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.
KaPow Comics & Coffee is a fun and geeky place to get a cup of Joe.
KaPow is an easy hole in the wall to miss. It’s a small shop located on North Nevada Avenue near the Colorado Springs campus of the University of Colorado. It’s a few minutes from the Historic North End of Colorado Springs and downtown, as well as local favorite hiking area, Pulpit Rock.
Comic lovers rejoice, KaPow Comics & Coffee is connected to a full fledged comic shop with titles from several genres as well as miniatures and collectibles. The inside of the building is lined with bold colors and art from local artists.
KaPow uses coffee exclusively from Coda Coffee Co. Coda hails from Denver, and they are a certified B corp. Meaning they adhere to strict social and environmental standards.
The cafe does local sales and specials for their brews and books alike, local artist showcases, and trivia and game nights.
They have all of your favorite traditional coffee drinks as well as a full menu and specialty drinks with a nerdy twist! I tried a plain Jane latte, and it was so smooth and good. Aaron tried the Han in Caramelnite and won’t stop talking about it! I think George Lucas would approve.
The only downside to KaPow is not many people know about it. It’s a little quiet inside on any ol’ day, but it fills up for special events.
All said and done, we give KaPow 8/10.
Kid friendly: Yes.
Drive through: Yes! Satisfy your inner geek on the go!
No one wants to travel across the country only to realize something was forgotten. At the same time, hauling everything but the kitchen sink through an airport is exhausting. The more people traveling together, the more luggage there is; pile kids’ toys, strollers, and sippy cups on top, and you might as well have brought the sink too. Needless to say, packing for a vacation can be a delicate art.
That’s where a vacation rental is great. We supply the necessities–blankets, pillows, towels, and best of all, a washer and dryer.
Save yourself the hassle and pack light. You can always wash your clothes at your rental and save the suitcase space for souvenirs!
That being said, what do you bring?
Dressing for Colorado weather is best summed up with one word: layers.
You’ll want layers you can easily take on and off. A nice, breathable t-shirt first, then long sleeves over that. On the top, think of wearing a wind- and water-proof jacket.
With the high altitude and low humidity, there’s greater temperature swings through the day than you would experience in the plains of the Midwest. Mornings and nights are quite cool, so you may want long sleeves and pants (even in the summertime), but by mid-day, you’ll want to ditch the long sleeves for something more breathable. Bring a backpack for hiking or cruising around town, and throw the jacket in the pack when you get too hot.
And remember the material of your clothes can make all the difference. Whether you’re coming for a winter or summer vacation, you’ll want your base layer to be something synthetic that wicks away sweat and breathes. Fleece makes a great warming layer over top. Finally, add that weatherproof jacket to keep out the elements.
And don’t forget about your little piggies! Particularly in the winter, you’ll want warm wool socks if you’re going to be outside.
Side note: It can be tempting to reach for cotton t-shirts, or a comfy sweatshirt, but cotton is only good when it’s dry. It doesn’t breathe in the summer, so when you sweat, it will cling to you. Then when you start to cool off, your clothes will be wet which will make you cold. In the wintertime, cotton keeps you warm by trapping air between you and the clothes. If you sweat from serious skiing, hiking or snowshoeing, that cotton will cling and the warm air pocket will be completely gone. You’ll be cold, and your day will be done. Think too, cotton socks in your boots bunch up, rub on your feet, and won’t keep you warm.
Other must-have items for a trip to Colorado:
Sunglasses. We have serious sun out here!
Water bottle.Less humidity + more altitude = dehydration. Every Coloradoan has a trusted water bottle that doesn’t leave their side. I even bring mine into restaurants!
Sunscreen. Same deal: altitude and sun can lead to serious sunburn. Even in the winter, sunscreen is a good idea. It also keeps the skin from drying out.
Shoes. If you’re going to hike, have a decent pair of shoes. I don’t care if you got your sandals in the hiking section of the sporting-goods store, you’ll want closed-toe shoes.
Backpack. I mentioned before that it’s handy to have a backpack, but I’ll say it again. It’s a great catch-all that’s easier than a purse and keeps Dad from loading up his pockets. Plus, a backpack makes it that much easier to pull over and go for a hike! Throw your water and snacks inside, and go for it!
In a world with Airbnb and VRBO, everyone can rent out their home.
It’s a great way to earn money back on your investment, and one I wholeheartedly support! But not every VRBO or Airbnb experience is created equal.
So much of what makes a vacation rental great is the host, or in our case, the manager. Many homeowners have full-time jobs and may even live across the country from their rental! That’s where renting from a vacation rental manager can take your vacation from good to great, and your vacation home from a simple place to sleep, to a place with incredible memories.
Need another reason to find a vacation rental manager in the city you want to visit? Here’s my top five!
1. It’s My Job
As a vacation rental manager, it’s my full-time, 24/7 job to take care of these properties and those in them! I have the time, the resources, and the experience to tell me what each house will need to be fully stocked and ready for guests.
2. Get What You Expect
It can be hard to sift through pages and pages of houses, and get a good feel for the home. Give me a call and I can answer your questions. I know the houses inside and out, so let me walk you through them, and tell you exactly what you can expect when you get there.
3. Customer Service
As my guest, I’m here for you. Do you want me to set up a reservation for you? Do you need me to bring you groceries so you can sit back and relax? Let me know! I want to help make your stay memorable and relaxing. If there’s something I can do to help, I will! Not to mention, I live, work and play here, so ask me questions. I can help you make the most of your visit.
4. Save on Fees
Like other vacation rental managers, we have our homes on listing sites like Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey and more, but we know the service fees from those sites can be a drawback. So give us call, and we can save you the fees when you book directly with us.
Neither you nor I want anything to go wrong during your stay, but if something happens, I’m on it. I do everything I can to resolve issues quickly. I don’t want you to go without anything, and as a manager, I have the time to focus on a problem and get it resolved. I can’t guarantee that everything will be working 100-percent of the time. Things happen–even in a vacation rental. But know that I won’t put off an issue, and I will do everything I can to make it right for you.
We had heard a lot of great things about Third Space Coffee, so we knew we had to give it a try.
The inspiration for their name came from a community-minded apporach to owning and operating a business. They wanted their venue to be the “third space” in your life; first is your home, then work, and third is your community space.
And they definitely delivered there. The shop has lots of space and seating, so a lot of people can gather together at once. They host live music, group events, and worship groups weekly.
There’s a separate area for parents to take their kids, so little legs can stretch while moms and dads sit together.
We’ve been there twice, and both times there were a lot of people, so the atmosphere was very fun, but we were less impressed with the coffee. I ordered a vanilla latte and it was sour for my taste. I usually like them smooth, with just a hint of vanilla. I’m not afraid of the coffee–rather than the sugar–being the hero of the drink, but this was not for me. My husband’s cappuccino was small and bitter, more like an espresso shot. The second time we went, his was much better, but I thought mine was much the same.
The other thing I’ll mention about Third Space is the location. While the store itself is easy to find and has plenty of parking, it’s off of Academy Blvd. It’s a busy thoroughfare, so you’re traveling fast and it’s easy to miss your turn. A lot of places are only accessible from one side of the street because of the median.
While the coffee wasn’t our favorite, it had a lot of other good qualities including a great staff. It’s especially nice if you have your kids with you.
Kid friendly: Yes – separate play area for kids = happy moms and dads!
Kairos Coffee House was a last-minute decision we’re really happy we made.
Colorado Springs natives may have noticed their sign along Garden of the Gods Road, but you can’t actually see the storefront from the street. In fact, it felt a lot like searching for the Isle of Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean: it cannot be found, except by those who already know where it is.
Once you get inside, you’ll forget you’ve never been there before–because you’ll already want to come again.
In the ’70s, this space used to be a bar, so the decor still has that cool, bar vibe with multiple levels, stone walls, and the baristas stand behind a bar that surrounds them on all sides. But it’s been transformed into a really cozy setting. Local art is hung on every wall, and there are tons of windows that let in lots of natural light. The fireplace near the entrance is open on two sides, so you can warm up on your way in, or pull up a chair on the other side with your coffee of choice.
There are larger tables which make it great for study groups or a mobile office, and in fact, they encourage you to come in and make yourself at home with work, school, friends, or a good book. They even let you host events like baby showers, birthday parties, and corporate gatherings.
I had a regular vanilla latte which was creamy and sweet. I think I prefer it with a little more coffee flavor, so next time I might ask them to go light on the syrup. My husband had a Caramelicious and loved it. He had it with with four shots, so it wasn’t too sweet.
Kid friendly: Yes – though it is quiet, so if your kids are prone to running around (like our 2- and 4-year-old), you may think ahead.
Drive through: No.
We give Kairos Coffee House a strong 9/10. If it was in a slightly different location it would get 10/10, but we’ll definitely be back.
We love The Principal’s Office! The coffee is amazing, but what really makes The Principal’s Office unique is the setting.
It’s on the southwest side of the Springs in a building called the Ivywild School. In 1916, it was built as an elementary school and served the community as such until 2009. By 2012 it had begun its transformation into the social hub and community marketplace that it is today. In addition to The Principal’s Office, the Ivywild School is home to Colorado Springs native Bristol Brewery–try their Beehive beer, it’s my favorite. There are several other restaurants, local shops and the gym stays open for events like group yoga, improv acts, movie nights and more.
The Principal’s Office has a great selection of coffee, from a straight black cup o’ Joe to their artisan drinks, it’s really all good. I had a rose water vanilla late that I now find myself craving.
They serve food and also specialty cocktails. My husband and I love their homemade Moscow Mule. They make their own ginger beer, and they throw in a jalapeno for extra kick. We’ve tried to replicate it at home, and we just can’t. Give it a try for yourselves!
Kid friendly: During the day – yes. There is seating at the bar, as well as indoor tables and a nice outdoor sitting area. It does get more of a cocktail bar feel at night.
Drive-through: No. Do yourself a favor, and go inside!
The Pikes Peak region really has it all. Hiking, fishing, ATV trails, horseback riding, amazing natural landmarks and best of all–it’s within driving distance to Colorado’s major ski resorts.
Our moderate climate makes this a great winter destination. Coming from the Midwest, my husband and I love that winter time is sunny in Colorado! And in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, lots of sun and not much snow means hiking year round. We can take the kids, the dogs, and our out-of-town friends on the trails we love and get glimpses of those breathtaking panoramas almost any day of the year.
I know many people come to Colorado during the winter for time on the slopes, but I say, why not have both?
Major resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone, and Vail are about two hours away which makes for an easy drive and a fun day-trip in the snow. But come back to our neck of the woods, and enjoy the nicer weather along with other perks. You’ll save some cash by staying farther from the ski resorts, so you’ll be able to buy some souvenirs, go out to eat, and enjoy more than what your lift ticket can get you. And you can mix-up your daytime adventures by staying in a part of the state with a very different climate. One day you can go hiking or sight-seeing; the next day you can ski!
Another thing my husband and I love to tell visitors: check out the smaller ski resorts–especially if it’s your first time. Breckenridge is amazing. The views are wonderful, the skiing is first-class and you’ll have lots of fun. But so will everyone else. It’s a well-known resort, so it’s where people think to go. That means long lines to the lift, crowded runs down the mountain, and standing-room only in the lodge.
We recently took a day-trip to Cooper Mountain in Leadville, Colorado, and it was the perfect place for some snowboarding for my husband, our 4-year-old tried skiing for the first time, and our toddler and I spent the day hiking and snowshoeing through the Nordic Center right next to the resort. Our favorite part, though, was the price. An adult lift ticket cost $54; a half day lesson, lunch and afternoon daycare cost $110 (rentals included); and my pass on the Nordic trails cost $15 (our 2-year-old went for free). That’s chump change compared to those major resorts!
And while the temperature stayed in the single digits in Leadville, we drove home and back into 40-degree weather. It was really nice after a long day to not have to freeze while unloading the car!