Hidden Gem of Southern Colorado
Recently, I stayed overnight in Cañon City, Colorado. This gave me an opportunity to explore a delightful town nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Prior visits, even overnight stays, lacked time to wander around.
Quite a few tourists were staying in the same hotel and their excitement at breakfast was catching. There are many things to enjoy in the area, not the least is the Royal Gorge. But I limited myself to exploring downtown midweek. The quiet early hours gave way to groups of tourists and residents as the morning approached the noon hour. Hidden treasures are the norm in Cañon City.
An early start translated into prime parking near Macon Plaza and the historic city library. From there it was a short backtrack down to Main Street. As I strolled up and down several blocks numerous coffee shops greeted the other early birds.
A few shops such as Cheryl’s Book Nook and Mel’s Mill welcomed those strolling by with doors propped open to allow the cool morning air to circulate. I spent time browsing through the used books finding an Erica Ferencik novel at the former and Tammi Hartung’s Homegrown Herbs at the latter. Hartung is a resident of the area. Mel’s Mill showcased local honey, herbal teas and regionally sourced flours and sunflower oil. I could have spent all day loitering in this natural health store!
Another open door first thing in the morning was found at the Chamber of Commerce. The entire Royal Gorge Region was represented at the office. One could easily spend a week based out of Canon City exploring the beauty of this hidden gem of the Rockies. I left with a plethora of guides and maps outlining trails and recommending historic museums and sites.
Various examples of public art peppered the downtown area. Fossil beds are nearby. So I was delighted by the painted dinosaurs in Cañon City similar to the painted horses in Kentucky. Additionally, walls of buildings sported murals depicting days gone by.
The architecture of the buildings throughout town harks back to frontier days of the west. Three story hotels match up across from banks of similar size. The restoration of these structures is ongoing. Cañon City is preserving and modernizing at the same time.
Painted Dinosaur Graces Main Street
Bears, a Colorado Favorite
Carnegie Library in Canon City
One of the blends of old and new is the downtown public library. Located on peaceful Macon Plaza, the original Carnegie Library remains with a new extension allowing room for computers and an upstairs children’s library.
My visit coincided with a silent quilt auction to support the library. The displayed quilts accented the restored stenciling and the original tile and wood work of the Carnegie section. Furthermore, numerous quilts decorated the remainder of the library as well.
Across the plaza from the library is the former post office which now serves as the Fremont Center for the Arts. Additional murals are joined by rotating art collections. June 2023 showcased a theme of Openings, Doorways and Windows.
An added bonus was the incased display of old postal boxes. Varied community meetings and events are held in the event center.
Cañon City Businesses
Main Street is delightful, and I made several shopping stops in other parts of the city. Prior visits had included shopping at a quilt store downtown. Unfortunately, it was gone but a new store, First Stitches, has opened up just across the highway from the downtown district near the train station. Browsing through this store yielded purchases for the quilt room.
Another delightful place along the highway is Di Nardo’s Cider Mill & Farm. Although harvest is still months away, local honey, pickles, jellies and of course cider can be found.
My last stop of the day was as I was heading East. The Winery at the Abbey is always a must visit. In addition to wine tastings and selling their own wines, the store is full of fun gift products. Everything from wine stoppers to tea towels. Additionally, the Abbey also serves as a great place for group meetings. Many enlightening hours learning about the history of this territorial location have been spent inside this event center.
Time passed quickly. Before I could hike along the river or explore the numerous trails my schedule demanded an adios. But I will return again and again to Cañon City.