In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates was so inspired by the magnificent view of Pikes Peak, that she wrote the celebrated words to “America the Beautiful.” The glorious Pikes Peak Region indeed evokes spacious skies and purple mountain majesties. So who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in Colorado Springs exploring this majestic region?
Just an hour’s drive from Denver where I live now, this area is so easy to access, I’ve visited the region a couple of dozen times. More if I count the trips I made with my family, as a kid growing up in western Kansas. My grandmother lived in Colorado Springs during her later years, and I feel almost as if I grew up in the area.
On a weekend in Colorado Springs, you can satisfy your thrill-seeker tendencies as you zipline across the 1,250-foot-deep Royal Gorge or bicycle down the winding highway from the summit of Pikes Peak. If high-octane adventure is not your speed, you may prefer to indulge in fine dining, golf, or a spa treatment at the elegant Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Or do it all! It’s all here for the taking during your weekend in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region.
Where is the Pikes Peak Region?
The Pikes Peak Region encompasses a large area that includes several counties and towns. It typically includes Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, and of course the region’s namesake, Pikes Peak, also known as America’s mountain.
Map of Things to do in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region
Nuts and Bolts for your Weekend in Colorado Springs
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The air is thin here. Without plenty of water, the high altitude can result in a headache or nausea. You may want to try an electrolyte drink mix that helps aid in acclimating to the altitude. In addition to a good water bottle, essentials include a fleece jacket or puffer vest, sunblock, a hat with SPF, and lip balm also with SPF factor. I also highly recommend taking baby aspirin daily starting 3 days BEFORE you come to Colorado – it can help with altitude adjustment.
While the elegant Broadmoor hotel is reason enough to visit Colorado Springs, there is so much to do in the area, you may decide to stay more than a weekend. If you’re looking for soft adventure, ride a horse or Segway through Garden of the Gods or explore Cave of the Winds by going on a haunted lantern tour (remember to duck or you’ll conk your noggin). Your heart rate will climb as you ascend the 224 stairs to the top of the Broadmoor Seven Falls. Rewards are fantastic views and bragging rights. Or watch bull riders compete at the rodeo at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
This itinerary covers everything from where to have an IPA on an outdoor patio to where to raft Class III rapids. Adventure awaits. So, grab your pack and hit the road!
Day One Morning: Fresh Beignets, Spices, and Books
The first stop for your weekend in Colorado Springs is La Baguette French Bakery & Café, on East Pikes Peak Avenue, on your way to Tejon Street. Don’t let the plastic banner hanging across the entryway fool you. Once inside, you’ll find soft lighting, classical music playing, hardwood floors, and the aroma of fresh beignets and café au lait. Sit at a table near the window and plan your day.
One of my favorite shops on Tejon Street is The Savory Spice Shop. The aroma alone is worth stopping in this locally owned treasure. With 400 spices and herbs that they blend onsite, the fragrance will entice you to check out the exotic-sounding salts. (Ask for a sample) On my recent trip there, a friend from Toronto stocked up on Ghost Pepper Salt, which adds intense heat to any dish, and a jar of Hickory Smoke Sea Salt. The shop even has a recipe for Ghost Pepper Salted Double Chocolate Cookies.
I settled on a four-pack of sauces called Scorch Set, which includes four bottles of the hot stuff: Smoked Jalapeño, Smoky Ghost, Hot Thai Green, and Aleppo Pepper. My nephew loves anything scorching and will appreciate this gift. The box reads, “Some like it hotter.”
Tattered Cover, Colorado’s bookstore darling, opened its first location outside of Denver in June 2022. Located at 112 North Tejon Street, the store has 8,000 square feet of everything book lovers need and the service for which Tattered Cover is famous.
Day one/afternoon – Garden of the Gods, by foot, horse, Jeep, bike, or Segway
The first time I visited the Garden of the Gods I was eight years old, traveling with my parents and sitting in the backseat of our car with my grandmother and sibling. We slowly drove on the road near the soaring red sandstone formations. My dad, who was a wanna-be geologist, explained the geology, flora, and fauna to us, pointing out the iconic rock formation called the Kissing Camels.
But these aren’t my grandma’s gardens. Today, visitors can glide on a Segway, either with or without a guide, through the gardens with the wind and sun on their faces, and maybe raindrops, too.
Adventures Out West sets up clients with a Segway and helmet, gives a short training in the parking lot, and leads clients on a tour through the gardens.
On my tour, guides Daniel and Greg took time to point out the Kissing Camels formation, just like my dad did so many years ago, as well as explain other features of the park. Safety is their number one priority. A couple of times, when Daniel heard thunder, we pulled over and took cover.
The app on his phone reported thunder ten miles away, but we still waited it out, which I appreciated. On portions of the tour, we were on the road with cars; Daniel and Greg made certain that we followed all safety protocols.
Riding horses through the Gardens is also an option. Academy Riding Stables matches guests with a horse, guide, and everything needed for a leisurely ride. While I chose to see the gardens from a Segway, my friend decided to ride a horse and said it was a relaxing, mellow pace. The Visitor and Nature Center is an excellent place to learn about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area.
Broadmoor Seven Falls, a string of waterfalls, is another option for the afternoon. You may not plan to climb each of the 224 steps to the top, but once you start the ascent and acclimate, you might just keep going. Bring the essentials including a jacket and water bottle. The stairs will lead you to trails, including the most popular, Inspiration Point. Take a selfie at the top, and then ride the elevator down. Taking the elevator both up and down is also an option.
Day One Evening: Manitou Springs
Located at the base of Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs gets its nickname, Hippie Mayberry, from the chill vibe, street musicians, artists, parents pushing their kids in a stroller, and friendly folks. Everyone here says hi.
One option for dinner is Manitou Brewing Company where you can sit outside on the patio and sip one of the brewery’s beers or find a table inside, where it’s noisy, crowded, and lively. Just like a good bar should be. Their website reads, “Our beer is born from the pristine waters located near the top of the peak.”
The night I was there with a couple of friends, three of us squeezed into a table for two, but we were perfectly happy. One of my friends prefers wine to beer, a fact which she shared with the server who promptly delivered samples he thought she might like. She settled on Beelicious Blood Orange Honey Blonde. My High Ground IPA (6.9 %) paired nicely with the Bronco Burger with sweet potato fries.
I had never closed down a bar in my life, but that changed at Manitou Brewing Company. But only because they close at 8 p.m. We were the last ones leaving as the manager was taking down the outside sandwich signs. She smiled and said, “We hit the hay early here in Manitou Springs!”
Another option, with a completely different vibe, is Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama. It’s cheesy but in a fun way. You’ll have a choice of entrees in the restaurant, then go upstairs to the theatre where local actors play the parts of the villain and heroine. Audience members boo and hiss the bad guy, and ooh and ahh the fair maiden. The night I was there, the pianist tickled the ivories like a pro.
For dessert, Josh & John’s Homemade Ice Cream serves a gluten-free lilac scoop, made with taro root, named Purple Mountain Majesty, or a blend of brownies and chocolate called Moose on the Loose. There’s also Vanilla Bean, Almond Joy, and more. Ice cream is locally churned. This sweet treat gets consistently high ratings.
Cacao Chemistry Chocolatier and Patisserie, on Tejon Street, gives samples of chocolate bark, but you won’t want to stop there. They also sell Valrhona dark chocolate, French almond macarons, and gourmet cookies.
Day Two Morning: Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain
Start your day early to get to the top of Pikes Peak. It’s the best time to avoid most traffic, especially if you plan to bicycle down. Adventures Out West fits clients with a bike and helmet and high visibility vest for the two-hour ride. And, most importantly, they’ll give you tips as well as guide you as you ride down Pikes Peak Highway.
You’ll ride with staff in a Jeep on the way up, and before your bike ride down, you’ll have time to visit the newly renovated and aptly named Summit Welcome Center at the top. Here, you can learn about the area, and the gift shop sells everything from kitchen magnets to fleece jackets. And whatever you do – don’t forget to try some of their world-famous donuts at the top!
Other options are to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or hire someone else to do the driving and schedule a tour with Gray Line. You’ll be above 14,000 feet at the top of Pikes Peak so take some layers as it can be cold at the top.
If altitude is a concern, another option is the Manitou Cliff Dwellings to explore the architecture of ancient cliff dwellers. Take a self-guided tour of the archeological and natural history preserve and get an idea of how Native Americans lived hundreds of years ago. The day I visited, the kids loved being able to climb around the structures.
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is another excellent option for your weekend in Colorado Springs, and I recommend taking the 90-minute haunted lantern tour. Be advised: footing is uneven; there are stairs to climb; it’s dark except for the candle you will carry in a lantern; you will have to duck to avoid hitting your head, and it’s not the best idea for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. But, if you’re okay with the aforementioned, then go!
I loved exploring the dark tunnels and listening to our guide, John, aka Hippie, weave eerie and sometimes bizarre stories of the folks who originally discovered the caves.
Hippie was the best storyteller I’ve ever heard. He lowered his voice to a whisper when the tale got to a scary part to build suspense. Everyone in my group agreed we could have listened to him tell tales about the ancient rock formations and the cave’s history for hours.
Day Two Afternoon: Royal Gorge Adventures
The Travel Channel named ziplining over the Royal Gorge as the number one bucket list item in Colorado. I hadn’t planned to zipline over anything, especially the 1,250-foot-deep Royal Gorge. But after I learned that it was number one on everyone’s bucket lists, how could I not?
A friend said she would zipline across the gorge if I would. We each signed a waiver, stepped on the scales, (100 pounds is the minimum and 245 the maximum), listened to last-minute instructions, got strapped in, took a deep breath, and then…we flew over the gorge!
The ride was breathtaking. And fast. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
For another big thrill while in the Royal Gorge Bridge and park area – be sure to also check out the Via Ferrata. A Via Ferrata (Italian term meaning ‘iron path’) is a protected climbing route, built with a steel cable rail fixed to the rock, metal steps, ladders, suspension bridges, and zip wires. You are clipped in the entire time and have a special harness to wear in addition to special ‘sticky’ shoes.
Another option for the afternoon is to venture to the small town of Cripple Creek, full of rich gold mining history. The ride is beautiful, and you should plan on an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs. If you’re in Cripple Creek on a Saturday, take the trolley around town, where residents dress in period costumes and share the town’s history. They play characters such as Doc Susie who began her practice in Cripple Creek in the 1800s. She was the role model for the popular television show, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. You can also ride the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historic steam train and open-air ride that travels over four miles of tracks through the Cripple Creek mining district. The train is coal-fired and there will be cinders. Railroad buffs love this adventure.
Day Two Evening: Spirits, Pizza, Barbecue, or Fine Dining
One of my favorite companies I learned about on my recent visit to Colorado Springs is 1350 Distilling, a craft distillery that makes locally sourced distilled spirits. Their website reads, “We are military and civilians, family, and friends, interweaving threads of American Spirit that embody the 13 stripes and 50 stars of our nation’s flag. Each product represents a different service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders.” Sample their Leatherneck Whiskey, Fleet Admirals Barrel aged Rum, Five Alarm Cinnamon Fire Bourbon, Wingman Gin, Minuteman Vodka.”
1350 Distilling often has food trucks on site and has events such as Tours and Tastes, but it’s best to check their website. They also have a patio with splendid views; order some spirits and raise a glass to the Front Range and your favorite firefighter, military member, or first responder.
White Pie is a few blocks from the Mining Exchange and Kinship Landing. White Pie has a large patio and pizzas that include Sicilian and the Porky Porkorino, as well as appetizers like roasted cauliflower and a charcuterie board.
If you’re in the mood for barbecue and all the trimmings, make reservations at Flying W Ranch. The ranch sustained major damage during the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 when nearly all of the structures were destroyed. But, the family-owned ranch was rebuilt and opened again in May 2020. If you visit in December, check out the ranch’s cowboy Christmas.
For a special occasion, or if you simply love first-class dining, Summit at The Broadmoor is classy and refined, and they serve cuisine that equals the Broadmoor’s high standards. The restaurant is located about a block from the hotel, and you do not need to be a guest at the Broadmoor to dine at the Summit. Your sommelier and server will guide you through the extensive menu. Summit was named one of America’s 10 Best Hotel Restaurants by Frommer’s. The dress code is resort casual.
More Attractions for Your Weekend in Colorado Springs
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum is an inspirational, well-designed, and an excellent place to spend a few hours. The Olympic spirit prevails here, and you’ll find interactive displays, medals, costumes, and torches. Olympians and Paralympians visit often and are happy to pose for photos and share their experiences with visitors. USA Today named the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum as one of the nation’s Best New Attractions. Get your skip-the-line ticket here.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is world-renowned. People of all ages love this zoo where you can touch a giraffe and have other amazing animal experiences. You’ll find elephants, tigers, hippos, and more.
Whether you are a thrill-seeker or like to raft on calm waters, Echo Canyon River Expeditions is the company of choice. You can even purchase a GoPro video of your adventure after the trip. Echo Canyon has everything a rafter could need, from wetsuits to special river shoes. After your trip, dine at 8 Mile Bar & Grill which serves popcorn salad. (Try it!) Also a good choice? O’Dell IPA and burger with roasted garlic tomatoes.
The ProRodeo Hall of Fame displays the history and legends of cowboys and rodeo. Visitors can begin their tour in the Hall of Champions to learn about all things cowboy and cowgirl. The night I was there, I even got to meet the daredevil rodeo clown and take a selfie. Check the website for the rodeo schedule.
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
The Broadmoor is more than a place to stay, it has a number of incredible experiences you can do besides simply sleep there! If you stay at The Broadmoor, check in early, store your luggage, and explore the gorgeous grounds, flowers, lake, and views. The Broadmoor has enough shops to occupy you for the morning. You’ll find shops that specialize in jewelry, art, and fly-fishing gear. Broadmoor Fly-Fishing Camp 75 miles from the hotel is first-rate, remote, and still has the Broadmoor service standards. There’s also a shoe store that is popular with both guests and Broadmoor staff (think Ferragamo).
For a behind-the-scenes peek, call ahead and check with the concierge to arrange a tour of the kitchens. Tours generally require that you are part of a group and are offered mostly during the holidays, so check ahead. There is an additional fee, which ranges depending on the tour.
You can also look through the glass at the back of Café Julie’s and watch as pastry chefs work their magic. Café Julie’s serves casual breakfast and lunch, but the real gems are the chocolate delicacies they sell at the café. Everything from ganache to salty caramel truffles is made on site from the highest quality of ingredients. I didn’t even like caramel until I tasted the luscious, rich, honey-brown, amber goodness, made onsite and sold at Café Julie’s.
During the holidays, check out The Broadmoor’s 12 Days of Christmas cooking classes, a 12-day series with a 60-minute demonstration each day. For a modest fee, it’s a fun, festive activity. And, elegant.
The Broadmoor is the world’s longest-running Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond Resort. Here, you’ll have everything you could need on the 3,000-acre property, with casual dining (Café Julie’s or Natural Epicurean), fine dining (The Summit), the Spa at the Broadmoor, and your pick of spectacular golf courses.
The Mining Exchange Hotel
However, if you want to stay in the downtown area of Colorado Springs, I recommend The Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa, a historic renovated property. The hotel is conveniently located a block from Tejon Street, where you’ll find dozens of shops, bars, restaurants, and the recently opened Tattered Cover Bookstore. Leave your car with the valet before check-in time and explore the area.
Rooms at The Mining Exchange are quiet and comfortable, with exposed brick, large windows, and lofty ceilings. The staff is exceptionally friendly. When I was a guest at The Mining Exchange recently, another Denverite and I were determined to watch the Colorado Avalanche playoff game in the lobby bar, which was empty on a late Monday evening. The desk clerk came to our rescue when we couldn’t find the correct channel and even offered to procure a drink for us.
Soul Community Planet
Another favorite for a weekend in Colorado Springs is Soul Community Planet. This unique hotel is a nod to Schitt’s Creek – a remodeled old hotel given a second hip life. The hotel focuses on only locally sourced products and fosters an incredible community of locals and visitors.
Kinship Landing is a trendy, new, high-tech property with a minimalist vibe. Registration is in the same area as the bar. How convenient! You can even request a tent to pitch on your balcony and have a view of Pikes Peak. Kids love this option. Staff will even teach you “how to camp.” They provide a sleeping bag, tent, backpack, camping stove, food, and everything you need to sleep under the stars. The first night is on your balcony; you’ll spend the second night at a nearby campsite. This is a fantastic way for first-timers to get a feel for the outdoors without fear of failure.
How to Get Around During Your Weekend in Colorado Springs
You can fly to Denver or Colorado Springs – there are pros and cons to each. Flights to Denver International Airport may be less expensive than flying to Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, which is smaller and less busy than DIA. It would be best to rent a car for this itinerary. If renting a car is not an option, you can ride-share in Colorado Springs or arrange for transportation with a shuttle service, such as Gray Line.
Best Time to Visit the Pikes Peak Region
Fall (late September and October) is a glorious time to visit the Pikes Peak Region when the aspen are golden and temperatures are crisp. But, that timing doesn’t work for everyone, so pick the best season for you and your family, and just hit the road.
Guidebooks for Even More Information about Colorado Springs and Surrounding Areas
Check out these guidebooks for more tips and ideas about how to get the most out of your weekend in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region:
100 Things to Do in Colorado Springs Before You Die, by Kirsten Akens, lists everything from restaurants where you can “eat vegan” (Moxie) to where to “shred” (Memorial Park Skate Park). This book is easy to digest, and Akens has a gift for writing narratives.
Colorado Family Outdoors Adventure: An All-Ages Guide to Camping, Hiking, and Getting Outside, by Heather Mundt, has a ton of ideas for activities in the Pikes Peak Region and the entire state. Mundt is a third-generation Coloradan and it’s obvious she loves Colorado and the outdoors. I know Heather personally through the Society of American Travel Writers; she has the expertise, enthusiasm, and credentials to recommend places for people of all ages and fitness levels to camp, hike, and explore colorful Colorado.
For more information, visit Pikes Peak Region.
Meet the Author: Sherry Spitsnaugle has lived in Denver for three decades and is the author of four editions of Quick Escapes Denver, 25 Weekend Getaways in and around the Mile-High City. Sherry is a guidebook author, travel writer, wife and dog mom, first expressed her urge to explore at age four when she packed up her little red wagon and took off for an adventure— around the block. Today, she continues to fulfill her travel bug tendencies, exploring and writing about her experiences.
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