Part 1 of our Colorado getaway segued us into the rugged outdoor oasis of Colorado's beautiful landscape via Red Rocks Park. We also got a taste of Denver's art scene. Follow along below as we venture on to Colorado Springs.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and downtown Colorado Springs
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was about an 1.5 drive from Zeppelin Station (our last stop in Denver), which was the perfect time for Curious G to catch some z’s and fuel up for the next leg our of trip. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was highly recommended by a few people and the beautiful giraffes and mountain setting were the highlight for us. Curious G didn’t know where to look because there was so much nature to explore along the way.
After checking into our hotel, we drove to downtown Colorado Springs for dinner. It took us about 20 minutes to stroll along the main strip on South Tejon Street, before we decided to eat at Colorado Craft. I ordered my first set of wings and beer, which would set the precedent for my next three dinners. The food was delicious and the setting was relaxing and perfectly kid friendly.
Words cannot describe the things that we saw in the Garden of the Gods. Pictures do no justice. I will attempt to illustrate the other-worldliness of this national natural landmark with the moments captured via my iphone, but my disclaimer is that I could not encapsulate the crisp air, the feel of the dirt and minerals brushing against our skin as we scaled the rock formations, the panorama of blue sky and mountain peaks, or the peace that comes with existing as a small component in an untamed realm.
Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad
Our Denver friends had recommended the Georgetown Loop Railroad , but we decided to take a much shorter car trip from the Garden of the Gods to Cripple Creek to ride a historic steam engine through old mining camps and through Echo Valley. The hour long drive was scenic to say the least. On the way, we passed by old fashioned western towns and then embarked on a winding drive along the mountainside where we skimmed the very edge of the road that overlooked breathtaking deep green carpets of pine trees and Aspens. When we arrived at the train station, it was about 20 degrees colder because we were much higher up. Therefore, when given the option of the open air train car or the indoor car, we went with the latter. Curious G also opted to wear the noise reduction headphones on loan from the ticket office. The whistle of the choo choo, which was part of the fun, was not to her liking. The 40-minute ride gave us a glimpse back in time when the gold rush was in full swing. The conductor narrated along the way while I tuned out to enjoy the scenery and snuggle a tired toddler. Cripple Creek oozes with roguish Westworld charm and the little Main St allows you to browse boutiques, restaurants and even a casino.
Manitou Springs: Arcade Amusements and Manitou Brewing Co
After our Cripple Creek experience, we drove about an hour to downtown Manitou Springs, which sits at the base of Pike's Peak and is full of locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants. We discovered an outdoor penny arcade, called Arcade Amusements, with the most old school coin-operated rides I have ever seen in my life. This place literally has every ride that was ever created. Curious G took this opportunity to try out about half of them, which meant she got on and off about 50 different rides. Not a penny was spent during this hour of fun, as C.G. soared off to distant lands via her vivid imagination. After walking around and taking in the mountain vistas and charming boutiques, as a light drizzle was developing, we stopped into Manitou Brewing Company for more wings and beer (lemonade and tacos for Curious G). The beers created in this historic brewpub are all "born from the pristine waters located near the top of the (Pikes) peak". My ginger beer packed a punch with its kicky ginger flavor, and my bacon lime jalapeno wings delivered delectable salty, sweet, and tangy bites.
Where we stayed:
Embassy Suites Colorado Springs by Hilton
We had a spacious (save for a small bathroom) and comfortable suite, and appreciated the perks of staying in this hotel. The complimentary breakfast buffet made Curious G's daddy declare that he was "officially on vacation" (it's the little things in life...), and was a great vehicle to tide us over until lunch (I'm normally starving by 10:30 am unless I have eaten platefuls of eggs, bacon and sausage with a side of potatoes and assorted pastries). They also offered a complimentary happy hour with snacks and adult beverages and juices in the interior “courtyard”. This won major brownie points with C.G. when we returned from dinner and I created a dessert concoction of caramel popcorn, M and Ms, pretzels and goldfish; “dessert salad” as she likes to call it. It was also about 10 minutes from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Garden of the Gods, downtown Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs (maybe closer to 15 for some of these). The perks and convenience more than made up for its lack of glamour and other extraneous amenities (extraneous when we literally passed out after putting G to bed every night).