Updated: Nov 17, 2019
Colorado Springs is south of Denver, Colorado and is nestled at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains. It lies near glacier-carved Pikes Peak, a landmark in Pike National Forest with hiking trails and a cog railway leading to its 14 thousand ft. summit. The city's Garden of the Gods park features iconic red-sandstone formations and mountain views.
Known as Little London in its early days, the city was founded in 1871 as a resort town by Civil War hero, General William J. Palmer. Today, Olympic City USA is home to more than 55 unique things to see and do. Enjoy stunning natural scenery, endless blue skies and exciting choices for outdoor adventure. See where Olympic dreams are born and discover all that Colorado’s second-largest city has to offer.
The city sits at the foot of one of the nation’s most famous landmarks, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, whose summit inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the words to "America the Beautiful." Visitors ascend this 14,115-foot beauty accessible via car, bicycle, Pikes Peak Cog Railway trip or hike. Each summer, skilled professional drivers gather to race up the highway during The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
One of the country's most treasured parks, Garden of the Gods, is free to the public and is easily accessible from anywhere in Colorado Springs. The impressive red rock formations draws thousands of visitors each month and photo opportunities and adventure are easily discovered. Travelers can enjoy climbing, hiking, cycling and even horseback riding. We will be covering The Garden of the Gods in an upcoming destination guide so that we can go more in depth with this amazing park. For now you can watch our 360 Video of our Hike within the Garden of the Gods.
There is no doubt that there is a host of outdoor activities and adventures but there is also great zoos, museums and dining experiences as well. So let's dive into some of the areas best attractions and then discover some of the hidden gems.
Of course, no visit to Colorado Springs should exclude The Garden of the Gods, an impressive, free park that offers visitors of all skill levels and ages great walking, hiking, biking and climbing adventures. The red sandstone cliffs will amazing everyone in your family. For best photography we advise you arrive early or just about dusk for optimum lighting and contrast.
Another must do is Pikes Peak, a 14 thousand foot mountain that is the most visited mountain peak in the United States. Pikes Peak can be ascended via the Pikes Peak Highway or Barr Trail. Plans remain tentative for the return of a popular third route — the Cog Railroad — in the future. We are told the Cog Railroad will return in 2020, but it is best to check if it is operational.
The mountain is home to a recreation area with three lakes, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and the Summit House, where visitors can enjoy a hot, fresh donut and a great view. A brand-new Summit House is currently being built, as well.
Local tour buses and jeep tours also can bring you to the top without the effort.
Once you see Colorado Springs from the top of the world, descend down to some amazing attractions.
Next on your must see list is the Pioneer Museum. Housed in the magnificently restored 1903 El Paso County Courthouse, the museum features both permanent and alternating exhibits on a wide range of topics. The building itself is historically significant and is surrounded by inviting grounds and outdoor sculptures.
The site has more than 60,000 artifacts in its collection. From nationally significant collections of quilts and Van Briggle art pottery to the finest regional landscape art in the state of Colorado, you’ll be enveloped in the rich history of the Pikes Peak region. It also houses archives and a research library that includes manuscripts, early photographs, bound newspapers and city directories from the 1870s. Other exhibits recount Native American influences in the region, the founding of Colorado Springs and its early rise as a health resort, as well as the area’s mining history and its more recent significance as a center for military training and operations. Rotating exhibits have included such subjects as space exploration, juke boxes and baseball memorabilia.
The Money Museum is one of the best hidden gems in Colorado Springs. The American Numismatic Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins and related items. With an ever-growing assortment of medals, coins, paper money and tokens, members and visitors are able to study the items on display. See the only complete collection of $3 gold pieces, including the unique 1870-S and a complete collection of U.S. gold coin types of all periods and designs from 1795-1933 And this museum isn't just for adults or coin collectors. The Kids Zone is where young children can learn about money through fun activities, interactive exhibits and free classes. Watch a demonstration of the minting process on the third Saturday of each month or join in on the Summer Seminar where you’ll be exposed to fascinating subjects presented by world-class instructors.
Another top attraction is the United States' only mountain zoo – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers breathtaking views of the city and of its 750 animals. The unique design of the Zoo's animal exhibits gets guests closer than most zoos. Hand-feed one of the largest giraffe herds in the world, watch grizzlies swim with trout, hop next to red-necked wallabies and get hands-on with some of the Zoo's smaller residents in The Loft. The zoo also has an antique carousel and a Mountaineer Sky Ride which takes you to the top of the Zoo's summit.
If you are craving for outdoor adventure definitely check out The Broadmoor Seven Falls which is, at is is named a series of seven cascading waterfalls, reaching a total height of 181 feet. Visitors can experience it up close and personal via 224 steps on the staircase from the base of the falls to the peak. Seven Falls in Colorado Springs is the only waterfall in Colorado to make National Geographic's list of international waterfalls. Visitors can view the scenic wonder of Seven Falls from either the top of the 224 step staircase or from the Eagle’s Nest viewing platform which can be accessed via elevator. In the evenings, the falls are beautifully illuminated.
Another hidden gem is the Ivywild Public School in Colorado Springs. What's so special about a public school? Well, this one isn't exactly a school any longer. The historical 1916 School has been transformed into a destination which houses The Bristol Brewery and Pub – one of Colorado’s best craft beer makers, as well as a bakery, a Whiskey Distillery, a few great restaurants and a marketplace offering curated handmade, directly traded gifts, accessories, and home decor, that are ethically sourced from local and global artisans. The Ivywild School is a treat with historical value, amazing atmosphere and a one of a kind patio. Parking and admission is free and on some nights there is live entertainment. If you want to know where the locals go – this is it!
Well now that we mentioned food and drinks you may be surprised at the number of great restaurants and brew pubs in Colorado Springs.
For breakfast we recommend Over Easy, a simple breakfast joint with gourmet pancakes, fantastic Eggs Benedict and a build your own Bloody Mary Bar. All the food is organic and priced reasonably. There are three locations scattered about Colorado Springs – one is downtown at 28A South Tejon St., the other is at University Village at 5262 North Nevada Street and the third is at 5925 Dublin Blvd.
For lunch we recommend the popular Mountain Shadows restaurant which offers fast eats that taste great including burgers, salads and our favourite – the Rocky Mountain Roast Beef. Nearly everything on the menu is under $10 and you will find a lot of locals eating here. Mountain Shadows is open from 7 to 3pm every day and is located at 2223 West Colorado Avenue.
For supper we recommend the German eatery Edelweiss which as you guessed features great German foods. The atmosphere is great and service is exceptional. Edelweiss is located at 34 E Ramona Avenue.
Accommodations in Colorado Springs is a lot cheaper than Denver or anywhere near the mountain parks. Prices can be as low as $55 a night but we found the average for a decent hotel to be about $80 using Experiencethis360's Hotel Room Finder.
Colorado Springs has its own airport so check flights as well directly to this location if you want to miss the traffic and congestion of Denver. Rental cars and taxis and shuttle services are also slightly discounted at this location compared to Denver.
Colorado Springs is a good place to start your adventures in Colorado. It is close to Denver and is situated in the Eastern side of the Rocky Mountains making exploring the eastern and south eastern parts of the states really easy.
A lot of visitors, when visiting Colorado miss this entire section of the state and there is certainly a lot to see and do. Look for more destination guides as we cover this area in greater detail in upcoming guides.
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