We love living in Colorado Springs. We were very happy when we first got military orders here and have been so blessed to have been here nearly 4 years. It's an awesome place to live and raise kids! But if you can't do that? It's a great place to visit with kids!
Most people think of heading to Colorado to ski, camp, raft, or hike, all of which we love to do. There are also plenty of gems in the city and surrounding area that are worth checking out. With the help of my two Colorado-Texans, we've put together a list of some of our favorite things to do here in the Springs.
Garden of the Gods -
This might be one of two signature excursions in Colorado Springs, with the other being Pikes Peak.
Garden of the Gods is officially a city park, with the land being donated to the city years ago with the stipulation that it is kept free to the public. We love to hike there with the kids and the dog, and the scenery is amazing. The kids love the smaller areas where they can climb into the rocks, and both want to really learn to climb. The area near the Three Graces is especially fun for kids, and seeing Kissing Camels and Table Rock are imperative!
A stop at the visitor's center is also a great idea, with a short film on the history of Garden of the Gods and some great memorabilia to check out. You can also purchase Junior Ranger booklets for the kids where they can tour the park, answer questions, and earn a badge from the visitor's center.
Their website | Our review
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo -
We've been to many zoos across the country over the years and Cheyenne Mountain is one of our favorites!
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is located on the side of Cheyenne Mountain, starting at about 6800 feet in elevation and rising as you walk through the zoo. It features multiple animal exhibits, including Rocky Mountain Wild, Monkey Pavilion and Primate World, Wolf Woods, Encounter Africa, and many more.
Our favorite, and definitely a must-do, are the reticulated giraffes in the African Rift Valley area. The giraffes love to walk about and interact with the guests, especially when you purchase lettuce to feed them! We can't resist doing that each time.
Pikes Peak -
We love heading up Pikes Peak when people come to visit! There are two main routes to the top--driving up the Pikes Peak Highway, 19 miles of road traversing the mountain, or the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, a train trip to the summit (all in all, a little over 3 hours).
We've taken both trips and they are both a lot of fun, depending on what you are looking for. On the railway, you have beautiful views of the mountain and area that can't be seen from the highway, along with a short stop (about 30 minutes) at the summit. The highway drive offers a different view and the ability to stop along the way at several stopping points, including at a Bigfoot crossing, plus unlimited time at the top.
Which is better for your family will definitely depend on schedules but either way make sure to have the high altitude donuts at the top!
Their website | Our review
North Pole Santa's Workshop -
Up near the entrance to Pikes Peak Highway is a great little amusement park, themed for Christmas, all year long. It features rides for the whole family, speciality shops, a chance to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus all year long, magic shows, and the highest altitude Ferris Wheel in the world.
Most of the 25 or so rides are family friendly or just for kids, so it's perfect for those with younger children too. Christmas themes rides include a Christmas Tree Ride with flying ornaments, the Candy Cane Coaster, the Peppermint Slide, and the newest Santa's Sleigh Ride (a zip line style ride). Traditional amusement park rides fill in the rest of the park, which bring out a very nostalgic feeling.
The park opens in May and stays open through Christmas, weather permitting (it is Colorado after all!).
Space Foundation World Headquarters
The Space Foundation is located near Garden of the Gods, in the back of an office park area, so a completely unexpected surprise!
The museum consists of several areas--a large open room with tons of exhibits and replicas of space travel, interactive displays allowed the kids to play around with maps of the solar system and details of the planets and spaceflight, a craft and educational area, and our favorite, the Science On a Sphere where a large globe comes to life during the presentation.
Special events occur frequently, so check out their website to see what is offered. We've been to homeschool days, a talk by an astronaut, and some amazing summer programming. They even offer story time for little ones.
Their website | Our review
Western Museum of Mining & Industry
The Western Museum of Mining & Industry is located on the north side of the Springs, very close to the Air Force Academy. We originally thought to check it out as a homeschool field trip idea and we are so glad we did!
The museum is full of exhibits on the mining history of Colorado, but it also has plenty of interactive elements for the kids. One of the highlights was the opportunity to learn to pan for gold. While they didn't strike it rich, they did find some pretty stones/crystals that they were also allowed to keep. The dress up area features mining gear to try on, which entertained our group for quite awhile too. The docents were exceedingly helpful in explaining the material to the kids and answering the many many questions. Don't forget to stop and visit the two resident burros too!
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
We love historical places to visit and the cliff dwellings in Manitou did not disappoint.
Technically, the cliff dwellings aren't native to the Colorado Springs area. They were found collapsed at an Anasazi site in the Four Corners area, then shipped to Colorado Springs to be reassembled.
The museum consists of two parts--the indoor museum of artifacts from the Anasazi and the outdoor reconstructed cliff dwellings. With the ability to enter the dwellings, climb ladders, and go from room to room, that was my kids' favorite part. They spent quite a bit of time doing that while I was able to actually read the posted information (unlike the children, I really did want to read it!). Pair this up with another outing or two in Manitou Springs to fill out the day.
Focus on the Family Play Center
This was one of the first outings we took when we moved to Colorado Springs 4 years ago. I had seen it in a magazine at our hotel and thought it looked like fun for the kids since they had been cooped up in two little rooms while we were waiting on a house. I'm so glad we checked it out since we've been back multiple times.
Focus on the Family Headquarters is on the north end of the Springs and appears to basically be an office … Except the basement has been converted into a huge kids' play area, complete with Whit's End themed areas (their signature kids' programming), a Narnia wardrobe to walk through, toddler areas, a puppet theater, and most kids' favorite? A 3 story slide that twists round and round. Even better? It's all free of charge to come and enjoy.
Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs
I don't work far from Manitou Springs, but it took a birthday party for one of Ben's friends before we discovered the Penny Arcade there!
The Penny Arcade is in downtown Manitou Springs, in a little alley with storefronts that joins the two sides of the main street. Multiple areas feature Skeeball, the rolling RaceHorses, contemporary games, plus there are classic ones at the Penny Arcade. The Penny Arcade is our favorite part. It contains old fashioned games, all still with the original pricing, so you can play games for nickels and dimes as well as the standard quarters. Ben loves the old sports games--hockey, football, the pinball machines, a crane game that involves scooping gravel, and a shooter game to knock down monkeys while firing balls at them. It's also awesome to see the kids have that much fun with non-screen games!
Their website | Our review
Magic Town at the Michael Garman Gallery -
This adorable art gallery is tucked away in Old Colorado City, just a few blocks from where I work! Garman is a talented sculptor, but Magic Town takes the art to another level. Inside the museum is a miniature city, from The sculptures are combined with assorted movie effects, including lights, mirrors, and video, in order to change the scenes you see.
The first room gives you a taste of this but the second (larger) room really is a full city to see. The kids could easily spend hours watching the exhibits change and checking out all the details. The museum also decorates for Halloween and Christmas, which makes it even more fun to visit during these times. The Halloween zombie baby was Ben's favorite, whereas Faith loves one of the scenes from a story she crafted (and won the museum's contest!).
What else is there to do in Colorado Springs? We had trouble limiting it to our top ten favorites, so a follow-up post is going to happen one of these days. What would you add to our list?