Bouncing around Colorado Springs in the dead of winter

Mention Colorado Springs and you probably think of Pikes Peak, the highest mountain in the southern Front Range of the Rockies, or the Broadmoor Hotel, the historic resort nestled in the hills overlooking the city.

But what happens when you take both of those out of the picture, plus most of the other tourists?

On a recent visit to the Springs in the dead of winter, we discovered the surprising answer. The famous Pikes Peak Cog Railway was closed for the season and the Broadmoor was booked solid, so my kids and I found ourselves an Airbnb in a quiet residential neighborhood near North Cheyenne Cañon Park, and we set out to discover the rest of Colorado Springs.

Turns out there’s more — much more — to this place than an enormous resort hotel and a mountain. We found miles and miles of impressive hiking trails, a great museum, and one of the most overlooked service academies in America.

Colorado Springs is built around hiking, literally. The city is surrounded by 1,200 acres of open spaces designed to be part of the community. These parks are not the tended gardens you’d expect back East, in New York or Savannah, Ga. They are often swaths of undeveloped land teeming with deer and an occasional black bear.

Our favorite open space was the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark with miles of hiking trails and 300-foot sandstone formations. On a weekend, you can stroll through here and watch climbers hone their skills on Cathedral Rock’s vertical face. The Garden also takes a great picture from almost any angle.

My kids, who grew up mostly on the East Coast, tried to wrap their heads around the fact that this was, in fact, not a wilderness area.

“If this is a park,” my 12-year-old son, Iden, asked, “then where’s the city?”

Perhaps the best part of Garden of the Gods is that admission is completely free. That’s how I like it.

But it’s not the only free activity in town. If you like historical museums, you’ll love the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, located in the old El Paso County Courthouse. I’ve seen plenty of other pioneer museums that celebrate a town’s historical roots, but this one’s a standout. There’s a large exhibit with historical photos that includes a section on the history of photography, which carefully explains the various technologies used to capture images. The museum even has a small studio with vintage clothing, where kids can take photos of themselves in pioneer dresses and top hats.

Since it’s a former courthouse, the museum also meticulously preserved one of the courtrooms. Alas, part of the room is roped off, but I think my daughter really wanted to slide under the ropes in her borrowed pioneer dress, climb into the judge’s seat, and point at random people in the courtroom, shouting, “Guilty!”

Maybe she shouldn’t watch so much Law & Order.

And then there’s the U.S. Air Force Academy, just outside of town. Spending an afternoon on a college campus might not be your idea of fun, but the Air Force Academy isn’t just any campus. It’s one of the finest examples of mid-20th-century Modernist architecture in the United States: a minimal style that uses glass, aluminum and marble.

The centerpiece is the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, a towering A-frame designed by Chicago architect Walter Netsch. Its bold lines capture the Air Force’s forward-looking, innovative culture. It also stands in sharp contrast to the more popular East Coast service academies in Annapolis, Md., and West Point, N.Y., which have longer traditions and more conventional architecture.

There’s a helpful visitors center where you can learn more about the institution and watch a short movie about a year in the life of a cadet. After sitting through it, my kids had a very different view of Air Force life and the meaning of leadership. Even if they never serve in the military, they can take some of those academy values home with them — specifically, the academy’s Honor Code, “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.”

My son asked if the code applied to everyone who visited the academy. I considered my answer for a moment. How long could I persuade him that he had to live by the Honor Code before he found out that it only applied to the cadets? A week? An hour? (And, ahem, wouldn’t misleading him technically be a lie?)

“No,” I finally sighed. “But it would be nice if it applied to our elected representatives.”

Colorado Springs is one of those rare destinations that offers a lot even in the dead of winter and without breaking your budget. All you need is a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a sense of adventure.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
This free newsletter will save you from scams.