8 reasons to get them outside in Colorado Springs
Boasting more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Colorado Springs is the ultimate outdoor getaway for families. Here are eight activities that are bound to be the highlight of your itinerary.
Located at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Colorado Springs’ list of unmissable sights is outstanding. With over 60 unique attractions and activities waiting to be explored, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the refreshing alpine air. Here are just eight examples that’ll have you packing your bags pronto.
1. Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain
Famous for its picturesque landscapes, the twists and turns of Pikes Peak Highway are guaranteed to take you to someplace special. With reservoirs and cheeky wildlife to be spotted along the way, you could even say the 4,302-kilometre road is almost as breathtaking as the view from the summit itself. You can visit by car, shuttle, bicycle or Polaris Slingshot, or for adventurous families, there are several hiking options, too. Don’t miss Barr Trail, the most popular way to reach the summit.
2. Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center and Garden of the Gods Park
Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods Park is a unique phenomenon, where the grassy Great Plains join the woodlands of the American Southwest, all the while merging with the majesty of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. The result is an extensive parkland alive with red, pink and white sandstone and limestone, unique wildlife and forestry and secluded spots that are perfect for catching an unforgettable sunset. For families juggling multiple generations and preferences on their trip, the tour options are never-ending: try your hand at hiking, biking, guided horseback riding, Segway riding, Jeep touring, birding and rock climbing.
Hot Tip: To access this geological wonder of the world by road, it is recommended that you use the address of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center in your GPS for the main entrance of the park. The park’s opening hours change depending on the season. Check online before you go to make sure that it’s open.
3. Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center
Home to wolves, coyotes and foxes, Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center is a sanctuary dedicated to the rescue of – and education about – wolves and their relatives. It’s the perfect opportunity to teach little ones about conservation in a safe and exciting environment, and little wild things will love the “wolf howl” after meeting the resident animals and learning about their history and conservation journey. For those hoping to get up close and personal with these furry friends, the interactive wolf experience is thrilling and you’ll get a snap to take home.
Hot tip: Make tour reservations in advance to be sure you don’t miss out, especially for popular full-moon tours.
4. Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
Located to the west of Colorado Springs, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is home to some awesome above-ground and underground adventures. Families are encouraged to go on the 45- to 60-minute Discovery Tour, which is entirely conducted in the electrically lit portion of the cave. Aspiring archaeologists will love learning about its discovery and the geology of its beautiful formations, and above ground, don’t miss the Magic Lantern Virtual Reality Theatre, Via Ferrata, Wind Walker Challenge Course, Terror-Dactyl and the Bat-A-Pult.
5. Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine
Located about an hour from Colorado Springs’ city around the Cripple Creek mining district, both the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine are perfect for a day or half-day trip. Descending 300 metres – a depth similar to the height of New York City’s Empire State Building – into its mountain, the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine operated from 1891 all the way to 1961 (except for a short hiatus in World War Two). Gold Mine Tours not only shows visitors the gold veins in their natural state, but also takes them for a ride on an underground tram air locomotive – isn’t that awesome? Future engineers can see a gold mine in action on a visit to Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, where they’ll learn all about modern mining procedures and mineral uses, plus see cool artefacts and photos at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum before embarking on a pre-booked tour of the mine itself.
Hot Tip: Check that the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is open before you go, as its season changes annually.
6. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
One of Colorado Springs’ top attractions, Cañon City’s Royal Gorge Bridge & Park makes the most of its natural surrounds to create a kids’ – and kids-at-heart’s – paradise. Open 365 days a year (weather permitting), the park is home to America’s highest suspension bridge and zipline, alongside awe-inspiring panoramic views and adrenaline-packed rides. Families can relax and drink in the view on aerial gondolas before screaming in exhilaration aboard the Cloudscraper Zip Line or the Royal Rush Skycoaster. Walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge and then stop at the Plaza Theater or the Visitor Center, and visit the Water Clock, one of the rarest clocks on Earth. Don’t miss Tommy Knocker Children’s Playland, which is full of ropes, slides, nets, tunnels, six-metre towers and a splash pad. There’s nothing cuter than a family joy ride on Daisy’s Carousel!
7. Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience
A real-life Jurassic Park, Royal Gorge Dinosaur is an interactive kids’ museum with a life-size dinosaur park alongside its indoor displays, theatre and multi-storey rope course. It’s a perfect mix of fun and fact, using a science-focused ethos to educate little ones about the era of the dinosaurs through full-scale dinosaur fossil casts, and hands-on exhibits with real dinosaur fossils. The Dinosaur Wild Walk is a must-do; families stroll through a smooth dirt trail that leads to a desert forest, housing 16 different life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, some of which even track guest movements. What’s more is that tots can be palaeontologists for a day at the Kids’ Dig, a non-stick pea gravel area full of faux T-rex bones ready to be found – how’s that for a souvenir?
Hot Tip: If you’re going in the American winter, check that the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience is open before you go, as its season changes annually.
8. Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Traverse the most iconic portion of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad along the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, a heritage railroad that takes you on an unforgettable two-hour scenic journey. It’s so beautiful that, apparently, President Teddy Roosevelt described it as “the trip that bankrupts the English language!” Perhaps the most exciting time to go is at Christmas, when kids can get into the season’s spirit with the Santa Express Train. Children of all ages are encouraged to snuggle up in their cosiest pair of pyjamas as the locomotive travels to the North Pole. Guests can sing along to carols and enjoy locally sourced entrées, cookies and hot cocoa. When the train reaches the North Pole, Santa and his elves board and gift each ticketed child a holiday bell to remember the trip by – not that they’d need it!
This post was produced in partnership with Visit Colorado Springs. For more holiday inspiration, head to the Visit Colorado Springs website.