Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has taken his three kids to 40 countries but he keeps returning to Colorado Springs. We’ve partnered with Eric to get his tips on keeping kids engaged and active in his hometown.
Growing up in Colorado Springs, I don’t remember ever being bored. I lived a block from the Broadmoor Hotel and walked over frequently, reading comic books in the drug store, playing at the playground or grabbing day-old bread from the Tavern kitchen and feeding ducks at the lake. If I wasn’t at the hotel I was hiking, riding my bike or skiing. Summers meant camp.
I’m now based in California, but I take my kids back to Colorado Springs several times a year. The weather is perfect in the summer, the mountains are beautiful, and it’s still a great place for kids to play and explore. Plus it’s a destination that easily combines with visits to Colorado’s mountain towns, with Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen all less than three hours away (in the summer). What do we do when we go back to Colorado Springs that we would recommend to other families? These are the top five things.
We love to spend time at The Broadmoor. It’s one of the best hotels in the country, with a stunning location at the base of the Rockies, and there’s a lot to do even for non-guests. Our kids run around the lake, play at the playground and jump off the boulders around the property. We dine frequently at Ristorante del Lago and the Golden Bee and go bowling at PLAY. In winter the hotel wraps its hundreds of trees in Christmas lights and the effect is beautiful, with the light reflecting in the lake and bouncing off the snow – a great setting for hot chocolates. Or we’ll head up just for ice cream at Espresso News.
Hiking in Cheyenne Canyon
This is one of my favorite places in the world to hike, with gorgeous views and kid-friendly paths. Mount Cutler Trail passes by Seven Falls and ends at an amazing rocky overlook with a view over Colorado Springs to the Great Plains. Helen Hunt Falls Trail is short but with fun rock hopping and plenty of water cascading down enormous boulders. Or drive to the end, park and walk on Gold Camp Road past Aspen groves and the collapsed tunnels that once linked Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. We go hiking in winter too, but summer and fall, when leaves are changing, are the best.
Garden of the Gods
Over 100 years ago Charles Perkins gave the Garden of the Gods park to the city of Colorado Springs. What a gift! The park is filled with towering sandstone rocks and has paths that wind through the prettiest areas – perfect for an easy family excursion, even with strollers. The best time to visit is in the evening when the crowds have disappeared, the daily thunderstorms have moved through and the rocks are illuminated by the sunset. You won’t be able to miss Pikes Peak, perfectly framed behind the park. Have your kids try to find the Kissing Camels rock formation, and be sure to follow the signs to Balanced Rock, a perfect photo op. Just don’t go climbing unless you have a permit – it’s a lot easier to get up than down, and you don’t want to pay for a very expensive rescue and citation.
Classes at the Fine Arts Center
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and its Bemis Arts School have classes throughout the year for all ages. My kids have primarily done week-long cooking and art classes during the summer, but the school has classes year-round, from photography to sculpture to dance. Plan ahead and book something that your kids (or you!) will enjoy. One added benefit: my kids have made friends in the classes that they meet up with every time we visit.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo / Zoo Camp
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the US. The highlight is the giraffe herd – the largest in the country – but the other exhibits are excellent as well. My daughter particularly likes the naked mole rats! The zoo is stroller-friendly, but given that it’s built on the side of a mountain, you’ll get a workout on the hills. Be sure to take a turn on the old-fashioned carousel. The zoo can get crowded in the summer, so arrive early for easy parking, and apply lots of sunscreen – the sun is strong at 6,800 feet.
The zoo runs week-long day camps in the summer for all age groups four and up. Several of the camps even include camping out at the zoo one night, which my kids have always had fun doing.
There are excellent restaurants throughout the Springs for any kind of cuisine you’re looking for. Our favorite restaurants are Ristorante del Lago at the Broadmoor, Pizzeria Rustica in Old Colorado City and Il Vicino downtown. At Il Vicino be sure to ask for pizza dough for the kids to play with (if it’s not offered automatically), and then hand it back in to be cooked in the pizza oven. After Il Vicino we always walk around the corner to Josh and John’s for homemade ice cream.
Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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