Colorado Springs with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

by Cathleen Shaffer, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 4th 2010 10:03 PM

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Colorado Springs with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Our family recently planned a family vacation in the beautiful and vibrant area of Colorado Springs, Colorado, located about 70 miles south of Denver. The Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs area is filled to the brim with both indoor and outdoor activities. What to do? We all took turns picking out places to see and things to do in Colorado Springs, and we found out there is a lot more to do in the area than you can pack into a day! If you are planning a trip to Colorado Springs with tweens, allow me to recommend a few of my family's favorites.


Morning


Brunch at A Second Cup

Colorado Springs has an elevation of about 6,000 feet. My kids were convinced that the elevation not only made them thirstier (this is a fact: you need and want more water at higher elevations), but it was also making them a lot hungrier (I have yet to substantiate this claim with any facts). This must have been the case since a few hours earlier they had, in fact, eaten breakfast. So, off we went to A Second Cup at the north end of downtown Colorado Springs.

The food was good, plentiful and reasonable in this rustic-country restaurant that was hopping with customers. We had an eggs Benedict skillet, biscuits and gravy and two of us had a build-your-own skillet breakfast. The restaurant had a "manly marine meal" breakfast on the menu that included two each of most of their breakfast foods. I swear it could have fed a family of four - or evidently, one marine. A Second Cup serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A Second Cup, 13860 Gleneagle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, 719-481-644. Hours: daily 6AM-9PM.

Cave of the Winds

A trip to Colorado Springs with tweens wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Cave of the Winds. My family took the Discovery Tour of this cave, which takes about 45 minutes and brings you through the cave passages to see the stalagmites and stalactites with plenty of light. On your mile-long journey, your guide will enlighten you with facts such as when the underground cavern was discovered (in 1880) and how crystal flowers and other wonders are formed. There is also a 1.5 hour, more strenuous tour you and your tweens can take in the Adventure Room where they only use lanterns in the dark corridors. Cave of the Winds is one of the don't-miss things to do in Colorado Springs, with tweens or without them.

Cave of the Winds, 100 Cave of the Winds Road, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, 719-685-5444. Hours: summer daily 9AM-9PM, winter daily 10AM-5PM. Discovery Tour: adult $18, child (6-11) $9.

Afternoon


John May Museum Center

Well, this place is perfect for a family vacation in Colorado Springs with tweens! In my family, the adults were interested in seeing the history of space, and the kids wanted to see the bugs. Luckily, the two museums are both housed on the same grounds in the John May Museum Center.

The May Natural History Museum of the Tropics has a huge collection of giant insects, of which 8,000 are on display at any given time. James F. W. May, who died in 1956, spent most of his life exploring the tropical jungles of the world collecting these specimens. Museum exhibit information states that most of these bugs could not be replaced because they were acquired from areas too dangerous to go into today. My tweens were impressed.

On the same grounds as the bug museum was the Museum of Space Exploration, which gave a great picture tour of the history of space travel, from the beginning to the most recent NASA pictures. We watched the NASA film of man's first landing on the moon. Be awed by the many displays, including early airplanes and spacecraft. There was so much to see at these museums, and everyone in the family was pleased!

May Natural History Museum, 710 Rock Creek Canyon Road, Colorado Springs, Co 80926, 719-576-0450. Hours: May - Sept daily 9AM-6PM (group reservations possible in winter). Admission: adult $6, child (6-12) $3, senior $5.

Pikes Peak

Another place that can't be left off the agenda of a family vacation in Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. I don't love heights, but my tweens were so excited about this part of our trip! The view from the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,110 feet is breathtaking. You can drive up in your car or opt for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. You'll ride in one of four cars that each holds 216 passengers up nine miles for just over an hour to reach the top. There is a layover at the top for 40 minutes. We took this time to buy food and souvenirs and get our bearings for the trip down.

The view is spectacular, and it is quite an exciting ride. It is cool and very windy on the summit no matter what the season. This trip is not recommended for anyone with respiratory or heart problems.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway, 515 Ruxton Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, 719-685-5401. Hours: mid-Apr to mid-Nov, check website for train departures; reservation required. Admission: adult $33, child (3-12) $18.

Evening


Garden of the Gods

For the best family vacation in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods is a must-see. What's more, it's open until 11PM during the summer so you can catch sunset across the mountains. This huge park and geological site has unusual red sandstone forms that have been sculpted by millions of years of exposure to the elements. Enjoy the many hiking trails, exhibits in the visitor center, the cafeteria and more. Hop on the bus tour of the park if you visit in the summer or catch a geological movie that shows the unique history of the park. Some trails allow horses and others allow bikes. We brought our bikes, and with a map from the visitors' center, we perused an easy bike trail. We all agreed this was one of the most beautiful parks we had ever seen. A perfect end to a family vacation in Colorado Springs with tweens.

The Garden of the Gods, 1805 North 30th Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, 719-634-6666. Hours: May-Oct 5AM-11PM, Nov-Apr 5AM-9PM. Admission: free.

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