North America

Colorado Springs – Prepare to be awestruck

Downtown Colorado Springs | Photo credit: Matt Inden/Weaver Mutltimedia Group

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Colorado Springs one of its 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The city was selected for its walkable historic areas, its commitment to sustainability, and its natural attractions and ample recreational opportunities in the nearby Rocky Mountains.

“Few vacation destinations provide such an extraordinary range of tourism opportunities in a single location,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “From the vibrant and walkable downtown to the thriving local businesses to the ample recreational opportunities afforded by the nearby Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs retains the distinctive charm that has attracted generations of visitors.”

Today, Colorado Springs is enjoying a resurgence of national recognition for its quality of life and abundant opportunities. The city was selected as the Number One Best Big City in “Best Places to Live” by Money magazine in 2006, and Number One in Outside’s 2009 list of America’s Best Cities.

Immortalized in Katherine Lee Bate’s America the Beautiful, Colorado Springs is tucked in at the foot of Pikes Peak. Colorado Springs represents the best of not only the Old West, but the new west …

Once a booming mining town, Colorado Springs has become one of the top places to visit in America. Picturesque Pikes Peak, at 14,110 feet, serves is the city’s backdrop and commands your attention. The towering Rocky Mountains run north and south of the city, and high plains to the east provide a vast, open feeling.

The city was founded in 1871 by General William Palmer. A bustling hub for the mining industry, the city was dubbed Little London for its affinity to arts and culture. With a population of some 380,000, Colorado Springs is the second most populous city, behind Denver in the state.

Outdoor adventure possibilities are almost endless; there are rapid rivers to run, winter ski hills to conquer, and all kinds of biking challenges. Adventures await around almost every sightline – from rock climbing to a leisurely drive – the Rocky Mountains provide a backdrop for spring color and fall leaf viewing as well as hiking and picnic facilities.

A must see, of course, is Pikes Peak, made famous by the song America the Beautiful, which was written on its peak.

America the Beautiful … The History

Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak View | Photo credit:

The song is one of the most beloved and popular of the many American patriotic songs.

The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates and the music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, Pikes Peak, first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. Ward’s music combined with the Bates poem was first published in 1910 and titled America the Beautiful.

In 1893, at the age of thirty-three, Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Several of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem, including the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Pikes Peak, through which her train was travelling on July 16.

On the pinnacle of that mountain, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room at the original Antlers Hotel. The poem was initially published two years later in The Congregationalist, to commemorate the Fourth of July. It quickly caught the public’s fancy.

Several existing pieces of music were adapted to the poem. A hymn tune composed by Samuel A. Ward was generally considered the best music as early as 1910 and is still the popular tune today. Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward too was inspired to compose his tune. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City, after a leisurely summer day in 1882, and he immediately wrote it down. He was so anxious to capture the tune in his head, he asked fellow passenger friend Harry Martin for his shirt cuff to write the tune on, thus perhaps the off the cuff analogy. Ward’s music, combined with Bates’ poem, was first published in 1910.

Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain. Bates was more fortunate, as the song’s popularity was well established by her death in 1929.

At various times in the more than 100 years that have elapsed since the song as we know it was born, particularly during the John F. Kennedy administration, there have been efforts to give “America the Beautiful” legal status either as a national hymn, or as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Visiting Colorado Springs? Bring a good camera!

US Air Force Academy graduation | Photo credit:

You won’t regret it.

You can’t visit the Colorado Springs region without visiting Pikes Peak. And no one should miss the dramatic red sandstone spires of Garden of the Gods, a city park at the foot of the mountain. The city also is home to the nation’s only mountain zoological park, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where you can hop on a Sky Ride that overlooks the zoo and the city below, and feed giraffes from your hand. The U.S. Olympic Training Center also is here; world-class athletes in a variety of sports train here year-round. The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame honours athletes of the Western kind. The U.S. Air Force Academy also attracts multitudes of visitors. Nearby towns also offer a grand variety of attractions. Manitou Springs has one of the nation’s oldest amusement arcades and Woodland Park, up Ute Pass, has a dinosaur museum representing the area’s archaeological roots. And while you are in Manitou Springs you absolutely have to drop in on Santa’s Workshop/North Pole. Cripple Creek, west of the peak, recalls the area’s rich mining history with museums and mine tours. Canon City, about an hour southwest of Colorado Springs, has many attractions, including a scenic railroad, an Old West town and the Royal Gorge, which features a famous suspension bridge.

Colorado Springs has become a year-round tourism destination, so rather than the Typical Top Ten List of the Best of … here are some of the many, many things to do and see while you are here (in no “Best Of” order)!

Get outside!

Calf roping at the rodeo | Photo credit:

Go hiking.

Ride a horse.

Go mountain biking

Ski or Snowboard.

Go snowshoeing.

Go white water rafting

Play a round of golf. The golf courses are open 365 days a year.

Camping gets you out in the mountains, next to a campfire, and under the stars.Soak in the soothing waters of one of many Colorado Hot Springs.

Take a ride on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak.

Take a hot air balloon ride.

Visit one of the Colorado State Parks.

Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through Old Colorado City.

Drink from the mineral springs in Manitou Springs.

Catch a rainbow trout at a local fishing spot. Get ankle-deep in a clear mountain stream, or take in some Colorado sunshine on the shores of one of our beautiful reservoirs.

Visit Peterson Air Force Base and learn more about NORAD.

Drive into the mountains, find a trail, and get lost in a sea of Colorado wildflowers.

Take a day trip to Cripple Creek.

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