Soon after moving to Colorado Springs, I suddenly became reacquainted with most of my friends and relatives, including some I hadn't seen in years.
Seems everyone loves to visit the Pikes Peak region. (Especially if they have a free place to crash and mooch meals.)
So I found myself acting as a tour guide, escorting folks to famous, can't-miss features of Colorado Springs, as well as taking them to some of our interesting nooks and crannies.
- The Air Force Academy, including the Cadet Chapel, is a no-brainer. It's a beautiful drive and impressive campus with its mounted planes and helicopters, statues and terrazzo. I've always enjoyed watching gliders towed into the clouds from the airport. Then there's the chapel - imposing from the outside and spectacular from within.
- The 1,300-acre Garden of the Gods Park is more than simply the 700-ton, 290 million-years-old, red sandstone ballerina known as Balanced Rock, and the Kissing Camels formation.
Actually, there are several perilously perched behemoth rocks, not far from the famous balancing boulder. I recommend exploring. Be prepared to be amazed. Also, there are many soaring formations that change with the light and your point of view beyond those at the entrance. Get off the main loop, head down Ridge Road and swing back via Beckers Lane or Garden Drive.
Other fun options include hiking, taking your bike and riding a horse into the park from Academy Riding Stables on El Paso Boulevard. Check out the hoodoos and mushroom rocks. Stop in the Visitor and Nature Center and soak in the views.
- Take some time to explore downtown and Old Colorado City. Meander through the Old North End neighborhood. Wander around the century-old mansions of Millionaire's Row on Wood Avenue. Explore Monument Valley Park. I like the duck pond on the west side of the creek and the geologic column, which once was a waterfall.
Enter downtown and eat, drink and be merry. Stop at Acacia Park at Bijou and Tejon streets and frolic in the Uncle Wilber Fountain. A little farther south, on Cimino Drive off Colorado Avenue, is America the Beautiful Park with the gorgeous Julie Penrose Fountain. Splash. Toss a Frisbee. Lie in the sun. Or visit the Pioneers Museum in the old courthouse on South Tejon Street. It's amazing and free.
Then head west on Colorado Avenue to Old Colorado City, the neighborhood that started 150 years ago as a mining supply camp for prospectors headed to the gold fields of the high country. Today it's the Old Colorado City Historic District. At 24th Street, you'll find Bancroft Park and the Pioneer Cabin. Perhaps you'll catch a farmers market or visit the Old Colorado City Historical Society Museum.
There are lots of cool shops and restaurants in the district and free parking behind the stores.
- Take U.S. Highway 24 or Colorado Avenue west a few miles and you'll find Manitou Springs, a charming mountain village with quaint shops, another good little museum, restaurants and bars, and shaded parks along bubbling Fountain Creek.
Drive up Ruxton Avenue for a trip on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Climb the Manitou Incline or Barr Trail. Visit Miramont Castle Museum. Head west on U.S. 24 to Cascade and drive the 19-mile toll highway to the summit of Pikes Peak.
Or go to Challenge Unlimited - Pikes Peak by Bike on 24th Street in Old Colorado City and arrange to ride a mountain bike down the highway.
- In a town full of scenic vistas, this route to The Broadmoor hotel and resort is hard to top. Start at Gold Camp Road and take the winding, narrow gravel road - a former railroad right-of-way for trains that hauled ore from Victor and Cripple Creek - southwest into North Cheyenne Canon Park. You'll experience a couple of tunnels and enjoy stunning views of the city and soaring rock outcroppings.
Take North Cheyenne Canon Road east to Helen Hunt Falls, where you can take a short and refreshing hike. Continue east and exit the park, turning south on Evans Avenue, where you'll encounter the late artist Starr Kempf's soaring wind sculptures in the yard of his family home.
Continue south to Mesa Avenue, turn east and you'll come to Lake Avenue and The Broadmoor. You might want to stop at the historic Pauline Memorial Chapel before heading to the resort where you have several options. Enjoy a meal at The Broadmoor. I like the Tavern. Stroll. Grab a beer at the Golden Bee and sing along with the ragtime piano player.
Vogrin is The Gazette's Side Streets columnist. He's lived in Colorado Springs since 1994.