Now, y’all- I live in a coastal southern state- the beach is just a few hours from where I live at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and we’re talking foothills … not a mountainous terrain by any stretch of the imagination. Alabama is one of the lowest in terms of sea level in the nation…that means any place above 500 feet in elevation is …well, it’s way up there. For instance, Colorado Springs starts at 6200 feet above sea level! Still. Even with all of that thin air, after several trips to Colorado Springs, I’ve decided that some of the best things to do in Colorado are literally seeing America the Beautiful.
Where else, but Colorado Springs, could you go where the deer and the antelope actually play, where a schoolteacher named Katherine Lee Bates stood atop Pike’s Peak inspired to write ‘America the Beautiful’ ; where you can actually stay in one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite hotels, built by his friend Spencer Penrose; Colorado Springs is where Gymnasts, Swimmers and Skaters have trained for and won Olympic Gold Medals and where you can view a flyover by the famous Thunderbirds at graduations from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and my goodness, somewhere in them thar hills… folks track the movements of Santa Claus every Christmas? Yes, some of the best America has to offer are found close to Colorado Springs.
Here’s my top 5 Fun Things to Do in Colorado Springs and best of all, it’s great any time of year!
- 1. Garden of the Gods– this area is magnificent with red rock formations so huge and so amazing…it’s unforgettable! A man named Perkins left the area to the City of Colorado Springs with the wish that it would be maintained and open to the public! Rock Climbers climb, horseback tours are a sight to see and of course there’s always just a drive through with a stop or two just to gawk at the magnificent Red Rock Formations!
- 2. The Broadmoor Hotel– if you’re headed to Colorado Springs, to my way of thinking there’s no where else to stay for the full experience of Colorado Springs than the Broadmoor. When you drive up to the portico, look up! (The opening photograph) Blue Stars just say- America! Welcomed by the most outstanding staff anyone can imagine, your Broadmoor experience is just beginning! Built by Spencer Penrose and his wife, they opened the doors to 200 of their friends in 1918, for over a 100 years now…they’ve been offering guests more than the imagination can offer…wonderful views, genuine Remington sculptures are casually on display in the main building- you know the fella whose work is iconic of the American West. There’s even a museum on the grounds which hold even more memorabilia. All throughout the hotel, the décor is luxurious. Oil paintings on the walls, a theatre, a bowling alley- even the children have their own concierge! The Broadmoor has continually maintained 5 diamond status since the award has been given over 40 years ago. Over a dozen restaurants including a pub called The Golden Bee is so authentic- the interior is an actual English Pub which was dismantled and brought piece by piece, then installed with precision- every night a piano player plays as song books are handed around and beer is sold by the pint or yard whichever you think you’re able to consume and it’s not your imagination- when you leave you’ll have little golden bees stuck to your clothing too! At Julie’s, a French inspired patisserie, chocolatiers are behind glass in a climate controlled working- small wrapped chocolates are delivered to your room with the turn down service every night! A five star spa which even has an oxygen bar- for folks who are having a bit of trouble with the altitude! The list is almost endless, if you’re not inclined to ever leave there- The Broadmoor will show you a wonderful time!
- 3. The Royal Gorge. Just a short hour’s drive from Colorado Springs down to Canon City is one of the most magnificent train rides in the whole of America! In the 1870’s miners of lead, silver and gold (yes, there are still working gold mines near Colorado Springs! ) The miners inspired a 50 mile long railway pass along the Arkansas River…it winds along the same way even into six mile long gorge with sheer rock walls so high they plunge into the river- it makes me dizzy to think about it! This narrow 30 foot span is where a hanging bridge was built in 1879…anchored to the walls with girders, Royal Gorge Hanging Bridge is still maintained to this day! A trip through the Royal Gorge is a can’t miss – it’s a must, to see the awe inspiring scenery!
- 4. Seven Falls is a waterfall maintained by the Broadmoor- but open to the public. If you’re brave enough to climb well over 200 steps to the top, there’s a hiking trail on up from there. I took the old mine elevator halfway up to the viewing deck! And an unexpected treat was a restaurant called- Restaurant 1858, where you can enjoy the falls at lunch and dinner… the menu has things like wild boar and even vegetarian options. What impressed me, was the rugged terrain going back into the Seven Falls area, as you take a short hike or tram ride into the cavern… there’s a western style log cabin that honestly looks like Ralph Lauren just left! Navajo Rugs, nailhead trimmed leather chairs and perfect prints inspired during the 1858 era. A great place to warm up or catch your breath!
- 5. Pike’s Peak- is that enough said? Well, if you’re going to Colorado Springs, this is a not to missed experience, rising over 14,000 feet above sea level, the Pike’s Peak mountain range is stunning… there’s always snow at the top and the best donuts in the world rise high above the clouds! Ok, it’s freezing up there and the guides will tell you, the chances are you may not make it to the top but on the way- you’ll stop in the Crystal Lake region and get a chuckle of the Sasquatch Statue- otherwise known as Big Foot; where it’s maintained that the first sighting of Big Foot was reported.
Just the hairpin turns make this a very exciting tour any time of year. The first time we went, some poor soul took a family photo of us- I had it printed in black and white photos made into the ‘Ugliest Family Christmas Photos’ and actually mailed them! Oh my! If you take a small bag of Cheese Curls on your trip be prepared to watch in amazement as it swells up with the altitude change which is significant! Pike’s Peak might be best known for the patriotic song…‘America the Beautiful’ which was written by schoolteacher Katherine Lee Bates, who was so inspired by the sight she saw from Pike’s Peak and I ask you- Would you have wanted to miss that beautiful song? Yes, Pike’s Peak should have been Number One on the list…but there’s always building up expectations to high- just know the journey is worth it whether you get to the top or not! We’ve been 3-4 times and have only reached the Peak once! But the breathtaking views were well worth the risk of not making it!
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo This is a bonus fun thing to do! Guests of the Broadmoor have been enjoying the highest elevation zoo for years and years! The giraffes are a can’t miss area- the zoo has placed walkways up high so you can feed them! Look at that long black tongue! There’s even a bronze statue of Will Rogers inside the zoo, Rogers was a friend of Spencer Penrose too. These days, the zoo is maintained separately from the resort, however, guests of the Broadmoor do enjoy a free shuttle service that takes them right to the gates and believe me- it’s a real time saver! The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of the most popular activities in the region…get an early start!
Okay here’s a few bonuses! There’s the need-to-see Downtown Colorado Springs and nearby Manitou Springs which are fun drives too! Both have charming shops and restaurants too.
One restaurant I can highly recommend is- Carlos Miguels. It’s a reasonably priced white table cloth Mexican Restaurant just a short drive from the Broadmoor and is truly excellent! Then, there’s the somberly beautiful U.S. Air Force Academy, The Cave of the Winds is awe inspiring as well- where the inside temperature is a steady 53 degrees year round, regardless of the outside temperature! If you are real thrill seeker, the Broadmoor has a Zip Line Course that is ranked in the top 5 in the world…I’ll let you experience that one and tell me about it later! And, near Manitou Springs,there’s an area that can be explored of very early cave dwellings. And!
The very inspiring U.S. Olympic Training site where Paralympics also train and please don’t miss the beginning slide show inside the center, watching those gold medalists brought tears to my eyes! Athletes who were not trained to ‘come in second place’ have lived, worked, healed and trained to be the very best they can be actually seen training on this large campus!
These are my Top Five Fun things to do in Colorado Springs and a few more ‘can’t-miss-if you have time’ locations! One stunning thing: Pike’s Peak is almost always in view with the distinctive snow cap… and when I see it I must admit…I start humming if not outright singing…
‘Oh beautiful for spacious skies… for amber waves of grain…for purple mountains majesty…’
If you’re looking for a Spring or Summer- or anytime of year trip- check out Colorado Springs. Every time I’ve come back down closer to sea level in my sweet home here in Alabama, I’ve come back in awe of just how beautiful America is!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine! *And there are of course other fine hotels in the area! And wonderful dining options as well!