Summer Family Fun in Colorado Springs
posted by: Lori Holden
There’s so much to love about Colorado Springs, so much to do and see, that my family has vacationed there year after year. We never tire of the stunning views, the countless family-friendly activities for kiddos of all ages, and the range of experiences to be had that included the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Echo Canyon River Expeditions and The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.
Garden of the Gods Club and Resort
A fantastic family vacation starts with a fantastic home base. For our 2016 summer trip, we were guests at the Garden of the Gods Club and Resort. Every single one of its rooms has a view like this from the balcony, which includes the Garden of the Gods in the midground and Pikes Peak in the background:
In fact, nearly everything you do at Garden of the Gods Club and Resort — dine, swim, golf, have a wedding or a meeting or a workout or a tennis game — is done with such a view, as all rooms are west-facing.
Tip: Take the complimentary valet service on your way in. There is also a free car service to get you and your kids across the vast property to the Kissing Camels rec center. and swimming pool.
We were greeted with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies along with tall glasses of milk in the fridge, a nice touch for the kids (yeah, for the kids). The rooms are spacious and luxurious, each with a balcony, a fireplace, a good-sized refrigerator, and a safe.
The resort includes an infinity pool, a full-service spa, and two restaurants. Guests also have access to the nearby Kissing Camels Sports Club, which boasts a grille, tennis courts, a recreation pool, wading pool, kiddie fountain, 27 hole golf course, Kids Club, and family game room (with foosball and pool tables). Truly, you could have a complete and varied experience here without ever leaving the hotel grounds.
But if you DO decide to leave hotel grounds, here are some funtastic options we’ve checked out for you.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Cogs and rails grip each other with their respective teeth for a 9 mile trek up the mountain with grades up to 25 percent. That’s steep! Views on the way up are magical, with opportunities to see many types of wildlife, like yellow-bellied marmots, bighorn sheep, and other species that can live at high altitudes. The summit is well above treeline, and on a day that would top 90 degrees at the base, there was snow at the peak. On a clear day, you can see not only Denver, but also Kansas and New Mexico. More scenic views here.
A conductor points out flora and fauna on the way up, and explains the feat and the history of building such a railway. The tour is about 3 hours start to finish, with time at the top to shop for souvenirs and to eat high-altitude doughnuts.
Tip: Take a bottle of water for each person. Staying hydrated will help ward off altitude sickness.
So far, so good, this vacation. But in our pursuit of family fun, I was about to go way way way out of my comfort zone.
Echo Canyon River Expeditions
Even though I was scared to the bone to go white-water rafting (remember The Complete Scaredy Cat’s Guide to LASIK?) I wanted to model for my kids how to be brave despite heart-gripping fear.
We drove past Canon City to Echo Canyon River Expeditions, and I knew immediately we were in good hands. I was relieved that we were issued wet suits that included ample protective padding and footies. That quelled my fear of being cold and wet and bashed around on unseen rocks.
But my new sense of okayness was challenged on the bus ride up the mountain, the roiling Arkansas River to our right taunting me like a snake about to simultaneously swallow, strike, and squeeze me.
Suzy, our guide, explained what we needed to know if we were to fall out of the raft. Perils included rocks, water barreling down at an astounding 3500 cubic feet per second (she said that as though it were a good thing), and — if we were unlucky enough to have to swim to shore and lucky enough to make it — rattle snakes and mountain lions.
Despite my near paralysis in getting off that bus, I did manage to do so and even get on our raft. We floated and paddled 9 miles down Bighorn Sheep Canyon, maneuvering Class I, II, and III rapids. For context, Suzy told us that Class I was like being in your bathtub with your rubber ducky, and Class VI was considered hair-on-fire unsurvivable.
Suzy captured some of our moments on a GoPro camera, mounted at the front of the craft.
While I thought I would merely endure the activity, instead I super-enjoyed it. It was exhilarating! Before it was over, I would get all excited whenever Suzy told us another Class III was coming up, and I was unexpectedly disappointed when we arrived at the pull-out point and it was time to disembark.
My husband, son, and daughter agreed: the Echo Canyon raft trip was an amazing and memorable experience we’ll forever treasure as a family. Added bonus? Four people x four hours without smartphones (no valuables came with us on the bus).
Tip: Bring bottled water for the bus and raft trips in bottles you don’t mind losing. Cheapo sunglasses are handy to protect your eyes from sun, water, and wind. Later sunscreen on your face, neck, and the backs of hands.
By the time we returned to Echo Canyon’s home base, doffed our wet suits, and decided which GoPro photos and videos we wanted to take home with us, we had just enough time to head back into Canyon City for an adult activity.
The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
While the kids stretched out on the beautiful grounds of The Holy Cross Abbey, my husband and I ducked in briefly to the tasting room of The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey.
We sampled whites, pinks, and reds, as well as some dessert wines, including the crispy Apple Blossom. Any of these tasty wines in beautiful bottles can be ordered online. Deciding which two bottles to walk out with was not easy, but we did enjoy the research required.
Tip: Arrive at least 20 minutes prior to closing time.
More Family Fun in Colorado Springs
What would your family most enjoy in Colorado Springs?
Lori Holden, mom of a teen daughter and a teen son, blogs from Denver at LavenderLuz.com. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available in paperback, hard cover, audio and e-book versions. It makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.