A Colorado Spring(s) Break
Killer attractions in the Pikes Peak region
By Steve Graham
Colorado Springs is a perfect and underrated spring break destination. There is plenty to do, regardless of the weather, and it’s not a long trek from anywhere in Colorado. Also, it’s a big enough city to offer a range of accommodations, food and libations to fit any budget, from a budget motel to the Broadmoor, a legendary five-star resort.
Of course, a visit to the Broadmoor is on most Colorado Springs to-do lists, alongside the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. Here are some additional options for spring break in the Pikes Peak area, along with a tasty beverage recommendation for each.
In Colorado, we are blessed with few of the cockroaches, deadly spiders and other nasty little creepy crawlies. On the other hand, we have a couple of great collections of beautiful insects — and most of them are harmlessly dead and under glass. In fact, the world’s largest private insect collection, including more than 7,000 species, is at the May Natural History Museum just south of Cheyenne Mountain State Park off Colorado Highway 115. Look for the giant beetle.
On your way back downtown, honor some amphibians as well by having a beer at the Smiling Toad Brewery, which had five IPAs on tap at last check.
Get your kicks
For many Colorado school districts, the start of spring break this year coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. The same day also brings the home opener for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. The other professional soccer team in the Centennial State will play the Sacramento Republic at Weidner Field.
The team has played four seasons in the second-tier USL Championship league, and went to the playoffs the first two years.
There’s no need to leave the pitch for some craft beverages. The stadium offers $1 beers for the first 30 minutes after opening at 5 p.m., including offerings from Colorado Common Hard Cider, Goat Patch Brewing, Pikes Peak Brewing and Red Leg Brewing. Gooaaal!
Behind Pikes Peak, Mueller State Park is an easy 45-minute drive west of Colorado Springs. The park is famous for its wildlife viewing and sledding. The park is home to abundant elk, black bear, hawks and mule deer. But you might be sliding too fast to see any of them if you choose to sled.
Park rangers warn that an unusual winter has led to icy and snow-packed sledding hills, so helmets are highly recommended. The park also offers a range of hikes and an easy interpretive nature trail, but they are also mostly snow-packed, so snowshoes or spikes are suggested.
After all that icy fun, warm up with some whiskey, rum, vodka or “mountainshine” at Black Bear Distillery in nearby Green Mountain Falls. Be sure to call ahead to check hours for tours and the tasting room.
Be a fossil nerd …
Further up U.S. Highway 24 toward Buena Vista is Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, established in 1969 to preserve one of the world’s richest fossil deposits. Highlights include petrified redwood tree stumps and numerous intricate insect, fish and leaf fossils. The park also offers 15 miles of hiking trails, an informative visitor’s center (with many of the best-preserved fossils in the area) and an 1878 homestead.
If that’s not enough prehistory for you, Woodland Park, on the way back to Colorado Springs, hosts the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, a kid-friendly museum with dino skeletons, a working fossil lab and interactive displays.
Woodland Park is also home to Bierwerks, a brewery that specializes in German beer and Colorado sausage. Prost!
… or a science nerd
Back in Colorado Springs, there are all kinds of ways to reach for the heavens. Off Garden of the Gods Road is the region’s only extra-terrestrial science and technology museum, the Space Foundation Discovery Center. In addition to the regular exhibits and activities, the center hosts special spring break tinkering activities for kids ages 4 to 8 with a helper, or for ages 9 to 17 on their own.
A few miles south, in the quaint and charming Old Colorado City, you can explore the world of Colorado wine at the Sweet Elephant. The shop offers wines made at the Vino Colorado winery, as well as other wines from around the state.