Most of the attractions of the Pikes Peak region fit in two general categories: natural, such as Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and Cave of the Winds; and historic/educational, including the Air Force Academy, Olympic Complex training center, museums, historic homes, and art galleries. There are also gambling houses in Cripple Creek.
If you visit Colorado from a sea-level area, you might want to schedule mountain excursions, such as the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak, at the end of your stay. This will give your body time to adapt to the lower oxygen level at these higher elevations.
Top of the Charts -- Teacher Katharine Lee Bates (1859–1929) wrote the patriotic song “America the Beautiful” after an 1895 wagon trip to the top of Pikes Peak.
Especially for Kids -- In addition to the listings, children will probably enjoy the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, May Natural History Museum, and Ghost Town.
Manitou Springs, which centers on Manitou Avenue off U.S. 24 W., is a separate town with its own government. It is one of the country’s largest National Historic Districts. Legend has it that Utes named the springs Manitou, their word for “Great Spirit,” because they believed that the Great Spirit had breathed into the waters to create the natural effervescence of the springs. Pikes Peak soars above the town nestled at its base.
Today, the community offers visitors a chance to step back to a slower and quieter time. It boasts numerous elegant Victorian buildings, many of which house delightful shops, galleries, restaurants, and lodgings. Manitou Springs is also home to many fine artists and artisans, whom you might spot painting or sketching about town. A small group of sculptors began the Manitou Art Project in 1992; it installed more than 20 sculptures in various locations downtown and in the parks, creating a large sculpture garden for all to enjoy. The works, which stay on display for a year, are for sale, with 25% of the proceeds used to purchase permanent sculpture for the city.
Visitors are encouraged to take the self-guided tour of the nine restored mineral springs of Manitou. Pick up the Manitou Springs Visitor’s Guide, which contains a map and descriptions to help you find each spring. It’s available at the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, 354 Manitou Ave. (tel. 800/642-2567 or 719/685-5089; www.manitousprings.org), which is open daily.
Old Colorado City, Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets, was founded in 1859, 12 years before Colorado Springs. The town boomed in the 1880s after General Palmer’s railroad came through. Tunnels led from the respectable side of town to this saloon and red-light district so that the city fathers could carouse without being seen coming or going -- or so the legend goes. Today this historic district has an interesting assortment of shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.