A Penny for Your Time: Manitou’s Penny Arcade

Manitou Springs may appear to the outside observer as a low-income, grass-happy town lined with eclectic shacks and bizarre concrete art. However, at the heart of this run-down tourist attraction lies a red neon sign that reads “ARCADE” and cannot be overlooked.

Manitou Springs is one of the oldest living developments in the Colorado Springs area, as it lies at the base of Pikes Peak and contributes an interesting dynamic to the Colorado Springs community. The area has preserved historic influences from the early 1880s to current day.

While the epochal architecture and local art display this continuum, perhaps the most recognizable and iconic landmark is Manitou’s historic Penny Arcade. The Penny Arcade, located in the heart of Manitou Springs, exemplifies this cross-cultural existence through the wide array of games. The arcade is tucked behind Patty’s Candy Stand, one of the few places in the continental U.S. where you can get funnel cake all year round, and it consists of several interlocking rooms. There is a graveyard of rideable children’s attractions outside that at one point would keep a child amused for 7 minutes or so, but now fruitlessly eats many tourist’s quarters by the hour.

Each room in the arcade has a historic welcome with antique doorknobs, some dating back to the 1930s. In the first room, one can find old skee-ball tracks from 1963 on creaky wooden floors, as well as the prize counter that has a wide array of prizes from Chinese finger traps to train whistles, kazoos, even slingshots. Venturing further, the arcade connects another room with an early 2000s throwback “Dance Revolution” machine and the iconic “Flamin’ Fingers” from the 90s, in addition to a large variety of children’s games. From there, the arcade has another room with an air hockey table from the 1970s, as well as an old boxing game and an arm-wrestling game reminiscent of Julie Andrews from “The Princess Diaries.” However, the main attractions lie across the alleyway in the namesake “Penny Arcade.” The Penny Arcade holds a wide array of vintage videogames from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Photos by Phillip Engh

While most games break the bank at 25 cents, a few select games can be found for only a penny and have been maintained in well-loved condition since the arcade’s founding.

The traditional arcade fare including shooting, driving, and a wide array of pinball machines can be found here. Old-aged gems include the game “Shots Fired” from the 1940s, multiple hockey games from 1960s, “Duck Shooter” from the 1950s, an original “Hoop It Up” game, “the Amazing Zoltar” for fans of “BIG,” and an original “Ms. Pacman.” There are several other marvels in the arcade such as clown sock-it, peeping-tom barrels, grip-strength machines, and Galaga.

The arcade caters to all levels of interest and age with many different kinds of games. It is a visually enticing experience that transports you to childhood memories of your neighborhood-friendly arcade, filled with retro graphics, borderline obnoxious noise pollution, and circumstantially semi-reliable change dispensers.

Regardless, the Penny Arcade is a can’t miss opportunity to experience local fare and form lasting off-campus memories.

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