Colorado Springs Stories and Tips

The Worst of the Tourist Traps

The 'uphill' side of town--after Pikes Peak avenue slopes up thorugh Colorado City to Manitou Springs--is crammed with a nutso swarm of tacky tourist traps, most of which are flat-out fakes. Why visitors to this spectacular and dramatic region would need these cheezy sideshows is a mystery: why they would have to be faked in the face of the bedrock integrity of the mountains probably says something negative about our whole species.

The 'Cliff Dwellings' are a Mesa Verde knock-off built in 1906 and featuring generic 'Indian' dancers doing Plains Indians dances. Hey, the real thing is only a few hours drive away.

The 'Ghost Town' is even stupider--for one thing it's indoors! We used to go over and shoot out the windows when they were building it, so it's not really old west, but was actually the scene of shootouts by bad guys (one of us kids was actually named Billy). You can see Roosevelt's bulletproof limousine here, and (I kid you not) a two-headed calf. You get the picture. Santa's Northpole Workshop is NOT at the North Pole, is NOT a workshop, and, Virginia, does NOT feature Santa Claus.

Even Seven Falls is mostly a light show...and they turn them off at night to save water (and wear and tear on the rocks, I guess).

The Van Briggle Art Pottery studio and showroom is sort of half ass real. It's really where they made the pottery that gained such acclaim and awards since 1899 and you can see some beautiful examples of Art Nouveau gesture in clay. But it has become mostly a hustle with high-pressure salespeople pushing you to buy.

The Cave Of the Winds is also sort of half-fake. It really is a cave. And it really has real limestone formations inside. But the stagmites have been moved around, colorized, spotlit, and otherwise messed with over the years. The biggest attraction is a huge pile of junk where people leave stuff from bobby pins to souvenirs to hygiene products for the enlightenment of future visitors. There have been a lot of marriages performed in the Cave (incredibly)--none in front of natural formations, all in the room full of junk! I was a guide in the Cave for one summer (those who call me a troglodyte have a certain basis in fact) but was fired when my ennui hatched the dreaded Truth Tour. ('Here you see the famous Painted Curtain, so called because...we just painted it. Notice that when you throw you coins into the famous Bottomless Pit, they stop sinking three inches below the surface? Obviously there is a shallow bottom, but with a trick coat of paint. But please continue to toss coins, we guides fish them out for lunch money. And so forth.) But I will say this, the cave has a great location up a canyon. It's worth a drive out just to stand on the precipitous porch of the shop, munch some popcorn, and look down. The drive back takes you through some cool little canyons, and past some very unique 'Springs' type houses carved out of live rock.

But basically, why not just go up Pikes Peak, to the Garden of the Gods, take the Cog Railway up the Peak, check out the incredible grounds of Glen Eyrie and leave this crap to the true 'tuna' (as we cavemen called them--'Pisolites' were girls in cavespeak, 'Chrysolites' were babes, 'Mesomorphs' were hags, 'train wrecks' were tours with more than usual quota of assholes). If you go for these roadside attractions, you earn whatever name they call you.

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