Best Things to Do in Colorado Springs

BY Bailey Berg | January 10, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Colorado Springs? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Colorado Springs?”

It used to be that you only went to Colorado Springs when you had no other choice. The town, founded in 1871, was where those plagued by tuberculosis went hoping that the dry mountain air would cure their ailments or at least alleviate their sufferings. At its peak, one in three people in the Springs was a tuberculosis patient.

Today it’s a city made up of many complementary and contradictory facets: It’s home to several of the nation’s highest security military bases and a vibrant liberal arts university; the headquarters for Focus on the Family and Team USA’s Olympic Training Center; envy-inducing luxury resorts and awe-inspiring natural wonders. It’s a challenging place to wrap your brain around. But despite, or maybe because of, the city’s many quirks, it’s growing rapidly — Colorado Springs currently has the hottest housing market in the country. With quick access to nature, innumerable hiking trails, an up-and-coming restaurant and brewery scene and more, it’s a place that people want to spend time in. Here are just some of the ways to better get to know the Springs.

YOU'RE HERE TO RECREATE

And with incredible hiking opportunities, scads of spas and an inspiring Olympic and Paralympic Museum, the second-largest city in Colorado has come full circle as a wellness getaway.  

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs
#1
Beautiful landscape of cathedral valley in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo via Shutterstock.

Garden of the Gods

1805 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

It’s hard to miss Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center — there’s almost always a long line of cars waiting to get in. The National Natural Landmark is worth it, though. The red sandstone spires are striking. There are oodles of ways to explore the park, including hiking, horseback rides, scenic drives and, if it’s your thing, by Segway. 

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Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs. Photo via Shutterstock.
#2
A hiker walks up the difficult 2,700 step Manitou Incline after a recent snow.

Manitou Incline

Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO, USA

This hike is a humbler. However long you think it should take you to go a mile, multiply it by at least three (if not four, five or six). This former cable car track turned grueling hiking route gains about 2,000 feet in just under a mile. It has 2,768 steps, comparable to climbing the Eiffel Tower twice, the Washington Monument three times or the Statue of Liberty six times. 

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Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Colorado Springs
#3
Pikes Peak, Colorado - 2008: Cog railway carriage at summit of Pikes Peak in Rocky Mountains with tourists sightseeing queue to board red train. Railway closed since 2018. Photo via Shutterstock.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

515 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO, USA

This ride to the top of America’s Mountain is breathtaking — partially for the views of the surrounding peaks blanketed in aspens, partially because at 14,115 feet of elevation, the air is thinner. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour round-trip ride — 130-year-old trains aren’t exactly high speed. At the new visitor center (opened in 2021) atop Pikes Peak, you can read about the mountain’s storied history in a small museum and chow down on some stellar, sugary donuts. Just be sure to finish your treat before descending — the donuts lose their structural integrity when brought to lower altitudes. 

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SunWater Spa
#4
SunWater Spa

SunWater Spa

514 El Paso Blvd, Manitou Springs, CO, USA

If you’re sore from your hikes around the area, you might consider seeking out the regenerative properties of the local mineral waters. This spa has nine private cedar hot tubs filled with mineral water. Guests purchase 90-minute time slots, where they can soak, sit in the sauna, use the plunge pools and more. It’s also possible to add a specialty massage or facial to your spa package. 

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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum
#5
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum

200 S Sierra Madre St, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

An ode to all things sports, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum walks guests through the history of the Games, from ancient Olympia to today. It boasts some genuinely cool exhibits, ranging from collections of every Olympic torch to more interactive ones where guests can (virtually) challenge gold medal winners to their sport. One popular piece of memorabilia? The scoreboard from the United States vs. Soviet Union hockey game during the 1980 Olympics, a match that would later be referred to as the Miracle on Ice. The board is set with three seconds remaining — the moment when announcer Al Michaels asked, “Do you believe in miracles?” 

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NOSH ON LOCAL FARE

Colorado Springs’ culinary canon has started to gain momentum in the last few years. There’s a wide variety of cuisine and many boundary-pushing chefs.   

Odyssey Gastropub in Colorado Springs
#6
Odyssey Gastropub in Colorado Springs

Odyssey Gastropub

311 N Tejon St, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Proof that Colorado Springs is indeed hip, this funky little pub focuses on elevated comfort food, like pork belly macaroni and cheese, braised beef gnocchi and banh mi egg rolls. The morning chili cheese fries (waffle fries drenched in pork green chili, cheddar cheese and two eggs) is the ultimate hangover cure on their brunch menu. 

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Four by Brother Luck
#7
Four by Brother Luck

Four by Brother Luck

321 N Tejon St, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Let’s get it out of the way. Yes, the restaurant is helmed by a man whose actual name is Brother Luck. And he’s something of a local celebrity, having appeared on “Chopped” and two seasons of “Top Chef.” He crafts a constantly changing Southwest-inspired menu that highlights the best of what can be hunted, fished, gathered or grown locally that season. Recent dishes have included rabbit pot pie, duck green chili and elk medallions. 

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La'au’s Taco Shop in Colorado Springs
#8
La'au’s Taco Shop in Colorado Springs

La'au’s Taco Shop

830 N. Tejon St., Ste. 110, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

While this Hawaiian-inspired joint may not be slinging the most authentic Mexican food, it makes up for it with ultra-fresh ingredients and inventive tacos, burritos and bowls (we’re partial to the fried avocado taco with pickled carrot habanero slaw). Be sure to swing by during happy hour (Monday-Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.) for two-for-$6 beer and margaritas.  

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Stellina Pizza Cafe in Colorado Springs
#9
Stellina Pizza Cafe in Colorado Springs

Stellina Pizza Cafe

749 E Willamette Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

If you have a hunger that only carbs and sauce can remedy, Stellina is an excellent choice. Beyond the pies their name suggests, the restaurant also offers homemade pasta dishes (the orecchiette and veggies is *chefs kiss*) and risottos. 

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DRINK YOUR WAY THROUGH TOWN

You won’t be going thirsty in Colorado Springs. From the army of dynamic breweries (this is Colorado, the state that’s home to the Great American Beer Festival, after all), playful cocktail lounges and speakeasies and superb wine bars, there’s something for everyone. 

The Carter Payne
#10
The Carter Payne

The Carter Payne

320 S Weber St, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Built in 1897, The Carter Payne was the first Black church in town. When the congregation grew too large, they made a new church elsewhere. The little white chapel was converted into a multi-use community center of sorts, now housing a brewery, a wine bar, a cocktail bar and two dining concepts. The brewery, Local Relic, is particularly fun because they never brew the same beer twice. 

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Cerberus Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs
#11
Cerberus Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs

Cerberus Brewing Co.

702 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

If you’re looking for a post-summit refreshment, Cerberus is a solid bet. The brewery has 24 taps (usually all their own, but they’ll occasionally have guest stars), as well as a bevy of homemade sodas. There’s a cozy bar inside and a huge deck and beer garden outdoors. 

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The Principal's Office in Colorado Springs
#12
The Principal's Office in Colorado Springs

The Principal's Office

1604 S Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

It’s not just a cheeky name — this bar was actually a principal’s office in a former life. Found in the Ivywild School, a former elementary school built in 1916, the current-day Principal’s Office is known for slinging inventive craft cocktails and liquid-lightning coffee. In the other reimagined classrooms, you’ll find Axe and the Oak Whiskey House, Bristol Brewing Co., Lazo Empanadas, Decent Pizza Co., Salad or Bust and Ivywild Kitchen. 

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Shame and Regret
#13
Shame and Regret

Shame and Regret

15 E Bijou St, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

There’s something ineffably funny about looking down a dark alley and seeing the words “Shame & Regret” blinking at you from a neon sign. This speakeasy-style bar’s decor is meant to give off a Catholic confessional vibe, with tinted windows, leather seats and dark-stained wood. However, you won’t find cheap communion wine here — they have arguably the most impressive craft cocktail program and whiskey menu in town. 

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Pub Dog in Colorado Springs
#14
Pub Dog in Colorado Springs

Pub Dog

2207 Bott Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Why this isn’t a more common concept, we’re not sure. It combines life’s two greatest joys: dogs and craft beer. This bar has a massive, fenced-in, off-leash dog park for your four-legged friends to romp around and get their sniffs in while you can sip local brews. 

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WHERE TO STAY

The Springs is pretty lacking in the boutique lodging department — the vast majority of the places you can lay your head are owned by major hospitality chains. There are, however, a few notable exceptions.

Kinship Landing
#15
Kinship Landing

Kinship Landing

415 S Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Kinship Landing, found in the heart of downtown, arguably has one of the most interesting room concepts in the area. In addition to suites and shared hostel-style bunk rooms, they have a camp deck. It’s basically a turf campground on the roof. Gear isn’t included, so guests are required to bring anything they might need to be comfy in the outdoors. But when nature calls, they at least have access to a heated bathroom. 

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The Broadmoor
#16
The Broadmoor

The Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

One of the top five-star properties in the country and one of the first destination resorts, The Broadmoor attracts some bougie clients. Nearly every president since FDR has made a point to stay there, as have myriad celebrities and pro athletes. The 744-room resort features a lake, multiple pools, a world-class golf course, several bars and restaurants, a bowling alley and a lush spa. There’s a program of activities going on at all times, ranging from movies in the private theater to art tours, but if you only have the time to do one thing, it should be the falconry class.

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