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During the winter, most Coloradans turn their attention west and decide to brave I-70 traffic in order to reach ski resorts and mountain towns along the corridor. Amidst that mad dash, it’s easy to forget that it takes just a short drive south along I-25 to reach a different—yet equally exciting—getaway: Colorado Springs.
From iconic luxury hotels to new museums, Colorado’s second largest city, which feels more like a sprawling mountain town, is even home to a few treasures you can’t find anywhere else. Here, we put together a weekend itinerary you can use to explore the Springs during the winter, while everyone else is stuck in traffic heading west.
As in Denver, you’re just as likely to end up with a 60-degree day in February as you are to see single digits and a foot of snow in the Springs. Regardless of the weather, though, there are a number of exciting indoor options.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, which opened in 2020, features interactive displays that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the energy and heart of the Olympic Games. For example, you can simulate speeding down an alpine race course like Lindsey Vonn or see how the size of your feet compare to LeBron James’.
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (free admission) is also worth a visit, especially to see the brand new sesquicentennial exhibit, celebrating the Springs’ 150-year anniversary with 150 individual artifacts that look back at important moments in the city’s history, such as how it was chosen as the site of the Air Force Academy.
Though mostly outdoors, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is also a worthwhile experience that is open year round. Sitting above 6,700 feet, the zoo is the highest in America. It is also consistently ranked among the top 10 zoos in the country and top 20 in the world. The wildlife park is home to more than 750 animals, including 30 endangered species and a herd of giraffes that you can actually feed. If you’re not into the uphill stroll that takes you through the exhibits, you can ride a chairlift that offers a bird’s eye view of the creatures below.
Even if you visit the Springs on a mild weekend, be sure to bring your micro spikes for hiking, because trails in the area often meander through shaded forests and canyons that are slick with snow and ice.
If you’ve never done it, the Manitou Incline—the steep staircase along what was once a narrow gauge funicular railway that gains 2,000 feet over one mile—is especially challenging when snow-packed. Of note: You need a reservation to hike the Incline during the pandemic.
Eat and Drink
The building that housed the city’s trolley cars in the early 1900s is now an airy multiplex full of hip restaurants and bars. Among them is COATI, a collection of independent food pods where you can find anything from a fresh banhi mi sandwich to a lemongrass smoothie. Pikes Peak Brewing Lager House, which is in the same location, features a rooftop patio with a view of Pikes Peak.
The menu at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company, another appealing downtown option for suds lovers, features yummy vegan eats and warm boozy sippers. Other locales with plenty of space include the popular Goat Patch Brewing Company, Cerberus Brewing Company, and the Colorado Mountain Brewery, the latter two doubling as full-service lunch and dinner haunts.
The Broadmoor is the only hotel in the world to have a Five Diamond rating from AAA every year since the organization first introduced the distinction in 1976. And thanks to special packages for Colorado residents, you won’t have to sell your home to afford a room: Through February, Centennial Staters can snag lodging starting at $189 a night, with additional specials running through May.
The resort is also home to internationally heralded golf courses (which, weather dependent, are open year-round) tennis and pickleball courts, beautiful scenery, a world-class spa, and an athletic club. The grounds include an assemblage of shops and eateries, including Café Julie’s, where you can indulge in the Broadmoor’s own luxury line of chocolates, artisan breads, and pastries.
Other Nearby Attractions
You can’t pass through this corner of Colorado without a stop in Manitou Springs. Lying at the base of Pike’s Peak, Manitou is named after its many mineral springs, some of which you can actually sample (get ready for the taste of sulphur). The town’s main thoroughfare, which is much less crowded in winter than any other time of year, is lined with boutiques, restaurants, and even an old-school penny arcade.
Dating back to the gold rush of 1859, Old Colorado City is similarly cute and historic. The town is strewn with family-owned restaurants, shops, and galleries.
If You Do One Thing
Splurge on a falconry lesson at the Broadmoor (starting around $100). During the session, majestic creatures, like horned owls, hawks, and falcons, will swoop directly onto your gloved hand.