7 Unique Ways to Spend a Family Weekend in the Pikes Peak Region
The Colorado Springs area is home to both natural beauty and unique attractions. Photo Courtesy: VisitCOS.com
Although the Pikes Peak region is well-known for its namesake 14,115-foot mountain, as well as iconic attractions like Garden of the Gods Park, the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy, the area also boasts many lesser-known attractions that are just as fascinating. Add to that a seemingly endless list of restaurants, shops and outdoor hiking areas that will spice up your visit, and what do you have? A unique combination of experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Here are seven attractions to include in your upcoming weekend getaway to Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.
1. Wander through Geologic Wonders
Hiking through the 750-acre Paint Mines Interpretive Park will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a faraway land, despite staying within El Paso County. Showing evidence of human life going back as far as 9,000 years, it was named for the colorful clays that American Indians collected here to make paint. It features fantastic geological spires called “hoodoos” and gullies formed through erosion that allow you to wander through labyrinths of otherworldly formations and marvel at the spectrum of colors within.
With four miles of interlocking trails and interpretive signage, the park is open from dawn to dusk. But it’s best to go early in the day, as the park’s formations seem to both reflect and absorb sunlight in a way that can make temperatures rise by midday. It is located east of Colorado Springs, at 29950 Paint Mines Road in Calhan.
Learn more about Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
2. Space out at this Stellar Center
The Space Foundation Discovery Center is the region’s only space, science and technology attraction with the mission to educate and advocate on behalf of the global space community. With loads of interactive exhibits and displays, it’s equally entertaining and educational for kids and adults alike.
The center also features galleries displaying the Space Foundation’s collection of space artifacts and exhibits about the moon exploration, the Huygens probe, the Apollo lunar module, the Mars Viking Lander, Soviet and U.S. Space Suits, as well as Space Mission simulation and Mars Robotics laboratories. The center is located off I-25 and Garden of the Gods Road and is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Get more details about The Space Foundation Discovery Center.
3. Appreciate Old Money in a New Way
Did you know the largest museum dedicated to numismatics is in Colorado Springs? The American Numismatic Money Museum includes exhibits in three main galleries, allowing visitors to view fascinating permanent collections as well as timely rotating exhibits. You’ll view beautifully displayed currencies from ancient times to the present, including monies from ancient Greece, to the Renaissance, to early Continental Currency — and along the way learn about the history of the world through money.
The museum keeps things interesting for kids with interactive displays and a “Kid Zone.” It also houses one of the most complete U.S. gold coin collections ever assembled, including many one-of-a-kind specimens. It’s located at 818 Cascade Ave. on the Colorado College campus and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More about the American Numismatic Association Money Museum.
4. Answer the Call of the Wild
Approximately 80 percent of the 250,000 wolf-dogs born in America every year will likely die before reaching their third birthday, as most shelters and humane societies euthanize surrendered animals within 24 to 72 hours. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center had its beginnings in 1993 when Coloradan Darlene Kobobel rescued a wolf-dog by the name of Chinook and became determined to provide a safe haven for unwanted wolf-dogs. Eventually realizing that it was impossible to save every animal that needed rescue, the center evolved to also provide education in hopes that more animals’ lives can be saved through awareness.
The center’s tours will dispel any misconceptions you may have about wolves by educating you about their role in our ecosystem. And, yes — you’re guaranteed to get an up-close view of the majestic animals and a spine-chilling group howl at the conclusion of the tour. Keep in mind that reservations are required for all tours. The center is located at 4729 Twin Rocks Road in Divide, west of Colorado Springs via Highway 24.
Learn more about Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center.
5. Explore the Ancestral Puebloan Way
Let your imagination roam among the cultural mysteries of the Ancestral Puebloan tribe who inhabited the Four Corners area of the Southwest from 1200 B.C. to 1300 A.D. A rare historical treasure, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings represent some of the finest architecture of the Ancestral Puebloan culture throughout Colorado and New Mexico. Originally located in the southwest corner of Colorado near Mesa Verde, the process to move and install the ruins beneath a massive sandstone shelf here began in 1904 when the dwellings were collected, transported and then faithfully reassembled in dimension and appearance, finally opening to visitors in 1907.
Along with your self-guided exploration of the ruins are two museums featuring displays and dioramas that depict the daily life, tools, pottery and weapons of the elusive tribe who left this remarkable architectural legacy. The dwellings are located just outside Manitou Springs, and are open seven days a week during the months of May, June, July and August (weather permitting), from 9 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
More on the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
6. Take a Playful Trip Back in Time
Take a walk through arcade-game history at Arcade Amusements, where you can play literally hundreds of vintage games. It’s known locally as “The Penny Arcade” because, unbelievably, you can still play many of the games for that price, and because the layout is that of a true arcade — consisting of several small buildings spread out over a full block. Play antique games dating back to 1900, pinball machines from the 1950s to the 1970s and your video game favorites from the 1980s and 1990s.
There are more than 400 games, including Skee-Ball, pool tables, air hockey and more. Watch your children enjoy the same coin-operated kiddie rides you remember from the grocery store, as the arcade has more than 20 of them under a single pavilion. Change machines dispense quarters for bills throughout the arcade, but many of the games still take pennies, nickels and dimes, so bring all your change with you. It is located right on Manitou Springs’ main avenue on the 900 block.
Further information about the Arcade Amusements Penny Arcade.
7. Mine through Gold Camp History
In 1891 Mollie Kathleen Gortner became the first woman in the Gold Camp communities to discover gold and strike a claim in her own name. From the mine’s earliest days, passersby would often express an interest in touring the mine, and even then, they were indulged, riding an open ore skip down the 1,000-foot mine shaft where miners would take turns guiding them by candlelight to witness the extraction of ore.
Today, America’s longest continually operated gold mine tour allows visitors to take an (updated) elevator ride down to those same depths and learn what it was like to mine gold in Cripple Creek in the 1890s. Led by knowledgeable guides you’ll learn mining techniques of the past, hear the air-powered mining equipment, and discover gold veins. After the tour, you’ll even receive your very own gold ore specimen. The mine is located west of Colorado Springs, at 9388 Highway 67 above the town of Cripple Creek.