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Day two in Colorado Springs started just before sunrise with coffee in bed overlooking this view. As the sun started to rise and illuminate the mountains below, Pete braved the crisp morning air to take it all in on the balcony. His blood is still warmer from his childhood in Pennsylvania to do this. My SoCal blood encouraged me to stay inside by the fireplace sipping coffee. Same view, warmer air. You be the judge.
After we got ready for the day, we headed down almost below where we are staying at the Garden of the Gods Club to the Visitor & Nature Center for an epic Adventures Out West Jeep Tour!
Our driver, Dusty was hilarious and a wealth of information about Colorado Springs. From the back of his Jeep, we were able to zip throughout the whole area over a few hours time.
We went up and down historic streets only stopping to take in the locals (below).
This Jeep tour was the best way for us to get a real feel for the area and what there is to see and do. I highly recommend it to everyone visiting the area. Colorado Springs is a huge place and there is enough to do to keep you happily busy for weeks. This tour set the stage for the things we knew we had to see and we were able to check a bunch of them off our list quickly. It was also a really good intro into the vast history of the area and the people that made it the wonderful place it is today. Being in the Jeep also allowed us to venture off the beaten path and see the town from new heights.
On the tour, we drove by The Broadmoor before we headed into the mountains.
Not too far up is Helen Hunt Falls. The waterfall was even halfway frozen which made for a pretty dramatic experience viewing it.
We climbed the short way up to the top and stared at it for a while. It is one of those things that you don't soon forget.
Back in the Jeep, we drove along the old railroad path and through the tunnels where you can still see the soot!
It was chilly but there were plenty of blankets to cuddle up with!
We even drove by Balanced Rock in Garden of the Gods!
We stopped to see the rock formations close up on the backside of the view we had from our rooms. The colors are even more vibrant when you are right next to them. I don't want to ruin the surprise upon seeing them when you get here, but I do want to mention that there are various scenes and faces you can see on the rocks if you look closely. Many are related to the deep Native American history that this area holds. My favorite is Kissing Camels so be sure to look for it!
We were sad when the Jeep tour finished and we all agreed that it was the best way to get a really good understanding of Colorado Springs and all it has to offer.
Our next stop on this busy day was the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
This was one of Emmy's favorite things we did. It is really hands-on and more adventure learning than old fashion museums or visitor's centers. We only had about half an hour to explore and take in as much as we could, and we could have easily spent triple that time here.
From learning about the local wildlife to the geographical layout of the area and so much more, it was part a history lesson, part science, and part geography lesson. The children are encouraged to touch and ask questions and completely immerse themselves in the center.
They also have a really cool theater that “transports” you back to the beginning of the formation of Garden of the Gods. You see it rise from the ground and move from an underwater landscape to the desert environment that it is today. The movie is very high tech and captivated our attention.
And of course, there are multiple places for pictures!
After a quick salad for lunch, we were on the go again! This time to see Glen Eyrie, an English Tudor-style castle. It was built in 1903 by the founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer.
The castle was just starting to get decorated for the holidays and it was beautiful! We enjoyed learning about why the General chose Colorado Springs (his daughter had tuberculosis and the climate was good for her) and that he was the first to bring pasteurization to the area and to the west coast.
The General was also a true visionary and was far ahead of his time. He incorporated so many modern elements into his home that just amazed me. He even had a weather system in place!
Back in the car, we headed up to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo!
We were the only ones in the zoo and even got a lift up to the top to work our way back down. I would highly recommend doing that as the walk is a lot easier and the view from the top is not to be missed! This is another perk of traveling during off season, no crowds!
We saw lions, goats, primates, birds and more!
This zebra kept following Emmy wherever she went!
But the highlight of our time at the zoo was being able to feed the giraffes. They are such gentle creatures and they have the funniest tongues! Since there was a cold front in Colorado Springs while we were there, the giraffes were all in their indoor enclosure to stay warm. As soon as we walked in, they came straight to where we were. We bought some lettuce (it used to be crackers but they were gaining too much weight) and had the best time feeding them and seeing them so close up!
We had to pry Emmy away. Actually, none of us wanted to leave but we had dinner plans so we headed to downtown Colorado Springs. When we returned to our room at Garden Of The Gods Collection, we had this waiting for us. This was just one of the many ways that this hotel made us feel welcome with their many personal touches. They cater to your every need and so many times they did things before I could even think about them. The culinary department went above and beyond and our meals at the resort were fantastic. I'll be sharing more about that soon! Inside those gold containers were candied fruit. We ended this day utterly exhausted and so full of memories from a day packed with learning, exploring, and family fun!
Here is our video of the day: