Colorado Springs is the second most populous city in the Centennial State, but still flies below the radar as a vacation destination. While the city lacks the reputation for cultural urban chic like Denver and the hip outdoorsy style of Boulder, it actually has a great deal of history, culture and nature to explore.
There are numerous attractions that come to mind when one mentions Colorado Springs: Garden of the Gods, the United States Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak (and the many ways up this famous 14er), Cave of the Winds, and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy are among the top draws to the area. While these places are certainly worth a visit, there are many more sights that make Colorado Springs appealing for a weekend getaway.
Although the concept here is a day trip, seriously consider The Broadmoor for not only lodging, but also a museum-worthy art collection, fine dining, family-friendly activities and as a home base while you explore the nearby foothills. Just because the Broadmoor is a AAA Five-Diamond resort doesn’t mean it is out of your budget. Check their website for incredible package deals year-round. Among the 10 restaurants here to choose from is the Golden Bee. In the style of a 19th century English Pub, the Bee serves fish and chips and plenty of ale. The Bee reopened in 2013 after a renovation that doubled its space, but kept the charm of live piano entertainment with sing-a-longs every night.
While staying at the Broadmoor, you can rent a bicycle or take a walk to the Starsmore Discovery Center and continue on with a hike in Cheyenne Cañon Park where there are waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife to see. The Starsmore Discovery Center has nature exhibits, seasonal programs for adults and children, and maps of the area.
For a more controlled outdoor experience, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a short drive from the Broadmoor. The zoo has become known for its giraffe-feeding program (be prepared for their enormous black tongues!), but the Mountaineer Sky Ride is what makes this zoo unique. The Mountaineer Sky Ride is an old-school chairlift that whisks visitors up and over the animal habitats as they take in a spectacular view of the city below.
The zoo has an unusual connection to the Broadmoor with the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Spencer Penrose, founder of both the Broadmoor and the zoo, named the shrine after his friend Will Rogers posthumously. Mr. Penrose and his wife also had their ashes interred in the shrine. Visitors must pay zoo admission and drive up to the castle-like shrine (walking up the road is not permitted, but you’ll get your exercise when you arrive at the 100 stairs to the entrance) to visit it and learn more about humorist Will Rogers inside the five-story building. The elevation is 8,136 feet on the shrine’s top deck.
Back in the heart of town, it’s about modern-day big-name entertainers who are regularly scheduled at places such as the Pikes Peak Center and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. In November, comedienne Paula Poundstone (of “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!” on NPR) is performing at the Fine Arts Center and the Pikes Peak Center will host musicians Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt, Buddy Guy, comedian George Lopez and other shows.
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is also an art school and museum, which displays regionally significant art from artists such as Edward S. Curtis, Allen True, Birger Sandzén, Brett Weston, Charles Bunnell and many more, along with a permanent collection that includes internationally known artists like glass artist Dale Chihuly.
In fact, it was a Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Fine Arts Center that drew me to Colorado Springs on a daytrip years ago—and I have returned a few times since to see shows, visit the Broadmoor, tour the zoo and explore the foothills with my family.