Colorado Springs was one of the United States first resort destinations and continues to attract lots of tourists to this day. The city has many charms from high peaks and hiking trails to satisfy even the most demanding nature lover to the city itself which although not the cultural hotspot of its bigger brother Denver, it still has some sights.
Home to four military bases, Colorado Springs is an important location for the United States and visitors to the city can get a feel of this by touring the bases and visiting one of the city’s military museums. The natural landscape here is the biggest attraction by far however and should feature heavily on your itinerary for Colorado Springs.
Here is our list of the Best Things to do in Colorado Springs:
1. Reach the summit of Pikes Peak
Not the highest of the many peaks near Colorado Springs but certainly the most popular, Pikes Peak measures just over 14,100 feet high. Over half a million visitors summit this mountain each year. The peak was once given the apt name Mountain of the Sun and its summit inspired the first ever draft of America the Beautiful. There are three main ways to reach the summit: Pikes Peak Highway, the Cog Railway or by foot via the Barr Trail.
2. Visit the Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is a popular public park and National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. The park is a stunning mix of over 300 sandstone formations and breathtaking views of snow topped peaks providing the background. The park is the most popular tourist attraction in the region and offers a range of exhibits including learning about the unique geology of the area and what causes the different formations.
3. Visit a mountainside zoo
Located on the side of the mountain, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only zoo of its kind in the United States. The zoo sits at an elevation of 6,800 feet and is the largest private zoo in the country. Conservation is of prime importance at the zoo and special attention is paid to the renowned giraffe breeding program. The exhibits are educational and the zoo has plenty of educational exhibits and play areas for children. There is also a skyride that will give you views over the entire zoo.
4. See some fine arts
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center was fully renovated in 2007 and is certainly the art capital of the city. The center has a sophisticated collection of Latin American art, Mexican clay and folk art and abstract prints from the region’s local artists. Outside of the center is the sculpture garden and large green lawn which regularly hosts outdoor concerts and is great for a picnics.
5. Experience some Colorado Springs luxury
Built on the man-made lake of Cheyenne Lake, The Broadmoor resort is an AAA Five Diamond resort in the most picturesque location Colorado Springs has to offer. The lake was built in the late 19th century at a cost of $25,000. As well as the iconic main building, visitors also have the chance to experience the beauty and serenity of Colorado in the Cloud Camp which sits 9,200 feet up Cheyenne Mountain. The Cloud Camp blends the luxury of a historic guesthouse with outdoor activities such as hiking and horse trekking.
6. Visit the Red Rock Canyon Park
Formerly a quarry, the Red Rock Canyon Park is just part of the sandstone vein that passes all the way through the Garden of the Gods. The park covers an area of about 787 acres and narrowly missed being turned into apartments and a golf course. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of the local residents, the park remains to be explored and is a perfect place for climbing, cycling and hiking. Within this park and Garden of the Gods there are over 80 bolted climbs for rock climbers but ensure you sign up with the visitor center prior to undertaking any.
7. See Seven Falls
As the name suggests, Seven Falls is a series of seven beautiful waterfalls in Broadmoor. The approach to the falls is named the “Grandest Mile of Scenery” in Colorado Springs and features jagged rocks, crystal clear streams and rare flowers. The falls themselves are 181 feet in height and each has their own name. The shortest of the seven is aptly known as Shorty.
8. Train with Olympians
If you are a fan of the Olympics then the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is a must see. The center allows you access to one of the three United States training centers for Olympic athletes. The athletes trained here are from the disciplines of gymnastics, judo, volleyball and swimming for which the States are well known. Tours of the facility end with a stroll through the campus which covers 37 acres and ends in the Hall of Fame which has recently seen new additions such as Micheal Johnson and Lones Wigger.
9. Visit the Shrine of the Sun
The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is just behind the Cheyenne Mountain zoo and protected by large stone gates. The tower is named after the good friend of Spencer Penrose who sadly died at the same time it was constructed. Busts of both Penrose and Rogers can be found here as well as some of the best views of Colorado Springs. Plaques point your sight in the direction of Colorado Springs landmarks such as the Garden of the Gods and Cheyenne Lake.
10. Learn about cliff dwellers
The ancient Anasazi people once lived in the red cliffs in Colorado Springs and the Cliff Dwelling is a great place to witness the architecture as well as learning about the people and their lives. The Native American people live here between 800 and 100 years ago. The dwellings have actually been relocated from their original location in Mesa Verde before opening to the public in 1907.
11. Take a trip to space
The Peterson Air and Space museum is situated within the Peterson Air Force Base and is completely free. The museum complex is built around three of the four original runways that were built on the base between 1928 and 1941. The museum is registered on the National Register of Historic Places and attracts around 20,000 visitors a year both civilian and military. Standouts at the museum are the fighter jets from past and present and the many air to surface missiles around the complex.
12. Visit an English Castle
Glen Eyrie is a house in Colorado Springs that has been built in Tudor Style, featuring turrets and other architectural features similar to those of an English castle. The house, which is part of an 800 acre estate is open to the public daily for 90 minute guided tours which explore the history of the building and its former inhabitants. Visitors can also relax and enjoy a high tea at the castle or spend the night in one of the luxury rooms here.
13. Enjoy some performing arts
The Pikes Peak Center for Performing Arts is an auditorium in Colorado Springs. The venue was purpose built in 1982 and has since been the city’s go to venue for concerts, theater and comedy. The venue hosts a number of shows that are regularly changing. Why not make an evening of your trip by eating at the venue before you see your performance. The restaurant here offers special set menus for visitors to different shows.
14. Climb the Manitou Incline
The Manitou Incline is a daunting former railroad that is now a 2,744 step climb to the top of the incline at about 8900 feet. The incline is popular with tourists and athletes alike and features more steps than the Empire State building. The incline reaches steepness of 68% making it a tough climb but the views from the top are well worth it. The route is too steep to attempt to come back down but fear not, you can take the Barr Trail back down.
15. Visit the park
Spend some time at the multi-use Memorial Park and you will have the chance to visit the pool, play tennis, cycle or even ice skate. The park also features a bicycle velodrome, basketball courts, many other sports fields and the second largest skatepark in Colorado, taking up a whopping 40,000 square feet. If you feel like relaxing there are many picnic areas within the park, some of which overlook Prospect Lake. The lake itself has a 1.25 mile fitness trail.
16. Hike in Bear Creek
In the foothills of Pikes Peak is the Bear Creek Regional Park. The park is just a short drive from the city and offers a great place to escape and enjoy the outdoors. Bear Creek Regional Park covers and area of 545 acres and has facilities for archery, tennis, hiking, basketball and even a horseshoe pit. The hiking trails in the park are well marked, do not allow for motor vehicles and cover an area of around ten miles.
17. Visit the US Air Force Academy
The military academy based in Colorado Springs, the US Air Force Academy, is one of the highest profile facilities of its kind in the United States. Despite its high profile and important purpose, the base allows visitors to look around the campus and see what life is like for these elite military employees. The visitor’s center on the base provides history and background information for the base and from there you can visit the chapel or embark on a driven tour of the facility.
18. Tour the Cave of the Winds
Discovered in 1881, the Cave of the Winds has been a popular tourist attraction ever since. The cave is one of the most popular in the United States and at an altitude over 7,000 feet it is also one of the highest. The stalactites and stalagmites are some of the most impressive you are ever likely to see. Tours of the cave vary but the most popular option is the Discovery Tour which gives an introduction to the caves history and formation within 45 minutes. The longer and darker Lantern Tour is worth the extra money if you have the time.
19. Visit the other art center in Colorado Springs
Situated right across the way from the Fine Arts Center is the Cornerstone Arts Center. The striking and modern looking building is certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). Inside you will find a free art gallery with frequent and informative guest lecturers. Past speakers have included video gamers, Buddhist monks and woman’s rights activists. Outside on the lawns you will find a number of sculptures.
20. Shop at a farmer’s market
Acacia Park is home to the popular farmer’s market every Monday. The park is also the home of the popular Uncle Wilbur’s Fountain. The popular, if not odd looking, fountain is so popular with children that it has a lifeguard overlooking it even though the pop up jet style means there is actually no water to stand in. Part of the fountains 200 jets make up a children’s play area which allows for the little ones to duck and dive the jets as well as attempt to stop the flow.
21. Visit Cripple Creek
The historic town of Cripple Creek offers visitors some stunning scenery along with rich cultural heritage. Guests at Cripple Creek can gamble in the many casinos, stay in one of the country lodges, eat in one of the many restaurants or visit one of the many sights within the creek. These sights include the Butte Theater, which has been an integral part of the town since its early mining days, and the Cripple Creek District Museum which consists of five historic buildings.
22. See how people used to travel
The Carriage House Museum situated near to the Broadmoor Resort is a collection of old vehicles and methods of transport from times gone by. We may take the ease of travel for granted these days but a trip to this small but well done museum will remind you that travel was not always so easy, convenient or comfortable. The museum is free and usually it is not too busy.
23. Pay homage to the state’s pioneers
The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum contains exhibits and artifacts about the pioneers of the state of Colorado. The pioneers were fur traders, trappers and ranchers and there are artifacts and information about all these trades. In total there are more than 60,000 artifacts in the museum. The building that houses the museum is the former El Paso courthouse which was built in 1903.
24. Leave the city
Manitou Springs is just outside of Colorado Springs and locals will most probably feel the need to remind you that it is not part of the city. Even so, the Historic District of Manitou Springs is worth visiting. The town has rejected urbanization and instead chose a path of hippyish boutiques, cafes and art galleries. The town will keep you entertained for a few hours and if you want to do more than simply wander around then you should allow for more time.
25. Visit Old Colorado City
Old Colorado City can be found just west of the downtown area of Colorado Springs. It was the original capital of the state of Colorado when it was founded in 1859. The city was once a hive of activity home to ranchers, miners and farmers. Old Colorado City retains a gritty but fun wild west feel as it takes visitors back to the 19th Century. The best way to see the district is to download the tour app on your phone which allows you to undertake a self-guided tour with all the information you need on your smartphone or tablet.