Three Days in Colorado Springs

Snowy Pikes Peak over the Garden of the Gods.

Three Days in Colorado Springs

Three Days in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs is nestled alongside the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. While Colorado Springs--normally called "The Springs" by residents--is the second largest city in Colorado, it retains a small home-town feel.

Whereas Denver may seem like a glitzy big sister, there are many things to do and see in Colorado Springs. With its beautiful scenery, clean mountain air and days with filled with blue skies, it's the perfect getaway for three days or a long weekend.

COLO SPRINGS 

CITY LIMITS​

ELEV 6035​

Before you arrive... 

in Colorado it's more common to see city elevation instead of population. Colorado Springs sits at 6035 elevation.

In other words, unless you’re coming from a similar elevation, the altitude can definitely get to you!

That’s why it’s a good idea to take some time to adjust to the elevation.

On your first day, it's good to take time to get adjusted to the altitude.

Ways to stay well at altitude:

1. Drink plenty of water. 

2. Take a low-dose aspirin for a few days.

3. Limit dehydrating drinks like coffee or alcohol. 

4. Keep track of how you're feeling.

A headache is often one of the first signs of altitude sickness. So take your time and don't try to push yourself. Following some simple guidelines will help you to enjoy your time in the Springs.

Start with sites that don't require elevation gain and are easy to check out. Let's get started with Day One. 

Day One

Quad 1: West

NOTE: Each of these days are focused on quads so that you spend less time going back and forth to sites and spend more time enjoying the Springs.

The first place most visitors want to go is to the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods.  This free park was named the number one city park in the United States. 

Head over to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center where you'll be able to see an exhibit of the wildlife that inhabits this area as well as a short educational movie about the park.

There's also a gift shop and a place to grab a drink or quick bite before heading out to explore the park.  It also has one of the best views for getting that "just right" picture. 

Garden of Gods Visitor Center View to Pikes Peak Photo by Charlie Aligaen

To beat the crowds, you'll want to visit Garden of the Gods early in the morning. Summers can get busy and events (fun runs, bike rides, etc.) can make it difficult to find parking. 

There are many ways to view the park but the best is by foot. There's a primary path in the main area of the park which has concrete sidewalks. This area is accessible to all. There are also basic bathrooms here. 

Find a ranger tour and learn about the Kissing Camels and other rock formations. These are also free. 

After you've had some time at Garden of the Gods, you'll want to head over to tour the castle at Glen Eyrie. 

Glen Eyrie Castle

Glen Eyrie was built by the founder of Colorado Springs, ​General William Jackson Palmer for his family.  Today you can stroll the beautiful, peaceful grounds, take a tour or indulge in a delightful afternoon tea. 

Should you want to skip fighting the crowds for parking spaces at Garden of the Gods, you can reserve a room at the Castle and walk over to the park.

If you enjoy a nice hike, here are many trails to explore through the park. At Glen Eyrie, there is a trail that leads up to a waterfall. This trail may be closed so inquire if it is open. 

Chambers House at Rock Ledge Ranch

 As you enter into Garden of the Gods, you will pass Rock Ledge Ranch on your left. The Ranch is a living history site with demonstrations, building and events throughout the year.  If you come at the right time of the year, you may be able to spend the evening enjoying the fun event: Fiddles, Vittles and Vino. As this is a popular event, you'll want to reserve tickets before they're sold out. 

Feeling hungry?

You can take 30th Street and be in Old Colorado City in about eight minutes.  The main street is filled with local restaurants of various cuisines. Many also have patios where you sit outside and enjoy the warm Colorado sun. 

Looking for breakfast? Check out BonTon's Cafe.  

Up for great Italian? Check out Paravinci's Italian Bistro.

Tapas sounding good? Tapateria will hit the spot. 

Greek on your mind? Jake and Telly's has one of the best outdoor views of Old Colorado City. 

These restaurants are just a sampling of the quality choices you'll have around Old Colorado City.

After you grab a free parking spot, enjoy a stroll down main street. There are multiple stores where you can pick up that perfect souvenir of your trip.  

As you walk, you'll pass the Michael Garmin Museum and Gallery. Pop in and spend the few bucks to see his portrayal of gritty America in "Magic Town." 

From there it's a short walk across Bancroft Park to the Old Colorado City History Center Museum.

Day 2 

Quad 2: Downtown/Central

​Now that you're acclimated, it's up to you to decide if  you prefer indoor or outdoor activities. 

Staying downtown?  There's lots to see and do within walking distance if you don't want to drive. 

Pioneer Museum

The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum gives you a glimpse into the history of the area.  The free museum is open from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. 

When it's time for lunch, a quick five minute walk will bring you to Seeds Community Cafe—a nonprofit donation-based restaurant.

If you enjoy walking and architecture, stroll down Cascade and view some of the century old homes in the Old North End. 

This will bring you to your choice of two museums. 

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

The American ​Numismatic Museum is for those interested in money while next door, the Fine Arts Center, will appeal to art lovers. 

A fan of the Olympics?

Head over to the USOC Training Center. Take a tour and find out more about the athletes that come to train at the center.

Downtown offers some great choices when it comes to a place to have a drink, dinner or enjoy some evening entertainment. 

The Wild Goose Meeting House is a great place to grab a coffee or a glass of wine. Nights during the summer will often include some music by a local group.  Too packed? Head over to Rico's/Little Richard's. Each with its own unique vibe. There's also a toy store that is worth a visit. 

Want to eat at an award-winning chef's restaurant? Then make reservations for Brother Luck's IV (four).  Four is centered around four (not surprisingly) cuisines of the American West, Native American, Spanish and Mexican. 

The Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts as well as the Broadmoor World Arena (south of downtown) provide national and local performance opportunities. 

Day 3

Quad 3: Southwest

By now I bet you're ready to get outside again.

There's lots of options if you enjoy hiking. A couple of hikes that offer scenery are within the same area.  

Helen Hunt Falls

Let's start with Helen Hunt Falls. ​ These falls are on the way to the trailheads loved by locals. You can stop and take in the falls and hike this short trail. Or you can head on up to the parking area for Seven Bridges trailhead. This trail is fairly busy all year so go early.  

Not too far into the hike you'll come to nice shady spot. If you're already tired or you want to take a break, this is a great spot to do so. This is just after you cross the first bridge. 

If you go to the last bridge, that's 1.6 miles. Thus, the trail in and back would be 3.2 miles plus the quarter mile or so back to your car.

When you go up the trail, you'll come to a T. Go left and this continues the Seven Bridges trail. ​

Note: For any hiking, remember to bring water, wear good hiking shoes/boots, bring snacks and a lightweight jacket you can tie around your waist or stick in a backpack. Weather can change quickly in Colorado so be prepared. ​Thunderstorms and lightning are serious concerns so don't be above treeline in the afternoon if possible.  Colorado Springs is home to wildlife. Be cognizant  and respectful of this fact. Stay on trails and don't approach wildlife. 

Note that the porta-potties at Helen Hunt Falls are the last bathrooms. 

Forgot to pack your hiking gear? 

You could head out for a leisurely walk or bike ride along the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail. This trail spans 16 miles and connects with Fountain Creek Trail to the south and the Santa Fe Trail to the north. You can rent bikes at Criterium (north side) if you didn't bring one.

America's Mountain

After Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak is one of the top things visitors want to do when they come to Colorado Springs.  There are three ways to get to the summit of Pikes Peak. Drive, Take the Cog Railway, or Hike. 

Drive

If you're not using to driving in the mountains, this may be a bit intimidating. Learn to drive in lower gears instead of keeping your foot on the brake.

Car going down Pikes Peak roadway.

Mountain driving is not for the faint of heart. Some people (I'm not one of them!) have no issue with no guardrails or seeing only sky as you make turns.  

Drive safely but remember that other drivers are also coming or going on the road. Thus, you need to stay in your lane!

Note that on your return down from the mountain, your car must stop at the designated checkpoint. There, you can take a break or simply have your brakes checked. 

There is a fee to use the road so be prepared for that. Scenic pull-offs and picnic areas provide time to thoroughly enjoy your trip up and back down America's Mountain. 

Not sure you're up to mountain driving? Let someone else do the driving for you. 

Train

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

If you want to sit back and see the scenery, consider taking the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak. Along the way you may spot longhorn sheep or other wildlife that live on the mountain. You'll need to make reservations. 

Hike

If you're in top physical condition, hiking a Colorado "fourteener" is an accomplishment many pursue.

Barr Trail is a series of switchbacks that take you up to the summit. A trip of 26 miles, you'll want to start your ascent before dawn.

After you reach the top, you can take the cog back down or drive down if someone you know is headed up in their car. 

Barr Trail to Pikes Peak Summit

Finish your three days in the Springs with a visit to the world famous Broadmoor. With many restaurants to choose from, you might want something a bit more casual and fun like the Golden Bee, its version of a English pub.

When to Go:  Before 7:30 p.m if you want to hear, well, anything. After that, the piano gets going, the place gets loud and the sing-along starts at 9:30. So you can pick the time that works best for you.  Want a bit of both, go around 6:30 or 7:00, enjoy your conversation and then a bit of piano. Make reservations as the place gets busy. Plus, the Golden Bee will have its own fun souvenir you can take home with you. 

Ivywild School ~ Home of Bristol Brewery

Another spot that is great after a hike can be found at the Ivywild School. This updated school building is now the home of Bristol's Brewery. Prefer a cocktail over a beer? Walk down the hall to the Principal's Office. There you can get a drink made with award-winning whiskey from Distillery 291. 

Finally, end your three days in Colorado Springs with a show at the Millibo Theater. It's a quick walk across the parking lot from Ivywild School. 

Colorado Springs has a lot to offer. Like most major cities, three days gives you a taste of all it has to offer. After that taste, you'll want to plan your next trip back to experience more of the great outdoors, fun events and national award-winning local food and beverages.

Colorado Springs hosts many events throughout the year. From the Balloon Festival over Labor Day to numerous races of all kinds, check out the events and holiday calendar on Visit Colorado Springs.

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About the Author Vikki Walton

Vikki Walton wishes she could come up with a great third person opening hook. Alas, she can't. Instead, the Girls Wanta Go Founder is a World Traveler and Work Quilter. She's a writer, speaker, instructor and house/pet sitter. Her introvert side loves nothing better than to hike, garden or cuddle up with a great book. Her extrovert side loves telling people what to do through the written and spoken word.