Colorado Springs holds a special place in my heart. This was where my husband and I fell in love. This was my first home away from my parent’s house. This was where I went to college and met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known.
Here is an insider’s guide to 12 fun things to do when you’re in Colorado Springs, all of which are college student approved.
Garden of the Gods
photo credit H. Michael Miley
Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. It has been ranked the number 1 park in the country based on 3,000 reviews on Trip Advisor, ahead of New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park. My husband and I often hike here because it is a free park with ample parking. I recommend Ridge Trail which is a moderate ½ mile loop winding over a rocky pathway with beautiful scenery.
photo credit Brian Gautreau
There are three ways to get to the top of Pikes Peak: hike, take the cog-railroad or drive. Well, I’m sure there are more ways if you’re creative. If you are up for hiking a fourteener, do it. If not, opt for driving instead of taking the cog-railroad because it’s cheaper, you can go at your own pace and you can take photos along the way. We made our ascent mid-October and were thrilled to find out that the top had just been cleared of snow. Many times the top will be closed off to drivers because the last couple of miles of road is dangerous when slick. Tip: Bring warm clothes, even if it is warm down the mountain it is always cold and windy at the top.
Cave of the Winds
photo credit Jon Roberts
Cave of the Winds is a local attraction in Manitou Springs where you can tour a variety of caves at different levels of hiking difficulty. There are tours for all ages. My parents brought me to Cave of the Winds and it was one of the coolest things we have ever done and that’s according to a high schooler who was particularly difficult to impress.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
photo credit mrwynd
Giraffes! The coolest thing about Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is that you can hand feed the giraffes. This is an excellent opportunity to get that giraffe selfie you’ve always wanted. Other than that, it’s exactly what you’d expect from America’s only mountainside zoo: gorgeous and on a huge hill. Wear your best walking shoes!
photo credit Jeff Keyzer
If you’re a fan of good old-fashioned Texas BBQ you’ll love Rudy’s. The restaurant is a large barn with a little general store attached. You order your meat and your fixings in the barn and watch them carve it off right there in front of you. Then, you find a picnic table, douse your meat in sauce and dig in! This place is full of character and known by the locals as the best BBQ in town.
Glen Eyrie Castle
photo credit David Shankbone
Glen Eyrie is an English Tudor-style castle built in 1903 by the founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer but I fondly remember it as, “the castle Grandma and Grandpa worked at.” My grandparents volunteered at the castle when I was a child and I often walked the grounds arm in arm with them. I later found out that you are required to pay for morning or afternoon tea, book a tour or stay overnight and that you cannot just simply walk through the castle whenever you’d like.
Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs
photo credit Bradley Gordon
Manitou Springs is a small town full of art, music, theater and gift shops. One of the coolest things in Manitou Springs is the Penny Arcade. Spanning across several store fronts they have arcade games like pinball, skeeball, air hockey and more. I don’t remember the games actually costing a penny but it is always a fun cheap date activity.
Old Colorado City
photo credit Paul Sableman
Old Colorado City is a national historic district in Colorado Springs. It sits on about 8 acres and is full of adorable little shops and restaurants. I often confused Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City because they have a similar look and feel to them. Old Colorado City has excellent restaurants and coffee shops. I prefer to go here when I’m looking for that small-town Gilmore Girls vibe.
photo credit Mark Byzewski
Graffiti Falls, also known as Rainbow Falls or Cascade Falls, is a waterfall surrounded by canyon walls covered in graffiti. I was skeptical when my husband told me about it because it seems like there’s no way it could be beautiful. On the contrary, this is a beautiful site full of personality, life and color. There are usually a few left spray paint cans so you can leave a tag of your own. The hike in is moderate and only a half a mile. However, there isn’t a designated path so most of it is unsteady river rocks.
photo credit Kari Sullivan
Who doesn’t love a good swanky hotel? Even if you can’t afford to stay at The Broadmoor it is definitely worth a visit. I suggest wearing your fanciest clothes and walking around like you own the place. Truth is, I could hardly afford a cocktail here when I visited in college but it was fun to pretend.
US Olympic Training Center
photo credit Marc Goebel
For aspiring Olympic athletes I’m sure the US Olympic Training Center is the bee’s knees. For us regular folk, it’s a tour of a bunch of gyms and pools. Regardless, it’s pretty inspiring to know that some of the greatest athletes in the world trained here and it’s fun to point at workout equipment and ask the tour guide if Michael Phelps’ butt has been here…or here…or here.
The Money Museum
photo credit David Shankbone
I can’t write about Colorado Springs without mentioning the museum where I had my first internship. You don’t have to be a numismatist to enjoy looking at money. The Money Museum has an extensive collection of currency as well as it’s very own mini-mint where you can see how coins were made starting in the 1500s. Another perk – admission is only $5 a person.
Do you agree with this list? Do you have anything you would add to it? Leave a comment below.
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