As a relaxed counterpoint to bustling Denver, Colorado Springs is a quick, scenic drive away and one of visitors’ favorite destinations. Making it even more accessible, American Airlines has direct flights direct flights to the Colorado Springs Airport from Dallas and if flying out of Houston, you can fly into Colorado Springs on United. Here are 10 of the top can’t-miss experiences in the Pikes Peak region.

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1. Soak in the inspiration for “America the Beautiful” on Pikes Peak

Whether you choose to drive the scenic 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway, hike up Barr Trail or hitch a ride on The Broadmoor’s Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the majestic Rocky Mountains and far across the “fruited plains” once you reach the 14,115-foot summit. Be sure to indulge in the high-altitude donuts sold in the Summit House.


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2. Discover beauty and geological history at Garden of the Gods Park

This national natural landmark and geological marvel combines grasslands, woodlands and mountain forest. The Visitor & Nature Center recently added multiple interactive exhibits and the new GeoTrekker movie experience. Beyond educational aspects, be sure to enjoy 15 miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, a Jeep or Segway tour and signature photo ops near formations like the Kissing Camels, Balanced Rock and Siamese Twins.


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3. Explore the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s multidisciplinary culture

There aren’t many places where you’ll find a nationally accredited art museum, Broadway-worthy theater, gourmet dining, retail shop and an art school all under one roof, but the Fine Arts Center encompasses just that. Traveling exhibitions, events, musicals, dramatic plays and concerts are a few of the reasons to plan a visit to this exceptional institution in downtown Colorado Springs.


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4. Find thrills in the Royal Gorge Region

After a grand reopening in May 2015, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is better than ever, showcasing a new visitor center and updated activities. Cross the highest suspension bridge in North America — suspended 956 feet above the Arkansas River — either on foot or Segway, plus enjoy a host of attractions like an aerial gondola ride, miniature train, water clock and a historical expo and shows in the Plaza Theater. Adrenaline junkies can fly through the air on the Royal Rush Skycoaster, traverse the gorge via the Cloudscraper ZipRider zipline or navigate rapids below with one of our many rafting outfitters. Hop aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad for a 24-mile train ride winding through the gorge while enjoying local wine and a gourmet meal.


5. Get your heart pumping on the Manitou Incline

The hike up the Manitou Incline doesn’t sound like a tough endeavor until you realize it climbs 2,000 vertical feet along 2,800 steps in just under 1 mile. You’ll follow the path of old tracks that were originally built for a cable car to transport pipeline materials. With the rails since removed, the Manitou Incline now draws hundreds of thousands of people, from Olympic athletes to those seeking a challenging trek with stunning views. Once you’ve made it to the top, you can descend on 4 miles of Barr Trail. We recommend taking advantage of the free parking and shuttle bus to the base of the Incline.


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6. Go wild at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Experience America’s only mountain zoo, home to more than 800 animals and 200 species. Hand-feed the giraffes and elephants, visit zebra and warthogs in the Encounter Africa exhibit, and check out the new Australia Walkabout – home to alligators, wallabies and even a tree kangaroo. Ride the antique carousel and soar over the zoo on the ski-lift-style Mountaineer Sky Ride.


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7. Unique dining experiences

Colorado Springs boasts plenty of unique places to savor a meal, from the elegant Penrose Room at The Broadmoor (Colorado’s only five-star, five-diamond restaurant) to the innovative Ivywild School, a community marketplace and craft brewery. A local favorite is King’s Chef Diner, featured on Food Network. Rocky Mountain Food Tours offer both food and historic walking tours, while the Mountain View Restaurant at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, Hacienda and Pepper Tree Restaurant all provide scenic overlooks.


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8. Find your fitness on the area’s hiking and biking trails

In addition to the well-known hiking and biking trails in Garden of the Gods, outdoor enthusiasts have their pick from a bounty of parks and trail systems, including Paint Mines Interpretive Park and Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Red Rock Open Space, off of Highway 24, has trails that wind through towering red rocks and an old rock quarry. There are two off-leash dog loops for your four-legged friends.


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9. Bask in the scenery of The Broadmoor’s Seven Falls

Reopened and reimagined in 2015, this park exhibits natural beauty and activities. The waterfalls are a sight to behold, and you can climb the 224 steps adjacent to the falls to reach the creek that feeds them as well as hiking trails. For more exploration, the park’s Broadmoor Soaring Adventure course lifts you above the scenery on two thrilling zipline courses and a rope bridge. When hunger strikes, have lunch or dinner at Restaurant 1858, where prime patio seating looks out to the base of the falls.


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10. Sample a pint from one of Colorado’s craft breweries

In a state known for craft brewing, Colorado Springs is no exception. Enjoy a beer at one of the many local spots, including Fossil Brewing Company, Triple S Brewery, Colorado Mountain Brewery and Pikes Peak Brewing Company, where you can taste brews named for area landmarks — like the Summit House Oatmeal Stout, which gives a nod to the spot atop Pikes Peak from which you can see nearly all the way to Kansas.


Plan your trip to Colorado Springs today!
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