December 17, 2021 | LIFE | By Emma McDermott | Photo by Gracie Roe

Has the lack of snow got you panicked about getting in the Christmas spirit? Worried you’ll only have a day or two to frantically shop for gifts once the semester ends? Miss seeing the blurred twinkle of holiday lights through the steam rising off your hot chocolate?

Fear not, my friends. Put all those trepidations to rest. Manitou Springs has got you covered.

It’s no New York or Paris or Chicago, but it’ll do the trick. Only a 15-minute drive from campus, Christmas in Manitou is the perfect getaway from the Springs and sure to kick those warm and fuzzy holiday feelings into gear.

Driving up, you’ll be treated to the speckled glow of houses, apartments, and shop windows, like a little block of the North Pole was swept away by Arctic winds and landed at the base of Pikes Peak. From Colorado College, you’ll take Route 24 heading northwest, spotting this festive village by the hum of the lights in the distance.

The first signs that this is a true winter aficionado’s paradise are the charming cabin-like structures plopped roadside selling ski furniture. From shot-skis to Adirondack-style chairs, they’ve got it all, everything beautifully decorated with the winter scenes Colorado boasts (or at least used to).

Upon arrival in the quaint town, you might first venture into one of the many Christmas-themed boutiques (yes, there is actually a shop called “Christmas in Manitou”). You’ll agonize over which of the overpriced, gently glittered, one-sneeze-away-from-shattering ornaments to purchase for that person in your life who you never know what to get.

Then, you might leave the warmth of the cinnamon-infused hot air that’s blasting through the vents, stepping back in the street only to see a happy couple feeding their fluffy, tail-wagging dog a handful of delicately frosted dog treats.

And, as any person with a heart does, you’ll long for those wet kisses and that panting, tongue-hanging-out smile you’ll get in less than a week. So, you’ll head into Gigi’s Animal Lovers’ Gift Shop and pick up something special for your furry family members.

Next on the agenda: mailing all your Christmas hopes and dreams to Santa, of course! You’ll saunter up the street, eyes watering from the sharp wind threatening to whisk that precious list out of your stiff fingers and find the aptly adorned mailbox for letters to St. Nick. You’ll slip your crinkled envelope through the slot and hear the soft “shhhh” of it landing on the already-hefty piles of letters.

Your mind, freshly unclouded upon completing this vital Christmas task, will finally be receptive to the grumbles of your stomach longing for a holiday treat. To satisfy this intense craving, you’ll chose from a variety of candy shops and peppermint-saturated hot cocoa stands that dot the strip. If you’re like me, you’ll indulge in both, balancing the sweetness of the warm drink with the saltiness of a chocolate-covered caramel.

Photo by Gracie Roe

For a brief, glorious moment you’ll feel like you’re enjoying the kind of evening Santa’s elves probably celebrate each Christmas Eve. The gentle bends in the road, outlined by the glowing pine trees whose smell wafts into your sniffling nose, and buzz of happy, hand-holding families will have you believing that twinkle in the sky is, indeed, Rudolph’s famous nose.

But, alas, your phone will buzz with an email from your professor (who, at this point, you’re convinced is on the Naughty List) about your assignment due tomorrow, and you’ll be sucked back into the nightmares of the block plan. Well, at least you had one fleeting taste of happiness during Fourth Week.

For anyone looking to reacquaint themselves with the magic of the holidays or needing a distraction from the horrible fact that CC is in school until Dec. 22, head over to the Christmas town down the road.

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