Recently we had the opportunity to explore Vail, Colorado as part of a business conference that was being hosted at the Four Season’s Vail resort. Everyone else opted to fly into Denver and head straight to Vail while we chose to take this time to drive so we could stop off in Colorado Springs. We also wanted to take a more scenic route, so this allowed us to be able to pull over whenever we wanted to take pictures or shop local.
First of all, if you are on I40 making the trek to Colorado, do yourself a favor and stop at the Big Texan in Amarillo. It’s been on my bucket list for awhile now and although I did not want to partake in the steak eating challenge, I just wanted to see the legendary steak on ice and enjoy a smaller more manageable steak. I’m so glad I had on yoga pants, because everything on my plate was delicious. Plus, they have fudge and I just had to get a few pieces to go…and by to go I mean that we were only a mile out of the parking lot. Pulling into Colorado Springs kind of late, we got settled into our hotel and headed out for dinner since we knew we wanted to set out early on our hike at Garden of the Gods.
On our first full day in Colorado Springs, we rose early to check out our view and the sunrise was just beautiful. We got to Garden of the Gods early, so we were literally the second car in the parking lot. It amazed me that this beautiful park was only about a 7-minute drive from our hotel. The park is free and there are numerous hiking trails, some are even paved. We started out taking pictures from the viewing deck then grabbed a map and hit the trails. This backpack came in handy, it folds up nice in your suitcase and is light weight so it’s not cumbersome on a hike. So much wildlife was just right off the trails and if you are into photography like I am, you will get some amazing pictures of Pike’s Peak on these trails. If you have time, the park shows a great film in the main building and has some pretty cool souvenirs. We like to snag Christmas ornaments when we travel since we have a second tree in our house specifically for sentimental ornaments. More importantly, leave a small donation if you can.
Our next stop that day put us in the next town over called Manitou Springs. I loved this place and have been planning a stay here on our next trip through Colorado. After a five-mile hike, we were starving! I found Savelli’s Pizza on Trip Advisor and it did not disappoint! Check out our full review here. We then headed over to Cave of the Winds Mountain Park for our lantern tour. There are a couple of different tours they offer but we opted for this one. At first, I was a little anxious about going through the caves in the dark with nothing but a small lantern, but it wasn’t too bad once we got into the tour. You do go through some cramped spaces and it can be spooky at times, but it’s an experience you will talk about for months to come. When we got to our conference in Vail people were saying “you did what???” I will say on our next visit, I want to do the catapult swing that goes out over the canyon.
Our second full day we had originally planned on hiking the Manitou Incline, but it was closed for repairs, so we opted to head to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Again, we got there right when it opened, and crowds were light. This is a good point to mention that Colorado in October requires you to dress in layers. We were freezing that morning at the zoo but then the sun came out and it was gorgeous. At the zoo, you are immediately greeted by the giraffe exhibit. Buy some lettuce and take part in feeding them. It was so fun to be that up close. Just watch your hands, my husband turned his head to try and get my attention to come feed one and the lettuce was snatched from his hand. This zoo is well mapped and probably one of the best I’ve ever been to. Since it’s built into the side of a mountain, we decided to stop at the top at a small stand that offered beer, wine, and other beverages. The seats there offered amazing views.
On the way to the zoo, you’ll pass by The Broadmoor. It’s been on my bucket list for awhile, but we opted to stay at a Hampton Inn this time since we could stay three night there for the price of one at The Broadmoor. However, I did want to at least visit. We talked to our bartender at the zoo (I know zoo and bartender are probably not used in the same sentence very often), and he recommended that we check out the Seven Falls restaurant called 1858. We made reservations and were encouraged to arrive early since you take a shuttle to the park. Once you get to the park, there is an entrance fee. If weather permits, take the walk to the restaurant along the paved path because the views are spectacular and its just a beautiful little walk to set the tone for your dinner. On our next visit we will probably do the hike around Seven Falls, then go to 1858 for lunch.
Overall, I thought the two jam packed days we were there were a blast and I found enough things to do that we could have stayed a week, and we are definitely planning a trip back with our son. If you love outdoor adventures, you could probably spend three weeks in Colorado and not get bored. Our third day, we set out on our scenic route to vail. Stay tuned for our post about that!