It’s hard to pinpoint one single reason people come to Colorado Springs. The second-largest city in Colorado is located at the base of the Rocky Mountains and offers so many different things to do it would be impossible to fit everything into one trip!
The mountain community has a small-town feel accented by endless thrills for adventure seekers and offers luxury experiences that can typically only be found in bigger cities. On any given day, you can stand at the summit of Pikes Peak, explore the ancient and mysterious Cave of the Winds, or go whitewater rafting down the Arkansas River.
Once you’ve washed off the dirt from an action-packed day of exploring, you can sit down to a first-class meal on a train while rolling through the scenic Royal Gorge Canyon and top it off with a nightcap in one of downtown Colorado Springs’ many underground speakeasies!
The city is so legendary for adventure that its nickname is “Olympic City USA,” which comes from the training centers and athletes who flock to the town to get in the best shape possible before the games. The natural geology of the area inspires peak performance levels, a challenge you can replicate while vacationing in the cliffs and inclines of the Rocky Mountains.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back getaway, there’s plenty of that to keep you busy in downtown Colorado Springs too. The city center is buzzing with shops, farmers’ markets, breweries, and trendy restaurants.
With so many different things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Colorado Springs for you. Stick to this Colorado Springs bucket list, and there’s no doubt you’ll have the Rocky Mountain trip of a lifetime!
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15 cool and unique things to do in Colorado Springs
1. Go Rock Climbing in the Garden of the Gods
A hike in the Garden of the Gods is one of the most popular things to do in Colorado Springs, and for a good reason! This city park is full of massive rock formations that will leave you wondering how these seemingly gravity-defying structures came to be.
Garden of the Gods was donated to the city government more than 100 years ago by a landowner who requested the land remain forever free and open to the public. Today, about two million people visit the park each year.
You could easily spend an entire day at the Garden of the Gods. There are 21 miles of trails to explore inside this National Natural Landmark. One of the most unique things to do in Colorado Springs is to experience this highly-visited park in a way that’s off the beaten path.
Visitors who aren’t afraid of heights can ascend some of the fantastic structures and get a breathtaking view from high in the sky. Climbing tours with equipment rentals are scheduled daily at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a total newbie, you can book a private climbing experience for a half-day or full-day climbing adventure that you won’t soon forget!
2. Reach the Top of the Manitou Incline
If you’re looking for a fitness challenge, you can’t leave Colorado Springs without attempting the infamous Manitou Incline. It’s technically classified as an “extreme trail,” but it’s really just a set of wooden steps that go straight up a mountain.
The higher you get, the steeper the steps, which means there’s some scrambling involved when you get closer to the top. The route used to be an old tourist cable car track and is now a famous climb that gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation in about a mile.
The track is located in Manitou Springs, an artsy town outside Colorado Springs. The drive from downtown Colorado Springs is about 15 minutes, and you’ll get a great view of the Incline as you approach it.
The daunting path of 2,768 stars can be seen from miles away. The challenge is not for the faint of heart but can be completed by most people in good health. Keep in mind the elevation will make this challenge even more difficult for people who have not yet adjusted to the high altitude in the Rocky Mountains.
The view from the top is worth the struggle. Once you reach the summit, you’ll get a beautiful panorama of the valley from above and an impressive reminder of just how far you’ve come.
The way back down to the ground is a 4-mile moderate hike down the scenic Barr Trail. The record time for completing the Manitou Incline is 17:45 minutes, but it takes most people at least an hour to reach the top.
3. Sip Craft Brews in an Old Schoolhouse
Breweries in repurposed spaces are incredibly trendy in Colorado, and the Ivywild School is one of the best examples in the state. The brewery, market, and event space are inside an elementary school that was constructed in 1916.
When the venue was reclaimed, the new tenants didn’t change its appearance much, so they left behind the traditional classrooms and restrooms to provide guests with a nostalgic experience that will bring back memories of 5th grade!
The school now houses a variety of restaurants and bars, but the main attraction is Bristol Brewing Co., a brewery created in 1994 that crafts a well-rounded collection of brews. If you’re not a beer fan, you can head straight to the Principal’s Office, a bar that serves up specialty handcrafted coffee and cocktails.
The Ivywild School also has a public square that hosts markets, festivals, and other special events throughout the year.
4. Zipline Past Broadmoor’s Seven Falls
If you love waterfalls, you’ll want to add the Seven Falls Trail to your itinerary. Water flows down a cliffside, creating not just one but seven different waterfalls in a row to form a 181-foot drop!
The Seven Falls rapids are runoff from nearby Pikes Peak. Most people take in the beauty from a trail of 224 steps built into the side of the falls, and the path is often called “The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado.” It’s the only waterfall in Colorado to make National Geographic‘s list of International Waterfalls.
Many people don’t realize there’s more than one way to see this natural beauty. Muster up the courage and take the Fins Course, a set of zip lines that soars over Seven Falls Canyon, zipping over steep drops and unique rock formations.
The adventure ends with a 180-foot rappel to the canyon floor to get back on the ground. The course is set up in a way that eases you into the action, as each zipline gets progressively longer and higher.
The ziplines are part of the Broadmoor’s Soaring Adventure. The complete experience guides guests through moderate hiking, rope bridges, and a controlled rappel.
Safety is the primary focus, so even before you get on the wire, there’s a 15-minute ground school where expert guides will fit you with a harness, helmet, and gloves. You’ll also get a lesson about the best practices to navigate the course carefully.
5. Treat Yourself to a Donut at the Top of Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, a 14,115-foot summit, is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is so popular that it’s often called “America’s Mountain.” The peak is highly trafficked because it’s accessible for people of all abilities with many different ways to reach the top. The view from the summit doesn’t disappoint, and on a clear day, you can see five different states!
The easiest and most common way to get to the top is by driving up the paved road or taking the Manitou and Pikes Peak Highway, a 19-mile route that winds up the mountain. The Barr Trail is a 12.7-mile uphill climb open to hikers and mountain bikers if you’d prefer to take on the challenge on foot.
Once you reach the top, there’s a special treat that’s become a crowd favorite: hot and fresh donuts at the Summit House! The warm pastries are created by a robot machine that can spin out 700 donuts per hour! They are the only donuts made fresh from more than 14,000 feet in the sky.
After your belly is full of delicious fresh doughnuts, one of the craziest ways to descend Pikes Peak is on a bike. Outfitters make this journey easy, they’ll take you up to the top of the mountain in one of their jeeps, and after a quick lesson, you’ll mount your own set of wheels and coast down the peak.
The trail encompasses 14,115 feet of descent, so this adventure is not for the faint of heart. However, it’s a must-do activity for cycling enthusiasts, as a speedy ride with the cool mountain air in your face is an experience like no other.
6. Feed Giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Sitting at 6,714 feet, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the highest attraction of its kind in the United States. The visitor pathway to see all exhibits heads up a mountainside, ending with breathtaking views at the top. The zoo is home to more than 750 animals, including 30 endangered species.
One of the most popular things to do at the zoo is to get a new perspective of animals at the facility with their one-of-a-kind encounters. The zoo allows visitors to hand-feed giraffes (and other docile animals) natural foods – like heads of lettuce for $5.
There’s a long list of different animal encounters to choose from, so you can even get up close and personal with some of the world’s most dangerous predators if you so desire! Some of the more unique encounters include meet-and-greets with porcupines, elephants, Amur tigers, and even grizzly bears.
To get another great view of Colorado Springs, take the Mountaineer Sky Ride, a chairlift-style open-air ride that will take you on a 7-minute journey up to the mountain summit for incredible 360-degree views of the valley below.
7. Explore a Haunted Cave by Lantern Light
Mountains are the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about Colorado Springs, but there’s also a majestic world to explore underground. Cave of the Winds is an ancient underground portal that, according to Native American legend, is home to the Great Spirit of the Wind.
Today tours are available for the mysterious cave, giving visitors a chance to peek inside 15 different caverns and view some incredible formations. The park also hosts haunted lantern hours, where you can explore the tunnels by candlelight on a dark and creepy route through narrow tunnels and low passageways.
Along the way, you’ll hear some of the darker folklore stories about the cave, including tales about missing children, ghosts, and Native American spirits. If you’re not a fan of the dark or tight spaces, there’s plenty to do above ground at this unique amusement park to keep you screaming!
Adrenaline junkies won’t want to miss the chance to ride the Terror Dactyl in the park, a sort of amusement park ride that utilizes the natural features of the Williams Canyon to deliver a terrifying experience.
The ride sits on the edge of a 200-foot cliff and launches riders more than 150 feet toward the bottom at 100 miles per hour. It’s essentially like sitting on a giant bench swing that makes a high-speed free-fall drop down the canyon.
8. Dine Inside a Rolling Restaurant through the Royal Gorge
Every great trip needs a meal with an unforgettable view. A trip on the Royal Gorge Railroad makes that possible in Colorado Springs, and then some!
The restaurant is on wheels and travels through one of the most beautiful canyons in the Colorado Rockies on a 1950s-era train. The locomotive takes four different trips a day, offering experiences for a wide range of budgets.
The two- to three-hour ride follows a route through canyons and along the Arkansas River. There are many different adventures to choose from, including first-class breakfast, lunch, and dinner dining, holiday-themed rides, and murder mystery-themed special events.
The train is a lot bigger than you might expect. It has five kitchens, four full bars, and even a mesmerizing Vista Dome car that allows passengers to see the sky and landscape above them behind curved glass. The bars on board are fully stocked with local wines, microbrews, and craft cocktails.
The train rarely cancels trips for weather, making a ride a must-do Colorado Springs adventure for even a rainy or snowy day.
9. Go Whitewater Rafting Down the Arkansas River
The Arkansas River flows through Colorado Springs and is renowned for whitewater rafting. The water travels through a glacial valley and alongside towering cliffs that offer both relaxing floating opportunities as well as a large number of thrilling rapids. The rapids range from Class I to V.
For the best experience possible, you’ll want to be realistic about your capabilities. Guided tours are available for both beginner and experienced paddlers.
If you’re craving a serious escape on the water, you can even book a multi-day adventure and head out on the water for several days, camping at pit stops and enjoying riverside meals along the way.
10. Walk in a Virtual Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
With a nickname like Olympic City USA, it’s no surprise Colorado Springs is a destination for many athletes. It’s home to the training center for USA’s Olympic and Paralympic competitors. The city sits at such a high elevation that training here naturally increases the body’s red blood cells and oxygen, allowing athletes to get an extra edge in their physical fitness for competition.
A brand-new 60,000 square-foot museum, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum celebrates the best athletes of all time in the United States. The building contains 12 interactive galleries that tell the entire history of the Olympic games – from when they were created in ancient Olympia to modern-day competitions.
One of the highlights is a 360-degree immersive digital experience that will put you right into the virtual experience of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with members of Team USA during the opening ceremonies. You can also visit the athlete-training gallery and try your hand at six different sports, including the 30-meter dash, alpine skiing, archery, goalball, skeleton, and sled hockey.
Team USA athletes were an integral part of designing the project. The facility is recognized as one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the country, created so that people of all abilities can enjoy and celebrate the Olympic experience.
11. Travel through History at Rock Ledge Ranch
If you’re a history junkie and visiting Garden of the Gods, the Rock Ledge Ranch is another place you should stop. The historic site is a living history museum that tells the area’s story back to when it was civilized by the Ute Indians. A former base camp dating back to 1775 is located right at the edge of the Garden of the Gods.
Today, historical interpreters dressed in period clothing give tours, offer demonstrations, and conduct hands-on learning activities. Visit this historical site, and you can sit inside an authentic teepee or the reconstructed homestead cabin of a pre-railroad pioneer.
Homes from later periods, like the 1875 Chambers Family Rock Ledge House and the 1907 Edwardian Orchard House, are also on tour. Another cool thing about this attraction is that it’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
12. Sip Healing Water from Natural Mineral Springs
Nearby Manitou Springs is a resort community just about six miles outside of Colorado Springs that is well known for its mineral springs at the base of Pikes Peak. The water below the surface rises through rock layers, becoming carbonated and picking up minerals and soda that produce different tastes.
Historically, the springs were sacred grounds where Native Americans drank and soaked in the mineral water as a healing process. Today the public has free access to these healing waters through hand pumps and fountains. There are eight springs open to the public, and each has its own distinctive flavor.
A non-profit, the Mineral Springs Foundation has worked to preserve the famous springs and offers walking tours every Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. All you need to bring is a donation and a cup to sample the different flavors from the natural springs!
13. Enjoy a Meal in Colorado’s Airplane Restaurant
Aviation nerds will love this unique eatery in Colorado Springs. Here, the meals are served inside a fully intact Boeing KC-97 tanker! The 1953 aircraft has flown worldwide but now stays on the ground to give visitors a Colorado Springs bucket list experience.
The restaurant can seat up to 42 people, and diners are surrounded by hundreds of pictures, memorabilia, and rare artifacts. Waitstaff dress as pilots, and much of the facility is set up like a museum. You can even hop into the cockpit to get a sense of what it was like to fly the massive aircraft.
If you’re craving more aviation history, the National Museum of World War II Aviation is a short distance away. The museum features 28 fully restored aircraft and 4,000 artifacts and historical documents from WWII.
14. Sip in Style at a Hidden Speakeasy
Colorado Springs has a thriving nightlife scene, complete with several hidden bars buried in the walls of former downtown estates and businesses. Some of them are hard to find using the naked eye, adding a little fun and mystery to the typical bar experience.
The entrance to the bar and restaurant The Rabbit Hole looks like an old subway stop, but head down the stairs, and you’ll find flaming cocktails and scrumptious small plates. Brookyln’s on Boulder poses as the front of a men’s haberdashery, but past a rack of suits, bartenders are slinging one-of-a-kind craft cocktails.
For the most authentic Colorado speakeasy experience, it’s worth taking the time to seek out The Archives, a hidden underground cocktail bar on South Tejon Street. There’s no sign signaling where it is, so you’ll have to ask around and do some detective work. The place is open late and serves small bites and a prohibition-era cocktail menu.
The most unique hidden watering hole in Colorado Springs is Allusion Bar, a place where you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get. The speakeasy has a revolving pop-up concept, meaning the pop culture theme changes several times throughout the year.
In the past, it’s been a Harry Potter bar, Stars Wars bar, and Jurassic Park bar! The drink menu is constantly changing to keep up with the current vibe.
15. Hike the Otherworldly Red Rock Canyon
If it’s not obvious by now, Colorado Springs is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. If you want to get out in nature, then going on a hiking or biking excursion in Red Rock Canyon is one of the coolest things to do in Colorado Springs!
While Colorado Springs is rich in picturesque scenery and hiking trails, Red Rock Canyon is actually one of the lesser-known places to explore in the city. The paths are ideal for people looking to avoid the crowds at the super-popular Garden of the Gods.
You’ll definitely want to bring your camera to capture this unique landscape. It’s hard to believe that nature forms the rock formations and beautiful vistas here!
Keep in mind this trail system can be scorching in the summer, so you’ll want to come with plenty of water, sunscreen, and hiking-appropriate clothing.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Colorado Springs. What’s your favorite thing to do in Olympic City USA?
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