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IntroductionFresh air, sunshine and spectacular views motivated Gen. William J. Palmer to found Colorado Springs as an upscale vacation spot. Today the same qualities inspire travelers to visit, and now the city offers a host of cultural and recreational options to boot.
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In DepthGen. William J. Palmer, forging westward with his Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1871, saw the area's potential early on and formulated a plan of creating a playground for the wealthy on what was essentially a sagebrush flat. The village already at the site, a miners' and millers' town called Colorado City, hardly met his stringent requirements. Palmer and his associates moved a few miles away and drove the first stake at what is now Pikes Peak and Cascade avenues.
Within the year there were more than 150 temporary and two permanent structures, irrigation ditches, countless seedling cottonwoods and land donated for a college. All were placed according to an orderly plan with broad boulevards, school lots and parks.
A road linked the new town with the mineral springs at Manitou Springs, 6 miles west. Colorado Springs, its name derived from the spa and from Colorado City, was on the way to becoming everything Palmer wanted, and more.
Many of the younger sons of the English gentry arrived. Polo, riding to hounds, gentlemen's clubs and Tudor architecture became so much a part of the Springs that it was soon known as Little London.
When not playing cricket or attending social functions, these Britons and their American counterparts speculated in mining. They made millions, especially after the bonanza in Cripple Creek. The city benefited in the form of parks, office buildings, mansions and hotels. By the first decade of the 20th century, Colorado Springs ranked among the wealthiest cities per capita in the country.
Meanwhile, Colorado City flourished, partly because of liquor trafficking and other temptations prohibited by its neighbor. Allegedly, tunnels ran between the two communities to protect the anonymity of those citizens who liked to visit the other side of the tracks. Colorado City was ultimately absorbed by the Springs and its respectability.
Some of the old buildings still exist, particularly in the Old Colorado City Historic District between 24th and 28th streets. They house specialty shops, restaurants, galleries and municipal offices.
Today, Colorado Springs continues to enjoy the reputation it received upon its creation—a destination for recreation, relaxation and bountiful sightseeing opportunities. A few miles west, scenic US 24 climbs to the 14,100-foot summit of Pikes Peak; the journey to the top offers stunning panoramas, ranging from lush alpine forest to the stark beauty above the timberline. And, if the prospect of driving the twisting route makes you a bit nervous, you can hop on a train at the Manitou Springs depot and travel upward via the cog railway.
Garden of the Gods Park, another must-see, offers dramatic views of towering sandstone rock formations with Pikes Peak looming in the background. The erosion-sculpted, red-hued marvels have morphed into such shapes as Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins and a Sleeping Giant, and depending on the time of day you visit, the light produces a vast array of mesmerizing effects. The park is a natural playground for hikers, rock climbers and those just happy to snap photos of the impressive birdlife and geologic wonders. Given the environment, mountain bikers, golfers and horseback riders find the community a perfect setting in which to indulge their passions.
The city has become an important military center. The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), sequestered in the granite heart of Cheyenne Mountain, was command-central for American defensive troops during the Desert Storm conflict. More visible are the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson Army Base, Peterson Air Force Base and U.S. Space Command.
Especially prominent is the Air Force Academy's Cadet Chapel: Majestic glass and silver spires jutting skyward resemble 17 swept-wing, vertical-takeoff planes poised to break Earth's bonds. The academy's visitor center welcomes guests, who are typically free to explore the chapel and such sites as Arnold Hall, the Field House and the Honor Court, but they should inquire first due to fluctuating security levels.
Southwest of the city via SRs 115 and 122 is The Broadmoor resort. Since its opening in 1918 as a grand hotel, it has grown into a recreational retreat and includes two spas, three 18-hole golf courses, 16 tennis courts, squash courts, hiking trails and horseback riding.
By CarNorth-south access is via I-25, which skirts the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains and is concurrent with US 85/87 through much of Colorado. I-25 is the fast route into or through Colorado Springs, with interchanges at major streets; US 85/87 leaves the interstate briefly in favor of downtown streets. Another major north-south thoroughfare is Powers Boulevard (SR 21), which runs near the airport in the eastern section of the city.
Yet another north-south route leading into town is Nevada Avenue (SR 115 in the southern part of the city), which offers a shortcut from US 50 between Cañon City and Pueblo. East-west travel is via US 24, which comes into the city from the eastern plains as Platte Avenue and from the western mountains through Ute Pass.
Street SystemI-25 is the major north-south artery and fastest means of travel through Colorado Springs. Nevada Avenue (SR 115 in the southern section of the city) runs parallel to I-25 and provides access to many downtown streets.
US 24 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Bypass) travels east to west, becoming Platte Avenue when it crosses I-25 into the eastern section of the city; it leads to Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak in the west. East-west roads that interchange with I-25 are Garden of the Gods Road, Fillmore Street, Woodmen Road and Uintah Street.
ParkingDowntown on-street parking is metered, 75c-$1 per hour. Commercial garages and lots are available for 75c-$1 per hour, with a daily maximum of $6.75-$7.50. Prepaid “Easy Park” cards are accepted at most meters and can be purchased at the City Administration Building at Nevada and Colorado avenues.
About the City
Sales TaxColorado's statewide sales tax is 2.9 percent; an additional 2.5 percent is levied by the city, 1.23 percent by the county and 1 percent by the Pikes Peak Rural Transit Authority. The county has a 2 percent lodging tax and 1 percent rental car tax.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(719) 444-7000
HospitalsMemorial Hospital, (719) 365-5000; Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, (719) 776-5000; St. Francis Medical Center, (719) 571-1000.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersColorado Springs' major newspaper is The Gazette, distributed in the morning. The Independent is distributed weekly. Special-interest papers also are published.
RadioColorado Springs radio stations KVOR (740 AM) and KRDO (1240 AM and 105.5 FM) are all-news/weather stations; KRCC (91.5 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.
Visitor InformationColorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau 515 S. Cascade COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80903. Phone:(719)635-7506 or (800)368-4748The bureau is open daily 8-6, June-Aug.; Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5, rest of year.
Air TravelColorado Springs Airport (COS), (719) 550-1900, to the east of the city, is served by major airlines. Taxi service is available from the airport to the downtown area for about $35 each way. Colorado Springs Shuttle offers service between Colorado Springs Airport and Denver International Airport (DEN), with drop-offs and pick-ups at designated area hotels; phone (719) 687-3456 or (877) 587-3456 for schedule information.
Rental CarsRental car agencies serve the Colorado Springs area from downtown and the airport. Hertz, (719) 596-1863 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Rail ServiceNo passenger trains serve Colorado Springs.
BusesTNM&O Coaches Inc. and Greyhound Lines Inc., (719) 635-1505, 120 S. Weber St., serve the Colorado Springs area.
TaxisColorado Springs is served by Yellow Cab Co., (719) 777-7777. It is best to request cabs by phone. Taxis are on the meter system, with the charge about $4.90 for the first mile and $2.90 for each additional mile, for up to four passengers.
Public TransportationBuses operate in the metropolitan area Mon.-Fri. 5:35 a.m.-9:35 p.m.; Sat. 6:35 a.m.-6:35 p.m.; and Sun. 7:30 a.m.-5:35 p.m. in the downtown area; check individual routes for current schedule information. The fare for in-town routes is $1.75, transfers are free with paid fares and are good for 2 hours and 2 one way trips. Day passes are $4. Phone (719) 385-7433.
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EssentialsVisit Garden of the Gods Park (1805 30th St.) to be inspired by the rustic beauty of majestic sandstone pinnacles jutting skyward. Take a free naturalist-guided walk to learn about wildflowers, snakes and other interesting tidbits about Colorado, or go it alone on one of the easy-to-moderate scenic trails. Don't leave your camera behind.
Take a scenic drive to Pikes Peak. Travel 19 miles along the twisting Pikes Peak Highway to the summit, where you'll be rewarded with a magnificent panorama. If you'd rather not take on the dizzying mountain route yourself, leave the driving to someone else and board the Pikes Peak Cog Railway (515 Ruxton Ave.) in Manitou Springs.
Spend some time at The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave.). The resort, which opened in 1918 as the “Grand Dame of the Rockies,” is nestled in a valley with a spectacular mountain backdrop. Take a guided trail ride at the Broadmoor Stables, relax with a spa treatment, peruse the boutiques or dine in one of the property's restaurants.
The most stunning structure at the U.S. Air Force Academy (2306 Academy Dr.) is the Cadet Chapel, with its 17 futuristic glass and silver spires soaring skyward. You can tour the chapel, along with the Honor Court, Field House, Arnold Hall and other sites; maps are available at the academy's visitor center, which also presents a movie showcasing the cadet experience.
Explore underground wonders at Cave of the Winds (100 Cave of the Winds Rd.) in nearby Manitou Springs. Guides lead you through the winding passageways either by flashlight or hand-held lantern, depending on the tour. Either way, you'll be mesmerized by the play of light on the jagged geological formations and will even experience total cave darkness.
Hunt for souvenirs in the Old Colorado City historic district (W. Colorado Ave. & S. 21st St.). This is where the rowdy Wild West town of Colorado City sprang to life in 1859. Now, instead of saloons, jails and brothels, you'll find quaint boutiques, eclectic galleries and bistros. On summer Saturdays, you can shop for goods at the farmers market on the main drag.
Wander through the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St.) on your own, or sign up for one of the docent-led tours. An impressive array of modern works in a pueblo-style space is supplemented by traveling exhibits and a varied permanent collection, including Western, Southwestern and Native American art. The sculpture garden is an additional highlight.
Guided tours of the U.S. Olympic Complex (1750 E. Boulder St.) will provide you with an inside peek at where the country's elite athletes live and train prior to the games—you might even witness a practice session. The visitor center presents a video about the Olympics prior to the tours, which are mostly conducted outdoors.
If you're up for a little recreation or fresh air, check out one of the area's parks. Hikers like North Cheyenne Cañon Park (2120 S. Cheyenne Canyon Rd.), with its miles of trails, lovely scenic vistas and waterfalls. A favorite with trekkers, horseback riders and mountain bikers, Palmer Park (Academy Blvd. & Maizeland Rd.) also has play areas, picnic grounds and a dog park.
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ShoppingMalls and shopping centers provide most of the shopping opportunities in Colorado Springs. Some of the popular centers include Chapel Hills Mall , with anchor stores Burlington Coat Factory, Dillard's, Macy's and Sears, at Academy and Briargate boulevards; The Citadel , with anchors Burlington Coat Factory, Dillard's and JCPenney, N. Academy Boulevard and US 24; The Promenade Shops at Briargate , Briargate Parkway and SR 87; and University Village Colorado at S. Nevada Ave. and US 25.
A 19th-century haven of fur trappers, cowboys, gamblers and a few outlaws and gunfighters, Old Colorado City Historic District , between 24th and 28th streets, now houses specialty shops. The Garden of the Gods Trading Post , built in the late 1920s to resemble Pueblo Indian houses, offers Native American arts, crafts, jewelry, rugs and pottery as well as signed prints by well-known artists.
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Performing ArtsThe Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., is the scene of permanent and traveling art exhibits, theatrical performances, concerts, dance productions and film showings. Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave., plays host to more than 200 performances a year, running the gamut from ballet, opera, theater and the symphony to country and rock music; phone (719) 799-4139. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic plays its September through May season here; phone (719) 520-7469 for ticket information. The center is also the home of Broadway in Colorado Springs; phone (719) 799-4132.
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SightseeingSightseeing tours of the Pikes Peak region with stops at attractions in and around Colorado Springs are offered by Gray Line, (303) 394-6920 or (800) 472-9546. Some excursions include a trek to the summit of Pikes Peak.
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Two street festivals featuring local vendors and entertainment herald the arrival of spring to Colorado Springs. Territory Days in Old Colorado City takes place in late May, and August brings Springs Spree to Memorial Park.
Colorado Springs' sports facilities play host to athletic events throughout the year, but the major events take place in summer. The Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo at the Norris-Penrose Events Center, both held in early July, attract top rodeo cowboys from around the country. The event kicks off with a Rodeo Parade the day before Rodeo Week begins in downtown Colorado Springs. Sports fans also will enjoy The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb motor sports race in late June on Pikes Peak Highway and the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon at Pikes Peak in August.
Over the Labor Day weekend, watch more than 100 colorful balloons ascend in Memorial Park during the Colorado Balloon Classic . The Festival of Lights Parade downtown ushers in the holiday season in early December.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Places in Vicinity