Tame but still game

Explore historic yet stylish Colorado Springs neighborhood

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A leafy residential thoroughfare lined with Victorian houses, Colorado Avenue is the main drag through sprawling Colorado Springs and is also the main street of the neighborhood known as Old Colorado City. Highlighted by a compact retail strip packed with interesting galleries, shops, and restaurants, this quaint area feels like a separate community.

And that's no coincidence. Before Colorado Springs was founded, this was Colorado City, the region's first settlement and, in 1861, the territorial capital. In the 1890s, Colorado City became the rowdy gateway to the Cripple Creek mining district.

While this is still a fun neighborhood to visit, these days the pleasures are rated PG. All are within strolling distance along West Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 29th Streets.

Near the eastern end of the retail strip, next to Bancroft Park  (Colorado Ave. at 24th St.) and its historic cabin, is the Old Colorado City Farmer's Market  (7-1:30 Sat, Jun 5-Oct 23; 719/574-1283). Shop for fresh produce, then learn more about the neighborhood's early days at the Old Colorado City History Center  (closed Mon; donation suggested; 1 S. 24th; 719/636-1225).

Head to nearby Simpich Character Dolls  (closed Sun; 2413 W. Colorado; 719/636-3272), whose elaborately costumed creations have been designed, assembled, and hand-painted here for 52 years.

You never know what you'll find at the Villagers  (closed Sun; 2514 W. Colorado; 719/632-1400), an antiques and collectibles shop whose proceeds benefit a local organization for the disabled. Known for handcrafted gold jewelry, the Squash Blossom  (2531 W. Colorado; 719/632-1899) features works by Colorado artists. The cheery Old Colorado Music Box Shop  (2616 W. Colorado, Ste. 21; 719/471-2726) displays more than 1,000 music-making gizmos.

When you get hungry, Gertrude's Restaurant  ($$; breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Tue-Sat; 2625 W. Colorado; 719/471-0887) serves healthy gourmet fare in a sprightly bistro setting. Old Colorado City may be tame by the neighborhood's 19th-century standards, but it's worth a 21st-century afternoon.

Contact the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau (800/888-4748).

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