This summer, I experienced a new destination – Colorado Springs. Although I’ve briefly explored the beautiful Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado-Utah border in the past, it was only for a day visit. While it’s undoubtedly an impressive park to visit, it hardly counts as a trip to Colorado. Even the few times I’ve had to switch planes in Denver, I never left the airport – so this trip was a fresh and exciting adventure.
Our visit to Denver was intended for a week, where we enjoyed the company of Jaime, Joel, and Jett. Dion and Devon, our grandsons, accompanied us on this trip. However, a week was far too brief. Our stay in Colorado Springs was exceptional, as it offered ample family-friendly activities and exciting places to explore.
Amidst a jam-packed week, we immersed ourselves in Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, Elitch Gardens, Denver’s Water & Theme Parks, Garden of the Gods, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Although most of these required admission fees, Garden of the Gods stood out as a free attraction. However, our excursion wasn’t restricted to paid attractions – we also visited several cost-free places that the children enjoyed just as much.
Discover nine costless locations and activities accessible in and around Colorado Springs!
The downtown area of Colorado Springs offers a serene retreat for leisure seekers at America the Beautiful Park, providing an ideal backdrop for a day well spent.
Ample parking is available at this expansive park. The park boasts a variety of activities including a remarkable playground with slides, spinner bowls and an art installation named Quirks that offers children an unparalleled, extraterrestrial experience.
Visitors to the park can enjoy leisurely strolls or bike rides along its winding paths. For those seeking a lengthier adventure, the nearby Midland Trail and Pikes Peak Greenway Trail can be reached from the park’s entrance. The park boasts copious, open grassy areas that cater to both energetic children and adults seeking a serene atmosphere. As a haven for Pokemon Go enthusiasts, my grandsons included, the park provides a safe haven to capture an array of Pokemon rumored to roam its grounds.
During our visit, the park was bustling with lively activities, boasting clean restrooms and a picnic pavilion where a party was already underway. However, the real gem was the Julie Penrose Fountain – a remarkable work of art designed by David Barber and Bill Burgess. This sculptural fountain is a true representation of the fluid movement of water between the earth and the atmosphere. What’s more, it’s a dynamic piece of art that rotates, making it a must-see attraction.
During scorching summer days, both children and adults can revel in the cooling waters of the fountain. However, it is recommended to avoid playing on the sculpture and its platform. The presence of a vigilant lifeguard made the experience even more enjoyable for the kids. Interestingly, a resourceful merchant had set up a tent nearby where he sold snow cones. Although not officially sanctioned by the park, nobody seemed to be bothered by this and it provided a refreshing treat on a sweltering day.
Make the most of your visit to America the Beautiful Park by scheduling it on a Sunday to coincide with the Colorado Springs Sunday Market Downtown. Running from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, the market is conveniently located in the heart of downtown’s Acacia Park. Here, a myriad of vendors showcase locally grown produce, farm-fresh goods, scrumptious pies, gourmet lemonade, and even freshly-made tamales, all just waiting for you to savor.
Take a leisurely stroll through the market while your kids frolic in the playground nearby. The playground even has a splash zone if your little ones want to cool off on a hot day. However, if your kids have already had their fill of water fun, you may want to skip the splash zone since you just got them dry after their playtime in the Julie Penrose Fountain.
For an enjoyable experience, a live band performs between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. While savoring tamales and refreshing lavender lemonade, you can sit under a tree and revel in the music. That’s exactly what we did!
As an aside, their refreshing lemonade is served in pint-sized mason jars and typically costs around $5. A sustainable option, you can return the jar at any time and get a $1 discount on your next refill. Their diverse range of flavors includes jalapeno and lavender. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we indulged in their scrumptious mini pies and homemade chocolates.
Although you may be tempted to indulge in market delights, admission to the park is complimentary as is the musical performance, so technically it’s free. Plus, you had to eat lunch anyway, right? For just $6 or $7, you can savor 6 chicken tamales that are nothing short of superb. The vendor even throws in forks and napkins for those who want to munch their tamales in the park. But be sure to get there early as he tends to sell out quickly!
Free street parking is available near the entrance to the park, though it may require a short walk during peak seasons. The park’s highlight is the stunning Garden of the Gods, situated in Colorado Springs. Its unique rock formations are a sight to see. A wide range of activities are available both at the park and its visitor center, which can be found right across the street from the main entrance.
For the avid rock climber, this is an ideal destination. Remember to acquire a climbing permit prior to your arrival. Pokemon hunters will also find ample entertainment with a Poke Stop situated in the park’s heart and an abundance of wild Pokemon to capture. For a breathtaking experience, consider visiting the park during sunset.
For an enjoyable day out, consider driving over to Aga Park in Fountain, Colorado, just a short distance from Colorado Springs. Though it’s one of the oldest parks in the city and only spans four acres, its splash area is a favorite among children and makes the half-hour trip well worth it, especially on a scorching summer day.
For those willing to hit the road to Denver, a trip to Hammond’s Candies is a must for satisfying your sweet tooth. The factory offers free tours every half hour from Monday to Saturday, where visitors are granted a glimpse into the candy making process- a truly delightful experience. And while the factory tour is complimentary, the candy shop is too enticing to ignore. Brace yourself for a tempting selection of sweets; we couldn’t resist picking up a few items to take home.
While in Denver, you can seize the opportunity to take a complimentary tour of the United States Mint. Discover how coins are produced as well as some historical facts. Although there are 4 US mints, only 2 offer tours: Denver and Philadelphia. These facilities exclusively mint coins. If you yearn to observe paper money being printed, the US Treasury in Washington DC is your destination. Remember to secure your spot by making reservations in advance! Additionally, don’t forget to stroll through a charming local neighborhood and explore its delightful park. Nearly every neighborhood houses its own unique park worth visiting. The majority of these sites boast trendy playground equipment, open playing fields, and shaded pavilions. Needless to say, the children were enamored with playing in these areas!
Enjoy some open space at the not-so-crowded park. If you visit on weekdays, you’ll almost have it all to yourself. Afterwards, take a leisurely walk along Manitou Springs’ charming main street, dotted with a plethora of shops, cafes, and restaurants. You might come across the Penny Arcade—a covered amusement center with children’s rides and games. It’s a favorite spot for my grandson, Jett.
Colorado Springs’ Pikes Peak Library District boasts of its jewel- Library 21c. The ultra-modern multilevel building offers a comfortable and well-lit atmosphere for reading and even houses a cafe. Its extensive programming caters to all ages, from Baby Time to Story Time to a Teen Writing Group. On a rainy afternoon, it is undoubtedly the perfect place to be. Having been to several libraries, I can attest that it is the best of the best.