Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in Colorado, nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, brings in thousands of visitors every year to take in the beautiful sights and enjoy the many attractions it has to offer. Colorado Springs has something for everyone from national monuments, epic hiking destinations to incredible museums.
A Brief History of Colorado Springs
The Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other tribes settled at the base of Pikes Peak near its abundant springs. Both Spanish and French settlers flew their flags at one point over the territory throughout the 1700s until the Louisianna purchase when American explorers began to travel and settle throughout the land.
In 1859, Colorado City was established as the first settlement in the Pikes Peak region. It served as a supply for miners who traveled to the mining camps west of Denver.
Colorado Springs was established in 1871 by General William Palmer, a Civil War hero, to create a high-quality resort community. The town’s location central to the natural wonders of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak made the location a clear choice for a lush resort town.
Within two years, the first resort was built, Antlers Hotel. The scenic landscape and the springs’ healing properties attracted visitors from around the world. The city began to grow, and the resort town vision was slowly coming to life. Palmer kept his dream alive by developing the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, critical to the region and trade.
Things To Do In Colorado Springs
While Colorado Springs is the perfect place for the explorer and lover of the outdoors, there is plenty to do, see, and eat within the city limits.
Colorado Springs offers a wide variety of places to eat, drink and enjoy as you roam the streets. There are many breweries to choose from and a selection of food from just about every culture. You’ll surely find something for every palette.
At the center of Colorado Springs is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Olympic Training Center and Olympic Plaza. This is where the U.S. Olympic team trains, and people can get a tour of the complex to learn about the facility and the many world-class athletes who have trained here.
Colorado Springs is full of art galleries and eclectic sculptures throughout the city. Colorado Springs features an Art on the Streets festival during the summer months; Artists at these festivals can feature and sell their artwork to the many locals and visitors.
Located in downtown Colorado Springs, visit the United States Air Force Academy and learn about the history of the Academy. Guided tours are available.
Visit the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial built to honor all those in the IAFF who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The memorial’s centerpiece is a bronze firefighter descending a ladder carrying an infant. Behind this centerpiece is a wall that lists the names of the firefighters.
There is no shortage of unique places to visit in Colorado Springs. Spend a weekend exploring to take in the full array of activities. Here are a few must-visits that your trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting.
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is a gorgeous natural National Landmark. The land was purchased by Charles Perkins in 1879 and gifted to Colorado Springs upon his death in 1909. The only stipulation given was that the land should be used as a free public park.
The land that covers Garden of the Gods was once covered in water, and you can still see signs in the ripples that form along the rocks. Seashells, sea fossils, and even a fossilized shark tooth have been found in the Garden of the Gods.
Garden of the Gods has a wealth of activities, and you can start your adventure at the Gods Trading Post. It features many shops, small eateries, and of course, a Starbucks. This is the perfect place to relax and grab some memorable souvenirs.
Garden of the Gods features 15 miles of various hiking trails to explore the vast land. Exploring Garden of the Gods can be done by segway, bicycles, hiking, or Jeep tours. If you would like a guided tour, the visitor center provides tours throughout the day. The visitor center features a museum with highly advanced technology to learn more about the area’s geology, ecology, and cultural history through interactive exhibits.
Pikes Peak sits tall along the Colorado skyline and is listed proudly as a national landmark. Known as America’s Mountain, this peak reaches 14,115 ft in elevation and is amongst the 53 mountains in Colorado that reach over 14,000 feet.
There are many ways you can choose to explore this beautiful mountain, so everyone has a chance to enjoy it. Pikes Peak has a scenic drive to the summit with many places to stop and take in the views. Furthermore, you can choose to go on a guided tour if you aren’t up for a mountain drive. If you’re looking to explore Pikes Peak in style, explore some of the more rugged and undisturbed spaces of the mountain, take Broadmoor’s Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and take in biomes, boulders, and maybe even catch a glimpse of an animal or two.
If you feel like seeking adventure and getting your heart pumping, take one of the trails to the summit. The main trail stretches over 13 miles and has an elevation gain of 7,400 feet up. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for fuel because this beast will likely be a challenge for even the most experienced hikers.
Pikes Peak is just an hour and a half drive from Denver and offers a magnificent experience anyone, young and old, is sure to enjoy.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo isn’t your average zoo visit. As America’s only mountain zoo, It offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. Walk amongst the wallabies, hand-feed the giraffes, toss food to the grizzlies or seek adventure in the award-winning mountainside exhibit featuring Mexican gray wolves in this gorgeous scenic zoo.
While you’re there, hop on the Mountaineer Sky Ride, which is another way to take in another view of the zoo, Colorado Springs, and the Eastern Plains. Climb aboard a chairlift-style ride to get an amazing aerial view.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo covers 146 acres and features natural habitats for each climate and its inhabitants. With over 700 species and 30 endangered species, you can get close and learn about all the many animals featured at this fantastic zoo. See why this zoo was voted #4 zoo in America by USA Today Best Readers’ Choice awards.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
If you are a big history buff, take a walk through time and the historic Manitou Cliff Dwellings, 20 minutes outside Colorado Springs. These 800-year-old dwellings were once the homes of the Anasazi tribe and are preserved under a red sandstone hang.
The history of this park is unique, and the dwellings were once located in McElmo Canyon. The dwellings were actually relocated in 1904 to better preserve the dwellings from looters and hunters. This history is often under much debate, yet the dwellings are still considered “authentic.”
Unlike many historical sites, visitors are encouraged to explore and enter the ruins. Visitors also have the freedom to touch anything within the park. It’s a wonderful hands-on experience for people of all ages.
These dwellings are open seven days a week, 9 to 5 most days, and 9 to 4 during the winter months.
Often referred to as the grandest mile of scenery, the approach to Seven Falls is surrounded by Colorado’s scenic mountain landscape. View the gorgeous cascades of rushing water through pink canyons through a 1,250-foot box canyon flanked by the Pillars of Hercules rising almost 900 feet off the ground.
Getting to Seven Falls is accessible for all, and you can enjoy the falls through a variety of avenues. Hikers can choose one of two trails that offer two unique views, each ranging from a 30 minute to a 1-hour hike option. Or you can take in the falls by taking the 224 steps along the falls.
At the falls, you can eat lunch at Restaurant 1858 by award-winning chefs at the Broadmoor just up the road. Visit the souvenir shop, grab a snack, take the elevator to Eagles nest, enjoy the view of the falls, and shop for minerals and fossils at the Rockhound.
The fall entry fee is $16.50 for adults, $13.75 for seniors and military, and $10.50 for kids ages 12 and under.
The Royal Gorge is another popular attraction for Colorado Springs. The Royal Gorge is a 1,200-foot deep canyon spread out along 10 miles carved over millions of years still flowing through the depths. There are many attractions within this site to visit for thrill-seekers to families to enjoy.
The Royal Gorge Bridge is one of the world’s highest suspension bridges. It stretches 1,270 feet across and 956 feet above the Arkansas River. The bridge park offers a walkway to take in the sites or you can also take a gondola. Take the Cloudscraper Zip Line across and soar across the gorge for the adventurers out there.
Enjoy the visitors center to learn more about the bridge and view the rare water clock, an engineering marvel.
Old Colorado City
Visit the first settlement at the base of Pikes Peak, a once Wild West frontier town. With an abundance of activities, you can enjoy the historic character and small-town charm that was once the capital of Colorado. Old Colorado City is now an expansive neighborhood in Colorado Springs.
In the heart of Old Colorado City, you can find eclectic boutiques, plenty of local art galleries, and many award-winning restaurants.
Stop by the Old Colorado City Historical Society and learn about the rich history. You can even book a haunted cemetery tour through the Colorado Springs Fairview Cemetery.
The Ghost Town Museum is a way to travel in time and enjoy historic ghost town structures of the past. Colorado is filled with many ghost towns left abandoned that aren’t safe to visit. However, if you visit the museum, you can get a glimpse into the lives of pioneers and miners.
Old Colorado City is known for its weekly Friday art walks. If you decide to visit, look for several art and entertainment festivals held there throughout the year.
Travel to Colorado Springs
There are several ways to get to Colorado Springs. The main highway, I-25, travels through the heart of the city, making it easy to get there. You can choose to fly into the Colorado Springs airport, just a 20-minute drive to downtown Colorado Springs.
The second closest airport is the small Pueblo Municipal Airport and is a short 30-minute drive from I-25.
Fly into the Denver International Airport and travel south on I-25 to reach Colorado Springs within an hour to an hour and a half. If you fly into the DIA, take the stress out of the long drive and hitch a ride to scenic Colorado Springs in style with Mayflower Limo Services. They offer luxury airport shuttle services with a gorgeous limo or a stylish six-passenger SUV so that you can arrive at dozens of popular destinations in Colorado.