12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions 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 (14,110 feet). In the 1890s, the gold rush on Cripple Creek near Red Rock Canyon drew large numbers of people to Colorado Springs, and military installations brought more people to the area during the 20th century. The surrounding area has many natural attractions, including the Garden of the Gods and North Cheyenne Cañon Park, that are popular sightseeing destinations. Colorado Springs is also home to history museums and other interesting attractions.
See also: Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
1 Garden of the Gods
Just six 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 1860s, the Chambers farm era of the 1880s, and the 1907 Palmer estate.
Address: 1805 N 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado
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 the opportunity to hand-feed giraffes, to entertain children and kids-at-heart. Visitors can also take part in one of the many animal encounters and presentations, which feature the zoo's most popular residents. The impressive Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, a historic monument that stands high above the zoo looking down on Colorado Springs, can only be accessed through the zoo.
Address: 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado
3 Pikes Peak
The city of Colorado Springs sits at the base of the majestic Pikes Peak, the mountain which has been credited with inspiring the song America the Beautiful. Anyone with a vehicle can enjoy it via Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile mountain road that has multiple scenic viewing areas from which you can enjoy the panoramic views and even spot local wildlife, like yellow-bellied marmots and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. There are plenty of other things to do along the way to the top, including a recreation area with three lakes and the opportunity to get ranger-led tours to learn about the area's natural wonders. A shuttle takes tourists the last three miles to the summit, where five states can be seen on a clear day, including Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, and of course, Colorado. Tourists can also reach the summit via the Pikes Peak Railway sightseeing tour.
4 North Cheyenne Cañon Park
North Cheyenne Cañon 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 both native and migrant 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 four 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 visitor center.
Address: 2120 S Cheyenne Canyon Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado
5 Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum
The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is located in the old El Paso County Courthouse, which was built in 1903. There are exhibits about the history of the town, as well as Pikes Peak and the surrounding area. The museum is set in a park with beautiful lawns, gardens, trees, a granite fountain, and outdoor sculptures. There are tens of thousands of items in its extensive collection, which is particularly well known for its assortment 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, Colorado
6 Peterson Air and Space Museum
The Peterson Air and Space Museum is the state's oldest museum of flight, housed in original airfield structures that were built during World War II. It is one of the many free things to do in Colorado Springs, full of interesting artifacts, an airpark, and the Medal of Honor Park. Because of its location inside an active military base, visitors should be prepared for security checks. Airplane and history buffs will also enjoy the National Museum of WWII Aviation, which has exhibits featuring historic documents and more than 3,000 artifacts related to the war and the role of air support. The museum's aircraft is extensive, including a wide variety of craft ranging from ambulance and cargo craft to bombers like a B-25, fighter planes like an F6F Hellcat, and amphibious craft like an HU16 Albatross. Collections also include several restored ground vehicles, including an airfield crash truck.
Address: 150 East Ent Avenue, Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado
7 Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Cheyenne Mountain State Park offers a wide array of things to do and plenty of opportunities to appreciate Colorado's natural beauty. In addition to camp sites, the park has several day-use facilities, attractions, and programs. Facilities include numerous secluded picnic areas equipped with grills, as well as a playground and restroom facilities. There are more than 21 miles of trails for those who want to get close to nature, and hikers often get a peek at native wildlife like turkeys, deer, and prairie dogs. Park-run activities include Junior Ranger programs and educational nature walks, and unique experiences like the "Family Mystery Hike." The park is also home to an archery range that can be used for a small fee, and the visitor center rents GPS units that can be used for geocaching hunts within the park. The visitor center has educational exhibits, a shop, and knowledgeable staff.
Address: 410 JL Ranch Heights Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado
8 Palmer Park
Palmer Park offers great recreational opportunities right in the city of Colorado Springs. The landscape's interesting rock formations include narrow stone pillars balancing larger pieces of rock within a hilly terrain, with an upper plateau that features cactus, opuntia, and wild roses along the trails. The park features numerous trails, most of which are an easy hike for any fitness level, and the highest trails afford wonderful views of the city below. The mountain biking trails that wind through the rocks can be challenging and are very popular. The park also has a playground, baseball field, and beach volleyball facilities, as well as several picnic areas.
Address: 3650 Maizeland Road Colorado Springs, Colorado
9 Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Privately owned until 2003, Red Rock Canyon Open Space is now maintained by the city of Colorado Springs. This 789-acre park's defining feature is the reddish sedimentary rock that has been shaped and sculpted by millennia of erosion. Located on a creek with elevated areas that provide a vantage point to keep an eye on the plains below, this was an ideal site for Native Americans and the subsequent settlers. During the late 19th century, the area was used for gypsum and stone mining, providing a great deal of the building materials used to build Colorado Springs. One of the park's many trails is designed to focus on the site's history, and additional sites of historic significance throughout the park have informational signage. In addition to hiking trails, the park has off-leash dog trails, horse and bicycle trails, a picnic pavilion, and rock climbing areas (permits required).
Location: Red Rock Canyon Trail, Colorado Springs, Colorado
10 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 things to see and do 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 Native American 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 performances with plays and musicals.
Address: 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado
11 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 museum includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits, which cover a total of 27 acres, including a ten-stamp ore mill. Exhibits hold more than 4,000 artifacts, and the museum also houses a theater and an expansive research library. Exhibits focus on the history of mining, as well as its evolution, the science of geology, and its environmental impact. The Mine Reclamation exhibit shows visitors the process of turning abandoned mines into useful land and explores issues like water contamination and the effect of mining on local plants and wildlife. The museum grounds also include the Reynolds Ranch House, a Queen Anne-style farmhouse that is a State Historic Property.
Address: 225 North Gate Boulevard, Colorado Springs, Colorado
12 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, Colorado
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.