There are really only two things you need to know to feel like a local. Actually, they're phrases.
First, when it rains or snows, look at the person who comments on the weather, and say understandingly, "Well, we so need the moisture." Then, one day later, when the temps have gone into the upper 90s and somebody complains, mollify them with, "But it's a dry heat."
Do that and nobody will know you weren't born with a chunk of Pikes Peak clasped in your palm.
In actuality, we recognize that maybe you're just visiting, or maybe you're new here and trying to figure out what to do with the family and friends who are coming to town. So here are some regional stops you might want in your repertoire, broken down into how long a visitor, or just you and the fam, might have to hit them.
We make no guarantee the weather won't wreck whatever you've got planned, but then again, at least you'll know what to say if it does.
Called America's Mountain by marketers and people who aren't from here, Pikes Peak (pikes-peak.com) is the biggest deal around in all sorts of ways, and there's all sorts of ways to see it. At various times of year, you can drive, hike, walk, bike or take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway (cograilway.com) up its 14,110 feet, or just watch the yearly scramble to the top via the second-oldest auto race in the country, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (see here).
Alternatively, acrophobics can stay on level ground and hit the hogbacks at Garden of the Gods (1805 N. 30th St., gardenofgods.com), a free park designated a U.S. National Natural Landmark in 1971. At the entrance, winding sidewalks curve through towering rock formations, while the natural landscape stretching westward offers twisting pines, tempting ridges, and all the hiking, biking and climbing you can pull off in an afternoon. For a more scholarly perspective, the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center sits across the street.
For a variety of one-off adventures, head indoors. First, the American Numismatic Association's headquarters lies downtown, so go there for the Money Museum (818 N. Cascade Ave., money.org) and its more than 250,000 items. A few blocks outside of downtown, the U.S. Olympic Training Center (1750 E. Boulder St., teamusa.org) trains America's athletes and offers tours.
Farther north, you'll find the U.S. Air Force Academy (2346 Academy Drive, tinyurl.com/USAFA-CS) kicking knowledge into the heads of its future flying second-lieutenants, with the sometimes-infamous Focus on the Family (8655 Explorer Drive, focusonthefamily.com) nearby. Lastly, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame (101 Pro Rodeo Drive, prorodeohalloffame.com) offers a fine place to get your Western on.
If all that smacks of a little too much effort, kick back at the Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com), one of the nation's most luxurious resorts and holder of the longest-running streak of five-star, five-diamond ratings. Whether you hit the Penrose Room for some of the finest dining in Colorado, or just walk the grounds, it's a pretty good time.
So much of Colorado Springs' history is still lying around in plain, visitable sight, and like a lot of the attractions listed here, can be traced all the way back to the city's forefathers.
For instance, not only did Spencer and Julie Penrose establish the Broadmoor, but they also donated paintings, money and the site of their home to be used for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org), now home to pieces by Chihuly, Sargent and O'Keeffe. Then the couple's menagerie became the largest private zoo in the country, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, cmzoo.org), which today shows off some 800 animals representing 200-plus species. The couple's grave (accessible from the zoo), humbly named the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, offers a view all its own.
It's a similar tale with the city's founder, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Quaker who variously donated, bequeathed or bought and gave land and buildings that are still attractions today. For instance, Rock Ledge Ranch (3105 Gateway Road, rockledgeranch.com) is a living-history re-creation of the 20th-century estate built by Palmer. He provided land for the beautiful Colorado College (14 E. Cache la Poudre St., coloradocollege.edu) campus, and his personal home, a 67-room Tudor-style castle known as Glen Eyrie (3820 N. 30th St., gleneyrie.org/Visit-The-Castle), stands today as an events-space and retreat for a Christian organization.
Outside of all that, history lives in places like the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St., cspm.org), the former county courthouse now housing artifacts as diverse as a bottle used by George Washington and a shard of the log cabin Abraham Lincoln grew up in. The McAllister House Museum (423 N. Cascade Ave., 635-7925) offers a look at the life of another early Springsian, while the Western Museum of Mining & Industry (225 North Gate Blvd., wmmi.org) shows equipment and artifacts common to the area in its mining-boom days.
More time for tranquility means more time for travel, so here are some spots that might take at least an afternoon to enjoy.
This beautiful city is best seen from its heights, and there are few better views than those from the top of Seven Falls (2850 S. Cheyenne Canyon Road, sevenfalls.com). Offering 181 feet of water in a 980-foot canyon, the attraction boasts seven waterfalls reached by 224 steps, the first one built in 1885.
Then hop in the car, because it's time for Cave of the Winds (100 Cave of the Winds Road, caveofthewinds.com) and its tours deep underground, towering views of Williams Canyon, and 1,200-foot zip-line. Farther up the highway lies the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (201 S. Fairview St., rmdrc.com), in Woodland Park, while even farther the Cripple Creek District Museum (500 Bennett Ave., cripplecreekmuseum.com) covers everything you've ever wanted to know about life as an 1890s gold-miner in the Colorado Rockies.
Animal-lovers should note two out-of-town spots: Serenity Springs Wildlife Center (24615 Scott Road, Calhan, serenityspringswildlife.org), and the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (4729 Twin Rocks Road, Divide, wolfeducation.org). The former is a nonprofit refuge for over 120 big cats — like lions, tigers, cougars and leopards — offering hour-long weekend tours; while the latter does pretty much the same thing for the sometimes-maligned canine.
Finally, adventure-seekers can find whitewater rafting, mountain biking, zip-line tours and helicopter fly-bys of all the natural attractions in Cañon City, or they can get specific. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad (330 Royal Gorge Blvd., royalgorgeroute.com) offers see-through-dome lunch and dinner cars to enjoy while the train winds its way through the famed canyon; while the neighboring Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (3011 E. Hwy. 50, abbeywinery.com) took an old religious institution and converted it into a place for sins of the (grape) flesh.