Travel Thoughts by Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together …. to Colorado!
In my last article, two weeks ago, I shared a teaser from my 2019 Colorado Adventure by writing about the Garden of the Gods. But, there was so much more to that trip. I flew into Denver, picked up my rental car, and drove to Colorado Springs, where I spent five full and two partial days. I could have easily spent several more days there – I had a blast! So, as Paul Harvey used to say, “And, now, here’s the REST of the story”.
If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, be sure to spend some time in Old Colorado City. Formerly known as just Colorado City, it used to be one of the first towns founded during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859 and was briefly the capital of the Colorado Territory. It is now an historic neighborhood in Colorado Springs.
Known for coal and gold mining in its heyday, it is now on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is a very quaint little commercial district with lovely shops and fabulous restaurants. I had most of my meals there. I recommend Mountain View Restaurant for breakfast, also Dat’s Italian, Mother Muffs, and the Mason Jar for dinners. And, be sure to get a sweet treat at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
If you’re in the area on a Sunday and are looking for a worship service, I really enjoyed Pike’s Peak United Methodist Church – super friendly congregation. Old Colorado City is very enjoyable, even if you just take time to stroll the streets and take in all the amazing shops, murals, and architecture.
A wonderful place to spend time in Colorado Springs is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Located on the side of Cheyenne Mountain, it is several levels of animal exhibits – including a huge giraffe enclosure with a board walk that you can walk all around it at eye level with the giraffes where you can feed and pet them (I spent a LOT of my time right there on that board walk). They also have a chair lift that takes you up the side of the mountain for some amazing views. Another feature of the zoo is the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. You have to pay extra to get through the gate to drive up a long, winding road up to the top of the mountain to the shrine. It is WELL worth it. Built in 1937, it is a memorial to Will Rogers that they call a “singing tower”, because of the noise the wind makes as it blows through the tower. Even if you don’t care to go to the zoo, consider going to the shrine – the views up there are incredible. Photos of the shrine are in the link for the zoo.
Another great place to visit in Colorado is Manitou Springs. It is near Colorado Springs and so worth the time to go there. It is such a pretty little cowboy town with a mix of history, quaint shops, and quirkiness with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Do yourself a favor and plan your visit to include breakfast at Adam’s Mountain Café – awesome breakfast! My day in Manitou Springs also included an accidental drive along the historic Ute Pass, which was a stunning drive.
But, the main and coolest attraction in Manitou Springs is the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings are original and authentic, but were not originally located in Manitou Springs. They were constructed and used in the Four Corners area (the spot where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona meet). There was a risk of them being ruined because they were not being preserved. A group decided to move them where they could be preserved and made available to the public as an educational tool to showcase the heritage.
The dwellings are comprised of Anasazi Ruins and were carefully disassembled, moved, and reassembled in their current location embedded into the cliff as it would have been originally. This took several years beginning in 1904 and completed in 1907, when it was opened to the public. It is a 40-room site that provided living space for several families of Anasazi Indians. The word Anasazi comes from the Navajo and loosely translates to mean “enemy ancestors”. They were believed to inhabit the Four Corners region about the time Christ was born.
A big highlight on my time in Colorado Springs was two ½ day cowboy-led jeep tours provided by a company called Adventures Out West. They were pretty pricey, but so amazing – I recommend spending the money, if you can fit it in your travel budget. The tours are in open 4×4 jeeps with really great guides and small groups – so lots of opportunity for questions, fun, and specialized photos. Also – a lot of the time, we were on roads that you REALLY need an experienced driver and a 4-wheel drive vehicle – trust me! They take you off road and off-off road along very narrow dirt roads with no shoulders and lots of curves, switch backs and tunnels. Between the two of them, we traveled along what used to be the Short Line Railroad tracks that wound along the side of the mountain, old stage coach routes, and trails with ruts, boulders, and streams to navigate across. It was so much fun. One of the tours had a cowboy guide named “Prairie Dog” and the other had a cowgirl guide named “Rambler” and they were both excellent guides.
I did a few other things while I was there, as well. I had dinner one night in downtown Colorado Springs at a really cool place called “The Rabbit Hole”. It is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant that is totally underground – a fun experience. I took one day and drove to Cripple Creek and Victor – two old mining towns that were pretty cool to drive around. The big story there was that I got so hopelessly lost between the two towns that I thought I was in the Hotel California – “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Go to the link below for “Colorado – The Rest of the Story” to read all about that little fiasco – in hindsight, it is a pretty funny story. I also drove to Pueblo, CO and spent some time walking along the Arkansas River in a lovely River Walk District.
Colorado is definitely God’s Country – so beautiful! And, the Colorado Springs area has so much to offer – and, if you want a big city experience (not for me, but you might), it is close to Denver. I hope you can experience it, someday, if you haven’t already.
In addition to the link from my Garden of the Gods article, here are five more links to blog posts with many, many photos and info about my Colorado Adventure. Check them out:
Old Colorado City: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2019/12/12/2019-colorado-adventure-old-colorado-city/
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2019/12/13/2019-colorado-adventure-cheyenne-mountain-zoo/
Manitou Springs: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2019/12/12/2019-colorado-adventure-manitou-springs/
Cowboy Jeep Tours: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2019/12/12/2019-colorado-adventure-cowboy-jeep-tours/
Colorado – The Rest of the Story: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2019/12/14/2019-colorado-adventure-the-rest-of-the-story/