Five Destinations for Free Family Fun in Colorado Springs
Put that wallet away! Instead of shelling out your hard-earned money for every family outing, enjoy a few afternoons of completely free family fun within Colorado Springs, These five destinations will help keep your family in shape and excited for your next adventure, whether it's on a cool spring or autumn day or when it's hot enough to seek water or air conditioning. No matter what your destination, the kids are bound to learn a few things along the way too.
Wander the Garden of the Gods
Take the entire family on a trek through Garden of the Gods (1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, CO), which claims the top spot on TripAdvisor's "Things to Do in Colorado Springs" list. Garden of the Gods is a hiker's and nature-lover's mecca, with statuesque rock formations standing tall along and around the trails. Wear comfy hiking shoes; some of the trails may be on uneven surfaces.
In addition to its amazing atmosphere, the park offers free talks on such topics as the park's ecology, wildlife and cultural history. Take one of the free nature walks at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m., weather permitting, and learn about rattlesnakes, wildflowers and searching for gold. Carry binoculars in case you feel like a bit of bird-watching, challenging the family to find a prairie falcon magpie or a colorful western tanager.
The park's Visitor & Nature Center doubles as a museum and serves as a great place to stop if the weather isn't so hike-friendly. Check out exhibits on the area's early Native American inhabitants, as well as displays on wildlife and wildflowers found at the park. The center even has a dinosaur display dedicated to fossils found in the park of a new dinosaur species—complete with a 3-D version of the creature.
Play Giant Games at Acacia Park
At Acacia Park (115 E. Platte Ave., Colorado Springs, CO), you'll find an assortment of giant free games available for signing out and playing from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on any day. Choose from giant Jenga, chess or Connect Four, or teach the kids how to play bocce, cornhole or shuffleboard.
Visit the park's "Uncle Wilber's Water Fountain" splash pad on a summer day. This colorful water feature shoots jets of water and is designed so kids can run through it and cool off. Note that the fountain's water is usually on from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but only until 5:30 p.m. It may be shut off during inclement weather.
Feel the Old West at Old Colorado City
Stroll through Old Colorado City district just west of the downtown area to experience a blend of the old and new West. Once the capital of the Colorado Territory, this area was home to saloons, brothels and even an opera house. Today, the same buildings house restaurants, independent shops and galleries.
Stop by the Welcome Center (2324 W. Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, CO) to pick up a free shopping tote and tour map of the area. The center, which has ADA-compliant restrooms, is a great place to stop for a family break if you're not visiting one of the local restaurants.
Before your trip, download the free walking tour app, available for Android and Apple devices, to experience history during your outing. This GPS-enabled app shows vintage images of some of the buildings and businesses along Colorado Avenue, along with historical tidbits about the businesses, people and the city as it was in the late 1800s.
Old Colorado City also hosts special events each year, such as the Saturday farmers markets from June through October and the monthly First Friday ArtWalks from April through December.
Learn a Little at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO) offers a look at the life of gold miners, pioneers, Native Americans and African Americans that settled in the region in centuries past. The museum's focus goes beyond pioneer life to include an exhibit on Helen Hunt Jackson, the iconic 19th-century author, and the Cultural Crossroads exhibit featuring beadwork, baskets and handcrafted goods made by more than 30 different Native American nations.
The museum, open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on holidays, offers free tours every Saturday on changing topics. Because space may be limited, they require advance reservations by phone.
Snap Stunning Shots on a Red Rock Canyon Hike
Go hiking or climbing at the spectacular 789-acre Red Rock Canyon Open Space (3550 W. High St., Colorado Springs, CO). Mountain biking is another way to experience trails at this park which also has a free-ride stunt park. Horseback riders share trail spaces, so your young ones may enjoy spotting a few four-legged friends along the way. And even your family's Fido can enjoy an outing at the park when you let him run wild at the two off-leash dog loop areas.
If you enjoy paragliding, or can gather the nerve to try it, you'll have a chance to snap paraglider photos against a backdrop of the Red Rock Canyon's stunning ruddy rock formations.
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Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.