What's it like to live in Colorado Springs?
January 19, 2017 11:48 AM   Subscribe

What is it like to live in Colorado Springs, CO?

I'm nearing the end of a long postgraduate training period and am contemplating a job opportunity in Colorado Springs. I have lots of outdoorsy interests and have always wanted to live out West. I've heard varying things about Springs - conservatism, big military presence and some run-down bits being specific areas of concern. Specific questions: how accessible is world-class outdoor stuff from town? I know it's closer to the moutains proper than Denver is. Thinking of hiking and biking opportunities in particular. How is the climate? I have lived in Boston and am not a huge fan of the "six months of cold and darkness" thing. I've visited and the downtown seemed pretty nice -- are there interesting things to do in town?

Many thanks for your thoughts, Mefites.
posted by killdevil to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Colorado Springs is further south than Boston, so it's less dark for less long in the winter. It also has waaaaay more sunny days than Boston.
posted by rtha at 11:57 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Did you check out their City-Data forum?
posted by serena15221 at 12:00 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi! I live here! And I'm from here, mostly.

We have lots of hiking and biking here. So far as world class, the Manitou Incline is enormously popular here, and the one-mile trail takes you up 2000 heart-pounding feet. Professional athletes come here to train on it. We're also home to the annual Pikes Peak marathon, which takes runners up to our local 14,000-foot summit and back down again.

On weekend mornings, I often see jerseyed bikers in groups of two or ten zooming down Cascade Ave. On Tuesdays, there's an enormous running group that jogs around the downtown area and then meets for beers.

Our city borders the Pike San Isabel National Forest. Lots of soaring evergreens, lots of scraggy oaks, lots of red rocks and tiny, hidden creeks. Lots of interesting mountain roads to discover.

The climate is so much better here than back east. I was a New Yorker for 10 years and I loved it there, but the winters would really bring me down. The sunshine here would be a hard thing to leave. It's not unusual to see people in shorts and parkas during the transitional months. We all sort of wear everything in layers here because the weather and the temp can change dramatically in less than an hour.

Colorado Springs is by no means a cultural mecca (people tend to drive an hour to Denver for concerts, etc.) but we're seeing some new breweries, coffee shops, and the like coming in. You can get sushi, or Ethiopian, or fondue, or vegan, or Brazilian barbecue, or farm-to-table burgers.

Traffic is getting kinda bad. I live near downtown and try to never leave the West Side. It's still easier to get around than Denver, though, and you don't have to drive quite so far to get out in the mountains because they're right there.

I love to talk about this place! Feel free to MeMail me, or we can meet for a coffee if you're passing through.
posted by mochapickle at 12:25 PM on January 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Also, yes, the town is famously conservative. We do have Focus on the Family and five military bases. And a libertarian newspaper.

But our central areas, downtown, and the west side of town skew quite liberal.
posted by mochapickle at 12:33 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Colorado Springs is a cesspool. Mix 6 parts religious zealots, 2 parts air force cadets, a heaping spoonful of uncared for PTSD vets wandering the streets and you have the basic makeup of the town. I would rather live anywhere else in Colorado before moving there.
posted by H. Roark at 1:46 PM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yep, totally a cesspool. Just awful. Hideous in every way.
posted by mochapickle at 3:21 PM on January 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Someone I used to be close to lived there for years and was eventually able to find a group of like minded people to socialize with. I met several of his friends when I visited and to a person they all remarked about the overwhelming presence of evangelical Christians and the effect that had on the community.

If that's not your thing, it can be hard to ignore.
posted by she's not there at 4:32 PM on January 19, 2017

I lived there for a little over a year (2010-2011) and had the same questions and concerns. We really loved the outdoorsy aspects, and the funny/funky west side, the proximity to the mountains and the stark, unforgiving beauty of the place. Honestly, most of the people we met are perfectly lovely and if I were offered a job there again (better than the one I left) I'd seriously consider moving back for the cycling, hiking, camping and even, yes, the bears lumbering through the yard in broad daylight.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:37 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I lived in Manitou Springs (and still own my house there). Overall, I like the area. The weather is great. Access to outdoor stuff is great. The right-wing/christian presence gets old, but Manitou is a liberal enclave. Feel free to memail any questions.
posted by falsedmitri at 6:07 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hi! I lived in the Colorado Springs area for roughly 13 years or so. I imagine how well you like the city will be greatly influenced by whether or not you can fit into the more conservative atmosphere. The region is absolutely beautiful, as far as scenery is concerned -- the city is at the base of mountains. You've got Pike's Peak, Cheyenne Mountain, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, and if you don't mind a drive up north -- Monument (near the Air Force Academy). All of these places will serve an outdoorsy type very well given CO Springs' distinct four seasons, and tons of sunshine (even in the winter).

The city does skew conservative -- as mentioned above there's a serious military presence in the form of Ft. Carson (Army base), Peterson (Air Force base), Schriever (Air Force Base), Cheyenne Mt/NORAD (Air Force base) and the Air Force Academy. There's also Focus on the Family headquarters and seemingly a church on every block. Sadly, this means if you identify in any way with the LGBTQ community (as I did/do), you'll likely feel unwelcome or like you can't quite be yourself. There are some small liberal havens though, such as nearby Manitou and the northeast Chapel Hills area (where you'll find a local college campus). Of course Denver, and all its mostly-liberal big city offerings, is just a little over an hour away too.
posted by stubbehtail at 12:34 AM on January 20, 2017

I've lived in the city for the vast majority of my life.

I love it here and feel very privileged every time I leave and come back. Why?

(In no particular order)

1. The view --- amazing regardless of season. Mountain views in particular are significantly more majestic than some other areas (including Denver) because of the location in the foothills.

2. So many deservedly notable spots locals forget draw people from around the world - Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, and Seven Falls for example.

3. If one is of a blooming atheist persuasion, here be some fine opportunities to remind oneself why. I take a lot of strength somehow from driving by New Life Church and knowing that that is not my life anymore. We need more people to come here to balance the evangelical population in my opinion. This place is for everyone!

4. More parks per capita than any other city in the US, which may help explain why our state has such low obesity levels. Even people like me who hate exercise can find something beautiful/enjoyable to do outside in their own neighborhood, which is saying something b/c this city is stretched into a very long rectangle from Monument to Pueblo.

5. The laws here are the best. "True freedom" as I heard it quoted from someone on Reddit who moved in from TX. Physician assisted suicide recently passed here; we also have full marijuana legality (even some social clubs for this here in town) and the possibility to influence the state constitution as a private citizen.

6. The weather is very temperate as compared to some other areas of the country with more brutally extreme and long-lasting seasons. A foot of snow can fall on Monday followed by a sunny 65 degree day on Tuesday, which keeps things interesting. It is unusual historically for temps to go above 85 degrees or below 0 at any time of year, and precipitation is not annoyingly frequent since the climate is semi-arid. Only one or two significant snow storms occur each year.

7. The run down parts of town are really not that bad. I grew up in what is now the southern central area of town and it's not gentrification land but we have no true inner city problems here. Perhaps I just say this because I'm naïve, but there's not really anywhere that I would feel unsafe walking alone at night, for example. My mom has left her door unlocked 24/7 for 20 years. Etc.

8. Traffic is definitely not good in the central city anymore, but I do see effort being made to handle the situation on the part of the city. A project is underway to turn Powers into a full loop, for example, as one might find in a larger city.

9. Auto insurance and renter's insurance rates are very reasonable compared to larger metropolitan areas.

10. Office culture trends casual. People seem to accept a much more relaxed style of dress in general out in public --- there's a sizable crowd who mostly wear jeans and T-shirts and that includes some folks in "professional" roles: managers, doctors, etc.

Like mochapickle, I'm clearly an acolyte and shall cease my rambling, except to say: I have lived in many cities up and down Colorado's front range and this will always be the one for me, escalating housing costs be damned.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Colorado Springs has beautiful open space, and lovely views of the front range. The city itself has some serious problems, and I would not recommend it as a place to live.

I mentioned this topic to Mrs Lasagna, who was born and raised in the Springs, and her reaction was visceral. We have family who live there, visit regularly, and have often talked about whether we could also live there.

Two generations ago, the city was an amiable town of hippies and free thinkers; it no longer is. Conservative groups dominate the city, culturally and politically; this has led to a deterioration of public and shared spaces.

Open space is quickly being built up with cookie-cutter developments and paved over with roads; the city has no master urbanization plan, and developers run amok over the area.

The city, increasingly libertarian, spends very little on its infrastructure: the once-beautiful trees in the road dividers go unwatered and slowly die. The city's already-meagre bus service is cut year after year. The public libraries receive little funding. Roads have less maintenance (paving during summer, sand during winter) than they did a decade ago.

Getting to outdoor space will require a car; there is no place, even downtown or on the west side, where one might conceivably live without relying on a car. The public transit is poor, and the city is far too sprawling to allow a comfortable bicycling- or pedestrian-oriented lifestyle.

The drive from Colorado Springs to Denver takes longer and longer each time I try it, as the congestion and traffic on the interstate grows.

Colorado College is steadily overtaking much of the lovely old portions of town, turning the older houses into campus buildings, or tearing them down and building up new structures.

The downtown stretch along Tejon has a lot of bars, a lot of binge drinking, and a surprising amount of violence. The once-lovely Acaia Park downtown suffers from a lack of civic maintenance and pride: its facilities are rarely clean, and the once-lovely musical fountain is often closed for lack of funds to repair it.

You might consider Boulder, which also has lovely open spaces and also has better central planning, transportation, bookstores, and relationships between the city and public institutions such as the university.
posted by lasagnaboy at 8:11 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live in Denver, but worked for a summer in Colorado Springs. Culturally, it's a weird town. You have the fundamentalist Christian aspect, plus a lot of military, plus the moneyed liberal Colorado College, plus a big hippie vibe from Manitou Springs. There is a nice walkable downtown area, and as others have mentioned if you're looking to access mountains, you're in a great place to do it. Access to rivers and ski resorts is not as great, if that's your thing. Road and mountain biking is very good.

The libertarian lack of spending on city services and infrastructure is very real and is a concern for me. There is a lot of cookie cutter housing sprawl as well, but you can avoid that if you're living near downtown.

I'm happier in Denver than I was in the Springs, but others above obviously feel differently. Oh, and weather is pretty great if you like four seasons, though the same can be said for basically the entire front range.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:09 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here is one thing I haven't seen other commenters mention. Colorado Springs is at 6000 feet elevation. When I was stationed there in the army 1900-1993, we had special regulations that gave us more time to complete fitness test runs. Coming from sea-level Boston, there will be an adjustment to the extreme altitude which can, depending on your body, be a mercifully brief few weeks, or never really go away. I was somewhere in the middle, and even a year later, just sitting at my desk I sometimes had to take an unexpected extra breath just to get a little more oxygen into me. As others have said, there is good and bad in the town, they are mostly right. A few other altitude related things-- it can get cold at night, even in the summer, so I always had a light jacket with me. (A few years before I got there, it famously snowed on the Fourth of July.) Also, the elevation means there is less atmospheric coverage, so people from other places would find the the dashboards on their cars would crack from just a few months of the more powerful sunlight-- it was very common to see cardboard or foil sunscreen protectors in windshields. Overall, I loved it, and thought it was one of the best places in the USA to be stationed. Good luck with your decision!
posted by seasparrow at 12:53 PM on January 20, 2017

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