Things to Do in Colorado Springs with Kids / Colorado Springs Kids Activities
Growing up in Colorado Springs, I don’t remember ever being bored. I lived a block from the Broadmoor Hotel and walked over frequently, reading comic books in the drug store, playing at the playground or grabbing day-old bread from the Tavern kitchen and feeding ducks at the lake. If I wasn’t at the hotel I was hiking, riding my bike or skiing. Summers meant camp in the mountains.
I’m now based in California, but I take my kids back to Colorado Springs several times a year. The weather is perfect in the summer, the mountains are beautiful, and it’s still a great place for kids to play and explore. Plus it’s a destination that easily combines with visits to Colorado’s mountain towns, with Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen all less than three hours away (in the summer), and Denver only an hour away. What are our favorite Colorado Springs kids activities?
The Broadmoor Hotel
I usually don’t start activity posts talking about hotels, but to me Colorado Springs and The Broadmoor are closely linked, and it’s one of the world’s great destination hotels. We spend as much time as we can at the Broadmoor. The location is stunning, right at the base of the Rockies, and there’s a lot to do even for non-guests. If we’re not guests, our kids run around the lake, play at the playground and jump off the boulders around the property. When we’re guests we add in paddle boating on the lake and falconry, and spend hours at the amazing pool and on the waterslides. We dine all the time at Ristorante del Lago and the Golden Bee and go bowling at PLAY. In winter the hotel wraps its hundreds (thousands?) of trees in Christmas lights and the effect is stunning, with the light reflecting in the lake and off the snow – a perfect setting for hot chocolates. Or we’ll go over just for ice cream at Cafe Julie’s.
This past summer we also spent time at the Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp, one of its Wilderness Experiences, at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. Cloud Camp is a splurge, but it’s amazing and unlike anywhere else we’ve been. Plus it’s super kid-friendly, with branding, archery, games, crafts, horseback riding, corn hole, s’mores at the campfire and more.
Roughly 15 minutes from the Broadmoor is the town of Manitou Springs. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway leaves from there (below), but beyond that it’s a fun, if slightly touristy, town to spend an hour or two in. Head to the penny arcade, little-changed from when I was growing up, or get beignets or shave ice as you’re walking around. And my kids love the Mountainside Skate Shop (741 Manitou Ave) – they’ve all purchased skateboards there.
The Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Pikes Peak is visible from throughout Colorado Springs and, as 14,000 ft mountains go, it’s very easy to make it to the top. You can drive to the summit, hike (ok, that’s more difficult) or take the Cog Railway up. I highly recommend the train. It’s 9.8 miles from Manitou to the top (roughly an hour), you have 45 minutes or so to walk around at the summit and get donuts, and then it’s an hour back down. The ride is gorgeous and the conductor is entertaining.
Hiking in Cheyenne Canyon
Cheyenne Canyon is one of my favorite places anywhere to hike, with gorgeous views and kid-friendly trails. Mount Cutler Trail passes by Seven Falls and ends at a rocky plateau with a view over Colorado Springs. Helen Hunt Falls Trail is short but with fun rock hopping and plenty of water cascading down the enormous boulders. Or drive to the end, park and walk up Gold Camp Road past Aspen groves and the collapsed tunnels that once linked Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. Summer and fall offer the best hiking, but the trails are open year-round. Just be aware that they can be icy in the shade in the winter.
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods park was a gift to the city of Colorado Springs over 100 years ago and has been open to the public ever since. The park is filled with towering sandstone rocks and has paths that wind through the prettiest areas – perfect for a family excursion, even with strollers. The best time to visit is in the evening when the crowds have disappeared, the daily thunderstorms have moved through and the rocks are illuminated by the sunset. And Pikes Peak is perfectly framed behind the park. As you’re driving in, or from the visitor’s center, have your kids try to find the Kissing Camels rock formation. And be sure to drive out of the park past Balanced Rock, always a good photo op. Just don’t go climbing unless you have a permit – it’s easier to get up than down, and you don’t want to pay for a very expensive rescue and citation.
The Fine Arts Center
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center always has art exhibits and performances, but I’m including it here for its classes at Bemis Arts School. My kids have always done week-long cooking and art classes during the summer, but the school has classes year-round, from photography to dance to sculpture. Plan ahead and book something that your family will enjoy. One added benefit: my kids have made life-long friends in the classes.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (and Zoo Camp)
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the US. The highlight is always the giraffe herd – the largest in the US – but the other exhibits are excellent as well. My kids particularly recommend seeing the naked mole rats and the budgies, and when they were younger they loved the mini-train and pony rides. The zoo is stroller-friendly, but given that it’s built on the side of a mountain, you’ll get a workout on the hills. Don’t miss the old-fashioned carousel – I’ve been going on it since I was a kid. The zoo can get crowded in the summer, and even more so on summer weekends, so arrive early for easy parking, and apply and reapply sunscreen – the sun’s strong at 6,800 feet.
The zoo runs week-long day camps in the summer for all age groups four and up. Several of the camps even include camping out at the zoo one night, which my kids have always enjoyed.
Climbing at City Rock
City Rock climbing gym in Downtown Colorado Springs has become a must-visit on every trip. Even if you don’t have climbing experience you, and your kids, will have fun (just use the auto belays). My oldest daughter started out climbing at City Rock, and is now on the climbing team at her high school and climbs every day. You never know when an unplanned vacation activity will turn into a lifelong passion!
A Day Trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park is roughly 2.5 hours from Colorado Springs. That may sound like a long way, but it’s one of the coolest, most kid-friendly parks, and Colorado Springs is the closest big city. If you have an extra day, head down! I visited on a road trip through the San Luis Valley, but there’s no reason that you can’t do it as a day trip.
Colorado Springs Restaurants
Since we’ve typically had a home base in Colorado Springs, or we’ve stayed at the Broadmoor and dined there, we don’t have a lot of current favorite restaurants. A few non-Broadmoor restaurants we love:
I grew up going to Luigi’s and their sausage pizza is still my favorite pizza in the world. That doesn’t mean you’ll love it too, but when I’ve posted about it on Instagram and people have dined there as a result, I’ve gotten very positive comments – even from people from Chicago and New York! Good Italian, south of Downtown. Website.
We don’t have good Indian food near us in California, so our first stop in the Springs is always Little Nepal. They have two locations – one on 8th Street and one on Flintridge further north. Excellent Indian. Website.
Ivywild School is a converted school in Southwest Colorado Springs that’s now home to multiple eateries and a brewery. There’s frequent live entertainment as well. Great for lunch and dinner. Don’t miss the empanadas! Website.
Il Vicino was our favorite restaurant in Colorado Springs when it was downtown. That location closed, but they still have one on North Nevada. Great pizza, sandwiches and salads, and they usually will give dough to kids to play with. Website.
Coffee and Tea Zone
My kids love bubble tea /boba, so every trip back to the Springs we go to Coffee and Tea Zone at least twice. We’ve only been to the one downtown, but they have three locations. Highly recommended if you too love boba. Website.
Marigold Cafe and Bakery
I love Marigold. Yes, it’s technically a cafe and bakery, but their French lunch and dinner menus are amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal there. Website.
Bon Ton’s in Old Colorado City is my favorite breakfast spot. Pancakes, omelettes, grits – whatever you’re looking for they have it, and portions are huge. Website.
There’s a newish development on the southern edge of Downtown with a lot of hip restaurants – on Tejon between Cimarron and Moreno. You can find tacos, pizza, brewpub cuisine, etc… at different places, so it’s worth walking around and seeing what looks good. We usually end up at Streetcar 520 for dinner. Always good food and service. Website.
Josh and John’s
Colorado Springs’ OG ice cream spot. They have a few locations. We’ve always gotten ice cream from them downtown – now at 329 North Tejon. We miss their old snake logo, but the ice cream is consistently good – even when it’s below freezing outside. Website.
Colorado Springs Kids Activities: Your Turn
Have you been to Colorado Springs with kids? What are your favorite things to do with kids? What Colorado Springs kids activities would you recommend to others? Please comment below!