Colorado Springs offers a relaxing, family-friendly getaway from Vail Valley
Special to the Daily
Perched atop a hill overlooking Garden of the Gods, the aptly named Garden of the Gods Resort offered a relaxing weekend respite after a recent stress-filled week. We arrived at the resort on a Friday afternoon with just enough time to check out our luxurious room (plush robes, private balcony and an in-room wine dispenser) and gawk at the view from our balcony: towering red rocks that draw 6 million visitors each year.
After sitting on the balcony and absorbing the dramatic views of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, we headed to the nearby recreation center to drop off our kiddos at the resort’s Kids’ Club. While they played and dined on macaroni and cheese and fresh fruit, we enjoyed our first couple’s massage at the resort’s Strata Integrated Wellness Spa. Before our treatment, we took time to relax in the steam room and the salt inhalation room, which glows pink thanks to its salt brick construction. After an hour of hot stone-fueled bliss, we changed clothes and headed to the resort’s Grand View Dining Room where we noshed on Oysters Rockefeller with bacon, roasted fennel and spinach pernod cream and a seafood pasta that we couldn’t quit eating, even after our tummies were full. The rich Maine lobster, shrimp and lump crab bucatini pasta with lobster tomato cream sauce didn’t skimp on seafood or flavor.
After a long, stressful week, our date night left us feeling rejuvenated and ready for a weekend of family fun. The kids were all smiles when we picked them up, solidifying the brilliance of an on-site kids’ club. It’s the ultimate amenity I didn’t know we needed.
The next morning, we stopped into Garden of the Gods Market & Café, a modern eatery not far from the resort that opens at 7 a.m. in case your kids, likes ours, wake up early with grumbling bellies. The kids loved their chocolate chip pancake, while we splurged on the decadent Banana Bread French Toast and the hearty Mountain Man Hash with smoked pork, leek hashbrowns, two over-easy eggs topped with sausage gravy. While it was by no means light, it fueled us for the next stop on our itinerary: the ever-popular Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
This unique zoo is built into the mountainside and offers a chance to connect with more than 800 animals (200 species in total) from around the world, including hand-feeding giraffes. Our kids giggled wildly as one giraffe’s long, black tongue reached out to grab romaine lettuce they held out. We waved at the bears and tiger as we rode above them on the Mountaineer Sky Ride chairlift. Other highlights included scoping out new zoo babies, including a baby sloth and darling wolf pups. We can’t wait to return later this summer to check out the new Water’s Edge: Africa exhibit after it opens mid-summer and see the penguins, peer down at the hippos from a suspension bridge, and see an island of lemurs.
On the way back to the resort, we stopped into a charming German bakery called Wimberger’s Old World Bakery, a popular spot that’s been around for more than 40 years. We snagged a few tasty salami and cheese rolls to snack on before taking the kids swimming at the resort’s Three Graces pool, which features a heated, zero-entry pool the kids loved.
After our big day, we’d worked up an appetite. Drunken noodles, wontons and spring rolls at popular nearby Asian spot, EIM Thai, hit the spot.
Before leaving town, we explored the place we’d been staring at since we arrived: Garden of the Gods. This geological wonder includes 15 miles of trails, so it’s the perfect spot to let the littles expel some energy. Our kiddos loved climbing up the sandstone rocks located just off the Perkins Central Garden Trail, a 1.5-mile paved trail that is stroller accessible. Best of all, the park is free thanks to Charles Elliott Perkins, who owned the land but never built on it, instead leaving the area in its natural state for the public to enjoy. After his death, his children gifted the 480-acre parcel to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909 so it could always remain free.
Thousands of years ago, the Colorado Springs area served as a crossroads for indigenous people, and when in the Garden of the Gods, even rival tribes would lay down their weapons out of respect for the Gods. They considered the area to be sacred, healing ground. Watching our children stare up in awe at the dramatic sandstone formations, it was clear our weekend away provided the perfect reset.
Colorado Springs is 163 miles from Vail (if you go through Denver) and takes about two hours and 45 minutes. You may also go through Breckenridge and take U.S. Highway 9 to Highway 24. This route takes about three hours.
Where to stay
Garden of the Gods Resort, located at 3320 Mesa Road, Colorado Springs.
Cost: Rooms start at $179 during offseason and $399 in season (Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 31)
Kids’ Club is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon, Friday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. and the first Saturday of each month (June through August) from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit http://www.gardenofthegodsclub.com to learn more.
Where to play
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is open 365 days a year, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (hours vary on holidays). Parking is free and tickets are $24.75 for adults (ages 12 to 64) and $19.75 for kids (ages 3-11) during weekends during the summer season.
Garden of the Gods is free to visit and open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., while the visitor and nature center are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They offer a Junior Ranger program ($2 for the booklet; plan on one to two hours to complete the activities required to receive a badge and certificate) for kids ages 7 to 12.
Former Vail Daily Arts & Entertainment Editor Caramie Petrowsky is a freelance travel writer and public relations professional who lives in Denver with her husband and their two children.
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