Only 66 miles south of Denver is Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs. Founded as a resort town in 1871, this Rocky Mountain paradise offers more than 55 man-made and natural attractions with a sunny and mild climate to keep you warm and busy during your time in the Springs.
One of the most stunning attractions in Colorado Springs is undoubtedly Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. Pikes Peak is a National Historic Landmark bringing in over half a million visitors each year. The peak can be reached by bike, hike, train or drive, giving folks of every fitness level different options to conquer this beauty. Besides the glorious innate nature in Colorado Springs, it is also home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, US Air Force Academy, Old Colorado City, Craft Breweries galore and much more! Although I only had a day and a half in the springs, here are some of my recommended destinations.
Where to Eat & Drink
Colorado Mountain Brewery
Colorado Mountain Brewery is your one-stop shop for beers, food and fun. The brewery and restaurant is located in a massive historic building that was once used for the Colorado Midland Railway. In fact, you can walk around the beautiful building and discover many old photos of the former railroad.
The restaurant features ‘upscale’ pub fare with customer favourite’s such as the Bison Chili and Beer Cheese Soup. We were absolutely starving and so in classic Natalie fashion, we ordered way too much food. After some tough deliberations, we went with the deep fried pickles, steak quesadillas and buffalo chicken wrap. Everything was quite tasty but it was one of those meals that puts you straight into a food coma.
For beer, the brewery offers six flagship house-brewed beers and a few seasonal offerings. I tried the flight of all 6 staple brews and really enjoyed the intensely hoppy Panther IPA and the dry and roasty Monumental Stout. Overall the beers were very generic with nothing really standing out to me. Although Colorado Mountain Brewery is a lovely place for a nice meal, it is not the ideal spot to discover unique beers. It is more of a ‘cater to everyone’ type establishment and not so much for a travelling beer snob such as myself.
IvyWild is a one-of-a-kind concept in which an elementary school built in 1916 has turned into a communal gathering space featuring a brewery, local cuisine, education, art and gardens. It is a thriving neighbourhood establishment that brings the community together for all sorts of activities. Whether you’re looking to grab a coffee and pastry at the Old School Bakery, a pint at Bristol Brewery or gather for a concert in the gymnasium, you can be sure to experience some youthful nostalgia walking through the bright hallways of IvyWild.
One of my favourite places was The Principal’s Office. Not as daunting as it sounds, your detention will consist of crafty libations in a relaxed atmosphere. The spirits served in the Principal’s Lounge are thoughtfully curated and of the highest quality. All of the citrus that goes into the cocktails are freshly squeezed and the infusions, tinctures and syrups are all handmade. You can also find seasonal, estate coffee at the office prepared by artisan baristas.
The Bristol Brewery is also housed inside IvyWild and has been brewing beers in the Springs since 1984. The pub and brewery features a beautiful 360-degree bar that overlooks the brew house and fermentation room and you can often find live music on certain nights of the week. Be sure to try the warm pretzel sticks with beehive cheddar sauce to pair with your flight of beers.
La Baguette, located in Old Colorado City, specializes in freshly baked French breads and pastries (in case you couldn’t already tell by the name). The café is tres cute, offering a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a light European style breakfast. The breakfast menu is small, but features staple items such as omelettes and scrambled eggs. This was a bit disappointing for me since I don’t eat eggs but there was a variety of pastries to choose from instead. Probably not my ideal breakfast, but I can’t say no to a chocolate croissant.
La Baguette also serves lunch and the menu is much more varied with soups, salads and sandwiches. They strive to use locally grown, fresh ingredients and all dishes are made from scratch daily. La Baguette is a true community staple and has been serving happy customers for over 30 years! A definite visit in Colorado Springs. If you have time, be sure to check out the wine bar located upstairs
Trails End Taproom
Before our departure to Denver for GABF, we had to make one last pit-stop at Trails End Taproom. We felt that beer was well-deserved after our nature-hike and there was no better place to visit than Trails End. Whether you just finished your adventure or are about to embark on one, you can enjoy over 40 craft beers, cider and wine at this self-pour taproom.
Just grab a card from the staff and tap it above the beer you’ve chosen. The name of the beer, description and price per ounce will all appear on the screen. Once you’ve poured your beer, it will track your pours on the card until you’re ready to check out and pay. This was very ideal for me since I didn’t have to wait to get a new beer, I just went up to the taps and tried a bit of everything until I found a beer I wanted a full pint of. It’s like a mini-sampling beer festival; we definitely need something like this in Toronto!
Trails End Taproom also serves a simple yet delicious food menu featuring snacks, meat pies, sausages, pizza and sandwiches . The atmosphere is bright, spacious and outdoorsy and the staff is more than helpful in getting you acquainted with the self-pour system. Plus 100% of tips are donated to local trail and humanitarian non-profits, how can you not love this place?
Where to Stay?
Apple Maps got us lost finding this lodge but once we found it, we thought, ‘how could we miss it?’ there are large neon red letters that scream BUFFALO LODGE at you. At that moment I downloaded Google Maps instead, heh.
Buffalo Lodge was a much-needed place to unwind at in the Springs and we were surprised to find out that it’s also a bicycle resort. What is a bicycle resort you ask? Well firstly it is located on a popular bike route connecting Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs and it is in close proximity to countless miles of biking trails at the base of Pikes Peak. It’s basically a base camp for all cycling and outdoor adventures in Colorado Springs. The owner, Torie Giffin, brought her passion of hospitality and cycling to fruition with the opening of the lodge in 2016. You can find out about cycling events, weekly rides, and just about any outdoor activity from the friendly folks at Buffalo Lodge.
The lodge features a lobby cabin where guests can check-in, enjoy a complimentary breakfast (served Memorial Day through Labour Day), play some board games, enjoy rustic wilderness décor and partake in daily happy hour from 4 to 6 pm. Their fridge houses some killer craft beer selection and I was extremely pleased when Torie offered us a 6-pack to take to our room. The joys of being a beer enthusiast..
The rooms at Buffalo Lodge are all in stand-alone pavilions with 2 rooms per pavilion. This was a neat feature which allowed us to park right in front of our room, this made unloading our luggage a lot easier. We got the joys of a bicycle-themed room styled with neutral colours for a relaxed and cozy atmosphere.
Buffalo Lodge is the perfect place to stay at in Colorado Springs and you’ll truly feel a sense of comfort at this family owned and operated business. If the weather is nice you can take advantage of the outdoor pavilion for activities and games or take a dip in the seasonal outdoor pool.
What to Do
Springs Beer Tours
After a long drive from Boulder to Colorado Springs, the first stop was one that was going to quench my thirst…with beer of course. We met Russel Shaw of Springs Beer Tours at Creekside Cuisine to begin a 2-hour walking tour of the quaint mountain town of Manitou Springs (6 miles west of Colorado springs). Russel is a retired Service Disabled Veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force for over 23 years. He has been a resident of Colorado Springs since his retirement and has a strong knowledge and passion for craft beer and history.
Russ took us to some of the best attractions in the Springs such as Creekside Cuisine, Soda Springs Park, Patsy’s Original Candies, The Penny Arcade, Cliff House and Manitou Brewing. The Penny Arcade was a real highlight, featuring more than 400 games, some that still cost a penny. The oldest game in the arcade dates back to 1905 and is called a mutoscope (an early motion picture device). It was really cool to see some of my favourite old school games throughout the arcade as well as some newer ones added. The most popular game at the arcade seemed to be the old skee-ball machines from 1962.
As we walked to each spot in the Springs, Russ shared fun stories about the quirky town and gave us the history of certain areas and statues we walked past. My favourite stories were the ones that included ghosts, and let me tell you that there are A LOT of haunted stories in Maintou Springs. It seemed like every other building we walked past was haunted, especially The Cliff House (apparently many guests have seen a white apparition drifting the halls late at night). Luckily we didn’t have any ghastly encounters, instead we tried some of the local beers on tap such as Great Divide Yeti, Ska Brewing Modus Mandarina and Denver Beer Co. Princess Yum Yum Raspberry. Did you know? Famous people such as Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison stayed at The Cliff House.
I also really enjoyed our stop at Manitou Brewing Company. This historic brew pub features a delicious food menu and a great selection of beers that are made with the pristine waters located near the top of Pikes Peak.
Springs Beer Tours is a must-do tour while in Colorado Springs. Russ was extremely patient, friendly and knowledgeable and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the town. Russ made it fun, and catered the stories to our interests (I could’ve listened to haunted tales all day long). He even recommended some great breweries to check out in Colorado Springs. Thanks Russ!!
Garden of the Gods
Time to burn off some beer calories at Garden of the God’s Park. Driving into this vicinity was mind-blowing and so the tourist in us stopped the car at the side of the road to take photos of the park even though we were miles away. Eventually we drove into the visitor’s lot (free parking yay) and were ready to explore this national landmark that is one of the most popular attractions in Colorado. The area features towering, red-hued sandstone rock formations along with background views of Pikes Peak Mountain and eternal blue skies.
Every direction has a great photo opp so you could imagine how easily hundreds of photos could engulf your phone. We hiked around the area for about an hour while the sun beat down on the rocks, casting a shadow out into the fields beyond. It was such a beautiful experience and a must-visit for anyone who visits the Colorado Springs area. You can also take part in a free guided walking tour, front range rock climbing, jeep and segway tours, and much more!
Must Visit: Balanced Rock is located along the Garden of the Gods exit route and is one of the most phenomenal rocks in the entire area. It is over 290 million years old and surely is a sight to see as it is balanced perfectly upon a sloped ledge of sandstone.
Colorado Springs was a lovely escape from the big city lifestyle in Denver and I really enjoyed learning about the history of the city, hiking and cycling on nature trails, discovering fun breweries and embarking on outdoor adventures.
A gracious thank you to the Colorado Tourism Board and Visit Colorado Springs for hosting me! Of course, all reviews and opinions are entirely my own.
For more information on Colorado Springs as a travel destination, please visit https://www.visitcos.com/