Colorado is one of the most visited states in the country, known for its spectacular views, mountain vistas and bright blue skies. Where do you begin? Here are five places in the Colorado Springs area you really must see.
Pikes Peak — America’s Mountain
Just an hour south of Denver, Colorado Springs is best known as the home of Pikes Peak — America’s Mountain. At 14,115 feet in elevation, Pikes Peak is the most accessible “fourteener” in the country. You don’t have to train or invest in special equipment to conquer this majestic peak, just find four wheels and some great company. The Pikes Peak Highway is open year-round, weather permitting, and offers views of five states, multiple biomes and snow-fed mountain reservoirs. After taking in the quilt-work views of America, be sure to stop by the Summit House and try one of their special high-altitude doughnuts and grab a family photo by the statue of Big Foot, America’s favorite Sasquatch.
North Pole – Santa’s Workshop
The North Pole – Santa’s Workshop joins Pikes Peak at the top of the one-of-a-kind family attractions in Colorado, and happens to be right next to the gate for the Pikes Peak Highway. The North Pole was created by a Disney Park designer in 1950 based off of a little girl’s dream of what Santa’s Village might look like. With more than a dozen rides, quaint little shops to start your holiday shopping, magic shows, a petting zoo and a place to visit the big guy himself, this Christmas-themed amusement park will delight the young and young at heart alike. While you’re there, be sure to take a ride on the Peppermint Slide and post a letter from the North Pole Post Office to your friends back home.
Historic Cripple Creek
A little farther west on Highway 24, you’ll find a mountain town that boasts one of the richest gold deposits in history. Cripple Creek, the original “Pikes Peak or Bust” destination, is still extracting nearly half a million ounces of gold a year from them thar hills. Go deep underground in one of their active gold mines, or check out one of their seven local museums to learn about their rich history (pun totally intended). Chug back in time on their old steam engine locomotive or meander the street’s old storefronts. Be sure to keep an eye out for the herd of free-range donkeys, descendants of the donkeys that worked the gold mines in the olden days. They’re part mascot, part welcoming committee and are sure to take your vacation photos to the next level. Life is all about the journey and the drive to Cripple Creek is one of the prettiest in Colorado.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Built nearly 800 years ago by the ancient Pueblo Indians in southwestern Colorado, the Cliff Dwellings were painstakingly relocated to the hills of Manitou (just west of Colorado Springs) in the early 1900s. Unlike their counterparts in the Mesa Verde area, you’re able to climb through the ruins and get hands-on with this venerable history. Explore more than 40 rooms, including sleeping quarters and kivas. Try your hand at grinding corn, climb tree-hewn ladders and get a feel for this ancestral life. Twice a month in the summer, the folks from Colorado Wolf Adventures bring their well-socialized wolves for a visit, making the entire experience complete.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
One of the top zoos in the country, America’s mountain zoo is designed to get you closer to the animals than ever before. Hand-feed the largest reticulated giraffe herd in the world, hop next to red-necked wallabies, watch grizzlies swim with trout or get hands-on with some of their smaller residents at The Big Backyard. Be sure to plan time for some of the keeper talks and demonstrations to learn more about your favorite animals. The kids will love the antique carousel and you’ll all enjoy the bird’s-eye view from the Sky Ride. At 6,714 feet above sea level, the zoo offers a breathtaking perspective of the city and its 750 animals. Stop by one of their restaurants for a great meal and an even better view.
We’ve only scratched the surface of great things to do in and around Colorado Springs. As you can see, you’re not really experiencing Colorado until you visit the Pikes Peak region. Check out more family adventures.