The Colorado Springs community, nestled at the base of Pikes Peak in the Front Range, has long attracted people from all over the world. Some sought to strike it rich during the Gold Rush, others homesteaded a farm or ranch, and still others want to live an active lifestyle and take in the stunning natural beauty.
While the Gold Rush has long since passed, Colorado Springs is still an incredible place to live, and the strong community spirit lives on. That's evident in the sheer number of community events and festivals held in the city throughout the year. From traditional rodeos and food festivals to celebrations of adventure sports and even Halloween coffin races, there's always something interesting to see and do in Colorado Springs. Read on to discover a few of the festivals in Colorado Springs that locals and visitors celebrate each year.
Colorado Springs truly comes to life in the springtime, with wildflowers blanketing the already-spectacular scenery and wildlife becoming more active. Fortunately, several festivals in April and May provide unique, up-close ways to experience it. From events centered around birding to a celebration of the Gold Rush days and a nationally recognized band competition, here are The Springs' best spring festivals.
Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival
It's no secret that one of the biggest highlights in the Front Range region is nature. In particular, it's a major bird migration route every spring. This is largely because of the geographical diversity in the area, where prairie land meets dense forest and soaring alpine peaks. The Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival celebrates all of that, featuring several educational and interactive events over the course of a weekend in May.
The festival's events center around birding, of course, but there are several other interesting activities as well. Popular events each year include behind-the-scenes birds of prey tours at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo; "Birds and Brews," a complimentary happy hour with food, drinks, auctions, and live music; and bird-watching walks through Garden of the Gods park. Non-birding highlights include identifying insects, learning about paleontology, and taking short hikes to learn about local flora and fauna.
For over four decades, Territory Days has been one of Colorado's most cherished festivals. Held on Memorial Day weekend every year in the Old Colorado City neighborhood, this street fair celebrates the region's rich and fascinating history. Territory Days uses interactive exhibits, live music, performing arts, and more to shine a light on the people, places, and events in the Front Range during the 1850s Gold Rush.
Festival attendees will enjoy authentic Old West-style activities, including panning for gold, blacksmithing, train rides, and Cowboy Church. There are Native American dancers, people dressed in period costumes, a kids' zone, beer gardens, hundreds of unique vendors, and more. Best of all, admission to Territory Days is totally free.
Outside of Territory Days, Old Colorado City is a destination in and of itself. Whether you're just visiting or you're a local living in one of Colorado Springs' most popular neighborhoods, this picturesque historic district on the west side has something for everyone. Shop at eclectic, independently owned boutiques, enjoy local cuisine, or simply stroll the tree-lined streets.
Music & Blossom Festival
Cañon City's Music & Blossom Festival is one of the oldest festivals in the state, dating back to at least the 1860s. Its original purpose was to ring in the region's warm-weather growing season, a long-held tradition around the world that's believed to bring good luck—and high yields.
Today, the Music & Blossom Festival still kicks off the summer growing season, but that's just the beginning. It's also become one of the state's largest school music competitions, with several nationally recognized events at varying levels. Student musicians from elementary all the way through high school compete in several categories, including jazz band, orchestra, marching band, and more.
Aside from the band and agricultural focuses, the Music & Blossom Festival also features a lively parade, rodeo, carnival, and more. Cañon City is just 45 minutes from Colorado Springs, and the festival is always held the first weekend in May.
There's nothing quite like summer in Colorado Springs. The weather is beautiful, and there are countless ways to get outdoors and enjoy it all. Festivals are a great way to do that, and summer options in The Springs include everything from a hot air balloon festival to a celebration of outdoor recreation.
Labor Day Lift Off
On Labor Day weekend, the "most colorful weekend of the year" comes to Colorado Springs—the annual Labor Day Lift Off. This is Colorado's biggest hot air balloon event and one of the most anticipated festivals in the state every year. Held at Memorial Park, the event includes morning balloon launches, evening hot air balloon glows, and much more.
Labor Day Lift Off includes approximately 70 unique balloons in every shape and color imaginable. Each morning, a massive balloon lift-off takes place from 7–9 a.m. Festival attendees can walk through the launch area, getting an up-close-and-personal view of the balloons' inflation and launch. Similarly, the balloon glow in the evenings involves the balloons inflating and lighting up, creating a glowing sky. There's nothing quite like seeing these giants from just a few feet away.
Signature aspects of Front Range culture are an active lifestyle and outdoor recreation. Water activities in Colorado Springs, including kayaking and whitewater rafting, are extremely popular, especially in the summer—and that's the premise of the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival. The festival is at Cañon City's Whitewater Park on the Arkansas River, and it's during July because the river flows are at their highest.
For over a decade, the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival has held the event on a July weekend, bringing the community many water-related competitions. Enjoy rafting, tubing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) races, as well as freestyle competitions. Some other favorites year after year include the Raft Rodeo and Build-Your-Own-Boat Race. In addition, the festival features several land-based events, including a 5K race and mountain bike races. Of course, there will also be live music and plenty of food and beer. The festival costs $5 to enter, and children 12 years and under can enter free.
Top of the World Rodeo
Colorado, and the city of Cripple Creek in particular, has a long history with rodeo. Needless to say, the annual Top of the World Rodeo draws thousands of people every June. Held at the Teller County Fairgrounds just an hour from Colorado Springs, the rodeo is within easy access of many homes and condos in the city. Cripple Creek also sits at an elevation of 9,640 feet, so even the drive is interesting and scenic.
Top of the World honors many time-honored rodeo traditions, with events such as calf roping, mutton busting, bronc riding, barrel racing, and bull riding. There are also several events outside the arena, including the classic rodeo parade, pancake breakfasts, and the big street dance with live music, beer, food, and a mechanical bull. One-day or discounted two-day passes are available.
Colorado Springs' fall festivals perfectly embody everything that has helped shape the region. From some of its quirky—but very real—history to its importance during the Gold Rush and its rich arts culture, the fall festivals offer a great way to immerse yourself in the local community.
Emma Crawford Coffin Race
Wondering what on Earth a coffin race is? Well, it's (almost) exactly what it sounds like. The fun, quirky, and much-loved Emma Crawford Coffin Race takes place each October in the Manitou Springs community, honoring a local urban legend. Emma Crawford was a real young woman inflicted by tuberculosis in the late 1880s who, like so many others, moved to the area hoping to be cured by the clean mountain air. She was buried on Red Mountain when she died, and as the legend goes, her coffin was unearthed by heavy rainfall years later and went "racing" down the mountain.
The festival's centerpiece race entails teams of four "mourners" racing "coffins" up Manitou Avenue, while a costumed Emma Crawford lookalike sits on top. Festival attendees go all-out in period costumes, and there's also a coffin parade, an estate sidewalk sale, and a community Victorian Wake walk the night before.
Reynolds Ranch House Harvest Festival
Nothing says fall like a classic festival with pumpkin picking and hayrides. That's even more true when that festival directly benefits a historically significant ranch in the local community. The Reynolds Ranch House Harvest Festival in October does exactly that.
In the 1880s, the Reynolds family homesteaded a cattle ranch and dairy farm near what is now the Air Force Academy. Several railroads ran through the area, allowing the Reynolds to supply cattle and milk to other regions. The Reynolds family hasn't owned the ranch since 1901, but it still stands remarkably well-preserved. In fact, it's one of the oldest still-intact ranches in the Front Range. It's now home to the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, and the Harvest Festival proceeds benefit both the ranch and museum.
Honor that pioneering spirit with tractor-pulled hayrides, live blacksmithing demonstrations, gold panning, and much more. Tickets typically go on sale late summer.
In Colorado Springs, October is Arts Month. Instead of a one-time event, Arts Month is a month-long community initiative to promote exploring new cultural experiences through the arts. The entire community gets involved with Arts Month, with past highlights including PikeRide bikeshare self-guided tours through Art on the Streets, the Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project, a giraffe painting experience giveaway through the Cheyenne Zoo, and more. The festival encourages everyone to try at least one new thing during the month.
Each week of the month has a unique theme (such as Visual & Culinary Arts and Music & Dance) with several events. Expect plenty of live performances, demonstrations, classes, and more.
Just because the temperature drops and snow starts falling doesn't mean there aren't still festivals to attend. Colorado Springs enjoys a true four-season climate, and there's always something going on in or around the city.
The Great Fruitcake Toss
Leave it to fun, eclectic Manitou Springs to have an annual festival based on fruitcake. The idea behind The Great Fruitcake Toss, which is celebrating its 25th year in 2021, is to "toss" out the iconic holiday desserts that have such a poor reputation. Every January, participants compete to hurl their fruitcakes the fastest, farthest, and most accurately, using a variety of launch devices ranging from mini homemade catapults to large cannons.
In addition to the cake launches, there's a fruitcake costume contest, food trucks, and a "too good to toss" fruitcake bake-off. The Great Fruitcake Toss is held in Memorial Park and costs $1 to attend. In order to participate, competitors are asked to donate one non-perishable food item.
Bighorn Sheep Day Festival
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is the official state mammal of Colorado, and this winter festival is all about them. Typically held in February, the Bighorn Sheep Day Festival teaches people all about these majestic creatures.
The free annual event is held at Garden of the Gods because it's home to a large herd of bighorn sheep. The sheep prefer this unique rocky terrain and high elevation, and several members of a herd of about 300 can often be spotted on everyday visits to this popular Colorado Springs park. High-powered telescopes are set up in the park's visitor center for people to observe the bighorn sheep, and rangers give educational presentations. Attendees can also participate in guided nature walks, arts and crafts, and meet-and-greets with animals from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Don't forget a pair of binoculars!
Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off & Carnivale Parade
Carnivale Weekend kicks off the famous New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration right here in Manitou Springs. Locally considered the "prequel to the Carnivale parade," the Mumbo Gumbo Jumbo Cook-Off is one of the most popular events. After all, what's not to love about an entire festival dedicated to cooking and tasting a classic Cajun dish?
The festival and cook-off are held each February in Soda Springs Park and feature amateur and professional chefs. Festival attendees are in charge of voting for their favorites, stopping by various booths, and sampling as much gumbo as their bellies desire. Award categories include 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place overall, plus categories such as Best Showmanship. The event is free to attend, but samples cost $2.00 for 3 or $0.75 each. Stick around afterward for the Carnivale parade downtown.
Come Celebrate in Colorado Springs
It's clear that Colorado Springs is a community-focused city, with numerous ways throughout the year to get outside and meet your neighbors. There's a festival or special event for every imaginable interest, but that's just the beginning. Colorado Springs' attractions carry over into iconic restaurants, nightlife, outdoor activities, and more. There is truly something for everyone here.