9 Best Things to Do in Colorado Springs

See everything from underground caves to mountain giraffes

Garden of the Gods in Colorado

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Even Colorado residents may be surprised to learn all of the adventures Colorado Springs holds. It’s known for its Olympic training center and military base, but here you can also feed giraffes and explore vast underground caves. The city is also home to one of Colorado’s most astonishing natural features, the Garden of the Gods, ancient cliff dwellings, and a series of seven lovely waterfalls.

Whether you’re looking for an easy day trip from Denver or one of Colorado’s best, family-friendly destinations, head south to Colorado Springs for an exciting and wonderous destination that is bound to inspire you in many different ways.

01 of 09

Visit the Air Force Academy

U.S. Air Force Academy, Cadet's Chapel
Walter Bibikow / Getty Images
Air Force Academy, CO 80840, USA

At the Air Force Academy, visitors are welcome to take a peek into this high-tech and high-altitude training facility filled with modern architecture worth marveling at. At the Visitor Center, you can get an introduction to the life of an Air Force cadet through a series of exhibits and there is also a short nature trail that passes by Cadet Chapel and Honor Court and viewing areas where you can see the cadets marching to lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 12 p.m (during the academic year). The Farish Recreational Area has 23 miles of trails but is only open to active-duty military personnel.

02 of 09

Tour the Olympic and Paralympic Training center

 A view inside the swimming training center at the United States Olympic Training Center on May 14, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Tom Pennington / Getty Images

1 Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO 80909, USA
Phone +1 719-866-4618

Colorado Springs has been the home of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee since 1978 and its enormous flagship training center is open for visitors. There are three types of tours offered of the facility, appropriately named Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The Bronze is the standard one-hour tour that will guide you through the training center with an educational overview. The Silver will take you behind the scenes of the training center with a smaller 10-person group and the Gold tour includes lunch in the athlete dining hall and lasts two hours. Private groups of at least 10 people can also request a special tour guided by one of the facility's resident athletes.

03 of 09

Find Inspiration in the Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

Colorado Springs, CO 80904, USA
Phone +1 719-634-6666

The Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado's most beautiful natural features, and you can visit it for free in Colorado Springs. This National Natural Landmark is otherworldly, a series of red rock stacks that formed along a fault line millions of years ago, that was ultimately tilted vertically during the formation of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak. What now remains is a crazy assortment of unusually shaped and perched rocks, some balanced, others slanted, and all telling the story of the region. There’s evidence of Native American life here dating as far back as 250 BC.

04 of 09

Stay at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Cheyenne Mountain Resort
Aimee Heckel

If you're looking for a luxurious and peaceful place to stay the night, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort has it covered. With spacious balcony rooms that look out over the mountains and a private golf course, the resort is stretched across 217 sprawling acres right in the heart of the city. It even has its own private lake with a swimming beach.

Even if you don't get a room, an absolute must-do at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort is to indulge in the champagne brunch on Sunday at the Mountain View Restaurant, aptly named for its entire wall of windows facing the mountains. This award-winning brunch has everything from meat carving to prime rib to macaroons. The selection is extensive. Or, go for a massage or facial at the Alluvia Spa.

Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Explore the Cave of Winds

Cave of the Winds
Aimee Heckel
100 Cave of the Winds Rd, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, USA
Phone +1 719-685-5444

Imagine exploring Colorado’s nature and stumbling across a hole in the mountain. Now imagine if you peeked inside that hole and realized it was the entry to an entire, elaborate series of naturally occurring underground caves. That’s how two brothers discovered the Cave of the Winds in the late 1800s.

Today, you can take a guided tour through this remarkable, 500-million-year-old underground world lined with stalactites, stalagmites, and curious rock stacks. You’ll even get to experience “cave darkness” when the guide flips off the flashlight for a moment. This is total darkness, deep beneath the Earth, where no natural or ambient light can penetrate. If this doesn't sound scary enough for you, the park also offers a ghost tour.

You'll also find thrill rides above ground and a three-story obstacle course perched on the edge of a 600-foot cliff. The Bat-A-Pult is a zipline that flings you across the valley 1,200 feet above the ground and the Terror-Dactyl launches brave visitors down into the guts of the canyon at nearly 100 miles an hour. It claims to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

06 of 09

Hand-Feed Giraffes at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Aimee Heckel
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, USA
Phone +1 719-633-9925

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has been named one of the best zoos in America and it is the nation’s only mountainside zoo, perched at 6,800 feet above sea level. A highlight is the giraffe exhibit, where you can buy an inexpensive handful of lettuce and hand-feed it to the giants from atop a bridge that brings you eye-to-eye with these gentle giants.

The zoo is a full-day experience, with more than 750 types of animals and 150 different species, including more than 30 endangered animals. Other stars here include free-range wallabies hopping about and parakeets that visitors are welcome to hand-feed in the Bird House. The Scutes Family Gallery has to be the most exquisite reptile exhibit in the world. It’s designed as a high-end, modern art gallery, and the snakes, turtles, and lizards live among the sculptures, ceramics, and artwork. It will rewire how you see reptiles and can make a snake-admirer out of just about anyone.

07 of 09

Drive to a Peak Above 14,000 Feet

Pikes Peak in Colorado

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Pikes Peak, Colorado 80809, USA

Here’s a fourteener you can summit without even having to hike it. Colorado has 53 fourteeners or mountains that are taller than 14,000 feet above sea level. Many, like Longs Peak, require great fitness, planning, and good gear to conquer. But you can stand on top of Pikes Peak without having to break a sweat. Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America and attracts more than half a million visitors every year.

There are several different ways to get to the top of Pikes. You can hike up Barr Trail if you want to make it “count” among the climbers. Athletes can also attempt Pikes by bike. For less exertion, you can take your car up Pike Peak Highway and enjoy the views along the way.

Another option is to hit the rails and hop aboard the Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway. This is the world’s highest cog railway and has been open year-round since the late 1800s. No ordinary train, it’s built to handle a pretty dramatic grade, sometimes as steep as 24 percent, so you can enjoy the serene views with a bit of a thrill.

08 of 09

Visit the Grandest Mile of Scenery

Seven Falls
Getty Images/Sujata Jana/EyeEm
2350 S Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, USA
Phone +1 855-923-7272

The Broadmoor Seven Falls is a series of waterfalls culminating in a dramatic 181-foot cascade and has been called the “grandest  mile of scenery in Colorado.” This privately-owned destination has is part of the luxury resort and it has its own series of hiking trails, zipline tours, and gold panning activities. There is also an impressive rock gallery that showcases rare minerals and fossils found in Colorado. If you're staying in town, you can take a free shuttle from the hotel, which is a must-do if you want to see some of the best views Colorado Springs has to offer.

Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Dine On an Airplane from 1953

Solos Restaurant
Aimee Heckel
1665 Newport Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80916-2747, USA
Phone +1 719-570-7656

This is airplane food you’ll actually want to eat. In a military town, it’s only fitting to find an old airplane converted into a quirky restaurant. Solos Restaurant, better known as The Airplane Restaurant, is a popular, casual dining destination where the seats have been converted into booths and tables aboard a fully intact 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker.

Forty-two lucky “passengers” get the onboard seats and kids can play in the cockpit until the food arrives, but there are other tables in a much bigger, attached restaurant that’s decorated with airplane paraphernalia, pictures, and rare artifacts. The whole restaurant is an aviation museum. The food is standard comfort food: juicy burgers and fries, sandwiches, and the famous Barrel Rolls, which are cheesy tortillas stuffed with chicken and peppers.

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9 Best Things to Do in Colorado Springs