If you start at the top of the map, whether topographical or simply directional, you're probably starting in Palmer Lake. And if you're starting in Palmer Lake, almost no matter what time of day, you're probably starting with the Speedtrap (84 Hwy. 105, speedtrapcafe.com). Yes, it's a restaurant (see here) and coffee roaster, but it's also a running-club hub, a live music venue, a provider of comfy chairs for reading ... and generally, a little spot of Zen.
That said, it's not the only daytime attraction up this way. The Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (304 Hwy. 105, trilakesarts.org) contains galleries, a shop, artist studios and spaces for various classes. There's always something in the works, including plays, concerts and even comedy. It's open year-round, and is kid-friendly.
Of course, hungry kids might prefer Rock House Ice Cream & More (24 Hwy. 105, rockhouseicecream.com). In addition to getting an old-fashioned scoop, you can strike up a conversation and soak in the sun on their large patio. In the summer, the people-watching is pretty great, too.
One more stop is the Palmer Lake Library(66 Lower Glenway, ppld.org). The old building is small, and feels more like a venerated old bookstore than a library. Free wireless and friendly people make it easy to hang out and relax.
In Monument, shopping tends to reign supreme, as you can see on p. 47. But if it's a Saturday, you can easily spend some time with the animals at Peak Ranch Alpacas (19850 Beacon Lite Road, peakranchalpacas.com). Granted, they do sell gorgeous alpaca-fiber items in their boutique, but no one says you have to buy them.
A quick stop in Black Forest: The Black Forest Community Club (12530 Black Forest Road, bfcommunityclub.org) is often host to shows, readings and musical events. Make sure you check the site before going for a listing of specific events.
OK, then. Now we enter the north edge of Colorado Springs, a thriving area dominated by the U.S. Air Force Academy (usafa.af.mil), open to the public in most places. (Hey, you pay the kids' tuition, after all.) Popular among tourists and locals alike are the Cadet Field House, Arnold Hall, Cadet Chapel and Falcon Stadium, open daily from 8 to 6.
Just east of the Academy, on the other side of I-25, you'll find the Western Museum of Mining and Industry (225 North Gate Blvd., wmmi.org). A giant working steam shovel, ongoing and temporary exhibits, and a couple of resident donkeys make this a fun spot.
Heading into the Rockrimmon and North Academy area, it starts to feel more citified. So it makes sense that here you'd find Shotz Lazer Tag & Billiards (4474 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., shotztag.com), though you can still go highbrow and craft a work of art with guidance from the folks at Paint the Town (7844 N. Academy Blvd., paint-the-town.com). In nice weather, head to Wilson Ranch Park (2335 Allegheny Drive, springsgov.com/parks) to pick up a game of soccer, play tennis, dip in the re-opened pool, or soak in some sun while the kids play on the playground.
Want the kids to "cowboy up"? Take a tour of the nearby ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy (101 Pro Rodeo Drive, prorodeohalloffame.com), where admission's never more than $6. Or roll out to the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum (5867 N. Nevada Ave., themotorcyclemuseum.org), where the historic rides on display are truly a sweet collection of American and European cycle innovation. And that one's free.
You'll find Locals Barbershop (5230 N. Nevada Ave., #120, localscut.com) in this neighborhood as well. Get a shave, a cut, a beer and some culture: The place displays artwork done by local talent, and even hosts live music and stand-up comedy every so often.
Finally, we'd recommend dropping in sometime to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where nestled in the heart of the campus is GOCA 1420 (1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., uccs.edu), one of two university Galleries of Contemporary Art. (The other's downtown, and mentioned here.) You'll have to white-knuckle the parking lot, but the payoff tends to be big: Earlier this year, this GOCA hosted a 22-foot, meditating foam robot.