Due to its spectacular setting at the base of both the prominent Pikes Peak and the rearing Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs has been a popular tourist destination for well over a century. It offers a wealth of outdoor recreation activities, with sandstone sculptures, ruddy red rock formations, vast valleys and beautiful waterfalls.
While nature lovers will undoubtedly delight in all of the diverse and dramatic landscapes, Colorado’s second-largest city also has lots of other tourist attractions. Besides excellent museums on the region’s history and culture, it has the charming Old Colorado City for visitors to wander around. Other things to do in Colorado Springs include visiting the colossal complexes that are the Air Force Academy and Olympic Training Center – both of which you can take a tour around.
15. Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
Offering divine views over Colorado Springs and the pretty Pikes Peak Region is the beautiful Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Its charming commemorative tower and chapel are set in a scenic spot atop Cheyenne Mountain, surrounded by gorgeous grounds and gardens.
As well as being dedicated to, and named after, the American humorist Will Rogers (who sadly died in a plane crash), the site houses the tombs of Julie and Spencer Penrose. The latter built many of the city’s standout sights, such as Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Broadmoor Resort. Completed in 1937, the peaceful place has a range of interesting religious relics to check out in the chapel, as well as a five-story observation tower to climb.
14. Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Nestled away on the northwest outskirts of the city is the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, which offers an interesting insight into the history, heritage and culture of the Pikes Peak Region. At the living history museum, visitors will find restored buildings and costumed guides, who put on delightful demonstrations on how people once lived and hunted.
By exploring the scenic site’s teepee, log cabin, farmhouse and mansion, visitors can gain a greater understanding of the pioneers and Native Americans who inhabited the area for centuries. You can also help out with the cooking or cleaning, watch the blacksmith working, and observe farmers herding the cows and sheep around the farm.
13. Olympic Training Center
One of only two such sites in the States’, the state-of-the-art Olympic Training Center is where the nation’s best athletes train for years to win that glittering gold medal at the Olympic or Paralympic Games. Opened in 1978 in the center of the city, Colorado Springs’ colossal complex boasts everything from gymnasiums and a shooting range to a velodrome, sports science laboratory, and Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Visitors can take a tour around all of its facilities to see how the athletes prepare for physically and psychologically demanding competitions. In addition to seeing where they live, train and compete, you can stop by its fascinating museum, home to the hallowed Hall of Fame.
12. Seven Falls
A very pretty and picturesque place to visit, the sparkling Seven Falls lies just to the southwest of the city center. Made up of seven stunning sections, the incredible waterfall cascades down a craggy cliff in the South Cheyenne Canyon.
Towering to a height of 55 meters, it makes for a spellbinding sight. The rugged route to the foot of the falls is known as the ‘Grandest Mile of Scenery’ in the whole of Colorado.
Its popularity and proximity to the center of the city can cause it to get crowded at times. So consider taking the trail from the top of Seven Falls to the isolated and idyllic Inspiration Point, where you enjoy phenomenal views over the city.
11. Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Home to a diverse collection of artworks, artefacts and archaeological findings, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is well worth a visit. Located in a grand old granite building that was once the El Paso County Courthouse, it preserves and promotes the Pikes Peak Region’s cultural history.
Through its more than 60,000 items, visitors learn about the Native American people and pioneers who shaped the city and state. Looking at everything from mining and the military to trading, trapping and ranching, its interesting exhibitions are a treat to peruse, with photos, paintings and pioneer possessions also on display.
10. Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Set just to the southwest of the city is the spectacular scenery, landscapes and nature of Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Once a sizeable homestead and rolling ranch, its prairies and peaks have been protected as part of a park since 2006, with various outdoor activities to be enjoyed within its rugged reaches.
Due to the dazzling and dramatic scenery, many people go hiking, mountain biking and camping in its valleys and mountainside. In addition, a range of wildlife resides within its woods and meadows, with elk, black bears, and cougars to be spied from time to time.
9. Helen Hunt Falls
Lying within North Cheyenne Canyon Park is the popular and picturesque Helen Hunt Falls, which can be found to the southwest of Colorado Springs. Very easy and accessible to visit, it makes for some fantastic photos.
Named after Helen Hunt Jackson, a prominent poet, writer and activist, it reaches 11 meters in height, with great views to be had from above and below the falls. As it is the start point for numerous hikes into the canyon, it can get quite crowded in the summer months or during holidays. From here, though, you can easily go hiking in the stunning scenery that lies nearby.
8. Glen Eyrie Castle
Built in 1871 in English Tudor-style, Glen Eyrie Castle exhibits astounding architecture, with terrific turrets and a tower on show alongside magnificent masonry. The expansive estate’s gorgeous grounds and gardens only add to its aesthetic, and the picturesque property is now a popular place for retreats, conferences and weddings.
Besides staying in its comfy rooms, guests can take a tour of the historic home to learn all about the beautiful old building and its fine furnishings and fireplaces. Nestled to the northwest of the city, Glen Eyrie Castle is well worth visiting for its scenic setting and unique architectural style.
7. Old Colorado City
Once the capital of the state, Old Colorado City now lies entirely within Colorado Springs, having been annexed by the faster-growing city over a hundred years ago. While farmers, miners and ranchers once roamed its raucous streets, it is now tourists who come to enjoy its lively yet laidback atmosphere.
Packed full of art galleries and boutiques, the historic district is now a fun, family-friendly place to explore, with many restaurants and souvenir shops dotted about. Despite it no longer being home to saloons and bordellos, its streets retain their Wild West look and feel thanks to the old buildings lining its blocks.
6. Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Just a stone’s throw away from Old Colorado City is the gorgeous Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which is very popular among locals and tourists. Once a quarry, its ruddy rocks and ridges were turned into a public park in 2003, and there are now many picturesque paths to hike, run or cycle along.
Part of the same sandstone seam that runs through the Garden of the Gods, its fantastic formations and captivating quarry now make for a striking sight. Besides basking in the beauty of the scenery, visitors can also rock climb around its rust-colored rocks, with over 80 routes to try out.
5. United States Air Force Academy
Located just to the northwest of Colorado Springs is the United States Air Force Academy. Despite being one of the most important and prestigious facilities of its kind in the States, it is one of the city’s main tourist attractions, with over a million people visiting it each year.
On the massive military base, visitors can explore various parts of the complex, such as the Cadet Chapel and Honor Court, watching out all the time for the daring manoeuvres being pulled off at breakneck speeds overhead. At its Visitor Center, you can learn all about the history of the Air Force Academy, with the option of a driven tour around the base also on offer.
4. Cave of the Winds
An incredible place to visit and explore, the Cave of the Winds can be found just to the west of Colorado Springs in a mountain park of the same name. Formed over millennia, its captivating caverns are full of spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, with remarkable rock formations also on show.
Since being discovered in 1880, its colossal chambers, caves and chasms have been a popular tourist attraction, and terrific tours can take you through its sensational subterranean world. On top of spellbinding sights such as ‘Silent Splendor’, the park also offers some fantastic above-ground activities, such as obstacle courses, rock climbing walls and ziplining for visitors.
3. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Home to everything from alligators and Amur tigers to lions, leopards and orangutans, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo makes for a fun and family-friendly day out. Set just to the southwest of the city on the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain, it has the distinction of being the highest zoo in the States, lying at an altitude of 2,046 meters.
Since first opening in 1926, it has expanded, and is regularly ranked among the best zoos in the nation. In total, its expansive enclosures and exhibits house over 750 astounding animals, with almost 150 different species on show. Through interesting and informative displays and engaging hands-on experiences, visitors can learn all about its majestic mammals and their natural habitats and behaviors.
2. Pikes Peak
Rising dramatically above the city is the phenomenal Pikes Peak, towering to an impressive 4,032 meters in height. While the state may have mightier mountains, its scenic snow-coated summit is certainly the most popular and photographed, with thousands of people climbing it every year.
Originally – and aptly – named the Mountain of the Sun by the local Ute people, the prominent peak was later renamed after the American explorer Zebulon Pike. Such is its scale and splendor that Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write the patriotic song ‘America the Beautiful’ upon having basked in the breathtaking panoramas from its summit.
1. Garden of the Gods
With sandstone spires and red rock formations wherever you look, it’s no wonder that this popular and picturesque park is called the Garden of the Gods. Set in a scenic and serene spot just to the northwest of the center, it has a wealth of great outdoor activities to enjoy, as well as lots of lovely landscapes and stunning scenery.
Dotted about its sprawling confines are over 300 stunning sandstone sculptures for visitors to check out, with massive mountains to be spied in the distance. Among the most famous of its fetching formations are Balanced Rock, the Sentinel Spires and Steamboat Rock, making for some fantastic photos.
With epic hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing to be enjoyed amidst its unique formations and landscapes, the gorgeous Garden of the Gods is certainly not to be missed out on.