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.
Anyone with an interest in mechanical things that leave the ground will enjoy this museum. It is located in the original art deco-styled Colorado Springs Passenger Terminal Building. With its military setting, it looks exactly like one of those buildings used in 1950s sci-fi movies when horrible, giant ants terrorized man. The focus of the museum is on early aviation history, with an emphasis on World War II. Since it is inside Peterson Air Force base, you will need identification to enter and access is restricted. Entry to the museum is free.
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.
After a day at the The Broadmoor, take a scenic 1.4-mile drive up the narrow mountain road for a self-guided tour of this popular shrine. Built in the 1930s in honor of the American actor, writer and humorist Will Rogers, the shrine is full of historic information and colorful artwork painted on the walls, taking you back in time. Climb several winding flights of stairs to the top floor of the shrine, located at an elevation of 8136 feet, for a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Admission is included with zoo ticket purchase.
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.
Often dwarfed by the US Air Force Academy, this private college has been a part of Colorado Springs since 1874. The campus sports a classic college setting, accented by a Rocky Mountains backdrop. Cutler Hall, the school's original building, still stands as the landmark structure of the campus, and Bemis Hall resembles something from the Swiss Alps and will make you wish your school had offered such dorms. The hockey program enjoys a huge local following and ranks as one of the top collegiate teams in the nation.
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.
This mountain bike tour company is different in that it requires very little uphill climbing. Vehicles transport you to the top of your tour's starting point so all you do is glide downhill. Tours vary in length and ability. The self-guided Easy Rider Tour is perfect for families and allows you to ride at your own pace. Advanced riders love the Single Track Mania Tour which features 25 miles of guided single track riding. All tours use state-of-the-art Kona bikes.
A heavy indicator that this historical center offers an authentic experience can be gauged by the simple fact that it offers sarsaparilla as a beverage. While most such attractions focus on Colorado's "Wild West" days, this center, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, underscores the state's homesteading past with renovated buildings, including a Blacksmith shop, and characters in period clothing. Lectures, military re-enactments and a live 1880s baseball game are some of its educational features.