Pioneers Museum (Colorado Springs)

What:  Pioneers Museum Pioneer Museum (Colorado Springs CO) Free admission
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Tues – Sat, 10 – 5; Sundays (May – October), 1 – 5

As you enter this fabulous museum, you are greeted by a statue of Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired by a trip to the top of Pikes Peak to write the famous words, “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!” Go ahead and sing the rest of the song; we can wait.

Hop on the “birdcage” elevator to go to the 3rd floor, where you’ll find many of the permanent displays. A portion of Helen Hunt Jackson’s house here in Colorado Springs has been restored here. This 19th century author is remembered for her work as an activist for Native American rights, and for her close friendship with Emily Dickenson.

You’ll also find a room devoted to Indians of the Pikes Peak region, items from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, and a beautifully-preserved Main Courtroom – appropriate, since the museum is housed in the old El Paso County Courthouse building, built in 1903.

exhibit at Pioneer Museum (Colorado Springs CO) - free admissionOur favorite exhibit is the Medical Heritage room. Colorado Springs and nearby Manitou Springs were promoted as health meccas. Manitou’s mineral waters were touted as cures for maladies including alcoholism, gout, cancer, and obesity. Colorado Springs was advertised as being one of the healthiest places in the world (especially for those suffering from tuberculosis), because “the atmosphere is absolutely aseptic and free from all germ life,” according to a Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce who was promoting the area years ago. The exhibit includes some fascinating (albeit slightly frightening) displays of early medical and dental equipment. One room has shelves overflowing with boxes and cans of liniments, medicated pads, lotions, extracts, and the like. A hypochondriac’s delight!


Other floors include exhibits of antique clothing, children’s toys, quilts, Van Briggle Pottery, Native art, textiles, and changing exhibits.

For more information, contact:
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
215 S Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

(719) 385-5990

Additional directions:
Drive to Colorado Springs on I-25

Take Exit 141 (Cimarron Street), and drive east 0.6 miles to Tejon Street.

Turn left on Tejon Street, and drive 2 blocks north to Vermijo Avenue.

Turn right on Vermijo Avenue. The museum is on your left, in the beautifully restored old El Paso County Courthouse building.

Free parking is available along Vermijo starting one block past the museum. Metered parking and a parking garage are also available close to the museum.

Olympic Training Center (Colorado Springs)

What: U. S. Olympic Training Center tourUS Olympic Training complex (Colorado Springs CO) - free tour
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Guided Tours – hourly Monday-Saturday
Visitor Center open 7 days a week

Experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as you view a short film showing scenes from past Olympic games that is guaranteed to stir your emotions. The movie is followed by a 45 minute walking tour of selected Olympic complex areas. Life-size figures with narrative panels adorn the Irwin Belk Olympic Pathway and provide information about Olympic and Pan American Sports.

During the tour, you will have the opportunity to view athlete training facilities including the Sport Center Gymnasiums where athletes train for gymnastics, volleyball and basketball, as well as boxing. The tour also visits the recently refurbished weightlifting facility where you’re likely to see athletes who look like they are right out of some of those ads for exercise equipment you see on TV.

The USA Shooting Center is particularly interesting. Here athletes are training to control their bodies to allow them to shoot between heartbeats!

US Olympic Training center pool (Colorado Springs CO) - free tourThe Aquatics Center contains a pool with a capacity of 1 million gallons of water! The pool is equipped with a multitude of cameras which allow the coaches to view each individual swimmer or groups of swimmers. Along one side of the pool is a tow rope which is used to pull swimmers along in the water at the rate they would need to be swimming to be in gold medal form. For most of us that would be like lying flat on the water while being pulled along by a speedboat.

Allow some time after you complete your tour to visit the Olympic Hall of Fame Rotunda, enjoy the memorabilia, and patronize the U.S. Olympic Shop all of which are located in the main Visitor Center.

After completing this tour you’ll be promising yourself to start working out and lose a few pounds so you can get yourself back into Olympic shape!

Most of the tour is conducted out-of-doors so dress accordingly.

Be sure to call the Center or check on the web for tour hours, which vary depending on the time of year. Tours are not conducted on Sunday although the Visitor Center is open for your enjoyment.

For more information, contact:
United States Olympic Training Center
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909-5760

(888) 659-8687 or (719) 866-4618

Additional directions:
Drive to Colorado Springs on I-25

Take Exit 143 (Uintah Street), and drive east 2.0 miles to the “T” intersection at Union Blvd

Turn right on Union Blvd, and continue 0.7 miles south to Boulder Street, passing the Olympic Complex on your right.

Turn right on Boulder Street, then turn right again into the visitor parking lot.

Music and Blossom Festival (Cañon City)

What: Cañon City Music and Blossom FestivalMusic & Blossom Festival parage (Cañon City CO)
Where: Cañon City
When: Weekend in early May

Strike up the band! Hey, let’s strike up dozens of bands!

While the “blossom” part of this festival seems to be dependent on whether a few local fruit trees are doing well this spring (vestiges of a time when there were many orchards in this area), there can be no doubt that the “music” portion of the weekend is in full bloom. Schools from across the state and even a number of schools from other states send marching bands, concert bands, jazz bands, and orchestras to perform and compete at this musical weekend.

The most popular event is the parade on Saturday afternoon down the main street of Cañon City. Marching bands of all shapes, sizes, and ages perform. Uniforms range from kids in jeans and identical t-shirts to elaborately costumed musicians led by majorettes and followed by flag teams, all in coordinated colors and cadence.  Interspersed among the bands are antique cars, soldiers, Shriners, clowns, funny cars, and other visual delights. Bring a lawn chair, or sit on the curb to enjoy this spectacle.

Music & Blossom Festival parage (Cañon City CO)Other events include indoor performances by the bands and orchestras as they compete in their various musical divisions. Food booths and a craft fair are scattered around the parade area. On Sunday, there are other entertainers on stage near the center of town. There are even some rodeo events and a fly-in at Fremont County Airport scheduled to coordinate with the festival.

For more information, contact:
Cañon City Music & Blossom Festival Corporation
PO Box 1914
Cañon City, CO 81215-1914

719-275-7234 (festival information)
800-876-7922 (Chamber of Commerce)

Great Fruitcake Toss (Manitou Springs)

What: Great Fruitcake TossGreat Fruitcake Toss (Manitou Springs)
Where: Manitou Springs
When: First Saturday in January

At last, the answer to that age-old question: How do I get rid of this *$&*@#! fruitcake?

People in Manitou Springs have found the answer. Throw it as far as you can, by any means that you can, and hope it’s never found again. You can come watch this amazing event for free (however, contestants pay a small fee or donate a can of non-perishable food to enter the events).

To be fair, separate prizes are given to numerous special tossing divisions. That is, athletes choosing to toss their fruitcakes by hand are not competing directly with those who use a catapult, giant slingshot, or spud gun (or is that a fruitcake gun?). The audience needs to be ever-vigilant for those fruitcakes that end up being tossed straight up in the air by contestants whose timing on the catapult isn’t quite perfect. You know you’re having a bad day when you get hit in the head with a frozen fruitcake falling from hundreds of feet above you.

Great Fruitcake Toss (Manitou Springs)Several local Inns offer Fruitcake Toss specials, including a heavy-duty cake to use in the event, and advance coaching on the art of fruitcake tossing.

The day also includes Catch The Fruitcake where teams compete to see how many they can catch from their devices that launch them into the sky (Hand Tossing not allowed with the Catch Competition), and an Accuracy Competition in which teams compete to try to hit targets out in the field.

Heads up!


For more information, contact:
Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce
354 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829

800-642-2567 or (719) 685-5089

Additional directions:
Exit US 24 and turn west into Manitou Springs on Manitou Avenue.

The event is held in Manitou Springs Memorial Park, located in the 500 block of Manitou Avenue (on your right as you drive west).

Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs)

What: Garden of the Gods Park, Visitor Center, Trading Post Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs CO) - free admission
Where: Colorado Springs
Park hours:
Summer 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM; Winter 5:00 AM – 9:00 PM
    Visitor Center hours: Summer 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM; Winter 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM;
closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days
    Trading Post hours: Summer 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM; Winter 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM; open all year

Drive, hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride among spectacular red rock formations and all-around, jaw-dropping natural beauty. Technical rock climbers, who must first register at the Visitor Center to obtain a permit to climb, scale the towering cliffs of sandstone. Garden of the Gods Park is home to rock formations with intriguing names such as Giant Footprints, Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins, Three Graces, and Tower of Babel.

Legend has it that two surveyors came upon this natural wonder. One commented that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” His partner, Rufus Cable, having a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the landscape, was taken aback. “Beer garden? Why, it is a place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods!”

Rock climbing at Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs CO)The Visitor & Nature Center is worth a stop, with interesting exhibits, complimentary park maps, and even a free sample of fudge. The cafeteria offers a wonderful view of the region, with majestic Pikes Peak as a backdrop. Ask for a schedule of the free Nature Talks held on the terrace of the building, and free guided Nature Walks.

If all this free stuff has you itching to buy something, or if you just like to browse, be sure to head over to Garden of the Gods Trading Post toward the southwest end of the park. This adobe-style building has been expanded numerous times, and now houses the largest Trading Post in Colorado.

The range of merchandise boggles the mind. You’ll find the odd little five-and-dime sort of trinkets that the kids always seem to crave, as well as t-shirts galore. However, you’ll also discover a wonderful collection of Navajo rugs, sand painting, Pueblo pottery, gorgeous southwestern-style jewelry, and other beautiful items in the Art Gallery.

On the other hand, perhaps you’d be interested in a mounted jackalope trophy? Ask for another free taste of fudge at the Trading Post’s café before you head off into the park again for a picnic.

Check out both websites for coupons offering discounts on food and merchandise, as well as discounts for a 12-minute movie offered at the Visitor Center.

For more information, contact:
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center
30th Street & Gateway Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 634-6666

Garden of the Gods Trading Post
324 Beckers Lane
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(800) 874-4515 or (719) 685-9045

Additional directions:
Drive to Colorado Springs on I-25

If you are heading south, take Exit 146 (Garden of the Gods Road)
Drive West 2.3 miles on to 30th Street
Turn left onto 30th Street, and follow it 1.3 miles to the Visitor Center, which will be on your left.

If you are heading north on I-25, take Exit 141 (US 24 / Cimarron) toward Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak

Drive West 2.5 miles on US 24 to 31st Street
Turn right at 31st Street, and follow it 0.6 miles to Fontanero, where you will turn right
Follow Fontanero 1 block to 30th Street, and turn left on 30th Street
Continue north on 30th Street 1.2 miles to the Visitor Center, which will be on your right.

Colorado Coffee Merchants (Colorado Springs)

What: Colorado Coffee Merchants – roasting tourCoffeeBeans
Where: Colorado Springs
When: Monday – Friday 9 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 1 PM
Reservations recommended for parties of 3 or more.  Tours last between 15 and 30 minutes.

Mmmmmm! Time to wake up and smell the coffee. And to watch the roasting process. And to get an education in green coffee and the air roasting process.  And, of course, to sample some fresh-brewed coffee during and after your tour.

Colorado Coffee Merchants are the proud makers of Ümpire Estate Mountain Roasters and Idle Truck Slow Roasted Coffee.

I have a confession to make here: I don’t drink coffee. I just love how it smells. Years ago, I shared an office with a guy who would buy coffee from an outdoor coffee cart vendor in downtown Denver on his way up to our office each morning. We had a ritual. He’d set the cup of coffee on my desk, I’d gently wave my hand over it, directing its fantastic aroma toward my nose (Ahhhhhhh!), and finally I’d relinquish his beverage to him.

So, if you see a woman waving her hand toward her nose on the roasting tour and sighing with pleasure, that might be me. Mmmmmm! Ahhhhhhh!

For more information, contact:
Colorado Coffee Merchants
302 East Fillmore Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907

Chile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)

What: Chile & Frijoles FestivalChile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)
Where: Downtown Pueblo – 1st and Union
When: 3rd Weekend after Labor Day in September
Friday, 3:00 PM –11:00 PM
Saturday, 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sunday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

2011 Update:  We’ve learned that the Festival will be charging a small fee (admission $2; kids 12 and under-free) starting this year. Since this was one of the first items we listed on this site, we’ll keep this page online so people know about the change.

Ahhh, the incredible aroma of roasting chilies turning over hot flames! Sample a variety of salsas made by local farmers as you admire colorful Ristras – chilies tied on a string. Unfortunately, the displays of frijoles – that’s “beans” in case you didn’t know – aren’t quite as exciting to the nose and eyes. Not to worry! Kids can participate in The Art of the Bean, where they compete in age groups for the best sculpture constructed completely using beans (and mostly Pinto beans at that). Or check out the Great Bean Spit Off. Both bean-spitting accuracy and power will be judged. If the kids are still looking for something to do after all that excitement, send them over to the Piñata breaking area where they can let off a little steam.

Both commercial and non-commercial competitions are held for best Red Chili, Green Chili, and salsa recipes. The “Holy Frijoles” Cooking contest features cooked beans (again, Pintos must be the predominant ingredient). The public can help judge the Best Bean Dip in Pueblo by stopping at participating shops along Union Avenue for a sample and to place their votes. We suggest you try to schedule sampling the bean dips before you participate in the Jalapeño Eating contest.

Chile & Frijoles Festival (Pueblo)If you’ve had your fill of chile and frijoles for a while, check out the farmer’s market, the fine art show, live entertainment, and our favorite, the “Salsa & Cerveza” Brew Fest. Sorry, the brews aren’t free. 

Finally, for you car-buffs out there, the Festival often includes one or more car shows to participate, so watch for Corvettes or other cool cars at the festival.


For more information, contact:
Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce

Bishop Castle (Beulah / San Isabel)

What: Bishop CastleBishop Castle - crazy place! (Beulah/San Isabel CO)
Where: Colorado Highway 165, near Beulah and San Isabel

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost.” Could Henry David Thoreau have been talking about Jim Bishop? Bishop has literally transformed a castle of his dreams into a passion, creating a work of art (please don’t refer to it as a “building” – it is a “world class monumental art form”) that surpasses most peoples’ wildest imaginary visions of what a castle might be.

Since 1969, Jim Bishop has been building a castle of rock and iron, stained glass and wood in the forested Wet Mountains. He has been working essentially alone on the project, creating a structure rising into the skies, with great turrets, some more than 100 feet tall, iron walkways arching dramatically between the towers, parapets winding around the exterior, a flame-spewing dragon head, a bell tower, spiral staircases of stone and of iron, buttresses, and a great hall. On one of many hand-painted signs posted around the grounds, Bishop describes future plans for a moat and dungeon.

Speaking of hand-painted signs: Bishop isn’t shy about letting visitors know what he thinks. A recent added attraction is described as “Jim’s Sign Garden.” Walk along a short trail to “visit Jim’s rants through the ages in a unique collection,” as a sign describes it. Bishop Castle - crazy place! (Beulah/San Isabel CO)As you read the often-lengthy messages, you’ll learn that he adamantly disagreed with the fire ban ordered during a recent draught. “If we let our government take fire, what freedoms will they demand their slaves to sacrifice next?” Be aware that “no drunk taxpayers” are welcome, and that most “lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats & Gestapo” should be ashamed and should “get an honest job” – in this case, by providing legal services. “I now need a truly good lawyer!”

An on-site gift shop and snack bar round out the venue. Children will find numerous costume effects such as Viking helmets, capes, swords, magic wands, toy dragons and knights. Books range in topics from crystals to Christianity, from Racy Madams to Road Kill (a cookbook). Then there are the politically-oriented items, which we’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

Viewing Bishop Castle is a real jaw-dropping experience. A word of caution: this work of art (remember: it is not a building) has not been subject to building and safety inspections. You are on private property, and the Castle is a work in progress. It is not unusual to walk along a high iron walkway, turn a corner, and find that the walkway ends abruptly (marked only with a ribbon), or that the handrails you were clinging to for dear life haven’t been completed on the section you are now traversing. Don’t let your kids explore without staying very close beside them!

Additional directions:
Bishop Castle is located on CO 165, approximately halfway between its intersection with CO 96 (a winding gravel road coming west from Beulah) and CO 96 (a paved highway joining Wetmore and Westcliffe). The total distance between these points is 17 miles.

There are road signs to Bishop Castle on CO 165 and at the intersection of CO 165 and CO 96.


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