The Space Foundation Discovery Center is located on the west side of Colorado Springs. It’s a great place for kids to spend an hour learning and exploring Earth’s oceans, Jupiter’s moons and everything in between.
The Discovery Center combines the excitement of space exploration with STEM-focused activities. Learn what life is like on the International Space Station while creating circuits and perfecting paper airplane aerodynamics. Then dive under the sea to drive submersible cameras and learn how NASA prepares for space travel by exploring the ocean.
The Discovery Center is great pit stop on the way to lunch with kids. My five year old had fun and even more fun in the gift shop!
Admission is inexpensive at $2 for toddlers (2-4), $5 for kids (5-17), and $10 for adults. Parking is easy and free.
The Coffee Cottage is new in town, but has already found a special place among the locals.
They boast all organic coffee and pastries hoping to appeal to a health-conscious niche market in the small town of Woodland Park, but they succeed in serving great coffee to everyone who walks through the door.
Located in the group of shops near City Market grocery store, you’ll find them under the “coffee” sign near another Woodland Park favorite, AJ’s Pizza.
Their owners take pride in their work and the things they offer; they have some unique treats as well as many of the coffee shop staples you’ve come to expect. But their coffee roast has a unique flavor that will mix up your normal order.
We’ve had several things from the Coffee Cottage including cappuccinos, lattes, flavored drinks, unflavored drinks, iced, hot–you name it. I think it’s well balanced and smooth, but the coffee they use has a hint of a smokey taste. It makes me feel like sitting around a campfire with a warm blanket and a warm cup of joe! I really like it, and because I only stop by when I’m “up the hill” – as those of us from Colorado Springs say when we visit the mountain towns up Ute Pass – it’s a pleasant surprise every time I return.
The shop continues to grow; this is their first year in town, so they’re still getting settled. And I’ll be interested to see how the shop evolves and flourishes. The shop is filling in, and there are several regulars who use the space to study, have meetings or sit and relax. The Coffee Cottage also has a strong community mindset by lending a helping hand to other small creators in the area by displaying and selling local crafts, jewelry as well as other products.
I give the Coffee Cottage an 8/10. A solid score for their first few months in business.
Drive Through: No – plenty of free parking, though.
Kid Friendly: Yes – they can whip up a mean hot cocoa and there are some toys and games to play with, too. They really want everyone (even busy working moms with kids in tow) to stop by.
Y’all, we had a BLAST with Echo Canyon River Expeditions.
As a rookie, I was apprehensive about this trip. I thought I was getting in over my head. Pun fully intended. I was convinced I would spend the trip flying through the air and into the Arkansas River. Aaron had gone before, so he tried to reassure me. But he’s taller, stronger and generally less inhibited than me, so… I didn’t believe him!
We chose an advanced group tour through the Royal Gorge in Canon City, which boasts lots of paddling, fast waters and level IV rapids! Aaron and I went with four friends; with our guide, that brought our boat total to seven.
We arrived in Canon City in the morning to check in, sign waivers, and get fitted for helmets and life jackets. They also have wetsuits, if you want. We went in early July, and the water and weather were warm. Our guide said that the 4th of July time-frame is typically when the water gets warm enough to go without a wetsuit. We were advised to wear moisture-wicking fabrics that would dry easily like swimsuits or exercise apparel. I’m a wimp in cold water, but I was never cold. In fact, we were never wet for very long with the sun shining. Please remember your sunscreen! Faces, necks, ears, and, if you’re wearing shorts, the tops of your legs will need it! I’ll also remind you to bring dry clothes, towels, sunglasses, snacks and water. You may want a snack while you’re waiting for your group to head out. For a half-day tour, we were on the water for a few hours, plus we arrived an hour early. That left a lot of time to get hungry. The Royal Gorge location has a restaurant, but if you want something before you go, order early–they’re busy! You can take water bottles on the boat with you.
Around noon, we (and about 30-35 others) boarded a bus to go to our starting location. We got a brief safety run down, as well as general instructions on how to paddle and what to expect on the river. We got off the bus, were assigned a guide, and got ready to go. Our guides checked our life jackets one last time, did their own versions of the safety instructions and reminded us of the basic commands they use. Our guide was Berto, and guys, request him! He was funny, had a lot of little facts about the area and the river, and he was very laid back, so for a first-timer he was great.
We never tipped over, or flew out of the boat. I don’t think they can guarantee that every time; the river changes, weather changes and things happen, but no one in our entire group of 5-6 boats-full had a bad time. I know for certain that all 6 from my boat are eager to go again. It was fun going over some rapids and trying something new, and the Royal Gorge was amazing to see from the river.
We were bussed back to our starting location, and had some lunch at the restaurant. They have photographers lining the shores as you paddle by (and a GoPro on the front of the boat), and you can purchase photos after the trip. Leave your phone in the car. You won’t have service, so unless it’s super waterproof, just leave it. The check-in desk will keep your keys, so you don’t have to take those either.
Just an FYI, the guides do accept tips (though it’s not required), so you may want to bring some cash.
All in all, we had a great time. 10/10! Echo Canyon offers tours for all levels of difficulty and all age ranges (starting at 4-5 years old). They have tours in Canon City through the Royal Gorge and in several mountain areas around Colorado including Vail, Breckenridge, Buena Vista and more.
For more information, you can find them online. You can book your tour on their website, or give them a call to ask questions and find the right trip for you.
Colorado Springs is home to great coffee, and the Perk Downtown is a prime example. This fun and bustling cafe has great drinks and food which rank among the best in town. As you might expect, it’s located in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs on Tejon. Tejon Street is home to lots of local shops and restaurants as well as being the premier route for all parades and downtown celebrations.
The location creates a fun atmosphere because there are always people there with you. It’s energizing, and not just because of the caffeine! We went for the first time on a cold spring day, and it was easy to get warm inside. In warmer weather, it’s fun to sit outside and people-watch on Tejon Street, or there’s seating upstairs and on the roof for better views.
We took our kiddos and they had some hot cocoa while we had coffee. And I have to give props to the staff for understanding the habits of 2- and 4-year-olds. The cocoa came in to-go cups with lids. Parents get it. Lids.
For those who don’t do dairy, I had a soy latte that has yet to be topped.
I’ll just throw this out there too, they serve cocktails. Bloody Marys and mimosas (among other things), for those of you who may be interested.
We give The Perk Downtown a 10/10. Great location, great options and fun atmosphere.
Drive Through: No – Parking meters in the downtown area take credit cards, and are free before 8 am and after 6 pm, Monday-Friday. They are free all day on Sundays and city holidays.
The best way to experience Pikes Peak is on a bike! I’ve been to the top several times, but this was my first time coming down on two wheels instead of four.
The day starts at the shop where everyone checks-in and grabs breakfast. From there we’re given a demonstration about the bikes, and pile into the vans for our ride up to the Peak.
Pikes Peak Bike Tours has truly great guides to lead you on this adventure. Our guides, Wes, Tyler, Dan, Calie, and Austin, were very personable, and spoke to everyone as if we were long-time friends.
Wes and Tyler lead my group, and as we drove, they kept the conversation going with fun tidbits about Pikes Peak and the surrounding area. They discussed what we could expect from the weather and also what to expect on the trip back down.
At the top, we spent 15-20 minutes to visit the gift shop and take in the view. I wish we had a few more minutes to take photos at the top, but I was excited for the ride to begin.
It’s very cold up on the Peak year round, so make sure you bring a sweater and a windbreaker. PPBT has loaner gloves and some spare clothes, but it’s best to come prepared. Sunglasses and sunscreen are always good things to wear for any activity in Colorado.
Soon the bikes were unloaded, and we were given a few minutes to ride around to gain our mountain legs for the trip to the bottom. We had one more safety/instructional huddle, then we were split into two groups, fast and slow. You pick your group based on your comfort level. The slow group allows people to travel back down at their own pace. Our fast group guide, Tyler, explained we would be traveling at speeds around 25 miles per hour most of the way down.
Only One Way Down
Tyler led the group the whole way down; Wes followed in the van. The slow group was sandwiched between the other two vans for the trip down. Anytime cars needed to pass, we pulled off to the side of the road. I never felt nervous about the cars because our guides were so at ease and handled the whole group really well. We took a few stops along the way for photos and to let everyone catch up. If you wanted to switch the group you were in, you were allowed to switch at these stopping points.
There are three short climbs on the trip. Our guides had no problem tossing a bike back up on the van to chauffeur reluctant participants uphill like a V.I.P.
Once we made it to the bottom, everyone piled back in the vans, and they drove us to Old Colorado City for lunch. The meal and tip for the server are included in the ticket price, so you can walk in, sit down and eat without worry. After lunch, you return to the shop, where the trip ends. The group I ate lunch with decided to walk the few blocks back to the shop. The walk was a nice way to stretch my legs after being on the bike that long.
When Can I Go Again?
Going up and back down in a car is a nice experience, but to come back down on a bike with no walls or windows is exhilarating. The rush of the cold wind, and the steep views from all around are some of best experiences I’ve ever had. Not to mention, when you get back to town, you can look up at Pikes Peak and say, “I rode down that on a bike!”
I have to give a HUGE thank you to the staff of Pikes Peak Bike Tours for an amazing trip. PPBT has even more ways to experience the area with tours along Gold Camp Road and even special event tours like their Fourth of July Fireworks Ride. I’ll definitely be coming back for another trip!
There is a summer farmers market in Woodland Park, in Memorial Park / Henrietta Avenue near the Cultural Center. The market begins the second Friday in June and goes through September. You can park across from City Hall on South Avenue, at the Senior Center (please leave spaces for seniors close to the building), next to the Ute Pass Cultural Center, in Bergstrom Park off Hwy 24, and at various public parking lots in downtown Woodland Park. It’s easy to park on a residential street and walk to the farmers market.
Story Coffee–self proclaimed “first tiny house coffee shop in the world”– is located in downtown Colorado Springs on the edge of Acacia Park. And it’s exactly what you’d think when you hear “tiny house coffee shop.” It’s tiny.
The interior is wide enough for two people to stand side by side and place their orders at the counter, and long enough for a few more sets to stand behind. It’s definitely not big enough for my 4- and 2-year-olds to run around like they wanted. But that’s the point.
The owners of Story Coffee have lived the minimalist life for years. They sold their house and most of their possessions and hit the road with their two kids, collecting memories and mileage instead of stuff. They traveled the country exploring as a family, tasting great coffee, and learning from coffee shop owners from coast to coast.
The shop used to live in a different part of the Springs, until a few years ago when it was “parked” near Acacia Park during the busy holiday season as a test run. And Acacia Park has been the home of Story Coffee since.
The shop has a lovely deck if you want to sit. Because it’s inside the park and so near downtown, the setting encourages you to talk to other people while sipping your coffee or set off to explore downtown.
Our kids loved playing on the playground while my husband waited for our coffees. In the summertime, Acacia Park is packed because they turn on the splash pad, and kids can’t get enough. Concerts are put on just behind Story Coffee on the outdoor stage. Also, Tejon Street has shops, restaurants, and it’s the parade route for every event in the Springs.
My coffee was hot, smooth and light. It was the perfect thing for walking on a bright spring day.
They sell some pastries but don’t have a full kitchen, so you won’t be able to order a full meal. They don’t have a huge variety, but the things they do, they do well. The shop is popular, so the line is long. There was only one person working when we were there, so things took a while. But remember, their shop has limited square footage. There’s not enough room for lots of employees. But it was worth the wait.
All in all, we give Story Coffee a 9/10.
Kid Friendly: Yes
Drive Through: No. And if you park on a weekday, many streets have parking meters (but the meters take credit cards).
My Sweet Escape is a cute bakery on the corner of Gold Hill Plaza in Woodland Park, Colorado. As the name suggests, the shop is full of yummy baked treats from cupcakes and cookies to flaky pastries filled with berries and cream. Needless to say, if you leave unsatisfied, it’s your own fault.
Not only does My Sweet Escape have many bakery favorites, it also has a full menu from stews, sandwiches and great sides, to their famous Czech kolaches and hamburgers. We went with our kids, then drove on to Mueller State Park for a day of exploring.
Be careful, don’t blink! If you do, you might miss all of Florissant, Colorado, on your way through. Like many mountain towns throughout Colorado, the bustling metropolis of Florissant is comprised of a small cluster of shops. If you’re not paying attention, you might pass it by.
However, this small town, located at the intersection of Highway 24 and Teller County Rd 1, is worth slowing down for.
It has a convenience store and gas station, so it’s a good place for a pit-stop. But it’s also home to some great food.
Costello Street Coffee House is a fun place to stop and refresh. The historic McLaughlin House in Florissant now serves steamy cups of coffee and tasty treats, while maintaining the cozy feeling of going home!
The home was built in 1885 for the McLaughlins during the height of the Victorian era. The McLaughlins were a prominent family in the Florissant area, and the interior reflects their Victorian style to this day.
Costello Street Coffee House has a full menu if you want a bite for lunch, or you can grab a pastry to go. You’ll find all the staple coffee-shop drinks. I got a chai tea. I’m not usually a fan of chai, but this was tasty. To me, chai tastes like Christmas. It has the same smell as the boxes of Christmas decorations we unpacked each year. I think that’s why I don’t get it often; it seems out of place in months that aren’t December! But I can definitely see myself coming back around Christmas for another chai tea while getting cozy in front of the fireplace.
Florissant is an hour from Colorado Springs, and an hour and a half from Breckenridge, so it works as a perfect midway point. Pike National Forest, The Florissant Fossil Beds, and Mueller State Park are all 10-20 minutes away. You can stop by Costellos to grab some breakfast before venturing into the Pikes Peak area. Then finish your day by exploring Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods before heading back up Ute Pass and into the mountains surrounding the Florissant area.
All in all, I give Costello Street Coffee House a 6/10. I don’t think they have a lot of unique things to offer, but what they have is consistent and good. It’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re staying in our Florissant Family Retreat, only 10 minutes away!
Fourteen thousand, one hundred and fifteen feet! Woah! Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, stands over 14,000 feet above sea level, and it towers more than half that distance above the towns at its base, including Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek, Cañon City and Woodland Park.
As an above-14,000-foot peak, it’s part of the group of mountains known as fourteeners. Colorado has 54 fourteeners, and Pikes Peak ranks 31st out of those 54. Conquering the summit of Pikes Peak is truly an achievement.
Pikes Peak was discovered in the 1700s, but wasn’t named until an excursion brought Zebulon Pike into the area. Later, Katherine Lee Bates would write a poem describing the beauty of the American countryside, and the “purple mountain majesties” were based on none other than Pikes Peak. America’s Mountain was born.
Locals can attest to the purple hue of the mountains in the early morning sun, and they always look for “the Peak” to know they’re close to home.
It’s a Spectacle for All
Whether you’re hiking, biking, driving or taking some great Colorado photography, it’s a must-see attraction.
To drive to the top…
…you begin at the Pikes Peak Tollway in Cascade, Colorado. It’s a 19-mile journey that will take several hours round-trip. It will take your breath away as you navigate the switchbacks to the top. Be prepared for the journey with some snacks and water for the car. You may notice that you get sleepy along the way. That’s the altitude! Also, be prepared for a 30-degree temperature drop. Even in the middle of summer, it can be cold on the peak, so bring a coat! Make sure to get some fudge at the top in the gift shop. It’s so yummy!
PRICES: Adult: $10 | Child (6-15): $5 | Carload up to 5 people: $35
HOURS: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Daily | Last car goes up at 3 p.m.
The hike is not for the faint of heart.
The Barr Trail begins in Manitou Springs. You can begin with the infamous Manitou Incline, a set of over 2,700 stairs that gain 2,000 feet in elevation in just under a mile. Not ready for that? You can jump right on the Barr Trail. The trail is 13 miles and gains 7,510 feet from beginning to end. You’ll want to begin in the wee hours of the morning because it can take more than 4 hours just to get half way! Many hikers choose to make the trip to the top a two-day trek (that’s my most alliterative sentence, to date). Barr Camp is about 7 miles from the trailhead. You can make reservations to stay overnight at barrcamp.com/overnight.php.
Or rather, bike down. You can book a Jeep tour to the summit of Pikes Peak. You’ll meet in the morning for a yummy breakfast, then take a Jeep to the top! Once you’re there, there’s only one way down, right? Cruise down 19.5 miles of scenic highway back to Cascade, and end at the Wines of Colorado for a lunch to celebrate your return! Book at tour at pikespeakbybike.co.