Located in the southwestern part of Colorado, Colorado Springs stands as a vibrant tapestry of natural beauty, rich history, and modern innovation. From its storied past as a frontier town to its emergence as a place of technological advancement, it offers an experience like no other and a wealth of activities for every traveler. So regardless of what brings you to Colorado Springs, check out these amazing must-experience bucket list activities recommended by seasoned Colorado Springs locals.

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Colorado Springs bucket list: Top attractions

One great way to make the most of your Colorado Springs experience is to explore some of the city’s most prominent neighborhoods, as well as attractions that lie outside of city limits:

  1. Experience the charm of Old Colorado City (OCC): Browse charming boutiques, sample local cuisine, and soak up the city’s heritage through cultural events hosted in the neighborhood. Valerie Lloyd from Surface Gallery recommends checking out the First Friday Art Walk in OCC and gives us tips on how to make the most of the experience: “Many stores offer free drinks and snacks, to accompany live music events and unique local handmade artworks happening in-store and on the street. Start at Surface Gallery which is located in the Sluice on 28th and Colorado Ave and work your way down to 23rd St. One of our favorite after-gallery hangouts is at the Wine Bar above La Baguette, where you can taste multiple wines and nosh on simple appetizers.”

2. Explore Downtown Colorado Springs: Discover the vibrant energy of downtown Colorado Springs, where bustling streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Louie Louie’s Piano Bar is a favorite among locals, with the establishment having this to say about the culture they bring to the downtown area: “Louie Louie’s is the place to be. We have people celebrating pregnancies, birthdays, divorces, bachelorette parties, and everything in between. “Where strangers become friends” is our slogan, and it holds true when you come visit. We play everything, so you’re bound to find someone with the same music tastes as you!” Don’t miss out on sipping on craft cocktails and singing along to your favorite songs for a night to remember!

3. Embrace the eclectic vibe in Manitou Springs: “Just outside of Colorado Springs is the small historic town of Manitou Springs. They host events throughout the year, dining, hiking, ziplining, and a railway up to Pike’s Peak called the Cog Railway. Manitou Springs is also home to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, the Miramont Castle Museum, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, and more!” shared Callie from Sunrise Media Co

Cog Railway

4. Take a ride on the Cog Railway: This experience comes highly recommended by various local experts, with local photographer Catherine Chamberlain adding that the train ride is the premier way to make your way to the top of Pikes Peak: “Sure, you could drive or hike it, but there’s something special about the train journey. Plus, you can enjoy those stunning mountain vistas without worrying about navigating the roads.” Needless to say, the Manitou Springs community is full of surprises and a must-experience destination for visitors of all ages.

5. Sample fine wines at Bookcliff Vineyards: Indulge in the rich flavors of specially crafted wines at Bookcliff Vineyards. While it does lie outside of the Colorado Springs Metropolitan area, this experience comes highly recommended by Jacy and Craig of Westside Cantina: “One spot we’ve been dying to visit is Bookcliff Vineyards, a local winery with tasting rooms in Palisade and Boulder. We’ve heard they have great wine and it’s a fun experience!”  With a focus on sustainable practices and artisanal winemaking, the trek outside of the city is well worth the trip!

Colorado Springs is well known for its natural beauty, which offers many exciting outdoor activities. Our local experts have sent through their best suggestions for how to spend your time outdoors:

Garden of the Gods

6. Explore the stunning Garden of the Gods: Marvel at the awe-inspiring rock formations and panoramic vistas of Garden of the Gods. Dave Gardner, president of Studio 809 Podcasts, recommends having “Lunch on the patio at the Garden of the Gods Club, with a grand view of the Garden of the Gods, America’s most popular park, and Pikes Peak in the distance. The public is welcome to lunch there, and the million-dollar view is the very best in the city.” Whether you’re hiking, rock climbing, or simply taking in the natural beauty, this iconic landmark never fails to impress. 

7. Indulge in craft brews at the city’s finest breweries: Before you depart from Garden of the Gods, quench your thirst with a visit to Colorado Springs’ thriving craft brewery scene. Steven from Wackadoo Brewing shared that “There are several breweries within a short trip from there! Red Leg, Trinity, and Wackadoo Brewing are all within 2 miles and each offer their own unique feel and beers on tap.” From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, these local gems offer a diverse range of flavors to satisfy every palate.

8. Embrace adventure with paddle boarding on hidden lakes: Discover the beauty of Colorado Springs from a new perspective while paddle boarding on hidden lakes. Denae from The Weekend Forecast provided great insight on this experience: “I grew up around lakes so these are essential to my summer experience. Colorado Springs has seven different small lakes within a short drive that you can take your paddle board out on! Here is the list: Monument Lake, Palmer Lake, Lake Pueblo State Park, North and South Catamount Reservoir, Crystal Creek Reservoir, Rampart Reservoir, and Quail Lake. Some of these might be a short drive away but a lot of them are right in Colorado Springs!” Hit up the hidden lakes and glide across crystal-clear waters surrounded by stunning scenery for an unforgettable outdoor experience.

9. Hike the trails at Red Rock Canyon Open Space: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails of Red Rock Canyon Open Space. “It’s a great alternative to Garden of the Gods if you’re looking for a less crowded outdoor area. The park should be on any adventurous person’s bucket list, for it offers beautiful hiking and mountain biking trails with stunning views of red rock formations and the surrounding landscape. If you have a fur baby, there is a large fenced in dog park that is perfect for letting your pal off-leash. The park is also drone friendly, giving photographers amazing aerial footage of the mountains against the fiery colors of rock.” Says Chelsea Messina of Her Life Adventures.

10. Explore Gold Camp and Old Stage Road: Step back in time and explore the historic Gold Camp and Old Stage Roads, where remnants of Colorado’s mining history abound. Jeremiah Meizis, long time owner of The Colorado Climbing Company, shared his take on this unique experience: “Starting in town near Bear Creek Park you can pick up Old Stage Rd and get amazing views of Colorado Springs. Because the old tunnels are collapsed in the middle section you can’t get through to Gold Camp directly but instead have to drop down through North Cheyenne Canyon passing Helen Hunt Falls and passing some of my favorite climbing spots. Then you can head toward the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to pick up Gold Camp Road. This can be driven all the way to Cripple Creek in the summer but there’s a lot of good hiking up there as well as tons of yet to be developed rock climbing.”

Food-centric Colorado Springs bucket list items

If you’re looking for restaurants to dine at, our local experts came through with these great recommendations for where to grab some grub:

11. Start your day right with breakfast at King’s Chef Diner: Denae from The Weekend Forecast is a proponent of the establishment, saying “If you’re a foodie like me you’ll love Colorado Springs! One restaurant in particular, King’s Chef Diner, is a local breakfast place that has, lights out, Green Chili that is the undisputed champion of breakfast food in the state. Go and get ‘The Grump’ and then prepare a forklift to pull you out of the building and hoist you home. It’s pretty amazing.”

RAndom Food

12. Dine at Ephemera Dinners: Elevate your culinary experience with a visit to Ephemera Dinners, where exquisite flavors and innovative dishes await. “Colorado Springs is already the dreamiest place to live, but what truly makes it distinguished is the focus on locality!” Says Jasmine from Ephemera Dinners. “Ephemera is an all locally owned fine dining spot featuring unique flavors from all over the world. While the chefs are constantly creating gorgeous plate-ups for their 7 Course Tasting menu, the restaurant also boasts a rotating, all local art program highlighting emerging creatives across the Front Range.” From locally sourced ingredients to expertly crafted menus, this dining destination promises a memorable gastronomic journey.

13. Savor authentic Mexican cuisine at My Neighbor Felix: Treat your taste buds to the bold flavors of authentic Mexican cuisine. “My Neighbor Felix in Colorado Springs is conveniently located near popular hiking spots like Garden of the Gods and the Manitou Incline. Offering authentic Mexican cuisine and innovative cocktails, our restaurant is perfect for pre or post-hike bites and drinks.” Shared My Neighbor Felix.

14. Feast on Thai cuisine at Eim Thai: Delight your taste buds with the flavors of Thailand at Eim Thai, where each bite is a culinary adventure you won’t soon forget. Chris Bacavis and Brian Tryon, owners and instructors at Shutter & Strum had this to say about the establishment: “Eim Thai is consistently high-quality and reasonably priced. Go for the Pad Kee Mow (drunken noodles) or Pad Thai Woosen Ho Kai if you’re a newcomer to Thai cuisine. The food is always delicious. Very welcoming owners and staff.”

Additional must-experience attractions

If you’re seeking even more variety, here are a few other amazing activities recommended by stellar Colorado Spring locals:

Penguin in Zoo

15. Encounter wildlife at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Get up close and personal with exotic animals at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where conservation and education come together in a unique and immersive setting. “It’s not your typical zoo experience – here, you can actually feed giraffes and get up close with all sorts of fascinating creatures. It’s definitely worth a visit!” says photographer Catherine Chamberlain. From playful primates to majestic big cats, every visit is an adventure.

16. Shop for vinyl records at What’s Left Records: Browse a curated selection of vinyl records at What’s Left Records, a haven for music lovers and collectors alike. “We’re all about browsing through new arrivals at What’s Left Records, our neighbors on the east side of our same building on Platte. They have such a consistently good selection that it can be dangerous (for our wallets) working so close!” shared Chris Bacavis and Brian Tryon from Shutter & Strum. 

17. Unwind at the Bradmoor: Treat yourself to a relaxing retreat at The Bradmoor, where luxurious accommodations and impeccable service await. Callie from Sunrise Media Co also shared her thoughts on this luxury experience: “The Broadmoor is a well-known 5-star hotel in a beautiful area of Colorado Springs. It has elegant rooms, shopping, dining options, a spa, a golf course and more! During Christmas, they light up the property and make it an even more beautiful stroll at night.” Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or a tranquil escape, this hidden gem offers the perfect setting for relaxation.

USAF Thunderbirds Flyover

18. Witness the USAF Thunderbirds flyover: This recommendation is courtesy of Amanda from Squier Studios: “One of my favorite things to do in Colorado Springs that newcomers should add to their bucket list is to watch the USAF Thunderbirds flyover during the USAFA Graduation each year. Visible from anywhere you can see the Air Force Academy, this is a spectacular thing to witness, and everyone should get to do it at least once in their lifetime.” Don’t miss out on this breathtaking display of precision and skill that’s sure to leave you in awe.

Colorado Springs bucket list takeaways

As you plan out your exploration of Colorado Springs, know that this list contains just a fraction of what the city has to offer. From its historic charm to its breathtaking natural wonders, each experience has potential to leave a lasting mark on your journey. Regardless of if you’re a foodie, nature lover, or adventure seeker, this city has something special for everyone. And remember, whether you immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Garden of the Gods or treat yourself to a luxurious weekend at The Bradmoor, Colorado Springs will never run out of must-experience activities to fill your itinerary.

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