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(Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy)
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy)

Colorado Springs: From mountain peaks to great breweries

From mountain peaks and great breweries, to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colo., has it all.  Without the crazy traffic of Denver, Colorado Springs delivers a pleasant experience with charm and picturesque views.

You may not have many opportunities to be on a mountain summit over 14,000 feet.  Pikes Peak gives you that opportunity!  Whether you choose to hike, drive or take the Cog Tramway, the views at the top of the summit will leave you speechless.  Please note, there is a fee to drive the 19-mile road to the summit and it’s a bit steep, pun intended, but it sure beats hiking all the way to the top.  The prices are $14 per adult and $5 per child with a car discount of $40, which includes up to 5 people. parks.coloradosprings.gov/ppam

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The Red Rocks in Colorado Springs are breathtaking. Garden of the Gods Park is a very reasonable sized park that can be visited in a day or further explored with more time.  Some of our favorite hikes and things to do are featured here in this in depth story: letsrv.com/?s=garden+of+gods. The first time we were in Colorado Springs, we passed on Garden of the Gods — I don’t know what we were thinking — so, make sure you don’t make the same mistake we did.  www.gardenofgods.com

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Focus on the Family is a Christian organization aimed at helping families thrive.  They offer services ranging from adoption help, marriage counseling and publish an incredible audio story called Adventures in Odyssey.  The group is based out of a beautiful campus in Colorado Springs and welcome people to be their guests.  Complimentary tours are offered during the week and there is an engaging children’s area to play and pretend in the welcome center.  Make sure that you don’t miss the bookstore or the three-story twisting slide — the the turn-of-the-century soda fountain at Whit’s End. www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/welcome-center.aspx

Where else can you find yourself standing in front of the country’s elite athletes?  The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs gives you just the chance.  The tour of the facility starts in the $8 million visitor center with a video presentation of the Olympic training process and then a guide will lead you on an one-hour tour of the grounds.  You just may see the next Olympic gold medalist working out.   There is a nice outdoor picnic area by a small pond if you choose to pack a lunch and enjoy the gardens at the center. www.teamusa.org/About-the-USOC/Training-Centers-and-Sites/Colorado-Springs/Visit

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Take a step into the academy that raises up some of this country’s finest young men and women.  Visitors have a lot to see at the Air Force Academy and can certainly make a day of it.  The facilities that you have access to are self -guided, but the visitor center is a great place to start.  There is a gift shop and education film about a day in the life of a cadet.  Make sure not to miss the unique chapel and stand outside of it to watch the cadets move about their days.  We even saw pilot training in progress.  Be aware, adults need proper identification to enter the grounds.  www.usafa.af.mil/information/visitors

Take a walk through Australia without the 9,000-mile flight by visiting Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The newest exhibit has emu, wallabies, tree kangaroos, and alligators.  Ever had the chance to feed a giraffe?  Now you will!  You can even have a very unique picture of the zoo from high above.  The Mountaineer Sky Ride is a chair-lift style ride providing spectacular views of the zoo. www.cmzoo.org

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Located 35 miles from Colorado Springs, Florissant Fossil Beds National Park is worth the drive.  We almost skipped this national park and are so glad we didn’t.  The drive out there was beautiful and took us through a few small towns in case you need a bite to eat.  Established in 1969, this national Monument is home to giant petrified redwood stumps and was set aside to protect one of the richest fossil deposits in the world.  A quick stop at the visitor center allows you to watch a movie about the history of the park and see many fossils on exhibit.  Just out the back doors are trailheads to the hikes where you can see redwood stumps so big that your whole family couldn’t wrap their arms around them.  www.nps.gov/flfo/index.htm

The historic old town of Manitou Springs is right outside the entrance to Garden of the Gods Park and lets you take a quaint little stroll through the quiet town. There are many places to get nestled in, including RV parks, bed and breakfast inns, hotels and cabins.  Next, get out and explore or grab a bite to eat — you really can’t go wrong.  Our favorite place to go was the Penny Arcade where you can play old fashioned arcade games and some are operated by nickels and dimes.  manitousprings.org

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If you are looking for an RV park to stay at, I’d recommend Garden of the Gods RV Park.  We really enjoyed our stay and loved how close it was to so many natural features.  Although very hilly, it is less than a two-mile bike/walk from the RV park and there is the Midland Trail that runs along the backside of the park.  Red Rocks Open Space is less than a mile away and is a great location for hiking and mountain biking. redrockcanyonopenspace.org

The park also allows quick access to the roads leading to Pike’s Peak and Florrisant Fossils National Monument. rvcoutdoors.com/garden-of-the-gods

Now, we know it isn’t just about seeing all the sights, good local food is high on the priority list of most visitors.  When it comes to good eats, you really can’t go wrong but here are three suggestions for places you won’t find anywhere else:

  • Ivywild School — Ivywild School is like no other eatery out there.  The original elementary school was built in 1916 and the Bristol Brewery and Pub moved over in 2012 along with a bakery, espresso/cocktail bar, marketplace and offices.  It’s a one-stop shop for food and brew, or to enjoy dessert and get some groceries from the marketplace for your next meal at home. www.ivywildschool.com
  • Mother Muff’s — This is a unique spot to grab an one-of-a-kind drink from the Bloody Mary back bar.  Whether you choose the fat kid mac and cheese or the Jiffy burger (yes, there is actually peanut butter on it) you will be sure to find something “interesting” on this menu. www.mothermuffs.com
  • Golden Bee — Golden bee is an upscale English pub famous for their fresh pub fare and endless wall of ales.  No meal is complete in the Springs without a great drink paired with it. Reservations are taken online and there is a casual dress code which can be found on their website. www.broadmoor.com/golden-bee/Blue star

No matter the time of year, Colorado Springs has so much to offer.  You are nearly guaranteed a sunny day filled with enjoyment.

About Jen Holt

Jen Holt and her husband Drew are parents to two young kids and travel the country in their fifth wheel nicknamed Big Moosey. The Holts have a passion for the outdoors and love visiting National Parks. You can follow more about the Holts adventures at www.free2breathe.com

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