Feed a mountain giraffe. Try the hottest salsa you’ve ever tasted. Plunge 150 feet into the canyon at 100 miles per hour. Experience total darkness in a mysterious, underground world.
Welcome to Colorado Springs.
It’s no ski resort, so Colorado Springs can sometimes get overlooked by travelers visiting Colorado or Boulderites looking for a close-to-home staycation. But this city just south of Denver has a ton of unique attractions that make it worth the trek.
Colorado Springs is about an hour and 45 minutes from Boulder, depending on traffic. It’s close enough that you could make a day trip out of it, but there’s so much to do that you’ll want to book at least a full weekend here, if you want to get the full experience.
Here’s a quick guide on how to visit Colorado Springs for your next Boulder road trip:
Where to Stay
You can find everything from cheap, interstate-side hotels to arguably the most luxurious resorts in the state. These are our top four, for different reasons:
- For families: Stay at the Great Wolf Lodge, with its indoor waterpark, obstacle course, mini golf and arcade. This is Colorado’s first indoor waterpark and it caters to families. While there are a handful of extreme slides great for all ages and adrenaline levels, Great Wolf is really for elementary- to middle-school kids. With bubble dance parties, singing characters and water basketball games, this is Colorado’s miniature answer to Disney parks. It’s not cheap, but you don’t need more than one day here, tops two. Look for special deals and off days for discounts.
- For everyone: Cheyenne Mountain Resort is the best place to stay, no matter if you’re traveling with kids, you’re on a romantic getaway or you’re planning a girl trip. This resort covers 217 acres, complete with a private golf course and an awesome country club, fitness center and spa. Balcony view rooms face the mountain range, including mysterious NORAD.
- For couples: The Broadmoor is a popular, sprawling resort with tons of delicious, on-site restaurants, a private lake and stunningly romantic rooms. This resort is a luxurious, AAA Five-Diamond destination with an award-winning spa, golf course and posh bars. The Broadmoor also owns Seven Falls, one of Colorado’s most beloved waterfalls that has been called “the grandest mile of scenery in Colorado.”
- For luxury travelers/all-inclusive: The Broadmoor Cloud Camp can’t be topped. This intimate, all-inclusive resort is perched atop Cheyenne Mountain, overlooking Colorado Springs. There are only a few cabins, so you get the feeling of a private mountain escape, except accommodations come complete with expertly prepared meals, drinks and activities, such as archery, cooking lessons and horseback riding. End your night by wandering through the forest until you find one of the cedar hot tubs scattered across the property. Sit in the bubbles while you watch the sun set and the city lights glow.
Where to Eat
Colorado Springs has some fine dining options, as well as some fun ones. Here are a few to try:
- The Airplane Restaurant, also known as Solos, is an old, 1950s Boeing KC-97 tanker airplane converted into a casual restaurant. You actually eat at a table and booth inside the gutted airplane. Visit the cockpit while you wait for your burger. This redefines airplane food.
- Sunday champagne brunch at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort is a must-do. This high-end, award-winning buffet spans prime rib, macarons and mimosas, oh yes. All with sweeping views of the mountain range and golf course.
- Elevations Lounge is a bucket list destination. Here, you can try Rocky Mountain oysters and ghost pepper salsa, quite possibly the spiciest salsa ever made. Not sure what kind of oysters come from the Rocky Mountains? We’ll let you try them yourself before we sit you down for the Big Talk about this menu item. Wash them down with Phantom Canyon Brewing’s craft beer, 6035, named for the elevation of Colorado Springs.
What to Do
Colorado Springs has no shortage of action. Here are just a few of the many ways to fill your itinerary:
- Crawl through 500-million-year-old underground caves at the Cave of the Winds. Hold tight when your guide flicks off the flashlight so you can experience “cave darkness.” That’s a dark so dark that no light at all comes through. It makes you feel a little crazy.
- Visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, one of the best zoos in America and the nation’s only mountainside zoo. Feed the giraffes by hand (but beware of their funny, long purple tongues). The zoo houses more than 750 types of animals. One of the coolest exhibits is the reptile house: a dazzling, modern art gallery that is also covered in snakes, lizards and turtles. It’s like no reptile exhibit you’ve ever seen before.
- See the impossibly balanced and oddly slanted rocks at the Garden of the Gods, formed millions of years ago on a fault line. This National Natural Landmark is free to visit.
- Get an espresso mud body treatment at the Alluvia Spa and Wellness Center. Yes, you can not just drink coffee, but you can cover your entire body in it. For health.
- Get an adrenaline injection at the Cave of the Winds rides. The craziest is the Terror-Dactyl, a ride that plummets you 150 feet straight down into the canyon at nearly 100 miles per hour.
- Head to the tiny town of Manitou, where you can walk the charming downtown and find the penny arcade with vintage games that you can play for cheap.
- Take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the world’s highest cog railway, to the top of Pikes Peak. Experience the views of a fourteener (a mountain that is 14,000 feet above sea level or higher) without having to break a sweat.
- See the 181-foot waterfall at Seven Falls. There’s also food, shopping, zipline tours and various hiking trails in this popular park.