11 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Colorado Springs
The city of Colorado Springs, a popular resort both in summer and in winter, lies on the eastern slope of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains at the base of Pikes Peak (14,110ft/4,301m). The surrounding area has many natural attractions, including the Garden of the Gods and North Cheyenne Canon Park. In the city are a variety of interesting museums and cultural attractions.
Colorado Springs was founded in 1871, following the construction of the railroad, near the existing town of El Dorado City. In the 1890s the gold rush on Cripple Creek drew large numbers of people to Colorado Springs. By 1917 it had grown so much that it was amalgamated with the neighboring little town of Colorado City. The establishment of various military installations after the Second World War gave a further boost to the town.
See also: Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
1 Garden of the Gods
Just 6 miles northwest of Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods, a nature park with bizarrely shaped red sandstone formations and ancient cypresses. The highlights are the red sandstone rock formations that are as much as 300 million years old. Within the park are numerous hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding trails that wind their way through the beautiful scenery. Rock climbing is also permitted but requires registration. The park is at its most impressive in the early morning light or at twilight.
The Visitor Center is located just outside of the park in Colorado Springs, with park tours and a museum about the area. Also of interest in the area is the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, located right outside of the entrance to Garden of the Gods Park, across the street from the visitor center. There are tours and exhibits describing the life of settlers in the Galloway homestead period of the 1860's, the Chambers farm era of the 1880's and the 1907 Palmer estate.
2 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Will Rogers Shrine Of The Sun
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to a wide variety of species, with both domestic and exotic animals. A chairlift runs over the zoo providing views of the park and surroundings, and there are various activities, including pony rides, to entertain children. Above the zoo is the impressive Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. A visit to the shrine can easily be combined with a day at the zoo.
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- Exploring Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
3 North Cheyenne Canon Park
North Cheyenne Canon Park, at the edge of the foothills and the plains, is known for its diverse plant and animal life.Some of the inhabitants include black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, and a wide variety of birds. Among the main features of the park are Helen Hunt Falls, the spectacular rock formations, and the Starsmore Discovery Center. Hiking trails of varying length, ranging from less than a mile to 4 miles, allow visitors to access beautiful sites, including Silver Cascade Falls.
Visitors looking to embark on one of the longer trails, or looking for additional information on the park, are encouraged to stop by the Visitors Center.
4 Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum
The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is located in the old El Paso County Courthouse, built in 1903. There are exhibits about the history of the town, as well as Pike's Peak and the surrounding area. The museum is set in a park with beautiful lawns, gardens, trees, a granite fountain, and outdoor sculptures. The museum has tens of thousands of items in its extensive collection. It is particularly well known for its collection of quilts and Van Briggle art pottery. In addition, the museum contains a large collection of regional art.
Native American items include significant pieces from the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho cultures. Also part of the museum is the Starsmore Center for Local History. This center is the local repository for the history of the city and surrounding areas. Valuable manuscripts, old newspapers, and historical records are all available to the public.
Address: 215 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903-2206, United States
5 Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is home to art galleries at the Fine Arts Center Museum, and plays and musicals at the Fine Arts Center Theatre. In addition, the Center also holds the Bemis School of Art. Collectively these institutions provide a wide range of opportunities for art lovers.The art collection of the Museum includes some of the great names in American art with pieces by such artists as Richard Diebenkorn, Georgia O'Keeffe, Walt Kuhn, John Singer Sargent, and Dale Chihuly. Also of note are the Latin American and American Indian art. Particularly notable exhibits include Indian sand paintings and works of art of the Spanish colonial period . The museum also features traveling and temporary exhibits.
The Theater offers a full season of live theater with plays and musicals in the SaGaJi Theatre.
Address: 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3210, United States
6 Palmer Park
Palmer Park offers great recreational opportunities in Colorado Springs, and a chance to reconnect with nature. Some of the main highlights are the hiking and biking trails that traverse the park. The mountain biking trails that wind their way through the rocks can be challenging but fun. There are also numerous hiking trails with great views, particularly from the higher elevations.
The park contains interesting rock formations with narrow stone pillars balancing larger pieces of rock. The terrain is generally hilly with various trees and plants. The upper plateau features cactuses, as well as opuntia and wild roses along the trails.
Address: 3650 Maizeland Road
7 Western Museum of Mining and Industry
The Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs has thousands of artifacts on display, including restored steam engines and mining equipment used in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The site also includes a ten-stamp ore mill and multi-purpose center with exhibits, theater, and library.
Address: 225 North Gate Boulevard
8 U.S. Olympic Complex Training Center
This complex is the main center for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the primary Olympic Training Center in the United States. It is the headquarters of the USA swimming and shooting programs, as well as more than a dozen other USOC member organizations.
Within the complex is the impressive Olympic Visitor Center and the Team USA Shop. Visitors can take a free tour of the U.S. Olympic Complex which includes a short video presentation and a walking tour through the various training facilities and the Irwin Belk Olympic Pathway. The facility and tours are open year round. The rooftop terrace features an Olympic flame display and offers panoramic views of the entire complex and Colorado Springs.
Address: 1 Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO 80909-5760, United States
9 American Numismatic Association Money Museum
The American Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs has over 250,000 objects that relate to the history of money. Coins, medals, tokens, paper money and other items such as art are on display in three galleries.
Address: 818 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279, United States
10 Peterson Air and Space Museum
The Peterson Air and Space Museum at Peterson Air Force Base has exhibits on the history of aviation in Colorado Springs and at Peterson Air Force Base. The Terminal Building highlights the early 1940s. The Museum's Airpark includes aircraft and missiles. Admission to the museum is subject to security restrictions.
Address: 150 East Ent Avenue, Peterson AFB, CO 80914-1303, United States
11 Bear Creek Nature Center
The Bear Creek Nature Center in Colorado Springs has exhibits on the wildlife of Colorado as well as several nature trails that offer a variety of scenery and possible glimpse of wildlife. The Center offers a number of nature programs for all ages.
Address: 245 Bear Creek Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80906-5803, United States
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs for Sightseeing
Colorado Springs has a mix of things to see and do, with cultural attractions spread around the downtown area, and beautiful natural areas west and north of the city. Visitors may want to stay outside of downtown if they are exploring sights like Garden of the Gods National Monument, Pikes Peak, or North Cheyenne Cañon Park. Below are some highly-rated hotels for visitors to consider:
- Luxury Hotels: One of Colorado Springs' most luxurious resort hotels is the five-star, The Broadmoor, on the shores of Lake Cheyenne. With a beautiful mountain backdrop, this hotel opened in 1918, and features multiple pools, a golf course, spa, and several restaurants. In the city center, near the Pioneers Museum, The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa exudes old-world charm with its restored façade and elegant interior. The Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, with a golf course, pool, fine dining, and mountain views, is conveniently located next to the Garden of the Gods Monument.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The newly opened Drury Inn & Suites is a high-quality mid-range hotel, with excellent service and beautiful mountain views, just 10 minutes north of downtown. It's an excellent base for exploring the areas north of the city. A little closer to downtown, but still in the north, is Staybridge Suites, with a variety of room sizes, kitchens, and lovely views of the Rocky Mountains. Just over four miles from the city center and 10 miles from Pikes Peak, the Hyatt Place is another good choice, with large rooms and an outdoor pool.
- Budget Hotels: The Quality Suites Downtown offers good value and a convenient location for visiting the downtown attractions, including the Pioneers Museum, Fine Arts Center, and the Pikes Peak Center. On the western edge of Colorado Springs, the Mel-Haven Lodge is a good base for enjoying outdoor activities in the area. North of the city center, the recently remodeled Days Inn Air Force Academy is known for good service, large rooms, and is within easy reach of the Garden of the Gods and other natural attractions.