This time of year, everyone seems to be dreaming of taking a vacation. Well, today I thought I would give you my current home as a travel suggestion.
I have lived in Colorado Springs for about two years and when I have friends and family come to visit I become an unofficial tour guide. So today I’ll be your tour guide and walk you through EVERYTHING that is worth a trip to Colorado Springs.
First, I’ll give you a little context on why Colorado Springs is so unique and then I’ll jump in and go into detail about the six types of attractions that I consider “can’t miss” and some of my personal favorite options in each of those categories. So, without further ado, let’s start exploring Colorado Springs!
The first thing you will notice upon arriving in Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. Nicknamed “America’s Mountain”, Pikes Peak is the only 14-er visible throughout the Springs. It looms over us wherever we go, and we love it. It isn’t the highest mountain in Colorado by far, but it is unique because it stands alone in the Springs, meaning it isn’t part of a range with lots of larger mountains and, therefore, sticks out more.
Speaking of the height of our mountain, the elevation in the Springs is probably much higher than you’re used to (no pun intended). Throughout town, the elevation fluctuates between 5,740 ft and 14,115 ft but averages out to about 6,035 ft (or 1.14 miles) in town. This means that you should remember to drink lots of water and moisturize because when you become dehydrated you will start experiencing altitude sickness, and no one likes that.
The beauty of nature in the Springs really is awe-inspiring. For example, did you know that the woman who wrote the song “America the Beautiful” was actually inspired to write the song while she was visiting Colorado Springs by train in 1893? Beyond this example, countless authors and artists have been inspired to write some of their best work in Colorado.
Another fun fact, the US Olympic Training Center is in Colorado Springs (plus the headquarters to 24 US National Federations for various Olympic Sports). If this interests you, stop by the training center for a tour!
I’ll leave you with two other quick notes on the Springs and then we can get into the really fun stuff!
First, there are five separate military sites in Colorado Springs, although there are three main ones. There is the Fort Carson Army Base, the Peterson Air Force Base, and the US Air Force Academy. That being said, don’t be surprised when you see TONS of military walking around town, it is perfectly normal to see someone in uniform running into the grocery store to grab some dinner on their way home.
Second, be aware that you CANNOT trust the weather forecasts. There have literally been multiple days in the past few years where it has snowed, hailed, and rained and then has gotten up to 75 degrees and sunny all within the SAME DAY. One of the meteorologists in the Air Force told me that Colorado Springs is one of the hardest places in the world to predict the weather (because of our mountain) and even when they do the science 100% right, they still have a 50% chance of being wrong. How do we handle this crazy weather? We try to be prepared. Layers are your friend, try to keep an umbrella in your car, and, if the weather gets too crazy, remember that it never lasts long.
There are endless trails, parks, and mountains to explore while you are visiting, but there are six places that I consider “can’t miss” above everything else.
WOW! After all of those adventures, you’re going to be hungry. Don’t fear, Colorado Springs is chock-full of amazing local food. I always tell my friends and family when they visit that we could eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and still not have a chance to try all of my favorite restaurants in town before their trip is up.
○ Mountain Shadows Restuarant – This is a great little place, but get there early because the locals love it! My suggestions: the cinnamon roll (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) or the Reuben Omelette – it might sound weird but it is delicious!
○ King’s Chef Diner – There are two locations for this place, one is smaller but shaped like a castle and very cute, the other is downtown and a little bigger. Regardless of which location you go to, there is almost guaranteed to be a wait. But it is so worth it! When you look at the menu, pay attention to the different sizes you can order. Keep in mind that a 1/4 order here is about equal to a normal-sized order anywhere else! My favorite is The Grump while my husband jumps back and forth between The Thing and the Breakfast Burrito (be sure to get the green chili – locals will put green chili on everything).
○ Paris Crepe – They have both sweet and savory crepes so you can really eat here for whatever meal you wish. Plus, it is a great place to stop in when you are shopping downtown. My favorite is the French Crepe, it’s like a Nova Bagel!
○ Omelette Parlor – This is a unique find. The Omelette Parlor is actually the home where a movie star, Ruth Etting, retired in 1893. Since then it has been turned into a restaurant, but you can still tell that it was once a home the second you step inside. I love their skillets, try the Continental Divider Skillet or the Mount Elbert Skillet for something truly delicious.
○ Bonus: Snooze – So there are no Snooze’s in Colorado Springs, but I make a point to stop at the one in Lone Tree whenever I am picking someone up from the Denver Airport. I actually make my family and friends fly in early in the morning so that we can get breakfast at Snooze on the way back to Colorado Springs. If you are flying into Denver, I strongly suggest you do the same. What should you get if you stop in? The Bella Bella Benny. Hands down. That being said, they have some pretty out of this world pancakes as well!
○ Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant – When was the last time you went out for a fondue dinner? Chances are, it has been a while. Mona Lisa Fondue is located in downtown Manitou Springs and is a great choice for a fancy night out. Make sure you make a reservation, don’t be afraid to upgrade your courses, and don’t skip the dessert! It is promised to be worth it.
○ The Rabbit Hole – This is a truly unique dining experience. First of all, it is underground. The entrance looks like a subway entrance with a door. After winding down the staircase, you reach the restaurant, which is entirely Alice in Wonderland themed. From the paintings on the wall to the menu, you will find references to Alice in Wonderland everywhere. Be sure to get a reservation if you want to experience this – they fill up VERY fast. If you want a good cocktail, try The White Rabbit. After all, who doesn’t love flaming marshmallows?
○ TILL Kitchen – The Till is a relatively new addition to Colorado Springs and my husband and I absolutely love it. It is highly environmentally friendly, even their tables are made out of local pine trees that were killed by beetles. They also try to get all of their food from local farms that are committed to sustainability. Not to mention how delicious all of their food is. This place fills up pretty fast on weekends so I would suggest a reservation here as well. What’s my favorite thing on the menu? A drink called By Way of Bees – I promise you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
○ Edelweiss Restaurant – Are you German? Or do you at least enjoy German food? If so, you cannot miss Edelweiss. This family-owned, authentic German Restaurant has been around for over 50 years and lives up to its name. You dine among endless German decor and they even have strolling musicians on the weekends. It fills up fast, so get a reservation here as well. If you want an appetizer, both the Brie and the Potato Pancakes are amazing! However, all dinners come with a German side salad so you won’t be going hungry if you skip the appetizer.
○ Briarhurst Manor – Okay, this is my last suggestion that requires a reservation (and probably needs a reservation the most of all of the places I’ve mentioned). This is another place that used to be a home and has been transformed into a wonderful restaurant. It is also located in Manitou Springs but is a bit separate from downtown, so there is plenty of parking. This home was built in 1876 by the founder of Manitou Springs. A little-known fact is that this fancy restaurant and popular wedding venue is also considered one of the most haunted houses in the area. The good news, all of these spirits seem to be friendly and, if you ask, you may even be allowed to explore the manor after dinner looking for your own spiritual encounters.
○ Alchemy – This is a small pub in Old Colorado City with unique food and even more unique cocktails like the Cotton Candyland or the Walking Dead. Stop in for a bite (or just a drink) while shopping.
○ Bad Daddy’s or Skirted Heifer or Bingo Burger or Crave – So there are a LOT of good burger restaurants in the Springs and, honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the ones I listed. Bad Daddy’s is a sit-down place with a sports bar feel and create-your-own burgers. The Skirted Heifer and Bingo Burger are right next to each other in Downtown Colorado Springs and are very small (you might want to get your burgers to go). Finally, Crave is located in a shopping complex on the north side of town. If you want to see burgers as big as your head, Crave is your best option. So, regardless of what atmosphere you are craving, we have a great burger place for you!
○ Rudy’s BBQ – If you didn’t know any better, you would drive right past Rudy’s. It almost looks like a truck stop with a gas station attached and everything. But don’t let its appearance deceive you, it is the best BBQ in town. I always get the Pulled Pork Sandwich, while my husband always gets a few Breakfast Tacos.
○ Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant – If you want some good Irish food, look no further than Jack Quinn’s. Located in Downtown Colorado Springs, it is a great place to enjoy the evening. Their food is delicious (I especially love their Irish Nachos) and they have live music almost every night of the week.
○ Thunder & Buttons – Located in Old Colorado City, this is a delicious local pub. The pub was named after two elk that used to drive around a local to the various bars in town in the 1880s. This is a really friendly place with various weekly events to check out in the evenings.
○ La Baguette – Last but not least, if you look right next door to Thunder & Buttons you will find La Baguette. This is a perfect place to grab a quick lunch in between shopping. If you want to feel like you stepped into Paris, look no further. I personally enjoy their French Onion Soup.
First of all, if you’re still holding on after all of those restaurants, I’m impressed. Now, food and nature aren’t all that the Springs has to offer. If you enjoy shopping, you’ll love it here – you just need to know where to look. Sure we have endless shopping centers as well as two malls, but the really great finds aren’t in any of those places. Here are my five favorite shopping areas:
By this point, you might be wondering, “what doesn’t Colorado Springs have!?!”. Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure. You can have just about any experience you want here and what better way to show that then for me to share my six favorite adventures that you can have while here?
If these six adventures aren’t enough, there are even more options out there. Adventures Out West alone also offers Jeep Tours, Segway Tours, Guided Hikes, and Van Tours.
Regardless of what time of year you choose to visit, there is bound to be a great event going on. Check the Colorado Springs website to find out what is going on in town when you visit, but, if you can, here are my favorite events that happen in each season in Colorado Springs.
Another fun fact about Colorado, we love our beer. There are literally HUNDREDS of breweries in Colorado and almost 50 of them are located in the Springs. If you love beer, spend a day jumping from microbrewery to microbrewery, but even if beer isn’t your thing, there is one brewery that you should make sure is on your list of things to see in the Springs.
The Bristol Brewing Company was founded in 1994 and today their beer is available almost anywhere in the state. But that isn’t the cool part. The Bristol Brewery has a pub inside their facility. That’s not the cool part either. Their facility is an old elementary school built in 1916. Now, that’s the cool part! You can stroll through the old school and still see the children’s murals on the walls. Stop by the Principal’s Office for a mixed drink or bring your furry friend to the Bristol Patio to enjoy some of their newest (and most famous) types of beer. As a bonus, make sure you stop by the bathroom when you’re there (trust me, it’s worth it)!
Whew! There you go. You are now prepared to not only visit Colorado Springs but also to truly soak in every unique aspect of the area that you wish! If you want a cheat sheet for the area, click on the infographic I made for you below – each suggested activity is hyperlinked to its website!
If you’re still hanging in here, I’ve got an extra surprise for you.
You know that Bishop Castle I mentioned at the bottom of my infographic? It is a very fun trip. You can climb to the very top of each tower (although it isn’t the safest and is at your own risk).
Some people even use the main room on the second floor for their wedding ceremonies! The owner/builder is currently working on adding an elevator so everyone can see this sight. And it will always be free to the public.
It really is something you should see if you don’t mind the trip. Here is a picture of the castle for you to get a better idea of the amazing feat of building this by hand.
Now, go enjoy yourself!