A few years ago, I saw an article on Wichita Mom about Colorado Springs, and decided we needed to head that direction on a family vacation! It’s taken us a few years, but we finally were able to make the 7 hour drive from Wichita, and our family fell in love.
Colorado Springs is a great small-ish city that has a variety of options of hotels and Airbnb options to choose from. We weren’t quite sure what part of town to stay in, but opted for the north end near I-25 as we planned to check out the area quite a bit during our 5 night stay.
There are 2 ways to get to the top of Pike’s Peak. The first is driving yourself the 2-3 hour round trip as you take a 19 mile scenic paved toll road ($40 for a carload) up a winding highway. Don’t forget to take your Dramamine! Or, after a 3 year hiatus, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is back open! It is completely refurbished, the train depot, train cars, and the Cog Railway itself have all had a renovation. It’s open air cars with amazing views and a history lesson along the hour and fifteen minute drive to and from the peak each way. Plan for a half day to ascend, descend and spend a little bit exploring the brand new visitors center complete with snack bar, gift shop, and plenty of sights to been seen. Dress for much cooler temperatures, and currently, masks must be worn, and tickets sell out weeks in advance, so buy your tickets early! Tickets can get pricey, but we felt it was well worth the expense. You can pre-select your seats for $10 extra per seat. We were wishing that we had selected seats on the 3 seat side instead of the 2 seat side as the views are much better on that side.
My pre-teen boys love amusement parks. We didn’t want to head into Denver or break the bank, so we chose to go visit The North Pole outside of Manitou Springs. It is open May-October, but it is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s open in November and December for selected dates. We spent several hours riding the rides and enjoying the snack bar. (My husband and I didn’t even have to pay for entry tickets as we chose not to ride any rides since our children were tall enough to ride the rides they wanted to ride without an adult.) The North Pole reminded me of carnival rides, but my children enjoyed every minute of the Christmas themed park! It boasts the highest Ferris Wheel in the world, and gives the riders some amazing views. It was very affordable and would interest very young children up to high schoolers as there are a few rides geared toward thrill seekers. You don’t need to purchase tickets ahead of time.
We love a good zoo. This zoo was unlike any zoo we had visited! The zoo is nestled in the middle of the mountains and serves as a breathtaking spot to spend the day. The zoo is very walkable and stroller friendly, but you’ll be hiking quite a bit up and down the side of the mountain the zoo is perched on. There are plenty of restrooms and food options, but you can bring a picnic lunch it that is more your style. In addition to the entry tickets, our family purchased Sky Ride Tickets for $14 for all of us, and we rode a ski lift from the entrance up to the peak of the mountain and viewed the zoo from above before we toured it on foot. It was a highlight of the experience. Once at the top of the lift, you can explore a playground before riding it back down. Don’t forget to purchase your entry tickets ahead of time as they limit the crowds.
This cave was discovered in 1881 and has undergone quite a transformation. You can book a tour of the cave, either a lantern tour filled with ghost stories, or a Discovery tour where you learn the history of the cave and explore it with a small group and a guide. While you’re there, you can do an adrenaline seeking 3 story obstacle course or Bat-a-pult while plunging over the side of the cliff. Tickets for the tours need to be purchased in advance.
Manitou Springs is a quaint mountain town chock full of activities, shops and restaurants. We played arcade games in the old fashioned Penny Arcade. Bring your pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters to play some of the hundreds of games. Change machines are available if you need them. If arcade games and shopping aren’t your speed, then check out the Incline, but don’t bring your stroller because you’ll be climbing 2,744 steps to the top! It’s less than a mile up to the top, but gets very steep, so it isn’t for the faint of heart! You’ll need to reserve a free slot for your entry. Check out one of the cute ice cream shops in town. You won’t regret it!
Manitou Cliff Dwellings is located just outside of Manitou Springs. You can explore the Anasazi ruins that date back 800-1000 years ago through a self guided tour. They were relocated from 1904-1907 and the museum provides a little education on the way of life of the ancient people group. There is a Pueblo museum to explore as well. We enjoyed shopping in the huge gift shop and of course saw incredible views of the area.
Since the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is temporarily closed due to Covid-19, we decided to check out the US Olympic & Paralympic Museum. We are pretty sports obsessed at our house, so we couldn’t wait to learn about Olympians and Paralympians, see torches, medals, and participate in simulated experiences. Be sure to watch the 10 minute film and try not to cry. It was so fun to explore about the Olympics and get geared up for the Summer Olympics.
The biggest highlight of our trip was the Garden of the Gods. There is a great visitor center that has a cafe’ and gift shop, as well as museum. You can book guided tours from there, or explore it on your own. There are multiple parking lots, and if you’re up for a hike, you can park near the highway and hike along a trail. Our family opted to go up the road a bit and park in a lot closer to the Garden. Entrance is free and so much fun. There are several trails around the park, and you can climb on the rock formations. Be sure to bring plenty of water and of course your camera for lots of great pictures.
Even though we were there for 4 full days, we ran out of time to explore 7 Falls as it is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Rainbow Falls as it is closed several days a week as well, so be sure to check the website for days of operation. The Royal Gorge is not too far away, and there is a lot of adventure to be had with river rafting and other adventures there.
Colorado Springs boasts so many family friendly things to do, so we just didn’t have enough time to get them all in. I’m sure we’ll be visiting again in the near future!