand, among other attractions.

The acknowledgment adds to a series of recognitions the city of 5,283 residents has recently earned. Manitou Springs was also recognized by travel website as the third friendliest city of 2021 and ranked No. 9 in USA Today’s list of the 10 Best Small Town Art Scenes.

“Manitou Springs is a great small town with such a magical feel to it,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leslie Lewis said by phone Thursday. “So many people missed out on travel last year and I think this gives us exposure to an additional audience who may never have heard of Manitou Springs.”

Smithsonian magazine is the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Other towns named in Smithsonian magazine’s list this year are Council Grove, Kansas; Fayetteville, W. Va.; Muscle Shoals, Ala.; Hatch, N.M.; Goshen, N.Y.; Nevada City, Calif.; Bath, Maine; Brevard, N.C.; Dyersville, Iowa; Ely, Minn.; Wallace, Idaho; Charlevoix, Mich.; Natchez, Miss.; and Litchfield, Conn.



Breeanna Jent covers El Paso County government. She previously worked as the editorial assistant for the Pikes Peak Newspapers and joined their sister paper, The Gazette, in 2020.

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