While many Colorado towns were settled by miners and ranchers, the appeal of Colorado Springs, the second largest city in Colorado, was its climate and culture. In the late 1800s, it was known as “Little London” since it had many English tourists and settlers along with opera houses, fine hotels, and restaurants. Colorado Springs is still known for its thriving cultural scene to this day – it is home to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and the Pikes Peak Center for Performing Arts as well as a variety of museums.
The city sits at the foot of Pikes Peak, a 14,110-foot famous landmark which inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.” Visitors can drive, ride the cog railway, and even hike to the summit. Colorado Springs is also famous for Garden of the Gods, a free city park with stunning red rock formations that is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and especially rock climbers due to the unusual, steep rock formations found in the park.
Once you have seen the main attractions such as Pikes Peak or Garden of the Gods, there are still over 50 area attractions and lots of options to keep the kids occupied too.
Here are two fun outdoor activities for kids (and big kids too):
Flying W Ranch
The Flying W Ranch is an actual working mountain cattle ranch located in the scenic foothills of Colorado Springs. From Memorial Day to late September, kids will enjoy reliving life in the Old West at Flying W’s authentic Western Village, Chuckwagon Supper, and Western Stage Show.
At the Western Village, there’s a collection of 12 shops offering a variety of merchandise, including western “duds” for little cowboys, and a Blacksmith shop where you can watch a Ferrier shoe one of the ranch’s horses. Also in the village, kids can visit an Adobe Jail, the Old School House, and enjoy a fun train ride (only for kids!). An old-time drugstore with a soda fountain provides tasty treats for the kids.
After a tour of the old Western Village, the kids will have worked up a hearty cowboy appetite which can only be satisfied at the Chuckwagon Supper. The Flying W specializes in authentic western food and cowboy-sized meals.
Visitors can expect to eat a meal typical to one that might have been served on a cattle drive years ago (items like barbeque beef and chicken). Over a thousand people are served nightly under a picturesque Colorado sky (weather permitting).
After supper, the Flying W Wranglers sing and perform a Western Stage Show. The Wranglers have been together for over 60 years, making them the world’s second oldest cowboy band. They specialize in three-part harmony and sing about the American cowboy while entertaining families with their style of western humor.A day at the Flying W Ranch is something the whole family will enjoy.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to over 800 animals of many varieties. It’s America’s only mountain zoo and lies in a distinct mountain setting at an elevation of 6,800 feet.
The zoo mirrors the natural habitats of animals around the world, ranging from Africa, Australia, and the Asian Highlands. A unique feature about this zoo is the Rocky Mountain Wild exhibit, which showcases Colorado wildlife in its natural setting. Kids will encounter moose, mountain lions, Canadian lynx, North American river otters, grizzly bears, and bald eagles.
For a view of the entire zoo, the kids will love riding the Mountaineer Sky Ride, a chairlift-style ride which flies high over the zoo.
In “My Big Backyard,” kids can play on giant plants and garden furniture, climb “Old Gnarly” (their Colorado Habitat Tree), and crawl through a giant snake or a climbable mushroom. The petting zoo gives kids the opportunity to get up close and personal with small animals such as rabbits, guineas pigs, and a pot-bellied pig (well, the pig is not so small!).
The “Budgie Buddies” exhibit allows kids to walk among Australian parakeets and other birds.
Zoo Keeper Training provides a great educational opportunity for kids. An application is required and, once accepted into the program, kids will learn what it takes to run a zoo and how to take care of the animals and keep them healthy.
Other fun activities include riding on an historic carousel, a tot train or a wild-west pony ride.
If You Go
Find Colorado Springs Info at VisitCOS.com. You can also visit www.coloradospringsvacationguide.com and www.coloradospringsvacationguide.com/listings/colorado-springs-vacations-kids for more vacation ideas.
Flying W Ranch
3330 Chuckwagon Road
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road
Linda Steinmuller is a freelance travel writer and copywriter from Brooklyn, New York, who loves the outdoors and skiing, and visits Colorado frequently.
Special thanks to the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau for providing the photos featured in this article!
Photos by VisitCOS.com.