When looking for a family vacation destination in the Rocky Mountains, look no further than Colorado Springs. It’s your “one-stop shop” in that category. It offers true mountain scenery and adventure tucked in the shadow of Pikes Peak, all within a day’s drive of Kansas City. Plus, Colorado Springs is the springboard to surrounding regional points of interest such as Cripple Creek and the Royal Gorge. There are at least a score of attractions in and around the “Springs” to keep even the most demanding little wranglers completely content.
The Allure of the Mountain
Pikes Peak is more than a mountain, although at 14,115 feet it ranks among Colorado’s 58 famous “14ers,” the tallest peaks in the state. The peak itself is just part of a much larger massif with popular hiking trails leading in from all directions on all flanks. The 19-mile road to the summit finally has been paved all the way to the top and is drivable by any vehicle in good condition. Alternatively, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway offers a stunning ride up and down the mountain from sister city Manitou Springs with no wear and tear on your body or vehicle. pikes-peak.com
The Garden of the Gods
Colorado Springs’ most visited attraction is the city-owned Garden of the Gods Park, which has been designated a National Natural Landmark. The towering red sandstone rock formations have captured the imaginations of all who have visited. Tour either by car, by bike, on foot or on horseback. The Garden of the Gods lives up to its name, especially on blue-sky sunny days with snow-capped Pikes Peak completing your photograph. The visitor’s center located at the main entrance has maps and advice for a perfect visit. gardenofgods.com
That Other Mountain
Don’t have time to summit Pikes Peak? Then spend a few hours on Cheyenne Mountain by driving up the winding road to the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun just above the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. From the shrine get a marvelous view of the “amber waves of grain” stretching far to the east. You’ll also learn a bit about one of America’s favorite humorists. And the zoo? It’s one of the best in the West and the only one on a mountain. cmzoo.org
The Fine Arts Center
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has grown to become one of the only multi-discipline arts institutions in the nation. Today it remains a rarity—home to a nationally accredited art museum, Broadway-worthy theater, a gourmet restaurant (Taste), retail art galleries and an art school for all ages—essentially an entire arts district under one roof. On exhibit through Sept. 13, Georgia O’Keefe and Her Contemporaries. csfineartscenter.org
First Friday ArtWalk
Old Colorado City art galleries are open late on the first Friday of each month for ArtWalk. This self-guided visual arts tour will familiarize walkers with regional artists in many galleries along Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 27th Streets, the city’s largest concentration of original art. shopoldcoloradocity.com
Old Colorado City
The revived historic area on the west side of downtown on W. Colorado Avenue between 21st and 32nd Streets boasts more than 100 galleries, restaurants and shops within a quarter mile area. It’s a good place to spend some cash at a unique boutique or enjoy a Mexican inspired meal at one of the many cafés. Many of the shops are open late Thursday-Saturday until Aug. 18. shopoldcoloradocity.com
The venerable Broadmoor just keeps reinventing itself and seems to be on a path to brand some of Colorado Springs’s singular attractions under its banner. Built in 1918, this sprawling resort in pale-pink stucco sports three 18-hole golf courses, a lake, a full-service spa, more than two dozen shops and the state’s only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant. It sits next to Cheyenne Mountain offering views of Pikes Peak and is within easy driving distance of family-friendly attractions. In recent years, The Broadmoor purchased the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the popular Seven Falls attraction. Plus it offers “wilderness experiences” at Cloud Camp atop Cheyenne Mountain and at the Ranch at Emerald Creek, eight miles to the west, cementing its reputation as the tourism leader in the community. broadmoor.com
The Spa at The Broadmoor draws inspiration from its spectacular surroundings for the pampering and holistic spa treatments its professionals deliver. Relax post-treatment in the co-ed Mountain View room and you’ll want to go again. Tag Galyean, master architect for some of the most exclusive resort spas in the world, designed not only the new and expanded interior space but two signature hydrotherapy treatments and a showpiece couples’ massage room. broadmoor.com
Where to Rent a Horse (and Cowboy)
You came all the way west, so why not? Academy Riding Stables will provide the mount and the guide to ride through the Garden of the Gods no matter what your riding experience. One and two-hour rides available through the summer. For ages 8 and older, 250-pound maximum.
4 El Paso Blvd. academyridingstables.com
WHERE TO DINE
Carlos’ Bistro The personal attention of the chef/owner of this small restaurant is evident in the food and service. A very welcoming place. 1025 S 21st St., 719-471-2905
Margarita at Pine Creek Excellent Mexican fare with indoor and outdoor seating options off the beaten path. Lovely mountain views too. 7350 Pine Creek Rd., 719-598-8667
The Penrose Room Colorado’s only Five Star, Five Diamond dining experience is contemporary European cuisine inspired by the seasons at The Broadmoor. Jackets required for men. 1 Lake Ave., Suite A, 719-577-5773
Shuga’s Fun and idiosyncratic international fare served informally along with handcrafted cocktails. Yes, there are portions for kids. 702 S. Cascade Ave., 719-328-1412
Taste The new restaurant at the Center for the Arts offers lunch and brunch with beautiful park and mountain views, dining on the balcony and pre-theater dining. 30 West Dale Street, 719-634-5581
WHERE TO STAY
The Broadmoor — Five-star performance in every department, from the luxuriousness of the rooms to the unparalleled setting. From $320/night. 1 Lake Avenue
Cheyenne Mountain Resort — Great views, accommodations and service are the hallmarks of this multifaceted golf resort featuring a Pete Dye-designed course. From $161/night. 3225 Broadmoor Valley Rd.
The Cliff House at Pikes Peak — Service is first at this Manitou Springs historic inn. Stylish rooms in a picturesque neighborhood. Walk to restaurants and shops and other attractions. One-of-a-kind. 306 Canon Ave., Manitou Springs
The Mining Exchange — A retro hotel experience in downtown Colorado Springs. It’s all been brought up to date while wrapped in an historical edifice. Pet friendly. From $132/night double. 8 S. Nevada Ave.
Old Town Guest House — An eight-room B&B in the center of it all in Old Colorado City. Newly built in 1997 it offers contemporary comfort in an historic setting. Double room from $155/night. 115 South 26th St.