When’s the last time you went away with your girlfriends? Ditch the mom guilt, enjoy packing for one and book a ticket for a weekend away! You won’t be sorry. Your kids and partner will miss you and appreciate all you do and you will really benefit from the “me” time and arrive back refreshed and ready for whatever parenting curveball life throws at you next.
We subscribe to fare alerts, so when a $68 RT ticket came up from Austin to Colorado Springs, we went for it. Catherine was our ringleader, as she had visited before with her family so had a head start on suggesting where we might visit. Here are our picks for the top 10 things to do in Colorado Springs:
1. Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is #1 on our list because it is beautiful and FREE! Seriously, make this your first stop when you are visiting Colorado Springs. Open all seasons, it’s a sight to be seen in sun or snow.
Sandstone rock formations tower 300 feet above against the sky with snow-capped Pikes Peak in the distance. Park in the lot for the Perkins Central Garden Trail. This easy 1 1/2-mile roundtrip concrete foot path is stroller and wheelchair friendly. You are guaranteed to take approximately 1,000 photos. We visited at dusk, and watching the sun set was breathtaking.
2. Poor Richard’s
What began as a cheap eats place for college kids and a used bookstore located in downtown Colorado Springs, has grown into, well, a city block worth of shopping, dining, drinking and playing.
Poor Richard’s is a used/new bookstore that is attached to a coffee/wine bar that is attached to a toy store that is attached to a pizza restaurant. Phew. That’s a lot of attachment going on. Each store connects with the next so you don’t even have to go outside to get from one to the other. You can order food (pizza, sandwiches, soup bar in the winter, salad with a delicious house made dressing, local beers, freshly baked bread), settle down to eat either in the very back of the shop where there is a play area for kids. There are even books, crayons and coloring books for those kids who feel like sitting play time out. The front of the restaurant is generally kid-free so it’s a nice spot for those who enjoy conversation without crying or shouting kids in the background.
Then there’s the toy store. Yes, you can easily spend hours inside this lovely little compound.
Tip: Leave one adult in charge of the kids at the play area in Poor Richards while the other sneaks off peruse books, enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee or glass of wine at Rico’s Wine Bar. If you are traveling solo with the kids in town, order coffee and hot chocolate (try their sipping chocolates… OMG!) at Rico’s to bring over to the other side to enjoy while the kids play.
3. Ivywild School
What do you call a space that combines a brewery, farmer’s market, bakery and deli in one location? Uh. I’d say heaven. Ivywild School used to be- you guessed it- an elementary school, but now it’s been repurposed in another way to serve as a community gathering space. The coffee and fresh-baked baguettes were both delicious in the morning and craft beer and live music at night made us Austinites feel at home. Great vibe and people watching.
4. Manitou Springs
Hippies. Yes, lots of hippies and some interesting looking humans grace the sidewalks of Manitou Springs. But this cute little Colorado mountain town can take up an entire day to explore. Between the shops selling typical souvenirs to the Penny Arcade that is a huge hit with the kids, there is something in this town that appeals to all ages and genders.
If you get bored of shopping and eating or playing games, try to find two houses that look alike. Built in the 1850s, Manitou Springs boasts beautiful Victorian houses that you just don’t see in the run-of-the-mill American town. Perched on hillsides, tucked away on small streets, walking through the neighborhoods of Manitou is a visible delight. Be sure to check out the mineral springs and the Miramont Castle. When you get hungry, head to Adam’s Mountain Cafe, which has the best Cinnamon Orange iced tea I’ve ever had (seriously – I ordered it when I got home) and lots of healthy and delicious food.
5. Old Colorado City
Just minutes from downtown Colorado Springs you’ll find another part of the city that feels like it’s own city. Huh? Old Colorado City has dining, art galleries, boutiques, clothing stores and more. We enjoyed eating lunch outside at Bon Ton Cafe (what better way to enjoy a girls’ weekend than with some mimosas?), strolling down the street and checking out many of the shops and even picking up a few items at Little Colorado, a huge imports store. We scarfed down breakfast from La Baguette one morning, relishing the fact that we didn’t have to share our treats with anyone.
6. Seven Falls
Seven Falls is a 181-foot waterfall which has been closed since flooding which occurred in September of 2013. In the Spring of 2015, this attraction will reopen with a brand-new visitor’s center. Two hiking trails take you to the stream that feeds the falls. The Pillars of Hercules frame the box canyon into which the falls flow. Seven Falls is nature therapy, at its best. Be sure to check out Seven Falls during the holidays!
7. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
When the kids are along, heading to the zoo is a real crowd pleaser. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a great place to take the whole family. Over 200 species of wild animals, the mountain setting and lots of ways for kids to burn off energy are a win-win combination.
8. Pikes Peak
There are two ways to visit this picturesque spot: drive or take the train. If you drive to Pikes Peak, prepare for a 2-3 hour endeavor. If you think the gateway elevation of 7,400 feet is high, wait until you reach the summit – 14,115 feet high. If you are asthmatic or visiting with someone who is, bring that person’s inhaler along, in case you need to use it. If you take the train, keep in mind that you need to book 24 hours in advance and that the trip takes 3 hours and 10 minutes, which includes 30-40 minutes at the summit.
9. Gold Camp Road – Bear Creek
Yet another place to enjoy the great scenery is Gold Camp Road. The Road follows the former railroad from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. In the late 1980s, the road became closed to car traffic, so bikers and hikers now have it all to themselves. The entire trail is almost 9 miles one way, but you can still enjoy it if you stay for a shorter distance.
If you are traveling with canine companions, be sure to head over to Bear Creek Dog Park at at 21st Street and Rio Grande. An off-leash park, it’s a great opportunity to let your dog run free and make some new friends.
The Bear Creek Nature Center and Regional Park offers guided and self-guided nature trails to explore, events throughout the year, camps for the kids (if you happen to be visiting in the summer with kids and are looking for a camp for them), presentations and interpretive programs.
10. Wimberger’s Old World Bakery & Delicatessen
Wimberger’s has been serving up delicious pastries and bread for Colorado Springs residents and visitors since 1970. The bakery and deli specializes in German cooking and “old world” cuisine. You can also find European foods in their grocery section. Tip: Head to the bakery in the morning to stock up on fresh breads (brotchen, pretzels and more German specialty items), meat and cheese, snacks and drinks for a picnic lunch. Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, Cheyenne Mounrtain Zoo and most of the other attractions are just around the corner!
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
Now, you are all ready to visit, but don’t know where to stay? We actually have you covered. Catherine has two vacation rentals in the Colorado Springs area, and she would love to offer LiveMom readers a special discount! Simply email her with LIVEMOM CO SPRINGS DISCOUNT in the subject line and she will get you on your way to a fun time in Colorado Springs, whether you choose to visit with or without your family.
Have you been to Colorado Springs? Where would you recommend going?