Colorado Springs is definitely at the top of my list when we have out-of-town visitors. Unfortunately, it is a 3 hour drive from the Ranch. But you know I wouldn’t list something that far away unless it was REALLY good – and it is! My two favorite attractions there are the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
There’s a good reason Katherine Lee Bates composed America the Beautiful at the top of Pikes Peak – she was sitting in one of the most beautiful spots in the country! The view from Pikes Peak (pictured above) is stunning and you can LITERALLY see 5 different states from the top on a clear day (CO, NM, UT, KN, OK – if I remember correctly). Pikes Peak is the #1 visited mountain peak in the U.S. and the #2 in the world (after Mt. Fuji).
My favorite way to experience the peak is via the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest railroad in the U.S. and the highest cog railway in the world! (http://www.cograilway.com/) The 10 mile trip takes about 3 hours (they let you out at the top to roam around). You get AWESOME views of the Peak all the way up and the tour guides / train conductors are full of interesting Pikes Peak stories and historical information. Don’t forget your cameras!
LISTEN UP! Here are two things you MUST remember if you’re going to the top of Pikes Peak:
- BRING WARM CLOTHING!!! It is 30 degrees COLDER at the top of the peak than the bottom. I’ve brought friends to Colorado Springs in 80-90 degree weather and they insist on wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt up to the Peak. Ignoring my advice, they were miserable and violently shivering at the top! Do not make this mistake just because it is hot at the bottom of the peak. Bring layers and wear jeans and closed-toe shoes if you want to get the most of your time at the top.
-GET A DONUT AT THE TOP OF THE PEAK!!! Even if you’re on a diet. Do it. Pikes Peak is known for its DELICIOUS donuts (I recommend the chocolate frosted ones). They’re made fresh around the clock and to die for! Their super-high-altitude donut recipe makes them one-of-a-kind. (The shop claims that the high-altitude donuts shrink slightly when you return to the bottom of the peak – but I’ve always been too hungry and excited to test this…)
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (http://www.cmzoo.org/) is by far one of the best I’ve ever visited (and as the daughter of two veterinarians, I’ve seen a LOT of zoos). Located on the side of a mountain, CMZ is a beautiful habitat for the animals, a beautiful place to visit AND a great way to get a lot of exercise while having fun. My favorite exhibit is the giraffes (see adorable face pictured below). Get this- at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo you get to feed the giraffes! The last time I was there (2010), you got a huge handful of giraffe crackers for $3 and the gentle giants would crane their necks over the fence to slurp the crackers out of your hand. If you’re afraid of wiggly giraffe tongues, fuzzy giraffe lips or giraffe slobber – don’t say I didn’t warn you! – but I’ve never heard of anyone getting bitten whilst feeding the giraffes. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is tons of fun and super popular with the kids. In all my travels, domestic and foreign, the only zoo I’ve visited that rivals Cheyenne Mountain is the San Diego Zoo, often claimed to the best in the U.S. and possibly the world!