Spring Break Vacation in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Written by Linda Dolecki.

I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Colorado Springs and would like to share some of my adventures.

I could not believe there is so much to see in Colorado Springs and impossible to see everything in a week. Here are a few highlights of my trip.

  • Garden of the Gods
  • Pikes Peak
  • Olympic Training Center
  • ProRodeo Hall of Fame
  • Air Force Academy

Garden of the Gods:

This is a must do and the most beautiful sight which takes a full day to visit. You can pick up free full color trail maps that are available at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information desk.

You can either explore the park on your own or take one of the guided walks in the Central Garden area. We started at the main parking lot for the Perkins Central Garden Trail. This is an easy 1 ½ mile roundtrip concrete foot path.

Then there are other great trails like Ridge Trail which is a moderate ½ mile loop, with less than 100 foot rise in elevation. This path gives you a feeling of being among the rocks. Another easy trail with a unique view of Pikes Peak is Siamese Twin Trail. This is about 1 mile round with less than 150 foot rise.

If you are up to a real challenge you can do a 3 mile circle with less than a 250 foot rise on the Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail. It nearly circles the entire park and the trail cover rolling, rocky terrain away from traffic.

There are lots of rest areas and picnic areas around so you can move at an easy pace and enjoy every minute of this adventure.

Pikes Peak:

As the most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world, Pikes Peak forms a stunning backdrop for Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods.

Pikes Peak has something for everyone. The North slope Recreation Area is a great place to spend time with activities that include bank fishing, non-gasoline powered boating, belly boating, mountain biking, picnicking, hiking, and scenic enjoyment. You might even get a glimpse of Bigfoot!

The summit of Pikes Peak is open year-round, depending on the weather conditions. At 14,115 feet, the weather on top of Pikes Peak can change quickly and be 30 to 40 degrees cooler than when you start your journey in Colorado Springs. I would recommend you pack a jacket just in case no matter what time of the year it is. Taking a bottle of water and having a full tank of gas are also highly recommended to avoid altitude sickness. There is a medical team at theSummit House in case you experience any high-altitude symptoms like headaches or nausea.

Unfortunately when we went, the road was only open to mile 14 (which was 12,000 feet) with only 2 more miles to go to the top. But the view was amazing and I recommend this be a must destination to visit.

Olympic Training Center:

The U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs is the flagship training center for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Olympic Training Center programs.

The Olympic Complex, former home of ENT Air Force Base and the headquarters of the North American Defense Command officially became USOC administrative headquarters in July 1978. In 2010, the USOC moved its administrative offices from the complex to a new, modern facility in downtown Colorado Springs.

In October 1996 and April 1997, the USOC officially dedicated and opened its new $23.8 million, Phase II facilities-a state-of-the-art sports medicine and sport science center, an athlete center, which includes a dining hall and two residence halls. The USOC is able to provide housing, dining, recreational facilities and other services for up to 557 coaches and athletes at one time on the complex.

Free public tours are conducted year-round. The tour includes a 12-minute film and 45-minute walking tour of the complex. We had a wonderful tour guide named Jade who is going to the academy for weight lifting. Jade did not qualify for the last Olympics but hoping to get there in 2016. Nearly 70% of the tour is out-of-doors. During the tour, visitors will have the opportunity to view athlete training facilities including Sport Center Gymnasiums, weightlifting and wrestling facilities, the USA Shooting Center, Coaching & Sport Science, the Aquatics Center, and Sport Medicine. To my amazement the athletes who qualify are housed and are trained for free. They must be the age of 16 or older and keep an academic grade average of 3.5 average or better at all times. They even offer college classes.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame:

After living in Houston, Texas for 15 years and going to the Live Stock Show and Rodeo every year, going to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame was a must do.

All Visitors receive an introduction to rodeo via a multi-media audio/visual presentation which is a must do before beginning your touring.

There are 5 exhibits to see.

  • Founders Hall recognizes individuals, firms and foundations that contributed to construction and research for the Hall of Fame.
  • Heritage Hall displays saddles, chaps, ropes, boots, clothing and artifacts tracing the history of rodeo, and shows the progress of the materials over the past 100 years.
  • Hall of Champions is the main hall where cowboys in each rodeo event are honored. In addition, stock contractors, clowns, announcers, rodeo committees and rodeo stock.
  • The Outdoor Garden Exhibit is home to the Arena where team roping events, convention rodeos, and Wild West shows take place during the months of May – October.
  • The 101 Gallery is used primarily to display Western art collections and other specially created exhibits that pertain to the sport of rodeo. Exhibits in this gallery are changed at least twice a year.

The experience at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy really educates everyone about the historical beginning and offers an explanation of what the cowboy contestants must experience to become champions.

Air Force Academy:

As we were approaching the Academy, driving down the long drive to the left of us was a Boeing B-52D which was used in Vietnam.

Boeing B-52D “Diamond Lil” in displayed outside of the United States Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs. This aircraft served from 1957 to 1983 with over 15,000 flying hours and saw a lot of action in The Vietnam War. Each bomb insignia seen at 1:25 represents a confirmed kill, and the MiG symbol is there because this aircraft has a confirmed air-to-air kill of a MiG-21. This is an absolute photo stop to begin the tour.

Visitors may tour several overlooks across the Academy, the Cadet Chapel, the Honor Court, Arnold Hall, the Cadet Field House, Falcon Athletic Center, Falcon Stadium, the Association of Graduates building and the Visitor Center. I did not get a chance to visit all the sights, but did make it to the Visitor Center, Chapel and the Falcon Stadium.

Visitor Center:

We started out at The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center which serves as the gateway to the Academy, providing information on its history and cadet life.

The center was built with donated and borrowed funds totaling $4.5 million. The private organizations which donated the building to the Air Force named it in honor of retired Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater, an avid supporter of the academy. The facility opened its doors in June 1986.

The 31,600-square-foot building contains exhibits, a snack bar and a gift shop. A one-third-mile paved nature trail east of the facility allows visitors to walk to the Cadet Chapel.

A movie about cadets, highlighting the Academy experience, is shown throughout the day in a 250-seat theater. The exhibit area features displays on history and cadet life with specially designed exhibits to explain the academy’s four “pillars of excellence.” These refer to the four areas of the cadet training program: character development and academic, athletic, and military training. The 5,652-square-foot exhibit area includes video and static displays, a hometown map, and a historical exhibit featuring information on Academy history, current and former superintendents and other significant features of the Academy’s history.

Self-guided tour maps and information on the academy are available at the information desk.

Cadet Chapel:

Soaring 150 feet toward the Colorado sky, the Air Force Academy Chapel is an all-faith house of worship designed to meet the spiritual needs of cadets. It contains a separate chapel for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist religious faiths, plus two all-faiths worship rooms. There are two main levels, with the Protestant nave on the upper level. The Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist chapels are located beneath it. Beneath this level is located a large all-faiths room and two meeting rooms. Each chapel has its own entrance, and services may be held simultaneously without interfering with one another.

The aluminum, glass and steel structure features 17 spires. There is no significance to this number. Original designs were to be too expensive, so changes were made, among them a reduction in the number of spires. The changes did not change the basic design or the interior square footage of the chapel.

The shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million to build. Furnishings, pipe organs, liturgical fittings and adornments of the chapel were presented as gifts from individuals and various organizations. A designated Easter offering was also taken at Air Force bases around the world in 1959 to help complete the interior.

Falcon Stadium:

Falcon Stadium was built in the fall of 1962 at a cost of $3.5 million. The stadium, which was built in a natural bowl, has a capacity of 46,692 and stands in the base of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains. Falcon Stadium opened on Sept. 22, 1962, when a crowd of 41,350 saw Air Force defeat Colorado State, 24-0. AFA held a formal dedication on Oct. 20, 1962, when Air Force hosted Oregon. The stadium was originally built solely for football, but lacrosse plays all of its home matches in the stadium and several non-athletic events, such as the Academy’s annual graduation, are also conducted there.

Other interesting sights for our next trip will be Seven Falls, Cave of the Winds, and at least one of the Ski Resorts.

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