48 Hours in Colorado Springs
As you’ve probably figured out by now, Colorado Springs has a ton of exhilarating outdoor activities for all ages to enjoy. I mean, you’ve soared through the air, hiked a waterfall, and wrangled up a good time like the cowboys of old. That’s why we’re slowing down the pace a bit today. But don’t fret: a change of pace does not mean a lack of excitement or fun. Day 2 of your 48 Hours in Colorado Springs is jam packed with one-of-a-kind wonders found only on the west side of the city. (Hence today’s title!)
It’s true, to get the full Colorado Springs experience, you’ve got to head out on Highway 24 towards the purple mountain majesty. But only so far until you reach Manitou Springs. There you’ll find a surplus of activities to partake in, from museums and parks to quaint eateries, with lots of friendly folks and scenic vistas along the way. Whether you’re a native Coloradoan or an out-of-towner visiting our beautiful city, you can think of this mini road trip as the cherry on top of your Colorado Springs sundae. So, what’re you waiting for? Grab your walking shoes and camera, and start exploring these westside wonders!
Eat with Intention
There’s a local favorite in Manitou Springs that’s been slinging farm fresh eggs and green chili for more than three decades now. They source their ingredients locally and cook everything to order. That means breakfast, lunch and dinner are always as fresh as possible, with a responsible carbon footprint. At Adam’s Mountain Cafe, the atmosphere is as pleasant as the staff and you’re bound to find a new favorite on their menu that will have you coming back for more.
Drive the Pikes Peak Highway
Journey to America’s Mountain
The 19-mile stretch of road runs from Cascade all the way to the summit of Pikes Peak and straight through the clouds. Ok, maybe it doesn’ go that far, but it does take you to the top of the mountain, which is a whopping 14,115 feet! While technically a toll road, the scenic, winding highway provides plenty of breathtaking views of the Pikes Peak region’s most notable natural wonders, including lakes, wildlife, and of course, those tree-covered peaks we like to call mountains. If you don’t feel like driving all of the highway’s 19 miles, there’s a complimentary shuttle service offered at two separate locations: Glen Cove, which is at the 13-mile mark, and Devil’s Playground, which is at the 16-mile mark. Both of these mile-marker pit stops are great places to stretch your legs, take in the fresh mountain air, and get you and your crew pumped to see the summit.
In total, the lengthy expedition takes about three hours there and back. But it may take a smidge longer if you, like the rest of us, stop to take pictures (the elevation sign is a favorite spot for snapshots), spend time in the gift shop, or stroll atop the summit taking in the beautiful views. (Which you should absolutely do, because it’s what makes the drive!)
As with most amazing attractions in Colorado, weather conditions determine whether or not the highway is drivable and if the summit and shuttles are open, so keep an eye on the weather radar before you head up.
Walk Around Manitou
Get to Know the Mountain Town on Foot
Known by locals as Colorado Springs’ eclectic neighbor to the west, Manitou Springs is a quaint location for a wide-range of activities, from sight-seeing, shopping, and lots of outdoor fun. Free parking and shuttles are available year-round, which makes it a lot easier for you and the family to explore the magic of this budget-friendly mountain town. Just be sure to bring your face mask and wear comfortable footwear and some sunscreen: On average, the city gets about 250 days of sunshine per year, making it the perfect place to stroll and soak in the sun. (Though it’s just as picturesque in winter too!) Walk about the art galleries and specialty boutiques downtown, stop by the Manitou Outpost for unique gifts, listen to some live music, or cool off and take a sip of the effervescent water from one of the many mineral springs that populate the scenic city.
Only 6.5 miles from Colorado Springs, Manitou is chock full of historical hot spots and must-see places to play like the Cliff Dwellings, the Cave of the Winds, and the Incline — just to name a few. And if you’re feeling more adventurous and outdoorsy, there are plenty of hiking trails, parks, and nature spots in Manitou that will satisfy your need to connect with Mother Nature. It’s true, there’s so much to do in Manitou, you’ll want to add another day to your trip!
Manitou is higher in elevation than Colorado Springs, putting it at a whopping 6,412 feet. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of hiking the Incline to avoid altitude sickness — oh, and bring a jacket, because it can get a little windy.
Wind down and dine on a made-from-scratch meal at Swirl. Their family-friendly atmosphere (complete with a patio and fire pit) is the perfect spot to enjoy some homemade flatbread or a sandwich. The folksy bar also has an impressive selection of spirits, from wine to speciality cocktails and everything in between.
Miramont Castle Museum
Over 150 years of Victorian History
Ever wonder what life was like in Victorian era Colorado? Well, you can marvel at the splendid decor inside the 30 rooms that make up the Miramont Castle Museum, a building which puts a spotlight on Victorian history in Colorado and beyond. The name of the castle — yes, it’s a real castle — literally means “look at the mountain” (did we mention we love mountains in Colorado?), but scenic mountain views are not all you get here. If visiting in spring or summer, the Castle Gardens have a plethora of eye-catching flowers and plants that provide the perfect backdrop for snapshots. But regardless of season, you can enjoy the stunning architecture and unique antiques at Miramont Castle all year round (and feel like a member of the gentry while doing so).
Located near the Incline and the Iron Springs Chateau, this must-see Manitou Springs attraction is rich in history. The deed for the Miramont Castle property dates back to the early 1860s. And in May of 1977, the castle joined the National Register of Historic Places, which makes it a bonafide national landmark! And when you’re finished touring the 14,000 square feet of the castle, you can borrow a fancy hat and indulge in a spot of tea or a homemade scone in the lush Queen’s Parlour Tearoom, a glass-encased room that provides a beautiful view of Colorado. Who knew history could be so fun and leave you feeling so fancy?
The Queen’s Parlour Tearoom hosts a variety of themed events all throughout the year, from Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day to Halloween, and even Christmas. Since the Tearoom is so popular, it’s wise to book a reservation ahead of time.
Ghost Town Museum
An Historical Ace in the Hole
Located on the corner of 21st Street and Hwy 24 in west Colorado Springs, the Ghost Town Museum is the perfect easy-to-access site if you’re fixin’ to go on a Wild West adventure. The best part? You don’t even have to leave the Springs. Don’t let the name fool you, though, the Ghost Town Museum isn’t actually haunted. You won’t find any tumbleweeds here either. Instead, you’ll find lots of history and hands-on activities for the whole family to enjoy. Housed in the building of a restored railway train workshop from 1899, the Ghost Town Museum takes you on an indoor trip through the Wild West. Each true-to-life display features a collection of 100-year-old historical treasures and decayed structures from the Pikes Peak region, all of which are preserved to look their age and give you the chance to roam the old west indoors.
From stagecoaches and wagons to the butter churn and the printing press, there are countless artifacts from the pioneer days that will keep you and the family occupied for hours. Kids can play with the old-fashioned arcade and nickelodeon, or practice their aiming skills at the shooting gallery. But your trip to the pioneer days isn’t complete until you do as the miners do: Grab your metal pan, and sift through silt and water in the museums’ panning areas. There, you can pan for real gold, sand, and precious minerals. Yeehaw!
The name of the museum refers to a once-thriving town that has been abandoned. In the pioneer days, after prospectors had successfully mined all the gold they could out of a town, they would abandon it and move on to greener– or should we say golder — pastures.
Looking for a pizza place that is as visually appealing as it is tasty? Pizzeria Rustica in Old Colorado City serves up quaint Italian village vibes along with its wood-fired pizzas. The 4-Star-Certified-Green restaurant is also ideal for locavores. They use only area-sourced ingredients for their flavorful and unique menu.