Standing outside of the Colorado Springs airport, I was in the middle of trying to figure out why an Uber was so expensive. I was only going about 20 minutes away but the cost reflected in the Uber pricing was high enough to leave me with a visibly confused look on my face.
“So where are you from?” asked an older, random man.
“Chicago” I eventually responded.
“Here visiting family or friends?”
“Nope! Just here to wander around.”
“I said the same thing 20 years ago and I never left.”
Crazy enough, I immediately started to see why – the backdrop of Pikes Peak and the front range of the Rocky Mountains was breathtaking. I was more than ready to go exploring, seeing as though I only had a day in a half in the area. However, I quickly realized that getting around via public transportation was next to impossible due to the transportation system in Colorado Springs being so limited.
HUGE TIP: RENT A CAR!
Unless you have the budget for an extremely high Lyft/Uber bill, renting a car will be the most sensible thing to do. There are rental counters in the airport, of course, for you to do some price shopping at, or hop online and try to snag better pricing there and you may be able to get better pricing at the counter if you mention that you are looking at their prices online through a third party. If you plan on going up into the mountains, be sure to get a vehicle that can handle the inclines, i.e., has all wheel drive!
After briefly roaming the city, I headed to go horseback riding at Academy Riding Stables (https://www.academyridingstables.com/) for the tour that goes through the glorious Garden of the Gods, which is a historical park of rock formations. After being paired with a horse, I was then taken on the tour with about 4 other people. The options for the tour are one or two hours, with the two hours being more suitable for those who have more experience riding. During the tour, we not only got to see the beautiful neighborhood and rock formations but were also given tons of information about the history of the area. Garden of the Gods is a national, natural landmark that is located at the bottom of Pikes Peak and contains amazing geological formations and trails. Entry is free and the hours and various trails are accommodating for most (https://www.gardenofgods.com/).
As we rode through the park, the views were picturesque as the sun danced across the various rock peaks and the terrain greeted us with its residents which included lizards and snakes. The horses are very well trained to handle the uneven terrain and are easy to guide, even for a novice rider. After the hour long tour, I decided to venture alone through the winding trails of the park (can be done by foot or car) for more great views and photos.
TIP: Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes meant for working out/hiking, while on the trails and/or horseback riding.
For dinner, I decided to stop by a great late night spot, that has fine dining and is super popular, called “The Rabbit Hole.” Though the entrance sits on the top of the street, the entire restaurant is actually underground. It is rumored that part of the space may have been the city morgue back in the 1800s. Today, it flaunts the Alice & Wonderland theme, in its quaint, cozy space.
The following morning, I hopped out of bed to hurry to “Mountain Shadows” restaurant to get one of their famous, giant cinnamon rolls. Family owned and operated for 25 years, Mountain Shadows is a great breakfast spot in the city (http://www.mtnshadowsrestaurant.com/) that locals love. Doors open at 7am (and they close at 3pm), I arrived just a little before 9am and the place was already packed, with a waiting list. When I got seated, I couldn’t tell the waitress quick enough that I wanted a giant cinnamon roll. With disappointment on her face, she let me know that they were totally sold out. In actuality, she informed me that the restaurant only has a little more than a handful of cinnamon rolls each day and they usually sell out shortly after the restaurant opens. Despite my dream of the giant rolled goodness, I still sat down to have their breakfast. It was scrumptious and came with more than enough food being served for your helping.
Full and content, next I headed to “Cave of the Winds” mountain park in Manitou Springs (https://caveofthewinds.com/). The ride up into the mountains is one that you must be careful with as the curves are sharp and many have no guardrails. Also by Pikes Peak, Cave of the Winds offers various activities for all ages, including wall climbing, cave tours, panning for gemstones, zip lining or “The TerrorDactyl,” which is a ride that sends you flying across the canyon on a giant swing. Prices vary per activity and multiple can be done in one day. I, of course, opted to get in the giant swing – The TerrorDactyl, which is on the edge of a 200 foot cliff in Williams Canyon in the mountain park.
After a short wait and repeated prayers, I was secured into the ride and lifted back. I was then dropped for a 150 foot free fall, across 200 feet into the canyon, at almost 100 mph! It was over almost as quickly as it began! The views were amazing and I couldn’t think of a better way to see the beautiful scenery, even though I’m sure I left my stomach at the bottom of the canyon. Knowing that my plane left soon, I rushed to my last touring spot – America the Beautiful Park.
America the Beautiful Park can be found on the western edge of downtown Colorado Springs. The view from this park was the vision of Katherine Lee Bates, who had taken a trip to Colorado Springs to teach at a college in Colorado. The sights inspires her to write the poem that eventually became “America The Beautiful.” The highlight of this Park is the sculpture that stands in the middle. It was designed by Julie Penrose Fountain and sprays out water as it rotates four times per hour. The park has tons of recreational space and stunning views of the mountains.
An hour early arrival at the COS airport is all that is needed due to the airport being on the smaller side and security working efficiently, which allows for traffic to flow through without much congestion.
In a nutshell:
This city is beyond beautiful and it’s sweet residents make your stay a pleasant one. Many things missed my list (visiting the top of Pikes Peak, Seven Falls and more amazing restaurants) that I will be sure to do the next time because there will DEFINITELY be a next time! Until next time, Colorado, you have my heart.
Information for businesses posted:
American Riding Stables
4 El Paso Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO, 80904
Garden of the Gods
1805 N. 30th St
Colorado Springs, CO, 80904
The Rabbit Hole
101 N Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO, 80903
Mountain Shadows Restaurant
2223 Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO, 80904
Cave of the Winds
100 Cave of the Winds Rd
Manitou Springs, CO, 80829
America The Beautiful Park
126 Cimino Drive, Colorado Springs, CO, 809030