10 Tips for a Denver to Colorado Springs Day Trip

If you’re only in Denver for a short visit or a few days, you can still spend some quality time in Colorado Springs. The second largest city in the Centennial State, Colorado Springs has a lot of appeal: It’s closer to the mountains than Denver, has world-class dining options, and there are ample outdoor activities during each season.

To make your day (or half–day) an hour south of Denver smooth and satisfying, here are ten tips to follow.

1. Getting There

Your best transportation choice to Colorado Springs is by car. There are car rental agencies in downtown Denver (Enterprise, Budget and Avis). If you need to take public transportation, your only option is the bus (check www.rtd.com for the latest fares and schedules), and then you’ll need to look at local bus schedules from Mountain Metro in Colorado Springs, or consider renting a bicycle to go beyond downtown.

2. Take a Tour

Whether or not you drive from Denver, consider signing up for a tour to experience Colorado Springs from a local’s perspective. There are tours within Garden of the Gods, up Pikes Peak, and more. (If you don’t drive, you might be able to find a tour operator who can pick you up.) Walking tours of downtown are also a great option.

3. Eat Well

You don’t have to be a guest at the Broadmoor to enjoy the excellent cuisine there, but you’ll want to make a reservation to guarantee a table.

Summit restaurant at the Broadmoor, one of several dining options
Summit restaurant at the Broadmoor, one of several dining options. Photo courtesy of The Broadmoor.

4. Have an Attitude about Altitude

Colorado Springs has a higher elevation (6,035 feet above sea level) than Denver and you’ll probably spend part of the day at higher elevations. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and bring a hat.

5. Wear Good Shoes

Even if you choose to drive to Colorado Springs, you’ll want to walk around–especially at Garden of the Gods. Make sure you wear your good walking/hiking shoes, or have them with you in the car.

6. Mind Your Marijuana Manners

It’s become fairly common for visitors in Colorado to sample marijuana in some form during their trip. If this is part of your adventure, know that you cannot purchase marijuana in Colorado Springs. Head to neighboring Manitou Springs to buy what you want, then bring it to a marijuana club back in Colorado Springs. (That car comes in handy again!)

7. Prepare for Pikes Peak

Access to Pikes Peak is in nearby Manitou Springs (about 5-10 miles from downtown Colorado Springs). Whether you choose to take the Cog Railway, a bike tour, or just drive, you need to factor in elevation (you’re going to over 14,000 feet above sea level and it’s colder at the top) and at least a few hours time.

8. Visit Team USA

If you have your heart set on seeing Olympic athletes actually training, call the U.S. Olympic Training Center first. It’s not guaranteed during a typical tour of the site.

The pool at the Olympic Training Center.
The pool at the Olympic Training Center. Photo courtesy of VisitCOS.com.

9. Fun for the Kids

Short on time? Brought the kids along? Combine outdoor fun with a delicious meal by visiting Seven Falls and Restaurant 1858. Now owned by the Broadmoor, visitors can look forward to a menu featuring the same high-quality ingredients on local fare for lunch or dinner–before or after their hike to the falls.

10. Explore Downtown

Livability.com named Colorado Springs one of the 2016 top ten downtowns in the country. There is a lot of history and art—and shopping and dining—to explore downtown. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (plan ahead to see a live show) and the Pioneers Museum are just a couple of the dozens of places you can check out within walking distance of one another.

Travel map of Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs

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Garden of the Gods, CO, landscape. Pinterest graphic.