Charming Colorado Springs
In the middle of the winter it seems like everyone focuses on the ski towns west of Denver. After visiting charming Colorado Springs and the surrounding area almost every summer, I can tell you it is well worth the trip.
The town is sprawling, with great suburbs you don’t want to miss. So renting a car is a must if you flew into Colorado. Remember that Denver is only about an hour away, so if you can get a cheaper flight into Denver, it will only add an hour each way to your trip.
Where to stay: The main luxury hotels in Colorado Springs are the Broadmoor and Garden of the Gods Club. That means you’ll have to pay handsomely for the privilege of enjoying these kind of resorts. When my boys were little and we spent a lot of time at the resort, I’d say it was worth it. We would rent a cabana all day at the pool, ride paddle boats on the lake, or use the kids club so that we could have a nice adult only dinner. The expense made a little more sense when we actually spent a lot of time at the resort. Shoulder seasons can present a great opportunity for deals at these kind of properties.
Now that our boys are older, we tend to be out and about more. In Colorado Springs that can include hiking, taking the train to Pikes Peak, rock climbing, you name it. Which means that we don’t really need a resort property. We’ve stayed at the Hyatt Place and been surprised at the level of service, including free breakfast. Another nearby town called Manitou Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak, has a lot of quaint Inns. We’ve stayed at the Blue Skies Inn a few times and enjoyed it’s proximity to the main drag in Manitou Springs.
Things to Do: There are so many things to do in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area, it’s hard to know where to start. Garden of the Gods seems to beckon everyone since it is so visible around town. The Loop hike is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible. While there is a visitors center complete with a movie and souvenir shop, I think it takes away from the natural beauty of your visit. We have never paid to see the movie and haven’t been back to the visitors center since. Don’t let that deter you from some great hiking in that area. Our favorite hikes are out to keyhole rock and balancing rock.
Pikes Peak is an iconic attraction. Our favorite way up is the cog railway. We’ve seen mountain goats along the way. You can also drive your car up Pikes Peak. Don’t forget to try the homemade donuts at the top. The views are spectacular, but remember to bring a jacket. The weather can be completely different at that high elevation.
If you are really up for adventure you can try the Manitou Incline that starts right behind the parking lot for the cog railway. The Manitou incline is and old cable car route that helped carry material to build pipelines on Pikes Peak. After the projects were done, it was turned into a tourist attraction. The Manitou Incline is only 1 mile long, but it climbs 2,000 vertical feet. It should take the average athletic person about 45-60 minutes. This crazy thing had been on my list for a few years, so I think we might need to tackle it this summer!
We’ve also enjoyed the Cave of the Winds with the boys a few times. What’s not to like with the cool temperatures inside the cave even with the summer heat. I’d call ahead or reserve your tickets online if you can. Entrance to the cave is only by guided tour, which can fill up during the busy season. The entrance, souvenir shop, and snack area remind me of a truck stop. But if you can be patient, the wonders of the cave will make it all worth it.
On a quick visit with Bo one summer, we decided to visit the United States Olympic Training Center. They offer a guided tour (recommended for age 8 and up) that takes about an hour. It starts with a video presentation after which, you get to tour the grounds. The weightlifters and wrestlers were practicing during our visit. Although you do stop in just about every venue, the athletes you run into will vary depending on the time of your tour. We even found the shooting range part of the tour fascinating. There are lots of photo ops for the kids with the rings, or on medal stands. The tour ends in one of only two Team USA shops in the country. Now that’s a souvenir that not everyone will have!
One great stop for kids is the town (suburb) of Manitou Springs. It’s a charming older town that’s fun to walk around, play at the park, and stop by the small river that runs through it. In the summer, there are always hawking musicians near the town fountain. But my boys (and Hubby’s) favorite place there has to be the Manitou Springs Arcades. They have everything! It’s a combination of indoor and covered outdoor space that holds all those old upright standing games you remember and your kids call vintage. They have games like Donkey Kong, pinball, Qbert, Skeeball, Dig Dug, Space Invaders, Guitar Hero, Pop-a-shot, Joust, just to name a few. I am horrible at numbers, but I’d guess there are over 200 games. There are friendly attendants in case something goes wrong. We never miss a visit to the Manitou Springs arcades on a trip to Colorado Springs.
Where to eat: Although Colorado Springs is a great place to picnic, we have found a few gems worthy enough to mention. The first is an amazing Italian restaurant called Paravacini’s. It is actually in the suburb of Old Colorado City, which is right inbetween Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. The towns are so small you might find it hard to notice you are actually in a different suburb. They even have a small patio out back if the weather is nice. They had a Burrata appetizer special during our last visit that was so creamy and delicious. I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie, but I dream about that appetizer sometimes. And that says a lot, considering I rarely eat out at Italian restaurants at home.
A more casual option is Hell’s Kitchen Pizza in Manitou Springs. It’s a small restaurant, but has lots of choices and a really cool vibe. They have tons of pizza you can order by the slice, and the slices are huge. As a mom, I love that I don’t have to settle for cheese or some meat feast that the boys are eating. There are interesting choices of veggies or white pizza too. They also have these fun things called knots. It’s dough that they mold into knots and season like garlic bread. There is even a dessert version. My boys love the combo they offer at lunch. One slice of pizza, and 3 knots (which you can mix the kinds of knots you want) so that you get an appetizer, entree and a dessert all in one. Although, it’s so much food we can never finish it all.
I think this post might run way too long if I wax on any longer. There are a lot of great things about Colorado Springs that I didn’t cover. The cave dwellings, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, horseback riding, rock climbing, The Golden Bee pub, and many more. And I’m not being paid to tell you about this great area. We’ve had an annual family event in the Colorado Springs area for the last few years and had a chance to get to know the towns. I love Denver and the ski resorts in Colorado just as much as the next guy. But if you leave Colorado Springs out, you’re the one who’s missing out.