This March afforded me a trip back home just in time for a little snowy weather - something I haven't had the pleasure of enjoying (believe it or not, I DO miss the snow) except from afar, for the past 15 years, at least. Not a lot of snow, but just enough to give this CO girl a "fix". A blustery day, before it all blew into town, provided some beautiful skies around the area south of Denver, known as Colorado Springs. If you're passing through this summer, there's a whole lot o' shakin' going on, worth checking out!
Probably most renowned, first and foremost, for the United States Air Force Academy (located 14 mi. north of downtown Colorado Springs) - THE ACADEMY is open to the public daily, from 8am - 6pm. If you've never been, it's most definitely worth seeing - impressive and awe inspiring - and a big shout-out to Mackenzie, our friend and neighbor who JUST finished her finals and four grueling years, and has received her wings and is on her way to flying with the "big boys" in our Air Force - CONGRATS, Kenz! You ROCK, girl!
On this day, we travelled on past, and into the heart of The Springs, itself...lots of antique shopping and just "kickin' it" around town was on the agenda. Keep your eyes open as you travel through - The Springs offers up plenty of old town charm while being the bustling, second most populous city in Colorado (Colorado Springs is located 65 miles south of Denver).
Nestled at the base of PIKES PEAK, one of Colorado's 54 "fourteeners" (mountains that rise more than 14,000 - Pikes Peak stands 14,115 feet, and rises 8,400 feet above the city), Colorado Springs boasts the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, as well as NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), nestled in the side of the same mountain. We made a stop that day at the PIKES PEAK RANGE RIDERS MEMORIAL - a WAY larger-than-life sized bronze sculpture, of which my dad proudly possesses the much more manageable sized artist's proof. The Springs has a little something for everyone, outdoors or in, along with usually brilliant BLUE skies.
6 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, lies another "Springs"...this one, MANITOU. From their own website: "Manitou Springs offers its visitors a wealth of attractions—ducky shops, lively pubs and restaurants, picturesque old-timey architecture, oodles of well-groomed hiking trails, eye-popping scenery the equal of virtually anything in Colorado, magnificent weather, and crazy events, like Carnivale and the Fruitcake Toss, that give fun-loving Manitou its reputation for being one of a kind. Here, you get to meet true Manitoids! We know you'll enjoy your visit here." Could not have said it better - DUCKY, it is - charming, too! If you get to Colorado Springs, DO travel up the road to Manitou.
Which leads you right through town and into Colorado's most popular FREE park, GARDEN OF THE GODS. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding amongst some of the most breathtaking red rock formations you'd ever hope to see - 300 towering feet of formations!
All within sight of the majestic Pikes Peak...over 15 miles of hiking trails, if you're so inclined - some paved for convenience, most natural...all breathtaking (take your water - remember, the area is a mile above sea level).
The beautiful GARDEN OF THE GODS VISITOR CENTER is located at the entrance to the park (there's a cafe, in case you've worked up an appetite - restrooms, and it's all handicapped accessible). Plenty of parking turnouts throughout the park to accommodate those who want to strap on their hiking boots, or just wander about with a camera. Again, both the Park and Visitor & Nature Center are free and open to the public - check the website for hours.
And, if you've built up an appetite, the big neon sign back in Colorado Springs, might just have what you want...open since 1935, so they must be doing something right. Can't vouch for the food, as it was too early in the day to stop, but the large Navajo atop the building was WAY cool...even if it wasn't lit. And now that I've got a fire lit under me, Travel Tuesday hits Buffalo Bills' Grave, atop Lookout mountain, next week! Until then, safe and happy trails to you...