Wondering what to do in Colorado Springs? Whether you want to explore outdoors, eat and drink like a local, or dive into Olympics history, you’ll find plenty of unique things to do in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In this post, I share the five best things to do in Colorado Springs for first-time visitors.
Additionally, you may wonder what to pack for a Colorado trip or where to take a day trip as you plan for your upcoming trip to Colorado Springs. Therefore, I suggest you check out my other Colorado posts for additional trip-planning resources.
Disclosure: This guide to the best activities in Colorado Springs contains some affiliate links. When you click on or make a purchase via one of these links, I may earn a commission. Of course, this is at no extra cost to you, and I only recommend products and services I have or would use.
Should You Visit Denver or Colorado Springs?
If you are planning a Colorado trip and debating between visiting Denver or Colorado Springs, it depends on your budget, interests, and mode of travel.
Denver is Colorado’s cultural hub with more art, museums, professional sports, outdoor dining, and craft breweries than Colorado Springs.
However, Colorado Springs may appeal more to adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts. With the awe-inspiring Pikes Peak as a backdrop, Colorado Springs offers abundant opportunities for hiking among red-sandstone rock formations at the Garden of the Gods. Plus, there are fun things to do in Colorado Springs for all ages and activity levels!
Personally, I recommend visiting both of Colorado’s two largest cities. Since Denver is about 70 miles (less than 1.5 hours driving) from Colorado Springs, you could visit Colorado Springs on a day trip from Denver. Or vice versa!
How Long Should You Visit Colorado Springs?
As I mentioned, you can certainly take a day trip to Colorado Springs from Denver. However, if you are considering traveling to Colorado Springs, you may wonder how long of a trip to plan.
I spent three days doing the five fun activities in Colorado Springs mentioned in this post. Therefore, I think Colorado Springs is perfect for a weekend getaway or a two-night stop on a longer Colorado trip.
If you can stretch your trip to three to five nights, it would give you time for other things to do near Colorado Springs, such as exploring neighboring Manitou Springs or taking a long hike.
Don’t forget you can also take day trips during your Colorado Springs trip to other Front Range destinations such as Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins!
Five Best Things to Do in Colorado Springs
When I visited in September 2014, I wanted to see Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods — two of the most beautiful places to see in Colorado Springs. Once I was there, I realized I could have stayed longer than two nights. There was so much more to explore, eat, and drink! During my 48 hours in Colorado Springs, I didn’t get to all the cool things to do in Colorado Springs. Yet, I certainly recommend the following fun Colorado Springs activities to future visitors.
See the Rocky Mountains from Pikes Peak
For the awe-inspiring view of the Colorado Rockies, blue sky, and “amber waves of grain” referenced in the poem-turned-patriotic-tune “America the Beautiful,” you should visit the summit of Pikes Peak.
Did you know that though “America’s Mountain” is perhaps the most famous of the Rocky Mountains, Pikes Peak doesn’t have the highest peak in Colorado? At an elevation of 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak is only the 31st tallest mountain in Colorado!
When I visited, I took the Pikes Peak Cog Railway from neighboring Manitou Springs. On the scenic ride up nine miles to the summit, I enjoyed views of golden Aspen trees, rocky terrain, and finally, distant mountain peaks. The railway opened in 1891, but the trains, track, and visitor center atop Pikes Peak are new as of 2021.
The new LEED-certified Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center features educational exhibits about Pikes Peak’s history, geography, climate, recreation, and conservation.
Once you are at the summit, stopping into the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center for a “world-famous” doughnut is an absolute must. The doughnuts are fried to perfection thanks to a special recipe handed down since 1916 for frying doughnuts at 14,115 feet. In addition to fresh doughnuts, the visitor center also has restrooms, free Wi-Fi, water-filling stations, bicycle racks, and a gift shop.
In addition to riding the cog rail, there are two alternative options to reach the top — hiking and driving the Pikes Peak Highway. It should be noted that the 13.5-mile hike up Pikes Peak takes experienced hikers 6-8 hours one way. Therefore, even with 156 turns along the way, driving is the most popular way to reach the summit. When weather permits, you can cruise down this majestic mountain on a Pikes Peak bike tour!
Before you visit Pikes Peak, you should be prepared for the change in altitude and temperature. I recommend staying hydrated, bringing water with you, and dressing in layers. For more tips on what to wear at Pikes Peak, check out my five tips for what to wear in Colorado!
Drink Handcrafted Cocktails and Craft Beer
With more than 20 breweries in the local area, Colorado Springs is undoubtedly a craft-beverage destination.
Explore the booming local microbrew scene on a Colorado Springs brewery tour of four downtown breweries. You’ll sample beer flights paired with food tastings at each stop for a total of up to 15 beer tastings! If you prefer cocktails over beer, a guided Colorado Springs cocktail tour will grant you VIP access to some of the city’s most unique bars.
One must-visit spot to drink craft beverages in Colorado Springs is the Ivywild School, an elementary school repurposed as a community center/indoor market. While you’re there, I recommend sitting on the patio with a classy cocktail from The Principal’s Office or a microbrew from Bristol Brewery.
In downtown Colorado Springs, try tasting the German and English influence in one of the 10-12 brews at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company for more locally brewed craft beer.
Explore Garden of the Gods
The majestic natural wonders at Garden of the Gods are stunning to see firsthand, making Garden of the Gods one of the best places to visit in Colorado Springs. Best of all: Visiting Garden of the Gods on your own is one of the best free things to do in Colorado Springs!
Take a silly photo “hoisting” Balanced Rock, walk the paved pathway between the gigantic red sandstone rock formations, go for a hike, bike the trails, or take a Segway tour.
You can also see Garden of the Gods on a Jeep tour of the natural landscape of Colorado Springs. With an entertaining cowboy as your driver and guide, you’ll also see Helen Hunt Falls, popular landmarks, and secluded, harder-to-reach areas with rugged terrain.
Dine at Local Eateries
Looking for places to eat in Colorado Springs? You’ll be sure to find some delicious food at local restaurants, convenient takeout options, and even outdoor dining on patios.
At the Wild Goose Meeting House, you can soak in the Colorado sunshine on the patio with a light and healthy lunch, locally-made coffee, Colorado craft beer, or a glass of wine.
For a hearty meal that pairs well with a microbrew, head to Phantom Canyon Brewing Company. You must try the Lager and Smoked Gouda soup!
You can also take a Colorado Springs food tour for mouthwatering tastings from five local restaurants while gaining insights into the area’s culture and history from your expert guide.
Learn How U.S. Olympic Athletes Compete and Train
The U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is where some of the country’s top summer Olympic and Paralympic athletes train.
On a guided tour of the grounds, you’ll see the shooting range, an Olympic-size pool, the weightlifters’ training area, and gyms. You can also browse Olympics artifacts at the visitor center and pick up your Team USA apparel at the gift shop.
Colorado Springs is also home to the United States Olympics & Paralympics Museum. Named the best new attraction in 2020, the 60,000-sq-ft museum houses 12 interactive exhibits highlighting Olympic history and American athletes’ achievements.
In addition to being one of the most interactive museums in the world, it’s also one of the most accessible with open captions, assisted listening, ramped exhibits, universal keypads, and full ADA compliance throughout the museum.
If you want to ski like an Olympian, sprint to a photo finish, or see the largest collection of Olympic torches in the world, purchase your museum entry in advance.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympics Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday – Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, at 200 S. Sierra Madre Street in downtown Colorado Springs.
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
I stayed at the Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa, in downtown Colorado Springs during my visit.
This four-star hotel is in a convenient location for walking to a variety of restaurants, bars, and breweries in downtown Colorado Springs. It’s also about a 20-25 minute drive from the Pikes Peak Cog Railway station in Manitou Springs, 15 minutes from Garden of the Gods, and five minutes from the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The Mining Exchange is located at 8 South Nevada Avenue and offers valet parking.
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More Colorado Springs Lodging Options
Luxury Travel: The Broadmoor, a five-star hotel, is considered the top luxury and spa hotel in Colorado Springs. For a luxury feel at a more budget-friendly nightly rate, you might consider the Lodge at Flying Horse.
Romantic Getaways: Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, a four-star hotel, is ranked as the No. 2 spa and luxury hotel and the third most romantic hotel in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor users. Colorado Springs also offers romantic bed-and-breakfast lodging at the Holden House 1902 Bed and Breakfast and St. Mary’s Inn, Bed and Breakfast.
Family Vacations: The family-friendly Cheyenne Mountain Resort offers children’s activities and has tennis courts and indoor and outdoor pools.
Read These Posts Before Your Colorado Springs Trip
If you are traveling soon to Colorado Springs, you might like these other posts I’ve written about visiting Colorado:
- Five Tips for What to Wear in Colorado — The weather in Colorado can change quickly throughout the day, and you’ll need different clothing for the variety of activities Colorado offers. Unsure what to pack for all that? My post offers a few tips to get you started packing for your trip!
- Four Cities to Visit on Colorado’s Front Range — Wondering what the best day trips from Colorado Springs are? Other Front Range destinations are great destinations for day trips or to add to a Colorado road trip itinerary.
- New Belgium Brewery Tour — I highly recommend this free brewery tour to any craft beer drinkers headed to Colorado’s Front Range. It’s in Fort Collins, but it’s totally worth the drive from Colorado Springs.
- Hotel Boulderado — Foodies, tea drinkers, and craft beer lovers, make sure you get over to Boulder while in Colorado. When you do, definitely check out the historic Hotel Boulderado. Staying in a historic hotel is not every traveler’s cup of tea, but at least stop by to see the lobby’s unique glass ceiling and dine or drink at one of the hotel’s three culinary establishments.
Browse the map below to pinpoint points of interest from this post!
Read More Travel Posts
- Things to do in Las Vegas for Non-Gamblers
- Five Things to Do in Boston on Your First Visit
- Top 10 Things to Do in Toronto
- 10 Culinary Experiences to Savor in Atlanta
- Five Best Things to Do in Naples, Florida
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida Weekend Getaway Guide
Planning a trip? Save this post to your Colorado travel board on Pinterest to easily reference again!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 4, 2017.
I’d love to visit Colorado! It looks so much fun and the food seams tasty
Such a well crafted article! Love all the recommendations. Will use them on my travels 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten
Colorado is a gorgeous state! I used to go to Boulder every summer. I have Neve been to Colorado Springs- but would love to go! Thanks for all the great insight and information.
LOVE THIS! I have never been to Colorado and I don’t know why, clearly by the looks of your photos it is just gorgeous! I need to go! Thank you for sharing this!!
Very helpful and great information, Erin! It sounds like a perfect two days. The hotel information was great- so helpful to have it broken down into different categories.
Our family loves Colorado and we’ve been to Colorado Springs several times. There’s always something new to find out for the next trip. Like Ivywild School you mentioned above.
LOVE THIS! My family and I are trying to get to Colorado this year! I am most excited about the places to eat hahah thank smoked gouda soup is right up my alley! yummmmmm
so many great tips! I’ve never been to Colorado but now I have a road map for when I do! thanks!
Love Garden of the Gods! Pro tip- go on a weekday- it gets crowded.
That’s a great tip, Alicia! I think I was there on a Sunday. It wasn’t too busy, but there are definitely other visitors in the background of my photos at Balanced Rock.
I'm Busy Being Awesome
Great post! That view from Garden Of The Gods is INCREDIBLE. I really appreciate your advice about how long to stay. I always wonder how much time I need to “get it all in” when I travel somewhere. It is really helpful to have an insider’s perspective in that regard 🙂
I didn’t want to overwhelm this post with photos of Garden of the Gods, but trust me, there are many amazing views in that park. It’s hard to believe admission to the park is entirely free! I also always wonder about how long to stay in a city to truly experience it. In Colorado Springs’ case, you need at least two nights, in my opinion. I stayed in Colorado Springs as a stopping point between Denver and heading into the mountains on my road trip, but you could also center a whole vacation around this city.
My husband and I have been talking about going to Colorado for what feels like forever! This was defiantly super helpful!
I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Kristin! I spent 10 days road tripping around Colorado, and it was such a fun trip. The views are stunning along the Front Range and in the mountains. Plus, Colorado is a great state for food and, if you like it, craft beer.