The Garden of the Gods is a public park and United States National Natural Landmark that was deemed a "fit place for the gods to assemble" by Rufus Cable, one of the two surveyors tasked with identifying a site for Colorado City in 1859. With its towering spires of red sandstone pitted against the incongruous greenery of its surrounds, Cable's inspired choice of name is an apt summary of the wonders that it contains. The jagged pinnacles, mammoth needles, and precariously balanced rocks strewn across the landscape are glorious monuments thrust upward, sideways and slanted by tectonic undercurrents, subsequently whipped by the wind into curious shapes. From the biological perspective, the Garden of the Gods is a remarkable merger of the vegetation typical of both highlands and lowlands creating a kind of chronicle of the evolution of planet earth. The land was bequeathed to the City of Colorado Springs by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins who originally owned this parcel of land. The only stipulation was that it must remain “free to the entire world.” Riddled with nature trails and hiking paths, the Garden of the Gods is a popular spot for outdoor activities like horseback riding, rock climbing and hiking that is always free, in keeping with Perkins' wishes.
Spend a day at America's only mountainside zoo. The zoo features endangered species in mountain exhibits that resemble their natural habitat. You can walk the hilly terrain or catch the tram at one of seven stops. Hands-on contact with animals is permitted in front of the Aquatics building - giraffes will literally eat from your hand, and zoo crackers can be purchased at the entrance. Mountain weather changes rapidly, so bring a light jacket.
This scenic pine filled campus with a Rocky Mountain backdrop is home to America's future Air Force officers. Enter Colorado's third most popular attraction at the North Gate for a glimpse of a B-52 bomber. Travel six miles to the visitor center, chock-full of exhibits, short films and a gift shop. Tour the stunning Cadet Chapel with 17 magnificent spires reaching 150 feet into the sky. Or check out Falcon Stadium where the Air Force Falcons Football team plays, and keep an eye above where the skies are colored with cadets practicing parachuting and flying Thunderbird jets.
The fact that this popular brewery and restaurant sells its own T-shirts at the front entrance is a strong sign that this place is extremely popular. The menu is mostly American cuisine with global influences, featuring everything from burgers to fish and chips to baked ziti. The interior is dominated by hardwood flooring and a wall of windows. Outdoor seating, though limited, is very popular during the warm months. Above the dining area is a huge billiards room. The crowds tend to be of the 30-something kind.
Bring a light jacket and hike this 54-degree cavern which offers three tours. Learn about geology and history on the Discovery Tour, or go back in time on the Lantern Tour, listening to tales from the past and using only lanterns for light. The physically challenging Explorers Trip is an adventure through undeveloped passageways and chambers. Tours range from 45 minutes to four hours. Check the website for more details.
Partially encased by a one-mile canyon, the sight of seven separate falls splashing together down 181 vertical feet borders on stunning. Picturesque by day, dancing with color at night, this is not to be missed. Ride the elevator to the Eagles Nest observation platform for an great view or climb up 224 steps to reach the one-mile nature trail offering a panoramic peek of the city below. Parking is limited and scarce after 6p. Timings are subject to monthly change.
The fact that one must ring a doorbell and wait for a guide to answer the front door aptly underscores the quaintness of this museum. Built in 1873, this little cottage of history offers a rare peep at life during the Victorian era. Its rooms are meticulously filled with ornate chairs, high-back sofas, rose-colored drapery and "wow-look-at-that" marble fireplaces. There is even a children's room filled with small furniture and antique dolls which have those creepy, staring looks.
A famous tourist spot in Downtown Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has collection of over 40,000 objects portraying the history and culture of the region. The museum's upper floor houses a courtroom which is a venue for music concerts and plays. It is a beautiful hall with wooden furniture. Apart from these events there are also local community events conducted in this courtroom.
Built in 1936, this art center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is more like a mall of art mediums featuring plays, films, paintings and sculpture. Harbored inside the Taylor Museum is one of the world's most extensive collections of Native American and Hispanic art. It also displays the works of Georgia O'Keeffe and Charles Russell, and presents ever-changing special art exhibitions. The Repertory Theatre Company features musicals and sponsors weekly showings of classic films. In addition, there is the Bemis Art school, an art library, and dining at the Balcony restaurant.
This alpine school redefines the term of "higher" learning, and, unlike this bad pun, receives strong praise. Well-trained guides can teach you the skills and techniques needed to scale cliffs of ice, ski the back country and mountain climb. Rock climbing lessons, its most popular offering, usually take place on the rocks at Garden of the Gods and are open to all skill levels. Private lessons are given and all equipment is provided. Also popular are guided technical and non-technical Pikes Peak climbs.
The Olympic Visitor Center offers free guided tours which include the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, interactive displays and an endless collection of Olympic photos. Be sure to check out the Olympic flame and pretend that you were the torch bearer who ignited it. If you're in search of a Team USA souvenir, visit the well stocked gift shop that shelves hard to find Olympic T-shirts, jackets and caps. And while wandering about, keep an eye open for the many well-known athletes who train here. Admission is free.