Colorado Springs holiday highlights

Colorado Springs and the UK have a historical connection that many people don’t know about. The city was nicknamed “Little London” in its early years. The city’s founder, William J. Palmer, raised much of his money for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad from English investors. And with a scarcity of farmland in Britain, thousands were leaving the UK and making their way to the American West. Colorado Springs became to many of these emigrants and, for a time, 20 percent of the city’s population was of British descent.

Nature

A holiday in any Colorado city wouldn’t be the same without a healthy dose of outdoor adventure, something that Colorado Springs definitely delivers. Pikes Peak rises 2400 metres above the city streets and following the 12½-mile Barr trail to the mountaintop is a popular challenge for seasoned hikers. Thankfully, there’s an easier way to reach to the 4302-metre peak – by driving the scenic and winding Pikes Peak Highway. You should take into account the rapid gain in elevation, the high altitude and chance of wintery weather if you intend on driving to the top. En route, stop at Crystal Creek Reservoir for spectacular reflections of the mountain and at various pullouts to get those panoramic views out over the plains below.

Back down at around a mile above sea level, Garden of the Gods Park is the main natural attraction. Where the plains meet the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, ochre sandstones that are more commonly found in the desert landscapes of the South West’s Four Corners region soar skywards. They are as old as the mountains that act as their background and together, they make a feature wall-worthy photo. Entrance to the park is free and you can hike or take a Segway, e-bike or trolley tour. You can even learn how to rock climb.

Travel south-west from the heart of the city and you’ll reach the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, home to the USA’s highest suspension bridge. The bridge, a gondola and the country’s highest zipline all span the 300-metre deep, 10-mile long canyon which has been carved by the Arkansas River. From nearby Cañon City, you can take train a trip along the river’s edge aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

Colorado Springs culture

While the original settlement of Colorado City has Wild West origins, Colorado Springs itself was founded as a resort town and cultural centre. The city has a vibrant arts scene and plenty of unique and enriching attractions such as galleries, historic sites, performing arts venues and museums. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is the jewel in the city’s cultural crown and almost an arts district in its own right with a museum, theatre and school of art all under one roof.

There’s also a real focus on accessible public art in Colorado Springs with Downtown’s year-long Art on the Streets showcasing works by more than 50 artists. Downtown Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, a small town nearby, and Old Colorado City have lively arts communities with monthly art walks between April and December. During these evening events, you can pop into galleries and local artists’ studios which stay open until 8 or 9pm.

The region’s Old West heritage is celebrated at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, the Western Museum of Mining & Industry, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy and throughout the historic district of Old Colorado City. Travel further afield and you can visit Cripple Creek, the site of both the historical Mollie Kathleen Mine and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, a modern working mine where gold is still being extracted to this day.

Olympic City USA

It’s not just about the sublime natural beauty and rich cultural scene in Colorado Springs; the city also has a strong connection to the sporting world and has been dubbed Olympic City USA. The United States Olympic Committee is based here alongside more than 20 governing bodies for Olympic sports. You can take a tour of the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centre which plays host to athletes and coaches from various sports who are training for the next Olympic Games, and from 2020, visit the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame.

Food & drink

Over the past few years, Colorado Springs’ foodie scene has grown in stature and reputation. And like its neighbour to the north, Denver, the city has seen an impressive rise in the number of top chef-run restaurants, craft breweries and locally-owned distilleries. Perhaps unsurprisingly in this part of the world, Southwest and Mexican food takes top billing, however, there is a fantastic selection of international eateries from Ethiopian to award-winning Mongolian via Bavarian. There are more than 30 craft breweries and brewpubs scattered around the region including Bristol Brewing, Phantom Canyon and Goat Patch.

Getting around Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is located just an hour from Denver’s international airport, and the best way to reach the city is by hiring a car. While Downtown is small enough to walk around, to explore further afield – for example, to head to the top of Pikes Peak and out to Garden of the Gods Park, you’ll need your own vehicle. If you would prefer to take to two wheels, there’s the PikeRide bike-share programme in Downtown Colorado Springs.

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Colorado Springs key facts

Time difference

GMT -7 hours

Currency

US Dollar ($)

Flying time to destination

10 hours to Denver

Passport & visas

Brits must have a full 10-year British Passport that's valid for six months after you return to the UK. You will also need a USA visa or waiver form/ESTA. Apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before travelling.

Colorado Springs good to know

Tipping

Tipping is an established and accepted custom in America. For good service, waiters and taxi drivers expect 15-20%, and counter and bar staff 10-15%. Porters can expect from $3-$5 per case, while tour guides can be given the equivalent of £2-£3 per day.