Truly, there’s so much to see and do in Colorado Springs, that this list of ten should be a list of twenty. The Springs has become a sprawling city at the foot of Pikes Peak but still retains a certain small town flavor. There are malls and historic sites and natural beauty and museums and arts. There’s minor league baseball and great college hockey as well as an IMAX theater and a fabulous symphony. Many of the older parts of town have been refurbished and have new life. There are three military installations in the area as well.
Hard to limit it to ten? You bet. But here we go – in no particular order.
CHEYENNE MT. ZOO
One of the best zoos, if somewhat unknown, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sits on the side of a mountain at 6,800 feet above sea level. The zoo boasts more than 500 types of animal, many of which live in environments specifically built for them. The zoo is home, as well, to 30 endangered species including the Siberian tiger.
Probably the most “famous” of the animals at this zoo are the giraffes, which are the most prolific captive herd in the world. There’s an antique carousel, built in the same year that the zoo was founded. Some of the more popular exhibits include Primate World which brings you up close and personal with an amazing variety of monkeys and apes, Wolf Woods with it’s endangered wolves in their mountainside habitat, Asian Highlands featuring Siberian tigers, Amur leopards and other cats in their natural habitats.
All of this comes with a fabulous view of the city below. If you’re not up to the hiking, there’s a tram that you can ride all day for only $1.00. Ride up and walk down if you like.
AIR FORCE ACADEMY
A trip to the Springs wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Academy, which just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary.
See the fabulous Cadet Chapel with it’s 17 sparkling spires that rise 150 feet into the air. The chapel is open Monday through Saturday for most of the year. It’s closed for a few days around graduation when many of the graduating officers have weddings there. See Arnold Hall and the Honor Court as well as Falcon Stadium.
GARDEN OF THE GODS
Spectacular – that’s the only way to describe the Garden of the Gods. It’s really the site you most see in advertisement for the Springs. (As a matter of fact, I saw a Colorado Spring travel poster featuring this rock garden when walking down the Champs Elysees in Paris.)
The garden is made up of giant red sandstone formations worn smooth over millions of years by the elements. The park has a wide variety of nice, easy hiking trails. Or take a horseback ride through the park. (Some fools get married there)
The beautiful, new visitor center offers maps and exhibits on the area as well as a cafeteria. Don’t miss the 12 minute theater presentation How Did Those Red Rocks Get There? ($2 adults, $1 children 5-12, free for children under 5). Technical rock climbing is allowed in some areas but climbers are required to register at the visitor center.
Pikes Peak towers over the city from it’s 14,110 foot height. This famous landmark is perhaps best known as the spot which inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write America the Beautiful. From the summit, one can indeed see spacious skies and off in the vast distance, amber waves of grain.
There are two options for reaching the summit: the Pikes Peak highway or the Cog Railway. If you’ve driven from the plains, you may want to reconsider taking your car up the highway. Your carburetor will be set for a much lower altitude and your car may not like the trip. This trip is not for those with an extreme fear of heights and ESPECIALLY for those with heart or breathing problems. Even those in great shape may feel lightheaded – don’t hesitate to get help if that is the case. They keep plenty of oxygen handy for just that eventuality.
The highway is paved for the first 7 miles then gravel from there to the top. There are 156 curves and, if you drive, you’ll come to appreciate those intrepid racers that speed up the mountain every July.
The other alternative is the cog railway. From this very nice train, you can relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery, especially once you break out of the forest at timberline – 11,500 feet. Watch for the bighorn sheep and the marmots. The marmots, while cute, are a major pain to hikers and climbers alike. The 9-mile route takes 75 minutes. You’ll have 40 minutes at the top to enjoy the view, the restaurant and the gift shop. Then it’s down again in the Swiss built rail car.
Remember, it’s likely to be cold and windy at the summit, even on the hottest summer days.
Built by James Pourtales, a Prussian count, in 1891 as a casino, the Broadmoor has become one of the most famous luxury hotels in the Western U.S. It was purchased in 1916 by Spencer Penrose and turned into a world class resort. It’s pink stucco facade has become it’s trademark. The World Arena – home to Peggy Flemming is no longer there, replaced by another hotel wing. It’s rich, luxurious decor is worth a walk through, even if you can’t afford to stay there. The Penrose Room, with it’s French cuisine and dancing is just one of the eleven fabulous restaurants within the Broadmoor resort. And don’t miss the Golden Bee, a fun English pub with a ragtime pianist.