Colorado Springs, CO

Hey Guys!

I debated on whether I should blog about my trip to Colorado Springs because it was 8 yrs ago when I visited. However, since there’s so much to see and do there, I thought maybe it would help some of you plan your own trip to CO.

We visited for 5 days in April 2010. The prices were very reasonable during that time of year and the temps, even though cold in the evening, were really nice during the day. The average temps in April is in the low to mid 60’s.

We only paid around $900 for our airfare, hotel and rental car. We stayed at the Best Western Academy Hotel. We really tried to stick to a budget and not spend a lot of money.

The hotel had an awesome view of Pikes Peak!IMG_4411

On our first full day there, we spent at Garden of the Gods. This place was amazing! This was my first time ever seeing huge red rock formations.

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In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad purchased 240 acres in the Garden of the Gods. He had planned to build his home there but later decided to leave it in it’s natural state for the enjoyment of all.

He later purchased an additional 240 acres of the “Garden” bringing his total acreage owned to 480. He passed away in 1907 before he had made arrangements to leave the park to the City of Colorado Springs.

However, his children were fully aware of how their dad felt about the park. So, in 1909 they conveyed the 480 acres to the city.

The conveyeance stated that the park will forever be known as the Garden of the Gods where it will always be free to the public and that the park would never manufacture, sell or dispense “intoxicating liquors”.

It also stated that no buildings or structures could be built except for those necessary to properly care for, protect and maintain the area as a public park.

When you arrive to the park your first stop should be the Visitors Center where you can pick up a map of the park, purchase a souvenir or grab something to eat at the cafe. The visitors center offers front range climbing trips, jeep and segway tours & bikes & electric bikes for rent & tours.IMG_4525

There are 15 mi of trails in the park. Click here to read about them.

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You can spend as little or as much time here as you would like depending on how active you are but I would recommend around 2-3 hrs.

However, we had a pretty loose itinerary so we weren’t in a hurry. We wanted to see everything while we were here and most all the sights were in close proximity to one another.

Here are some shots I took while at the park : The Kissing CamelsIMG_4433IMG_4465IMG_4507IMG_4454IMG_4424IMG_4436IMG_4515

After leaving the park we headed to High Drive  off Gold Camp Rd in Cheyenne Canyon to see Helen Hunt Falls. Do not miss this drive! It has some amazing views!

Access this drive via Lower Gold Camp Road, which starts in front of the Wal-Mart on 8th St or Bear Creek Rd/S 26th Street if coming from Old Colorado City or Manitou Springs.

The road turns into a dirt, one way lane and goes through tunnels that have been carved through the mountains.  You might even spot a bear or a mountain lion!IMG_4536IMG_4549IMG_4547

Helen Hunt Falls. It was still mostly frozen.IMG_4557IMG_4582IMG_4586

We continued our drive which led back to Colorado Springs

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The next day we decided on a road trip to Breckenridge. Breckenridge is a Colorado town at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range. It’s known for its ski resort, year-round alpine activities and Gold Rush history.

The Victorian core of this former mining town is preserved as the Breckenridge National Historic District, running primarily along Main Street, with colorfully painted buildings from the 1880s and ’90s housing shops, galleries and restaurants.

The drive is a little over 2 hrs and it’s a beautiful one! You will no doubt be oohing and ahhhing the entire way!!IMG_4651IMG_4670

We arrived at Breckenridge and fell in love…it was such a colorful, quaint place.IMG_4776IMG_4720We don’t ski so we decided to take the gondola up to the top of the mountain and have lunch and watch other people ski…it was such a cool experience and the ride is FREE!

The gondola has been running since 2006 and has 121 fully enclosed baskets rotating up the incline. Each of these baskets/cabins can seat a max of 8 people.

Once inside the cabin, you can look out the large windows to take in the beautiful mountain views. Be on the lookout for moose, fox and bald eagles!IMG_4733IMG_4741

Almost all of downtown Breckenridge is located within 7 blocks. The main parking lots for the gondola are on North Park Avenue Rd.

The gondola stretches 7,592 feet long with over 391 feet vertical rise. Once you’re on the  Gondola, it will take 13 minutes to travel from the bottom at Park Avenue to the base of Peak 8.

You do not have to unboard; you can just enjoy the ride up and back down. The round trip will take you approximately 26 minutes and the breathtaking views are definitely worth the time!

The Ski Hill Grill is located at the base of Peak 8 and has classic American fare such as homemade BBQ, hamburgers, and hot dogs, and many house-made menu items, including everything from cookies to from-scratch soups.

They have indoor and outdoor seating

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After lunch, we decided that we would head to Vail. It was only a 45 min drive from Breckenridge. (Click here  and here for more things to do in Breckenridge)

Vail is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain. It’s the home of the largest ski mountain in Colorado and is a gateway for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

It’s also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals. Gore Creek, popular for fly fishing, runs directly through the town center.

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It’s similar to Breckenridge but we both decided that we like Breckenridge a lot better than Vail. Vail didn’t seem as accepting to non skiers as Breckenridge did. We felt a bit out of place because we weren’t here to ski.IMG_4820IMG_4825IMG_4826After walking around & visiting some of the shops, we decided it was time to make the 3 hr drive back to our hotel and call it a day.

Click here and here for more things to do in Vail.

The next day we had reservations on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Since 1891, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been taking thousands of people to the 14,115 ft summit of Pikes Peak.

It’s normally a 3 hr 10 min trip that spans over 9 miles of track. However, when we arrived, we were informed that the train was unable to make it to the top because of the amount of snow on the tracks.

They offered us a discounted price but we were disappointed nonetheless as I was looking forward to trying the “world famous” donuts at the Summit House Restaurant. Read reviews here.

The summit house is open year round, weather permitting and can be reached by driving up pikes peak highway 19 miles, catching the cog Railway from manitou, or by hiking or biking your way to the top.

Besides the cafe, there are restrooms, a gift shop and a station for home made fudge.

NOTE POSTED ON THEIR SITE: After 126 years of operation, The Pikes Peak Cog Railway has decided not to reopen this spring for the 2018 season, or for the foreseeable future.

IMG_4921IMG_4906I must admit, although very scenic, the ride was hot, stuffy & crowded. I would have much rather taken the Pike’s Peak Hwy!IMG_4885IMG_4920IMG_4888At one point, there was snow up to the window!IMG_4876

Trying to clear the snow from the tracks.IMG_4877

Sad to hear it will no longer be running after 126 yrs in serviceIMG_4908

After the train ride, we headed to the US Air Force Academy to check out the Cadet Chapel.

The chapel was completed in 1962. It’s design was controversial at the time but has now become a classic and highly regarded example of modernist architecture.

The Cadet Chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ National Twenty-five Year Award in 1996 and, as part of the Cadet Area, was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004.

The most striking & unusual aspect of the Chapel is its row of seventeen spires that are supposed to remind onlookers of the mountainous backdrop of the academy and the planes flown by the Air Force.

The academy estimates that the chapel draws as many as 500,000 visitors a year, making it Colorado’s top man-made tourist attraction.

The structure is a tubular steel frame of 100 identical tetrahedrons, each 75 feet long, weighing five tons, and enclosed with aluminum panels.

The panels were fabricated in Missouri and shipped by rail to the site. The Cadet Chapel itself is 150 feet high, 280 feet long, and 84 feet wide. The shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million to build.

The Chapel was designed specifically to house three distinct worship areas under a single roof…Protestant, located on the upper level & the Catholic and Jewish chapels and a Buddhist room are located beneath it.

Beneath this level is a larger room used for Islamic services and two meeting rooms. Each chapel has its own entrance, and services may be held simultaneously without interfering with one another.

NOTE: Read here where the chapel is closing in late 2018 for 4 yrs for a $68 million dollar renovation due to leaky spires.

It was truly amazing to see! IMG_4607IMG_4616IMG_4611

The next day we headed to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings are open 7 days a week weather permitting. The hours vary but generally open around 9 am and can close anywhere from 4-6 pm.

The rates are $10 plus tax for ages 12 and up and $7.50 plus tax for ages 4-11 and children 3 and under are free. Check their website for additional pricing and hours.IMG_4929

The 40 room dwellings were originally located in McElmo Canyon, which is in the southwest corner of Colorado near Mesa Verde and Dolores.

The process of relocating the dwellings began in 1904 and was completed in 1907..the same year they were opened to the public. The dwellings were moved to preserve and protect them from looters and relic pot-hunters.

During the relocation process, the dwellings were collected, packaged, and moved by oxen out of McElmo Canyon to Dolores, Colorado. There, they were loaded and shipped by railroad to Colorado Springs, and finally brought to Cliff Canyon by horse and wagon.

They were then reassembled in exact dimension and appearance to those in the four corners region however, they used a concrete mortar as opposed to the adobe mud/clay mortar the Anasazi used. This allows individuals to walk inside and tour through the dwellings.IMG_4926IMG_4935IMG_4930IMG_4927 IMG_4941

There is also a gift shop located at the dwellings. The shop offers Native Made pottery, jewelry, and artifacts, as well as Colorado and US made gifts.IMG_4942

After the dwellings, we headed to the US Olympic Training Center. There are several training centers located in the US but the one in Colorado Springs was the first to be built. It was opened in 1978.IMG_4966IMG_4965

The athletes do live here full time so you never know who you may see!

The training center is able to provide housing, dining, training facilities, recreational facilities and other services for more than 500 athletes and coaches at one time on the complex.

The center offers several tours to visitors even a private guided tour by one of the athletes. The tours lasts approximately 1 hr with each tour starting with a 12 minute film followed by a walking tour of the training complex, including the weightlifting and wrestling facilities, the Aquatics Center and the Sports Center Gymnasiums.IMG_4960IMG_4957IMG_4956

Visitors can then explore the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Rotunda, shop at the U.S. Olympic Store and check out the art exhibitions.IMG_4979IMG_4982IMG_4971

Click here for more information on tours, pricing and hours and click here to read reviews.

Later that evening, we tried out the Airplane Restaurant. The restaurant is a fully intact Boeing KC-97 tanker built in 1953. It became a restaurant in 2002 after former pilot Steve Kanatzar and his wife Debbie purchased the plane in 2001 and converted it into a unique dining venue located next to the Colorado Springs Airport.

The restaurant features model airplanes dangling from the ceiling & servers dressed as flight attendants. It also has 100’s of pictures displaying aviation history, memorabilia and rare artifacts.

The restaurant opens at 11 am and closes at 9 pm.

Read reviews here

It was a really cool experience and the food and service was good. I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries.IMG_5127IMG_5135The kids love playing in the cock pitIMG_5136

The next day we headed to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. It’s approximately 1 hr 15 mins from Colorado Springs. It’s a 360 acre amusement park located along the edge of the Royal Gorge. The park features one of the highest suspension bridges in the world at 955 ft from the deck to the river surface below.

Actually, it was the highest from 1929 until 2001 when it was surpassed by a bridge built in China. The bridge maintained the title of the world’s highest suspension bridge until the Beipan River Guanxing Highway Bridge was completed in 2003, also in China.

The bridge remains the highest bridge in the United States and was among the ten highest bridges in the world until 2012. It was built in 1929 at a cost of 350K and took only 6 mons to build.IMG_5004IMG_5009IMG_5007

Vehicles are allowed to cross the bridge, but only before & after park attractions close. Large trucks, RVs and buses, are not permitted to cross.

There’s also a miniature railroad located at the park that was built in the 50’s and runs along the edge of the gorge. An aerial tram was opened in 1969 and a Skycoaster was later added in 2003. The ride swings riders out over the edge of the gorge…No thanks!IMG_5049

We built up enough courage to ride the gondola over the gorge…it was extremely frightening!

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The park used to allow bungee jumping off the bridge.IMG_5018

Click here for reviews.

General admission ticket includes access to the Bridge, unlimited Aerial Gondola rides, Tommyknocker Playland, Plaza Theater and Gift Shop. Ticket prices are $27 for ages 13 & up, $22 for ages 6-12 and children under 5 are free.

Tip – If you purchase your tickets online you can save $2 on each one.

After leaving here we headed back to Colorado Springs. We passed the Holy Cross Abbey on the way back. The Abbey is a former monastery that existed for nearly 120 years.

It operated a variety enterprises such as a boarding school for boys and a winery. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The abbey school was closed in 1985 and by 2006, the monks decided to dissolve the monastery as it was no longer a viable. It now operates as a winery.IMG_5076

We were actually going to hit up the John May Museum Center. The museum houses the “worlds largest” private insect collection. We thought it sounded interesting but it was closed during our visit.IMG_4993

 

Click here for more info on the museum.

We passed by the “world’s largest” rocking chair at the Historic Apple Shed restaurant. The restaurant has since closed but the rocking chair is still there. The sign stated it was 21 feet tall, 14 feet wide & 9,100 pounds made from hand-hewn Douglas fir logs.

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We drove past the Glen Eyrie Castle. You can actually do tours, have tea and even stay overnight here. The castle was built in 1871 and is 33,000 sq ft. It was built by General William Jackson Palmer and his wife on their 800 acre estate.

Click here for reviewsIMG_4945

Ft Carson Military base is located near Colorado Springs

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Check out the Broadmoor Resort...it’s beautiful!

The original hotel building is Broadmoor Main and was built in 1918. The others—built between 1961 and 2001—are Broadmoor South, Broadmoor West, Lakeside Suites and West Tower. It has 779 rooms.

Read the reviews here and about the history of the hotel here.

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We passed by America the Beautiful Park . Read more here.IMG_5091.JPG

The next day,  before we flew back home, we visited James Dobson’s Focus on the Family Welcome Center.  The welcome center is a popular destination ran by Focus on the Family Christian ministry.

It’s a non profit organization that was started by Colorado based psychologist Dr James Dobson and is dedicated to providing spiritual and practical support to families.

You can go on a free guided or self-guided tour of the campus and learn about the work of the ministry. Stop by the 170-seat theater to see documentary films about Focus on the Family or watch a taping of the ministry’s daily radio show that covers Christian and family themes. Browse for biblical stories and literature about the family in the large bookstore.

Read more about it here

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Other things you can see/do in or near Colorado Springs:

Flying W Ranch – food, show, etc – Check to make sure it’s opened. They had a fire that closed them but were expected to reopen in 2018.

Cave of the Winds – cave tours, zip lining, etc

Miramont Castle Museum – a castle built in 1895

Seven Falls – a series of 7 waterfalls

St Elmo’s Ghost Town – a well persevered gold mining town from the 1800’s. Read more here

Old Colorado City District – historic downtown area

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Paradise Cove – a swimming hole about an hr from Colorado Springs

Places to swim

Ice Skating

Horseback riding

Hiking & Biking Trails

More things to do/see

Red Rock Canyon

IMG_5142Goodbye Colorado Springs…it was fun!

I hope this helps you plan your own trip to Colorado Springs. If you have any comments/suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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