We may be a state of people that wear flip-flops and shorts in a blizzard, but there are still limits to what we can do once winter is fully engaged. Many of our area attractions are no different, with several of them hibernating through the cold months. But, like the wildflowers peeking through the snow, they come back to life as the days get warmer, providing fun new ways to enjoy Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region. Let’s take a look at six attractions that have swung open their doors for summer playtime.
Cruise Pikes Peak by Bike with Challenge Unlimited
Challenge Unlimited has been way ahead of the cycling tourism game for nearly three decades. These folks offer rides throughout the state, but the coolest by far is a guided tour down Pikes Peak—yeah, the 14er. Picture this: You’re delivered to the top of America’s Mountain (no, you don’t have to grind uphill for 20 miles) after a quick breakfast and then sent on a 20-mile downhill adventure guided by experienced professionals and culminating in a tasty lunch at the bottom. There’s also a Cog Railroad option!
Local’s Tip: Don’t sleep in—take the morning ride. Afternoons are dicey in the mountains and you could end up rained out if you wait.
Celebrate Christmas All Summer Long at the North Pole
It may seem weird to wait until summer for the thrill of hanging out at a Christmas amusement park, but the North Pole’s position up on the mountain makes it kind of a necessity if you want to be warm. This Colorado tradition is pretty unique as far as scenery goes. The fairy-tale and Christmas-themed rides are nestled in rugged mountain terrain that is a far cry from the hot pavement of its city counterparts. The usual carnival games (and foods) are available, plus cool shows like glass-blowing and live performances. Gift shops run the gamut from traditional souvenirs to ornaments and snow globes. And of course, you can’t have a Christmas park without Santa!
Official open date: May 18th
Raft the Rockies with Echo Canyon
White water rafting is a definite staple of popular Colorado outdoor activities. The heavy snowmelt, mountain terrain and numerous waterways provide ample opportunities for rafters of all skill levels to enjoy a day on the river. Echo Canyon offers several professionally guided tours that range from a calm and quiet “family float” along the Arkansas to a challenging and fun class III-V rapids that cut through the Royal Gorge. Traditionally offered in half- or full-day options, Echo also provides multi-day trips for those who want to take a longer trip and beef it up with camping and additional sightseeing.
Tour Cripple Creek & Victor via Train
Last year, the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad celebrated its 51st season of scenic rides through the historic goldmining areas west of Colorado Springs. This 45-minute trip via 100-year-old steam engine takes you past mines, abandoned structures and pristine mountain beauty accompanied by cool facts about the region and its booming gold rush era. The open-air cars offer unobstructed photo opps and the train has multiple pause points to ensure you get a quality shot. If you’ve got a train enthusiast in the family, not only will they love the experience of cruising on an old locomotive, they’ll discover all sorts of train items in the gift shop.
Photo by: Jessie Emslie
Official open date: Memorial Day Weekend
Mingle With Thousands of Bugs at the May Natural History Museum
As you first come upon the May Natural History Museum, you’re welcomed by an enormous metal West Indian Hercules beetle at the entrance (his name is Herkimer, if you’re interested), which is cool all by itself. But it doesn’t stop there. Once you get to the museum, you’ll be treated to one of the largest private collections of (no longer living) insects in the world. Spiders, butterflies, stick insects, moths — if you can name it, you’ll probably find a perfectly preserved specimen of it in one of the giant glass cases. Oddly enough, the bugs that once thrived in the tropics now rely on Colorado’s dry climate to stay intact, making the museum’s home outside the city a perfect spot for their final resting place.
Explore the Authentic Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine
Strap on a hardhat (and a coat) and get ready to descend 1,000 feet underground in an authentic Cripple Creek gold mine. The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour is a unique jaunt through an 1890s mine, complete with old equipment, preserved, natural gold veins, and a brief ride on an underground rail car. You’ll learn quite a bit about the evolution of mining and get an up-close look at the conditions miners worked in to extract gold from the mountain. Even though the tour is conducted entirely underground, the mine is roomy and open, meaning that those with claustrophobia will only have to soldier through the descent in the elevator before getting some breathing room.
With the exception of a few final snowstorms, winter weather is in its death throes here in Colorado. That means we can all start planning our summer adventures. It’s time to relish being outside in the warm sunshine experiencing cool sights and fun new sites—and any one of these attractions is sure to fill the order.
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