Earlier this year we were dreaming of a vacation. An actual vacation with activities and eating out and all that good stuff. Once Jon and I were vaccinated, we decided to finally plan one! We knew going to Colorado Springs with kids would be amazing since we went there on a weekend getaway without kids last summer. Since we didn’t get to do much in the midst of the pandemic last year, we were excited to explore more. I’m so glad we took the kids and I’m excited to share what we thought of each activity with you! And if you need some tips on surviving long road trips with kids, I’ve got you covered!
How We Planned
We decided to take just the boys with us on this trip. Graham is 6 and Foster is 4 and those seemed like great ages to be able to adventure and not run off the side of a mountain (I’m looking at you, Delta).
We let each of the boys choose one thing they wanted to do. Had we planned further in advance, we would have ordered a bunch of travel guides from the Colorado tourism department, but we didn’t think about that until the day before we left. We ended up picking up some brochures when we hit the state line and the boys were able to choose from there.
Beyond that, Jon and I were happy to be flexible and plan the next day before bed each night. We judged what we thought would work based on how much sleep we were all getting, how much physical activity was required and for how long, and a few other factors.
Where We Stayed
On our trip last summer, we stayed at a cabin in Florissant, CO. We knew that it would be the perfect place to take the family. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the amenities are great. The cabin is pure luxury, but the setting is the real stunner. Florissant is about 25 minutes outside of Colorado Springs and has gorgeous views of Pikes Peak. It’s also super close to lots of hiking trails, which we took full advantage of. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. If you’re going to Colorado Springs with kids, it’s a great option.
What We Would Do Again In a Heartbeat
A Colorado Springs Scavenger Hunt was a perfect way to start our visit. We love using scavenger hunts as basic guides to a new town and the kids have fun with it too! It was a lot of walking, but that wasn’t a bad thing since we had just spent so much time in the car.
Garden of the Gods is spectacular. Our boys were so excited to “climb a mountain”. Garden of the Gods has some really accessible trails for all abilities and skill levels. I don’t think we’ll ever go to Colorado Springs and not visit Garden of the Gods. The one thing there that we wouldn’t do again: the visitor center. It’s overcrowded and there’s not much in the way of exhibits. I’d recommend downloading or screenshotting a map of the park and just having it ready so you can skip the visitor center altogether. If you don’t have an offline copy available you may wind up without service pretty quickly inside the park.
Mueller State Park near Divide is a very well-maintained park and the visitor center has some neat artifacts (and clean restrooms!). The boys were getting pretty tired the day we hiked there, so we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked and we’d definitely go back!
Tunnel Drive Trail near Canon City has some gorgeous views and tunnels you can walk through! It’s a pretty easy hike and getting to see the river just below you and the mountains above is reason enough to go again.
Rainbow Falls in Manitou Springs has a great little trail that leads to the falls. During the summer it’s so refreshing to be near the waterfall and the water isn’t too deep for kids to play in without having to swim.
Rampart Range Road is a winding road up and down a mountain that goes from Woodland Park to Garden of the Gods. We drove it to give Jon the full 4WD experience in his new Bronco and it was so much fun. You wouldn’t have to have 4WD, but I definitely would have felt like I was tearing up my minivan on the road, so be aware of the capabilities of your vehicle. If you do decide to go, you’ll get some pretty spectacular views.
What’s Good to Do Once (but maybe not again)
Manitou Springs is a cute little town to wander around. We grabbed a burger and stopped by a candy shop and ended our day. It’s pretty touristy, but it’s a good place to find something to look at if you have some time to kill.
Royal Gorge is really cool. The bridge that you can walk across offers some pretty cool views of the gorge and takes you to an area with some other activities to do. Riding the gondolas from one side to the other is pretty neat too. The reason we wouldn’t do this one more than once is that it’s kind of pricey.
Cripple Creek Railroad is an open air train that travels out to some scenic spots and gold mine entrances and then back to the station. It’s cute, the information from the tour guide was interesting, and Foster looked super cute in his conductor outfit he begged for in the gift shop. If you’re going to Colorado Springs with kids, especially younger kids, this is a fun activity. It’s also much less expensive than some of the other train rides around town.
Denver! I should say that we would do this again, but would probably give it its own trip entirely. If you’ve got time to kill and need the kids to take a car nap, Denver is a great option. We found a great food hall for lunch then drove to the Capitol to give the kids a chance to get out of the heat. Our kids love going to Capitol buildings and the giant nerd in me loves it too!
From Denver, we took the scenic route back to Florissant. I would HIGHLY recommend taking the back roads because the views are amazing.
Skyline Drive near Canon City is a really neat drive along a ridge where the mountain drops off on either side. It’s pretty nerve wracking, which is why I think once is enough, but it’s fun!
What We Wouldn’t Bother With
The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park. The center is small and the admission price is not. The exhibits are outdated and basic and there’s not much for kids to do other than look at fossils and read about them. There’s a small children’s play area but it’s not very well maintained. We were pretty disappointed.
Pikes Peak… I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but hear me out. It’s the tallest thing around, so the views are good and the drive is fun, but the views from the other nearby mountains (where you can actually see Pikes Peak) are so much better. Also, depending on how much you’re impacted by the altitude, you might be miserable at the top (I was).
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are neat, but the parking is a major problem, they’re pretty pricey for how long you can spend there, and it’s pretty small. The gift shop is the biggest part.
Have you been to Colorado Springs with kids? What are your favorite activities?