Manitou Cliff Dwellings looks exciting from the brocheres and other information, but it's really just a few very non-authentic looking buildings, and a tiny museum in amongst a giant three story gift shop full of plastic junk from China.
Unique Suggestions: If you have been to Mesa Verde and seen real ruins, it is a real (and very expensive!) let down.
Fun Alternatives: Save your money and go elsewhere, although all the touristy things in Colorado Springs are expensive and were not that exciting.
Buy your gifts at the Colo. Springs airport. They had the same gifts as the shops on at half the price. I looked all over for gifts and didn't find any and then while waiting for the plane I looked in the gift shop at the airport and everything was there! T-Shirts for $5.00 and magnets and postcards too. I brought back a real nice stuffed animal bear well made by for 8.00 from the airport shop.
With all of the natural beauty in the mountains, one may wonder if it's worth paying to see a set of waterfalls. We decided to give it a try, but will always look back on this as one of our greatest vacation mistakes. We pulled into the park around 6:00 in the evening one fall Saturday. We sat in our car in line for an hour until we reached the admission station. We then paid our $15 for the two of us, and then proceeded to sit in line for another hour! We finally got to the falls to learn that the trails had closed at dusk. So, we really only got to hike a set of stairs to see the waterfalls (actually seven sets of waterfalls in succession). With so many free attractions in the area (particularly, Helen Hunt Falls next door, where you can hike to see Seven Falls from a distance), this is a waste of time and money. Don't be drawn in by the pretty lights like we were!
Unique Suggestions: If you must go, just leave yourself plenty of time in case the crowds are too much to let you in the door....
Fun Alternatives: See my tip on Helen Hunt Falls as an alternative.
the souvenir shop at the summit of Pikes Peak is a real ripoff. It's very expensive and you can find most things at a souvenir shop in town for a fraction of the cost.
Please note that this souvenir shop is in no way incorporated with the Cog Railway.
I am probably going to get burned for this, but I will try to explain anyway. The summit that inspired "America the Beautiful" does provide a commanding view and the mountain itself is very impressive. It is the sole 14,000 foot + mountain in this particular area. With that said, I think the summit is way overdeveloped. I feel sorry for hikers who have taken the Barr Trail through pristine wilderness and arrive at the top to find a tourist hub.
Let's see, you have a road to the top, you have a train going to the top, you have a gift and donut shop on the top, and you have that parking lot. Of course Pikes Peak is not the only mountain that has had this happen. All I am saying is that if you are expecting a serene moment at the top of Pikes Peak as you look at the purple mountain majesty, then you are in for a shock. it might as well be Penn Station.
Look at the picture. That is me at the summit of Pikes Peak. Do you see the scenery? Behind me is a building. i guess it is nice that so many people have the ability to access the top of this mountain. i just wish they had come up with a way to do it without all of the development up there.
Unique Suggestions: Just be prepared to share the summit with a lot of people and some development. By all means, enjoy the view and be glad you got here.
Fun Alternatives: There is another drive up in Colorado that is even higher than Pikes Peak. It is not as developed or as busy as this place. It is Mt. Evans. See my Colorado tips for more details.
WARNING: Colorado Springs is not Denver, Denver is laid out on a easy-grid system. Colorado Springs is very difficult to get around compared to other cities, with all the dead-ends and streets changing names. The only streets that run through Colorado Springs are: Powers (5900E) Academy (3700E) Union (1800E) and Nevada (200E).
No east-west thoroughfare exists in the Springs except for Austin Bluffs and Garden of the Gods (which run 4500 North)
Described perhaps jokingly as "The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado", neither the falls nor the mile drive to them is grand. The falls cascade a mere 181 feet, which is nowhere near anything record setting. The 233 steps up to the Falls will leave you far more breathless than the view.
Unique Suggestions: Do at least view the falls. And walk the stairs. It is good exercise.
Fun Alternatives: Garden of the Gods (see must see activity tip)
After we went to the Royal Gorge, we took the train ride that goes along the bottom of the gorge. This was very expensive, about $27.00 per person. All this train did was go up the track, stopped and back on the same track. I would not recommend this train ride.
Everything touristy costs too much money. Skip the CLIFF DWELLINGS, CAVE OF THE WINDS, SEVEN FALLS. None of these 'attractions' are remotely worth the money. It's terrible to spend money on something when the Gift Shop is the best part of the place.
Garden of the Gods is one of the reasons people come to COS. It is well worth seeing, but expect many tourists.