From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Scenically located at the base of the Rocky Mountains and offering a variety of trails, parks, and urban adventures to boot, Colorado Springs, Colorado is one of the best places to live and vacation in the country. From the windswept peak of “America’s Mountain” to the arcade games found in the Manitou valley, this guide will get you familiar with all things Colorado Springs, no matter how long you’re staying.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
One of the very best things about hanging your hat in Colorado Springs? The opportunity to wear that hat into a wide variety of wonderful outdoor places just waiting to be visited and explored. Here are some of the coolest state and national parks and preserves in and around Colorado Springs, CO.
Although it’s less than an hour north of Colorado Springs, Castlewood Canyon State Park is distinct enough to give visitors the feeling they’ve traveled much further. Along with its scenic views and wildlife, this park is known for the remains of the Castlewood Canyon Dam, which burst back in 1933.
A popular destination very close by to most parts of Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park encompasses more than 2,700 acres of land that flank the spiring tower of the namesake mountain. It also offers 27 miles of hiking trails (also usable by mountain bikers, trail runners, and others) and is home to an array of wildlife it’s hard to find elsewhere, including deer, elk, black bears, cougar, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and wild turkeys.
A landscape often sought out by fisherfolk, Lake Pueblo State Park includes over 10,000 acres of land and a stunning 4,600 acres of water — all just an easy hour’s drive from Colorado Springs. In those shimmering waters, you can find (and reel in) many different kinds of fish, including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, wiper, channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, rainbow trout, common carp, gizzard shad, and white suckers. There’s also plenty to do on dry land, as well!
Covering more than 5,000 acres of beautiful Colorado countryside and boasting granite peaks, pine-and-aspen ridges, spring-fed ponds and more, Mueller State Park is situated in the shadow of none other than the famous Pikes Peak itself, and has been inhabited, cultivated and hunted on for centuries, starting with Native Americans before being taken over by homesteaders, pioneers, and gold rushers. Today, these grounds offer wonderful wildlife spotting opportunities as well as plenty of space to hike, bike, and simply spread out and enjoy nature.
A day-use-only facility, Spinney Mountain State Park is about an hour and a half from Colorado Springs, and centers on the Spinney Mountain Reservoir — another spot that’s popular with anglers from across the state. The namesake mountain, visible in the background, towers 9,488 feet above sea level, making this a scenic spot to enjoy some fishing!
You don’t have to go very far at all to set your boots on the ground when you’re in any part of Colorado — especially these parts. Here are just a few of the many amazing hiking trails that wind their way through the vicinity of Colorado Springs.
Running just shy of four miles and seeing about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, Seven Bridges Trail is a popular spot tucked into North Cheyenne Cañon Park, near to Colorado Springs. This trail features a waterfall and also offers some sweeping views of the surrounding areas and valleys, and is open to use by dogs, as well. (Just be sure Fido is on a leash!)
At a little more than six miles in length and almost 1,400 feet of elevation gain, St. Mary’s Falls Trail is considered a moderately challenging trail (by Colorado standards), and is, as its name suggests, home to a beautiful waterfall. The trail is most accessible from April to November and can become muddy at times, so be sure to wear your boots.
Nestled into Bear Creek Cañon Park, Palmer Trail (Section 16) is a loop of approximately six miles in length that sees about 1,300 feet in elevation gain. It’s noted for its proliferation of beautiful wildflowers during the spring and summer months, and involves a slow and steady (but definitely still challenging) climb. This is a great place to get a workout!
Sharing a trailhead with Mount Cutler (described below), Mount Muscoco Trail is a moderately challenging four-mile hike that’s dotted with lovely wildflowers to help motivate you to the top of your climb. This trail is also frequented by bird watchers, who enjoy the opportunity to view a wide variety of native and migratory birds on their journey.
The easier of the two options that start at the shared trailhead, Mount Cutler Trail runs less than two miles and sees less than 500 feet in elevation gain, making it a great starting spot for a beginning hiker who’s hoping to get their legs underneath them.
Lots of adventure = lots of fuel necessary! Here are some of the best places to eat in Colorado Springs, no matter what you’re hungry for.
Casual yet elegant and serving up some of the most delicious Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eats this side of the prime meridian, Caspian Café is a beloved local go-to for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Often serving up delicious specials to celebrate holidays and events, this eatery also often hosts belly dancers for your tableside entertainment!
A family-owned eatery that’s been in business for over four decades, Edelweiss German Restaurant offers hearty German lunches and dinners that go way beyond bratwurst and schnitzel. Whether you’re looking for something lighter, going gluten free or bringing the kids along for the meal, you’re sure to find something to suit your appetite here!
Offering both classic and signature sushi rolls as well as a wide array of other delicious Asian delights, Kohnami Sushi proves that you don’t necessarily have to be right near an ocean to enjoy delicious, super-fresh seafood. Tempura, teriyaki, and other classic Japanese fare ensures that everyone in your party will leave with a full tummy, even if sushi isn’t quite their thing.
Voted the best Italian restaurant in Colorado Springs for 17 years in a row (yes, you read that right), Paravicini’s Italian Bistro offers both indoor and outdoor dining featuring regional specialties from across Italy, as well as Italian-American favorites and chef-created specials. Be sure to save room for dessert; the bada bing cheesecake really cannot be missed!
Plant-based doesn’t have to be synonymous with less-than-yummy. Adam’s Mountain Cafe offers a wide array of vegetarian and vegan eats that even carnivores will enjoy, including rural Italian lasagna, an out-of-this-world veggie burger — and, yes, a few items that do include animal products, such as fish tacos. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and dessert.
If you’re looking for a place to get your morning cup of joe, head to Carnelian Coffee Company. This local coffee shop makes all their syrups in house, so every flavored drink has that perfect taste. My personal favorite is the honey lavender latte, but they have plenty of other options, like kombucha and tea, if you’re not a coffee drinker. In need of a quick bite? The “Island Burrito” is a perfect lunch to take on the go. Carnelian Coffee Company is in an area of Colorado Springs called Old Colorado City, where there is a walkable main street lined with local restaurants, shops, and art galleries to browse.
Dining and discovering the great outdoors are awesome — but they’re just the start. Here are some of our favorite things to see, do, and explore in Colorado springs, whether you’re adventuring as a family, a couple, a group of friends, or solo.
Colorado Springs is a great place for families. Here are some of our top picks for things to do with little ones of all ages.
While pretty much any zoo in America is sure to put a smile on young faces, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo really does offer families some special opportunities — such as the chance to hand-feed giraffes and participate in hands-on events and programs that get kids (and adults!) up, close and personal with some exotic new friends. Housing more than 750 animals on its 140 acres, this spot is a must-visit for any family in the area.
Technically located in the neighboring community of Cascade, The North Pole is a Christmas-themed amusement park that brings the fun of the holidays into the rest of the year, offering rides, dining, and shopping opportunities in festive, winter style! And don’t worry, Santa himself is also on-site and available for visitation… and he’ll be happy to appear in a photo with your family, as well.
We’ve covered lots of things to do in Colorado Springs during the daytime. But don’t worry, there are lots of date-night options to keep you covered once night falls! Here are just a few of our favorites.
Looking for one of the best things to do for couples in Colorado Springs? Why not enjoy a day meandering the quaint town of Manitou Springs, followed by an evening of thrills at the Penny Arcade, which offers vintage favorites ranging from pinball to Skee-Ball to more than 20 coin-operated animal rides? Best part: there are plenty of cute restaurants in the area so you can take a quick break when you inevitably get hungry.
Looking for something a little more subdued? At Motif Jazz Cafe, the number-one jazz club in Colorado Springs, you can enjoy the musical stylings of musicians both local and from further afield. Let the ear candy sink in with a sip or five of a delicious, hand-crafted cocktail and enjoy some delicious bites, as well!
The good news is, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy all Colorado Springs has to offer! Here are just a few options to consider.
You can’t really say you’ve been to Colorado Springs if you haven’t been to the top of Pikes Peak — and fortunately, if you don’t want to tackle the 13-mile, 7,400-foot hike, you can simply drive along the 19th mile toll road. Either way, be sure to grab a donut at the top… but ignore the marmots who will beg for you to share the goods!
Known amongst locals as “the bug museum,” the May Natural History Museum is the world’s largest private insect collection — and although it’s a great place to go with kids, it’s a great spot for adults to visit, as well. Offering over 100,000 incredible specimens to peruse, this spot is sure to give you a different take on the world of the creepy and crawly.
Long before this land was what it is today, it was inhabited by native people who created incredible architecture that worked with the natural landscape. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings give modern-day visitors the opportunity to take a step back in time and see what life was like for the indigenous people who originally called this place home.
It’s true: there’s some fun to get into in Colorado Springs that’s absolutely free of charge. Here are a couple spots to put on your not-to-be-missed list.
Perhaps the most famous part of this beautiful landscape, Garden of the Gods is home to 1,300 acres of stunning sandstone formations, and it’s totally free to drive around, hike the grounds, and meander the visitor center. This is also an excellent spot to relax and enjoy the sunset (or sunrise, if you’re an early bird!).
Want to put your fitness to the test? You don’t have to join a gym to challenge yourself. Just mount the (in)famous Manitou Incline — the washed-out remains of an old funicular which is now a steep hiking trail, where you’ll tackle 2,744 steps in the course of a single mile. Yes, it’s doable… but yes, it’s a serious challenge. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection!
I love the thrill of the hunt at a good thrift store, and Arc is a GREAT thrift store. They have several locations all over the city, and their proceeds go towards people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community. If you’re looking for a mega bargain, the best day to visit is Saturday, when almost all of their items are 50 percent off. If you’re looking for an unusual souvenir of your time spent in Colorado Springs, keep your eyes peeled for United States Air Force Academy apparel, a piece of art with Pikes Peak on it (this mountain dominates the Front Rage here), or maybe a vintage mug with an Army or Air Force unit logo. You’d be surprised to discover how many cool designs come out of the Air Force units around these parts.
Staying in shape is about so much more than, well, your shape. It’s about how you feel and walk through the world! Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios in Colorado Springs for those looking to sweat it out.
Whether you need the gym for a single day or a whole lifetime, Flex Gym & Fitness Center offers flexible and straightforward payment plans with no hidden costs — as well as all the equipment and motivation you need to achieve your lofty goals. With a focus on Powerlifting, Strongman, and Bodybuilding, this gym is an especially good option for those trying to build muscle.
Built on the solid foundation of the traditional and ancient practice of yoga, Pranava Yoga Center helps you strengthen, lengthen, and find your core — both physically and metaphorically. Offering a wide range of regular classes as well as special workshops and events, this is the perfect spot to get on your mat, whether you’re tackling a flowing vinyasa or indulging in a yin yoga session.
Sometimes, you just need to relax, slow down, and let someone pamper you. If that’s where you’re at, here are the best day spas and salons to check out in Colorado Springs.
Sometimes, the transformation you get from a haircut or coloring session is just what you need to make a change in your life. At J Gregory Salon, you’ll get custom service from friendly and creative professionals who know how to give you what you want — even if you’re not sure how to ask for it. There are also a variety of retail products available for purchase.
Whatever comes to mind when you picture an ordinary spa isn’t what you'll find at SunWater. Filled with mineral water from the local springs, the outdoor experience at SunWater comes complete with heated soaking tubs that sit on balconies with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. Many people tout the benefits of soaking in mineral water, but even if you don’t care about any of that you’ll enjoy the ambiance of it all. Keep in mind that the spa isn’t large, and many people like to come for a soak on weekends. Arrive right when they open to make sure you get to experience it without it having to wait.
While there’s certainly plenty to keep you occupied in Colorado Springs proper, there are also some incredible day trips to enjoy in the area. Here are some spots to add to your weekend getaway list.
The gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park (which is well worth a long weekend in its own right), Estes Park is known, among other things, for its famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in his horrifying novel The Shining. Don’t worry, though — nothing quite as creepy has happened here. And the labyrinth out front is actually quite easy to find your way out of!
The best thing about visiting Denver when you don’t live there is you don’t have to worry about the hassle of parking (and paying rent) in the state’s capital… but you get the opportunity to benefit from its array of museums, restaurants, and other cultural attractions. Denver is home to stunning live theater, diverse ethnic cuisines, and — of course — plenty of nearby outdoor activities to dive into. It’s all just two hours or so away from Colorado Springs; what are you waiting for?
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Colorado Springs that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Colorado Springs? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.