Palmer Park - A ridge of bluffs - Austin Bluffs - runs through the eastern side of Colorado Springs. Large swaths of these scrubby, cliffy hills were set aside as a city park, and the view from the top is outstanding. Try to arrive early in the morning, when the sun is at your back as you capture photos of the mountains and city. This is a good place to get an overview of Colorado Springs. Picnic tables are scattered about and some overlooks have interpretive signs to help families understand the view they are studying.
Garden of the Gods - From the view on top of Austin Bluffs, the tall, rocky shapes of Garden of the Gods Park are clearly visible at the foot of Pikes Peak. From I-25, take Garden of the Gods Road west and follow the signs to this National Natural Landmark. The geologic wonders make a spectacular foreground for photographers standing on the front deck of the visitors center and taking pictures of Pikes Peak. A network of trails, most of them the ideal length and difficulty for little legs, winds through the weird, fascinating rock monoliths. Horseback riding outfits and a campground are nearby.
Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site - Right across the street from the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, the Rock Ledge Ranch Historical Site offers families a living history of the Pikes Peak Region in a gorgeous setting. Various educational areas depict life along the foothills, from American Indians in 1775, to an 1860s homestead, an 1880s home and ranch, and finally, to a 1907 Edwardian Country Estate. Guides in period costumes explain how life was back in the day, and let kids try out some of the work and crafts that folks did way back when.
Air Force Academy - With the escarpments of the Rampart Range in the background, the Air Force Academy is arguably the most scenic of all our military academies. The rugged surroundings make a striking contrast with the sharp, clean lines of the Academy's architecture. Try to arrive in time to view the noon meal formation, when all the cadets march in straight rows to lunch. It is a show that intrigues even the smallest visitors. Personnel are on hand at the viewing area in front of the Cadet Chapel to answer questions.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - This zoo makes our Editors Picks list for one of the best attractions for families in all of Colorado. The animal park is built on the side of Cheyenne Mountain, west of Colorado Springs, and so has a vertical element unmatched anywhere else. The animal exhibits stretch up the mountainside, through boulders and trees, making an interesting viewing opportunity for kids. Children must learn to let their eyes adjust to the shapes in the woods, so they can pick out and watch the creatures. A paved road winds up through the zoo, and before they know it, kids have climbed up the side of the mountain. The angle of the road and the pauses for looking at the animals make the trip doable. The walk reveals panoramas of Colorado Springs and the Great Plains beyond. Don't miss feeding the giraffes and the chairlift ride up the mountain through the center of the zoo. Both are well worth the small extra fee.
The Broadmoor - This grand dame of Colorado hospitality is a worthwhile stop, even if you don't plan to spend the night. But if you can, spend the night! For years, The Broadmoor was the only five-star, five-diamond hotel in Colorado. In fact, it is the only hotel anywhere, ever, to receive five stars and five diamonds every year for as long as they've been handing out those awards.
That said, the place is accessible to regular folks as well as to heads of state. Members of the public are welcome to walk around and enjoy the setting, which quite frankly, is just beautiful. An elegant pink Italian Renaissance main building leads a tasteful parade of facilities around a beautiful lake against the backdrop of Cheyenne Mountain. Lavish furnishings, ornate architectural flourishes, and hand-painted ceiling murals decorate the hotel's interior.
Parents who need to feed the troops can make a reservation at several of The Broadmoor's restaurants, many of which are open to the public. For a quick snack, the Espresso coffee shop serves all hand-made ice cream, fabulous pasteries, and hand-made chocolates.
The staff and their service at the Broadmoor Hotel? Nothing short of lovely.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway - Pikes Peak inspired the song, "America the Beautiful" and its soaring form dominates the western side of Colorado Springs. A train ride to the summit is a great opportunity for kids. It lets them see the changing life zones as they ride from foothills to alpine tundra. They breath air that's thin, watch clouds blow by, and know that snow is likely any month of the year on top. And they can experience the spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountains majesty of America's Mountain for themselves.
Cave of the Winds - Icicles made out of stone, flow-stone that looks like bacon, dripping water and dank breezes, dark alcoves and passageways leading to mysterious rooms - what's not to like for an adventuresome kid at Cave of the Winds? Open 364 days a year, and always 54 degrees in the cave, this is an opportunity for kids to see what it's like inside Colorado Springs' mountains.
Related Articles at FamilyTravelColorado.com
Check out our site map for a well-organized list of over 130 articles on great Colorado vacations for families.