When we drove into Colorado Springs, we didn’t know quite what to expect. This was our VERY first time stepping foot in Colorado as a family. And wow, did this place exceed all my expectations! There is SO much to do here! You could spend days and days here…hiking, exploring, eating, shopping, climbing mountains, taking in the views, visiting parks, and so much more! I will highlight the activities we did in the two days we had, and include additional things to do at the end of the post (that we did not get to experience, but DEFINITELY a must if you have time). We will be taking another two day trip here in the summer of 2020, and I will update this post to include our newest adventures in Colorado Springs!
Day 1: Great Wolf Lodge and Garden of the Gods
Great Wolf Lodge: When we arrived in Colorado Springs, we first stopped to check in at our hotel, The Great Wolf Lodge. We’ve been to many of the Great Wolf Lodge hotels in the US, and this one tops as one of our favorites. The grounds and room were kept clean, staff throughout the resort was friendly and accommodating, and we loved that the location was premiere to basically everything Colorado Springs has to offer!
After checking in and exploring a bit (we saved the swimming for later in the day), we headed to Garden of the Gods!
Garden of the Gods: This place!!!! This trip was in the summer of 2017, and as I write this in 2020, my girls STILL talk about it, more so than the THREE Disney trips we’ve taken over the years. YOU MUST STOP. This can take up about half of your day, or more, depending on how much you want to explore and the ages of your kids, if you have any. This place is a natural, red rock playground for young and old. There are so many places to climb, explore, and enjoy the beauty of the rock formations. You can hike the trails (which are well-marked and paved), or if you don’t want to hike, you can even drive through it! Admission is free! Win!
Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark that is known for its rock climbing. The Central Garden area within the park is the most popular place for rock climbers in Colorado, and is also one of the world’s most historic climbing venues. People of all ages can rock climb here. Check out more about rock climbing opportunities: Rock Climbing Garden of the Gods
We didn’t do any rock climbing on this trip, but we did a fair amount of hiking! The park offers 21 miles of trails, and one of our favorite hikes was the Perkins Central Garden Trail. This 1.5 easy roundtrip loop trail takes you through the heart of the park; with the most gorgeous and tallest red rock formations on a well maintained trail.
We also hiked the Siamese Twins Trail. This is an easy 1 mile roundtrip trail, that offers gorgeous views of Pikes Peak. For a complete list of trails and the park map, check this out: Park Map and Trails
Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Museum
Don’t miss this stop when you visit Garden of the Gods! It is a world class museum that showcases amazing exhibit halls about the ecology, geology, and cultural history of the park; using world class technology and hands-on experiences.
Did you know that Colorado is known for its abundance of dinosaur fossils? As it turns out, Garden of the Gods announced in 2008 that it possessed the only known fossil in the world of a new species of dinosaur, named Theiophytalia kerri. You can see this dinosaur at the Visitor and Nature Center!
Want to take a quick virtual tour of the park and see some rock climbers in action? Click on this video that the Garden of the Gods created for its visitors!
Day 2: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd. Colorado Springs, CO
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a beautiful mountain zoo in Colorado Springs. This hidden gem can be overlooked for other tourist attractions, such as driving to Pikes Peak or Seven Falls. In our opinion, this is a MUST stop if you are in the Colorado Springs area. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sits along the mountainside; overlooking Colorado Springs at an elevation of 6,714 feet, and offers over 140 acres of animals from all over the world! When planning, allow for a full day here! There’s a reason why it was ranked one of the top 10 zoos in the country by USA Today!
The most vivid memory of our trip to Colorado Springs hands down was the African Rift Valley area of this zoo. This part of the zoo has one of the largest herds of reticulated giraffes in North America. We LOVED the up close animal encounter with the giraffes. This was such a fun and unique experience, especially for my girls, and I cannot say enough positive things about it! You pay 3 dollars for a head of lettuce (or 2 for 5), and off you go! If I’m being honest, my girls, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were initially afraid to feed or interact at all with them. However, after they saw me feed the giraffes and survive…LOL, they participated. The giraffes were so friendly! They would open their drooling mouths and stick out their purple tongues to get the food, which prompted my kids to say, “eww” a few times! Lots of laughing and giggling, too! Oh, please make it a priority to stop and take in the views…but more importantly, the giraffes while you are here!
When you arrive, check the park map for feeding times throughout the day. NOTE: When we returned from our trip, we would reminisce about our experience with the giraffes by checking in with the Live Web Cam. It was so cool to see the giraffes again, and we were able to relive our fondest memories of the zoo!
Note from the zoo for the live camera (4/6/2020): The hours for our live camera feeds and live chats have been temporarily changed while we are closed to the public. Adjusted hours will be daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. MDT. (Limiting the feeds to these hours allows our followers to see the giraffe during the day, and to see some of the other animals who shift through the space on most days. Eliminating nighttime live video provides better safety for our nighttime event guests, our staff and our animals.)
Check out other animals besides the giraffes in the African Rift Valley.
We also loved taking a ride on the Moutaineer Sky Ride. This ride is included with admission, open May 1st through Labor Day, and takes you to the top of Cheyenne Mountain. It offers breathtaking views of the animal exhibits and overlooks Colorado Springs. A surprise also awaits kids at the top! A fun park and rock wall provided over an hour of entertainment for our kids. This is a great opportunity for parents to rest their feet, take a break with the several benches available there, and enjoy the sweeping views! Walking around this zoo is hard work! With a decent amount of hills and inclines (you are on the side of a mountain, after all), you are sure to get in a workout!
Of course, all of the animal exhibits were absolutely AWESOME! In particular, we loved the Encounter Africa exhibit, an award winning exhibit offering views of hippos, rhinos, close ups with African elephants, meerkats (they were so cute!), and a walk along the sky bridge to view the exhibit from high above!
Something unique that we learned about this zoo is the variety of private animal encounters and tours that it offers. Though we didn’t get to do a private animal encounter or tour this time, you can get up close and personal with tigers, meerkats, lemurs, leopards, and even an African lion! Custom Animal Experiences
Adding the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to your itinerary is a must, with OR without kids!
At the end of the day on both days of our stay, we swam back at our hotel, which was only a 19 mile drive from the zoo. The resort provided hours of fun for our kids at the waterpark! We all agreed that the waterslides and lazy river were the best part!
I highlighted 2 MUST DO things in Colorado Springs, but what if you have more time to explore? You should definitely check out these additional things to do! In the summer of 2020, I can’t wait to update you on our new adventure. Here are some new things on our itinerary:
*Drive to the top of one of the most famous 14ers in the country, Pike’s Peak, or at least drive part of it. We have a baby who will be 16 months at the time of our visit, so I am not sure how he will do with altitude. We plan to drive to at least Crystal Reservoir, and explore that area. But even there, the altitude is 9230 feet. If you summit Pike’s Peak, you will have reached an altitude of 14,115!!!! Take it slow and drink LOTS of water. Need info on adjusting to altitude? Click here: Altitude Tips
*Visit America the Beautiful Park Fantasy Playground. Here, you will find a HUGE playground, picnic area and restrooms, walking paths, splash fountain, gorgeous Rocky Mountain views, and hiking trails. This park is located at 126 Cimino Dr, Colorado Springs
*Broadmoor Seven Falls: Known as the “grandest mile of scenery,” this area attraction is a magnificent series of waterfalls that sits within a 1,250 foot wall box canyon.
*Swim at Colorado Springs KOA Holiday, where we will be camping.
I found this 5 day Colorado Springs itinerary pretty awesome. It was created for families, but would cater to anyone in my opinion. It was written by Pike’s Peak Area Attractions: 5 Day Colorado Springs Itinerary
Here are the top 5 parks and playgrounds to visit in Colorado. This was a GREAT post!