It's no secret that Colorado as a whole is a hub for outdoor adventures and active lifestyles. That's true of Colorado Springs, a Front Range city renowned for being nestled at the base of Pike's Peak and having mild year-round weather. The city is also well known for its ties to the Olympics and the military.
Colorado Springs is also a wonderful place for children, with seemingly endless activities. The best part is that many of them are interactive and educational, incorporating Colorado's unique history and climate. Here are some fun things to do with kids in Colorado Springs.
Garden of the Gods Park
Garden of the Gods Park Amenities
Educational programs for visitors
Junior Ranger Program
One of the best things about living in Colorado Springs is that there are several awe-inspiring geological wonders located right in town. Garden of the Gods Park is easily one of the most famous—and for good reason. The park features impossibly red natural rock formations and offers some of the best views of Pike's Peak, yet visitors don't even have to leave town to see them.
Spending a day at Garden of the Gods is ideal for adults and children alike. Aside from exploring the hiking and biking trails, there are Jeep tours, a museum with interactive exhibits, a theater, and a café. The Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center also puts on the Garden of the Gods Adventure Series. These special programs are designed to educate people on the park as well as other environmental topics, all while having fun. Individual programs include guided walks, Toddler Time, geology hikes, "Hike With a Naturalist," and more.
Children age 7-12 can also participate in Garden of the Gods' Junior Ranger program. It requires a couple of hours to complete and includes an activity booklet, official badge and certificate, and being presented to the park as the newest Junior Ranger.
A day at the zoo is fun and educational for children of all ages – including those adults who are young at heart. It's especially fun at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet. The zoo's location at the base of Cheyenne Mountain just a few miles south of Colorado Springs affords it sweeping views of both the city and Pike's Peak.
In addition to its unbeatable location, the zoo features over 750 animals, including 30 endangered species. Visitors can interact with many of them through animal feedings and demonstrations. Favorite experiences include a grizzly bear encounter and hand-feeding giraffes, goats, elephants, and rhinos. Those with a taste for adventure will enjoy the Mountaineer Sky Ride, an open-air chairlift that offers a literal bird's-eye view of the zoo. Guests can round out their visit with a carousel ride, a snack at one of the several restaurants, and a stop into the gift shop.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is open 365 days a year and holds several special events. Parking is always free, and value days are offered during the off-peak season, from December to February.
Different expeditions for beginners and experienced rafters
Half-day and full-day expeditions
Raft down the Arkansas River
White water rafting may not be at the top of one's mind when it comes to things to do with kids in Colorado Springs. However, it's actually a fantastic way for every member of the family to bond. A white water rafting trip also lets children see The Great Outdoors in a way they likely never have before, and it can boost their confidence and skills while creating lifelong memories.
Local Colorado Springs rafting companies like Echo Canyon River Expeditions typically offer several expedition options ranging in experience level. The Bighorn Sheep Canyon rafting trip is child-friendly for kids 6 and older, with "rapids exciting enough to give adults a thrill yet not too adventurous for kids." This half- or full-day trip takes you down the Arkansas River just outside of Colorado Springs, and as its name suggests, bighorn sheep are often spotted in the canyon.
For younger children or families who prefer a more relaxing experience, Echo Canyon also offers gentle float trips. These trips go down a calmer 5-mile stretch of the Arkansas River that has no rapids, but the scenery is still incredible. Children as young as four years of age can participate in the float trips.
Echo Canyon River Expeditions Additional Information
Is there anything more reminiscent of childhood than a classic arcade? The Manitou Springs Penny Arcade, which is actually formally named Arcade Amusements, Inc., features hundreds of arcade games from many eras. As the name implies, several of them cost just one penny, although many also take quarters. Visitors will find pinball machines, skee ball, racing games, classic Pac-Man, boxing and dancing simulation games, pool tables, coin-operated children's rides, and much more. Some games will give tickets that can be redeemed for prizes.
The arcade is situated over an entire block in downtown Manitou Springs. It has both an indoor and covered outdoor area and comprises several individual buildings, each with a unique theme. Some areas feature more modern games, while others strictly have vintage games—some from as early as the 1930s.
Manitou Springs is a small mountain town located just 10-15 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. The arcade sits right in the heart of the historic town, and admission is always free. Games cost anywhere from $.01-$1.50. While the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade is open year-round, it may temporarily close in the winter during heavy snow or cold weather.
Manitou Springs Penny Arcade Additional Information
Children who are interested in history and love a good adventure will enjoy Colorado Springs' Wild West Ghost Town Museum. The Gold Rush in the late 1800s brought thousands of people from all over the world to Colorado's Front Range. As the railroads expanded west and gold and silver mines boomed, towns rapidly grew throughout the Rocky Mountains. When the mining industry declined in the early 1900s, railroads weren't far behind. Hundreds of mining towns, if not more, were quickly abandoned, becoming literal ghost towns.
The family-run Ghost Town Museum offers visitors a chance to experience life like it was in the 1800s in the Wild West. The expansive collection of genuine Gold Rush-era memorabilia and artifacts is impressive, but there's much more to this museum. For starters, complete buildings have been preserved and are on display inside. Interactive experiences for people of all ages include churning butter and panning for real gold during the summer months.
Ghost Town Museum is centrally located in the heart of Colorado Springs and is open year-round. Gold panning, when available, is included with admission, and guests can do a self-guided tour at their own pace.
Those looking for a unique Colorado Springs experience that's fun and educational for everyone should check out the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. Although the museum is located in Woodland Park, just 30 minutes from Colorado Springs, visitors will feel as if they were transported to another time and place.
The 20,000-square-foot museum features thousands of real fossils, including 30 complete skeletons, from animal species that roamed North America during the Late Cretaceous Period. Guests will find not just dinosaurs, but land and marine reptiles, mammals, and prehistoric fish as well. Many even lived in Colorado Springs!
In addition to viewing the dinosaur and reptile fossil displays, the RMDRC has a state-of-the-art fossil lab, where visitors can watch paleontologists working on weekdays. Here, the scientists prepare, restore, mold, and cast fossils. There's also a large children's play area and a tremendous gift shop.
Young visitors can participate in the RMDRC's Scout Program, earning an official Junior Paleontologist Paleo Patch. Guided tours are available, and the museum also offers birthday party packages. The RMDRC is open seven days a week year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Colorado Springs offers many activities to do with kids that are both fun and educational; this list only begins to scratch the surface. From outdoor adventures and water activities to history and other learning experiences, explore all that the city has to offer today. Whether your family lives in a townhome near a museum or a new construction closer to the wilderness, there's sure to be something nearby to enjoy together.