The good news about this part of town is that there's a lot to do. The bad news is, you'll need to drive. To hit any of these places, or more than one, you'll need transportation that caters to their scattered locations.
Not to miss is the U.S. Air Force Academy (usafa.af.mil), a lovely campus guarded by a vast swath of land. Visitors flood the Academy for sporting events, especially football, but you can tour some of the grounds year-round. (Hey, taxpayers cover tuition and fees, after all.) The Cadet Field House, Arnold Hall, Cadet Chapel and Falcon Stadium are open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Before the USAFA settled here in the '50s, rodeos were a much larger part of our identity. The annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo still happens with all its shine and swag, but the town keeps up the tradition in a historic manner, too, with the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy (101 ProRodeo Drive, prorodeohalloffame.com).
You can find more era history at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry (225 North Gate Blvd., wmmi.org). Did you know miners faced noxious gases, volatile dynamite and faulty mine shafts? Ore's neat, but harrowing deaths bring the crowds. Maybe not. Never mind.
Moving to a sunnier topic on our Old West tour, we reach the Flying W Ranch (3330 Chuckwagon Road, flyingw.com), a theme park of sorts with a chuckwagon dinner, songs by the Flying W Wranglers and a summer-only village to explore.
Flying W may be an awesome spot for kids at company picnics, but hot days demand modern technology. See Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center (3920 Dublin Blvd., springsgov.com/parks), a marvel of aquatic fun engineering. For similar water adventures, the city-run Wilson Ranch Pool (2335 Allegheny Drive, springsgov.com/parks), which has been closed due to budget cutbacks, may reopen this summer. Check the website for updates. Other forms of fun are available via Shotz Lazer Tag & Billiards (4474 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., shotztag.com) and paint-your-own shops like Paint the Town (7844 N. Academy Blvd., paint-the-town.com).
Kids also will probably appreciate a trip to Peak Ranch Alpacas (19850 Beacon Lite Road, Monument, peakranchalpacas.com). It's open from 10 to 4 on Saturdays, where you can get a firsthand look at the fuzzy animals and the "alpaca lifestyle," and buy many soft things in the boutique.
Nearby in Palmer Lake, Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (304 State Hwy. 105, trilakesarts.org) is home to galleries, a shop, studios and class space. It also hosts concerts, the occasional play and a grab bag of other events, year-round.
Farther south, GOCA 1420 at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., galleryuccs.org) is half the college's energetic gallery program. (See more on its twin, GOCA 121, here.) While parking at UCCS is both annoying and terrifying, the gallery is worth the trouble. Take, for example, last summer's HIVE show, based on the theme of cross-pollination. It included a giant wooden hive made from woven branches you could crawl into, as well as brainy works done in encaustic (beeswax) and a video piece. Not bad, huh?
Strangely, Locals Barbershop (5230 N. Nevada Ave., #120, localscut.com) encapsulates much of what the north has to offer. Haircuts don't work with the metaphor, but haircuts with a beer? That'll work anywhere. More to the point, Locals hangs artwork by area luminaries like Phil Lear, and hosts live music some evenings, and stand-up comedy here and there. Not exactly what you expected, is it?
Where to get your caffeine in these parts depends on what you're looking for. If it's the Springs' best coffee roaster (as voted by Indy readers) and a convenient place to peruse your newspaper or iPad, you'll want to hit the Pikes Perk (5965 N. Academy Blvd., pikesperkcoffee.com) up this way.
Away from the North Academy bustle, Coffee & Tea Zone (12225 Voyager Pkwy. #3; 6628A Delmonico Drive; coffeeandteazone.com) also offers strong coffee. But it may be best known for its various Boba (bubble tea) offerings, and an extensive cold-drink menu. Plus, there's Kairos Coffee and Tea (505 Popes Bluff Trail, ywamsf.org/kairoscoffeeandtea.html), an outreach program of Christian advocacy group Youth With a Mission, which offers some sweet (and free) wi-fi along with the liquids.
For a true escape, R&R Coffee Café (11425 Black Forest Road, rnrcoffeecafe.com) has some of the better baristas in our burg, not to mention a mud color commensurate with the dirt ringing the surrounding forest trees. This spot also offers full breakfast and lunch menus, and touts an "obsessiveness" with its pastries. Also, a little farther up into a Gleneagle shopping area lies Lomer'e Fine Coffees (1070 W. Baptist Road, 487-7788).
Moving a few miles north from there, you'll find some quality bean-slingers nestled into the cozy town of Monument. At Wesley Owens Coffee (1773 Lake Woodmoor Drive, 481-2145), one employee recommends Wesley's Caramel, a two-to-four-shot espresso beast. And at Serranos Coffee Co. (625 State Hwy. 105, serranoscoffee.com), you can see why its roasters are called upon to distribute beans to more than a few local spots.
— Bryce Crawford