We live in a place that all kinds of people find desirable. Consider this: In early March, the venerable couponsdaily.com named Colorado Springs one of the "10 Cheapest Spring Break Destinations."
No beaches, no ocean ... no problem! We're "a great place to cool off from the heat," they say.
That may or may not be true. But what's inarguable is that there's plenty to do here, virtually any time you want to venture out. What follows is a rundown of some of the top attractions, divided by cost, with both visitors and newcomers in mind.
On the house
Free outdoor attractions abound, and atop the list is Garden of the Gods and the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center (1805 N. 30th St., gardenofgods.com). This city-run park was voted second-best among the world's parks on TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Attractions list in 2014, so if you've never been, you really have to go. Otherwise, Red Rock Canyon Open Space (3550 W. High St., redrockcanyonopenspace.org), North Cheyenne Cañon Park (3440 N. Cheyenne Cañon Road, cheyennecanon.org), Ute Valley Park (1705 Vindicator Drive, friendsofutevalleypark.com) and Bear Creek Regional Park (245 Bear Creek Road, goo.gl/mgzwh1) all are great for hiking and biking, as well as mammal-, bird- and plant-ogling.
The newly re-furbed and re-fabulized Manitou Incline (Hydro Street, Manitou Springs, manitouincline.com) beckons the hardcore with 2,500 steps up old railroad ties on Mount Manitou. On the other end of the county, in Calhan, a lesser-known treasure is Paint Mines Interpretive Park (29950 Paint Mines Road, goo.gl/FxfF2w), which traces human interaction with geology as far back as 9,000 B.C.
If you tend to travel with a canine companion, you'll need to stop by Bear Creek Dog Park (main entrance at the corner of 21st and West Rio Grande streets). Acres of varied terrain, a separate area for small dogs, and access to the namesake creek will show you why this place has been named one of the Top 10 dog parks in the nation. There are also two off-leash dog loops back at Red Rock Canyon, and a quick online search will reveal additional pooch-friendly sites all over town.
Moving closer to downtown, Memorial Park (1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave.) offers the Dr. Lester L. Williams Fire Museum, the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, and the state's second-largest skate park, open to boards, bikes and blades. In the heart of downtown is Acacia Park (115 E. Platte Ave., goo.gl/zC4K9z), something of a melting pot of Colorado Springs humanity. There you can watch your kids play in the locally famous Uncle Wilber Fountain (unclewilberfountain.org).
But let's go inside for a while. If you're in the downtown area on the third Saturday of the month, hit up the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum (818 N. Cascade Ave., money.org) and you'll get in free. (Otherwise, it's $5 per adult.) The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St., cspm.org) always is gratis, and through August has an exhibit on Charles Leaming Tutt and Spencer Penrose, two of our city's best-known benefactors. You can learn more about the latter at the Penrose Heritage Museum (11 Lake Circle, ppihc.com), which features artifacts and memorabilia from the history of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb as well as some gleaming historic carriages.
As long as you're doing historic tours, give Manitou Springs' Chamber of Commerce (354 Manitou Ave., manitousprings.org) a shot. You can pick up a map and tour the various mineral springs that give Manitou Springs its name, as well as find out the history behind those neat old bridges sprinkled throughout the town.
Decidedly more of the moment: Our Library 21c (1175 Chapel Hills Drive, ppld.org/21stCenturyLibrary) is the first of its kind in the U.S. The entirety of the Pikes Peak Library District is packed with activities, but 21C offers stuff that will blow your mind. 3D design and printing, online gaming, free yoga or tai chi, movies, sewing projects ... The activities and classes available change regularly, so check ppld.org to get a list of the latest.
Lot for a little
If you're down for spending up to, say, $15 a person, that opens up another world of options. Let's start with pocket change, which is all you need to buy some playtime at the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade (900 Manitou Ave., manitouspringspennyarcade.com). Skeeball, antique pinball, and video games are waiting to eat your coins and put a smile on your face. Just check first to see if it's open, especially outside the summer tourist season.
Buy some taffy and a dog at Patsy's Candies (930 Manitou Ave., patsiescandies.com) for a truly local experience. If you like the candy, head back to Colorado Springs for a factory tour of Patsy's, at 1540 S. 21st St.
Also on Colorado Springs' west side is Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site (3105 Gateway Road, rockledgeranch.com). During summer months, volunteers and paid staff turn the ranch into a local history laboratory, where interpreters guide you through life on the ranch during various time periods. You could also enjoy a different slice of history at the Ivywild School (1604 S. Cascade Ave., ivywildschool.com), the reclaimed elementary school building that now gorgeously houses Bristol Brewing Company, the Old School Bakery, and a host of other locally owned businesses.
Now, the next few attractions comprise a more contemporary and cheap "Americana tour," but they're no less fun for all that. You could, for instance, try roller skating at either of the Skate City locations (1920 N. Academy Blvd., 4575 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.; skatecitycolorado.com). Bowling at any of the Springs' alleys is fun, too. Purists who want just bowling and snacks may like Peak Bowl (2861 N. Prospect St., peakbowl.com), but those who desire some laser tag and video games, too, can try the newer Brunswick Zone XL Interquest (1180 Interquest Pkwy, bowlbrunswick.com).
Take in a post-megaplex, pre-Blu-ray flick at Picture Show (Citadel Crossing, 901 N. Academy Blvd., pictureshowent.com) for a buck-fifty, or wait until Tuesday and do it for half that. Or how about mini golf and batting practice? Look for the big Robin Hood statue when you're seeking out Adventure Miniature Golf and Batting Cages (6550 Corporate Drive, adventuregolfandbattingcages.com) or, for a newer place on the east side, try Legends Miniature Golf and Batting Cages (6655 Dalby Drive, legendsminigolf.com). Alternatively, you can watch the pros do their thing at Security Service Field (4385 Tutt Blvd., skysox.com), where the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers) play Triple-A competition for just a few bucks a ticket.
Kicking it up a notch, you can try Cave of the Winds (100 Cave of the Winds Road, caveofthewinds.com): The regular tour, with its rock formations and grottos, is pretty spectacular, but for a really cool time, try the lantern tour. (Not if you're claustrophobic — that would be bad.) Adrenaline junkies may also appreciate Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park (1750 E. Woodmen Road, goo.gl/XfQfWv), Trampoline World (780 Vondelpark Drive, trampolineworld.co) and Springs Trampoline World (2512 Airport Road, springstp.com), where trampolines and the like stretch as far as the eye can see. CityRock (21 N. Nevada Ave., climbcityrock.com), meanwhile, is the top spot for indoor climbing walls, lessons, competitions and more for both adults and kids.
If you'd rather watch monkeys do the climbing, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, cmzoo.org) is nationally renowned, and admission hovers around that $15-per-person mark. Plus, with your ticket you get free admission to the neighboring Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, which indeed is a monument to the American humorist.
Worth the money
In the same neighborhood as the zoo — both were developed by the aforementioned Spencer Penrose — is The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com), the 5,000-acre resort that strives to offer guests an "unparalleled experience." High-end restaurants, shopping, horseback riding, golf courses ... you can see where this is going.
If you need a little help getting into that financial sphere, you can drive about 90 minutes to Cripple Creek (cripple-creek.co.us) and enjoy the casinos that reside within the old Gold-Rush-era buildings, or in some of the new, state-of-the art ones. Table games and slots await!
If gambling doesn't trip your trigger, maybe squeezing the trigger at a place like Battlefield Colorado (120 W. Costilla St., battlefieldcolorado.com) will. It's a whole city block (three acres!) of urban laser assault fun, and you can get started for as little as 20 bucks.
Or head to the other end of the spectrum and make a similarly priced appointment for tea at Glen Eyrie (3820 N. 30th St., gleneyrie.org), in the gorgeous castle once occupied by William Jackson Palmer, Colorado Springs' founder.
Of course, no "attractions" list would be complete without mentioning Pikes Peak, and a cool way to get to the top. Ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway (515 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, cograilway.com) to the summit for the most spectacular views. The only drawback is that you are beholden to the train's schedule. But taking this ride is more enjoyable than white-knuckling it on the less-expensive Pikes Peak Highway, and the high-altitude donuts at the Summit House are worth it, no matter which mode of transportation you take.