Adventures In Colorado Springs
Legend has it that two surveyors came upon the area, and one commented that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” His partner replied, “Beer garden? Why, it is a place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods!”
These days, the nearly 1,400-acre park is a National Natural Landmark, owned by the city of Colorado Springs. The park provides year-round free admission and is packed with trails, educational opportunities, activities and events for every age and ability level.
“Garden of the Gods was given to the city by the Perkins family in late 1909,” says Bonnie Frum, the park’s director of operations. “It was considered a grand Christmas gift at the time.” A foundation helps raise the funds needed to maintain the park, which is the most visited attraction in the Colorado Springs area. “We’ve worked hard to preserve the beauty here,” Frum says. “Even so, we try to offer access to almost everyone, whether they want to ride horses, hike, climb or bike.”
Visitors can explore the beauty of this Front Range gem in any number of ways: Hiking on the 15 miles of trails on foot, riding mountain bikes or on horseback. A nearby stable offers hourly rentals for those without their own ponies. Twice a day, park naturalists share lore about the local history, geology, plants and animals in the area, along with other Colorado-themed topics. The naturalist walks are free, drop-in events, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. More adventurous explorers can climb the rock structures inside the park, after registering with the visitor center. During the summer months, 30-minute bus tours travel through the park, with narrators pointing out both well-known and hidden rock formations. A Junior Ranger program allows the youngest visitors to get in-depth knowledge of the area, as well as earn a reward for their efforts.
The visitor center also hosts daily nature presentations; these free, 20-minute talks explore the park from every angle, with topics including the local geology, ecology, wildlife and cultural history of the park and nearby Colorado Springs. February brings a popular Sunday afternoon lecture series, with past topics covering everything from the history of chocolate to live birds of prey.
For those who enjoy the big screen, a 12-minute multi-media presentation runs almost continuously; the show features lasers, four screens and time-lapse photography. The movie runs every 20 minutes in the summer and every 30 minutes in the winter, with a nominal cost. The Garden of the Gods Trading Post is an adobe-style building that houses a mind-boggling range of merchandise. Five-and-dime trinkets share space with t-shirts, Navajo rugs, Pueblo pottery, jewelry and mounted jackalopes.
Garden of the Gods backs up to Pike National Forest, so wildlife sightings are common. Black bear, mountain lion, deer, fox and coyote have all been known to roam in the vicinity. “We have about 60 bighorn sheep nearby,” says Frum. “And we throw a bighorn festival in February to celebrate. The funny thing is, they show up every year for their party.”
This is the highest zoo in the US, located over 6,700 feet above sea level. It is also among the few ones built on a mountain globally. It shelters hundreds of animals, some of which are endangered species.
Most of these animals stay in themed habitats like the Reptile House, Monkey Pavilion, the Asian Highlands, the Bear Grotto, and the African Rift Valley. You can also enjoy feeding and watching their extensive giraffe collection.
Climb Pikes Peak
Being the highest summit on the Rocky’s Front Range and among the biggest tourist attraction in Colorado Springs, visiting it is a must if you are an outdoor-activity enthusiast. It has lakes, cliffs, forests, and canyons to enjoy as you climb and hike along its nature trails.
To change from climbing and hiking, you can also enjoy Pikes Peak Summit House to enjoy high-altitude doughnuts that collapse into themselves if you take them off-site. Other attractions include the Pikes Peak Highway and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
Other Things To Do In Colorado Springs
- Visit the Air Force Academy
- Tour the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center
Hotels In Colorado Springs
Food & Drink In Colorado Springs
Visitors to Colorado Springs don’t have to go far for a sumptuous meal. The city has many fine restaurants, including a few below in the north end of town. Check them out next time you’re in the area to visit the U.S. Air Force Academy or hike in Garden of the Gods.
The Margarita At Pine Creek
One of the longtime restaurants is The Margarita at Pine Creek, which for more than 30 years has offered daily surprises to diners. The restaurant has no set menu. Every day, the dishes are different, based on what’s fresh and available — locally grown, if possible. The name sounds like a Mexican restaurant, but, rather, it reflects the architecture, reminiscent of an old hacienda.
Soups and salads are offered for lunch, as well as such items as butternut squash gnocchi with gorgonzola cream and the occasional Southwestern dish. Dinner includes three prix-fixe menus; diners can opt for three or five courses. There’s usually a beef entree, a seafood or fish entree, and a third that is crafted by the chef, often featuring poultry or wild game. Vegetarians are always accommodated, too. Almost everything is organic and super-fresh.
Owner Pati Burleson says: “If it were possible, we would use only things grown in Colorado. Eric (Viedt, the chef) is so interested in using organic. It’s all just better — and better for you.”
Margarita at Pine Creek
7350 Pine Creek Road
Colorado Springs, CO
Marigold Cafe & Bakery
The Marigold Cafe & Bakery sounds casual — and it is, until you look at the menu. The food is definitely upscale. You can get a scrumptious breakfast, lunch or dinner here for a reasonable price.
Try the amazing lamb or perfectly cooked and seasoned steaks or fish. Sauces are the specialty of French-born chef Dominique Chavanon, and the French bread may be the best in town, thanks to his wife and master baker Elaine. The owners oversee both front of the house and the kitchen every day.
Save room for one of Marigold’s delectable desserts, including the double or triple chocolate mousse tortes and a fresh fruit tart with pastry cream. Top it all off with a pretty impressive wine list, and you have a memorable dining experience.
Marigold Café & Bakery
4605 Centennial Blvd.,
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