MANITOU SPRINGS — A local community on the rebound in Southern Colorado is getting national recognition once again. Manitou Springs was just selected as one of the 15 best small towns to visit this year.
The Smithsonian Magazine selected Manitou Springs, a town of just over 5,000 people, as one of the best small towns to visit in 2021.
"At first I thought, the secret's out. People know how great it is here in Manitou,' said Jenna Gallas, a resident and co-owner of Armadillo Ranch, a restaurant in town. "I think the national recognition is amazing and well deserved, and I'm excited to see where we go next."
On a summer day like today, it was clear that the town was packed with visitors making a short trip or enjoying themselves on vacation. Locals mentioned this summer is one of the busiest they've seen in awhile.
Gallas said the recognition is no surprise because of the area's many attractions.
"The people that come through, we hear the same thing from them, just about the outdoor culture, the environment, the outdoor recreation," said Gallas. "We have these amazing attractions you can take the whole family to and there's very little not to live about the town."
The article stated the small town's hiking., arts scene and friendly environment made Manitou Springs a destination spot for visitors across the country during the tourist season.
"When you drive down the street, you'll see eight different state license plates right next to you that you didn't see a month ago," said Gallas. "Everybody is coming through our downtown and supporting our small businesses, and I think with that mentality, they know it's been a tough year and they're out and ready to spend their tourism dollars."
Tourism in the town is also picking up as we head into the warmer months and near the end of the pandemic.
"We're seeing more business than ever, yes we are. The numbers are up over 2019, so that's a wonderful thing," said Suzie Hawkins, the owner of Red Wing Motel. "We're seeing a lot of repeat business as we always do, but also first time visitors to Manitou Springs. They're coming from the east coast, they're coming from the west coast, they're coming from the south and the north."
Hawkins said business at the motel was hit hard last year, so it's refreshing to see more people visiting.
"Like every other business, we saw that last year was the hardest. It was the hardest I've ever seen, but this year it has just exploded," said Hawkins. "I've seen that people are trying to go back to their roots, they're feeling comfortable, and they're coming to visit family and friends or they're coming with family and friends."
Manitou Springs was also recently named the third friendliest town to visit, and also among the best small town art scenes.
After struggling throughout the pandemic, small business owners say the extra tourism is helping out and making a difference. They also mentioned a lot of people are ready to vacation and spend their tourism dollars.
Click here for the Smithsonian's Magazine's full list of the best small towns to visit in 2021.