16 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs beats with a small-town heart, but with so much expansion and development in recent years, it is fast becoming one of Colorado's major metropolitan areas.
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.
Your first look at Colorado Springs will be filled with color – "colorada" means "red," in Spanish, you know. And it will be easy to see why. The gorgeous red rocks that rise from the green-and-slate-colored mountains certainly add a pop of majestic and dramatic color.
Behind the city looms the towering Pikes Peak, one of the tallest peaks in the Colorado Rockies. You'll also see the sandstone towers that peek out of the Garden of the Gods. Not far from the city are small, quaint mountain towns, as well.
Aside from stunning natural beauty, Colorado Springs is also known for its Air Force presence – there is plenty of military history in the city, as well as Olympic history.
If you're ready to explore, take a look at our curated list of the best things to do in Colorado Springs.
See also: Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
1. Head Up Pikes Peak
The city of Colorado Springs sits at the base of the majestic Pikes Peak (14,110 feet), the mountain that 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.
Another option for getting to the top is to take the historic Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, operating on this route since 1891. It is the highest cog railway in the world.
The new $65 million Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center opened in June 2021. It took three years to construct and is considered to be the (literal) crown jewel of the mountain. Through gorgeous windows, you'll have panoramic views over the surrounding peaks. A new café serves the iconic donuts, too.
As you ascend, keep a sharp eye out to spot local wildlife, like yellow-bellied marmots and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
Other things to do along the way to the top include 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.
Official site: www.pikespeakcolorado.com
2. Explore 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 may be nearly 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. If you feel like breezing through quickly, the park has a loop road that you can drive to see some of the highlights.
The visitors 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.
Check out the open-air Jeep and Segway tours to cover the most ground in the shortest period of time. In the visitor center, exhibits describe the life of settlers in the Galloway homestead period of the 1860s, the Chambers farm era of the 1880s, and the 1907 Palmer estate.
The visitor center has recently added a new theater show called the GEO- Trekker, which delves into the geological history of the rocks and the surrounding area.
Address: 1805 N 30th Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Official site: www.gardenofgods.com
3. Visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Will Rogers Shrine Of The Sun
One of the best places to visit in Colorado Springs, particularly for families, is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, home to a wide variety of species, with both domestic and exotic animals. A chairlift runs over the zoo and provides wonderful views of the park and its surroundings.
Various activities, including the opportunity to hand-feed giraffes, an activity that never fails to entertain children and kids-at-heart, and interactions with other popular residents are also on offer.
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
Official site: www.cmzoo.org
4. Discover the Sights of 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.
If you are planning to embark on one of the longer trails, or looking for additional information on the park, stop by the visitor center.
Address: 2120 S Cheyenne Canyon Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Official site: www.coloradosprings.gov/page/north-cheyenne-canon
5. Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum
The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is located in the old El Paso County Courthouse, which was built in 1903. Here, you'll find 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.
Tens of thousands of items are contained 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.
The 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
Official site: www.cspm.org
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. Note that you will need to request a pass online at least one day in advance.
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 collection 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
Official site: http://petemuseum.org/
7. Enjoy Nature at 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. Camping is also available, with 51 full-service sites and 10 more rustic walk-in sites.
The park offers 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."
Also on site is 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
Official site: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/CheyenneMountain
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 hiking 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
Official site: www.redrockcanyonopenspace.org
10. Hike up The Incline
If all the cool, crisp mountain air is energizing your heart and soul, or you just have extra energy you want to burn off, consider taking on The Incline (Manitou Incline). This hike is located about 20 minutes west of Colorado Springs.
Following the trail of a former cog railway, the hiking trail ascends steeply to gain over 2,000 feet in less than a mile. In some places, the grade is a thigh-burning 68 percent, but the average is around 45 percent, still enough to get your heart pounding. The hike is over a set of stairs, and the stair number at the top is 2,768.
The view from the top is spectacular, and depending on how hard you find the ascent, you may find it was, or perhaps, was not, worth it.
11. 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
Official site: https://fac.coloradocollege.edu/
12. 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
Official site: http://www.wmmi.org/
13. 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. You 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
Official site: https://www.teamusa.org/csotc
14. Santa's Workshop/North Pole
If you have young children and are looking for something easy and fun to do together as a family, this is the spot. Operating for over 60 years, this park has Christmas down to a fine art.
You won't be at a loss for things to do with the park's 28 child-friendly rides that are not scary in any way. But of course, the highlight of a visit is to do a mid-season check-in with Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus.
The park is located in Cascade, Colorado, just west of Colorado Springs.
Official site: https://northpolecolorado.com/
15. Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Literally walk through time with a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. About 20 minutes outside Colorado Springs, the cliff dwellings are a protected cliff complex built into the red sandstone rock. They were once the homes of the Anasazi tribe, who lived in this part of the world from 1200 BC to AD 1300.
The dwellings overlook the town of Manitou Springs at the base of Pikes Peak. You can wander from cliff room to cliff room for a glimpse at how these indigenous people lived for centuries.
A small museum built in the Pueblo-style is below the dwellings. Here, you'll find the gift shop, as well as several rooms that go into depth about the history of the Anasazi and how they lived.
Address: 10 Cliff Road, Manitou Springs, Colorado
Official site: https://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/
16. Glen Eyrie Castle
Who knew that Colorado Springs was home to a stunning castle? It's true. Perched on 700 acres of rolling hills and red sandstone spires, Glen Eyrie Castle is a historic landmark home.
It was built by the founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, who constructed a massive carriage house for his family in the 19th century. Later it was restructured and became the castle you see today. It operates as a hotel and an event space, but even if you're not a guest, you are still welcome to roam the gorgeously manicured grounds, or stop by for afternoon tea.
Tours are offered twice daily, as well, except for Sunday. If you are a guest, you'll be able to hike the 16 trails, partake in the outdoor games in the Sports Green, or kick back with a good book in one of the many hammocks nestled among the trees. A ropes course is also on-site for those who want a little bit of adventure with their stay.
Address: 3820 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Official site: https://gleneyrie.org/
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 by Wyndham Colorado Springs 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.