Colorado Springs and the surrounding Pikes Peak region is known of its beautiful mountain scenery and red rock formations. There are a wide variety of free things to do, ranging from parks and nature centers to museums and festivals. There is also the famous Manitou Incline, one of the most challenging hikes in existence. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1. Free Museum Day
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Every September, the Smithsonian Institution partners with the numerous national museums to provide people with a day of free admission to museum. This day provides people throughout the country with a fun and frugal way to explore a favorite museum or one that they have never stepped foot in before. There are six museum in the Colorado Springs area that visitors and locals alike can visit for free on Free Museum Day. These museums are the Western Museum of Mining & Industry, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Museum of Colorado Prisons, ProRodeo Hall of Fame, Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, and John May Natural History Museum.
2. The Penrose Heritage Museum
© The Penrose Heritage Museum
The Penrose Heritage Museum is home to an extensive collection of thirteen motorized vehicles and thirty-one horse-drawn carriages. A large number of the carriages on display belonged to Spencer and Julie Penrose. The collection includes a 1906 Renault, a 1928 Cadillac limousine, and three 1920’s cars from the Pike Peak Auto Hill Climb race. Among the several exhibits at the museum are two of the presidential carriages used by William Henry Harrison and Chester A. Arthur. Exhibits at the Penrose Heritage Museum also include Native American artifacts; vintage riding saddles, stirrups, and harnesses; and antique firearms.
11 Lake Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, Phone: 719-577-7065
3. The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
© The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame features a collection of more than seventy-five fully-restored, original examples of antique and vintage Triumph, Panther, Cushman, Honda, BSA, Mustang, Ariel, Excelsior, Harley-Davidson, and Indians, dating all the way back to 1913 up to 1983. The educational and non-profit museum was established in 1992, focusing on people rather than companies and brands, and is run entirely by volunteers. Biographies and photographs within the museum capture the contributions, faces, and names of motorcycling pioneers. The memorabilia displays allow visitors to explore the history of motorcycling in America.
19 N Tejon St, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-487-8005
4. Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center
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The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center lets visitors explore the paradise of Colorado Springs in just one stop. The Garden of the Gods Park is listed as a National Natural Landmark. The park features sandstone rock formations towering three hundred feet tall, dramatic views, and a backdrop of bright blue skies and the snow-capped Pikes Peak. The Visitors and Nature Center houses interactive exhibits, a terrace that overlooks the park, and a glass-enclosed eatery. Both the Garden of the Gods park and the Visitors Center are open to visitors free of charge.
1805 N. 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, Phone: 719-634-6666
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5. History of Money Museum
© History of Money Museum
The History of Money Museum in Colorado Springs offers visitors and locals a chance to discover more about the history and other topics about the money they use, and is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to money, numismatics. The Money Museum explores the science, history, art, and more around money and promotes the diverse nature of currency and other related items. There are three main exhibit galleries in the museum that display the history of money in America and other parts of the world, as well as fascinating rarities. Free admission is offered on the third Saturday of the month.
818 N. Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-482-9834
6. America the Beautiful Park
© America the Beautiful Park
The America the Beautiful Park Fantasy Playground features spinner bowls, hammocks, and turntables, offering fun for everyone. “Quirks,” which are are the interactive pieces of art on the property, are situated one on side of this interesting playground. Nearly one hundred students from local schools created the Quirks. Amenities at America the Beautiful Park include the playground, restrooms, a picnic pavilion, walking paths, and access to the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail and the Midland Trail. The Julie Penrose Fountain, designed by Bill Burgess and David Barber, is representative of water’s movement between the earth and the atmosphere.
126 Cimino Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-385-2489
7. Bear Creek Regional Park and Nature Center
© Bear Creek Regional Park and Nature Center
At the Bear Creek Regional Park and Nature Center, visitors can explore Bear Creek, try to catch a glimpse of mule deer and other wildlife, hike through the foothills, and more. Media presentations, self-guided and guided tours, special events, and interpretive programs are offered at the nature center and park throughout the year. Nature trails in the park do not allow pets and are only meant for foot traffic. Regional trails are open to horseback riding, leashed pets, and hiking.
245 Bear Creek Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, Phone: 719-520-6387
8. Cripple Creek Heritage Center
© Cripple Creek Heritage Center
The Cripple Creek Heritage Center explores the story of the fortune seekers during the latter part of the 1800’s who journeyed out to the area of Pikes Peak during the Gold Rush. Over a hundred years later, visitors can make discoveries of their own at the informational resource and travel center. The Heritage Center overlooks Cripple Creek, offering a great view of the town below. Several interactive exhibits let guests immerse themselves in the heyday of the “Greatest Gold Camp in the World.” Other exhibits display fauna and flora, geology, and recreation opportunities in the Cripple Creek area.
9283 CO-67, Cripple Creek, CO 80813, Phone: 719-689-3315
9. Dr. Lester L Williams Fire Museum
© Dr. Lester L Williams Fire Museum
The Dr. Lester L Williams Fire Museum is housed within the Fire Operations Training Center in Colorado Springs. Artifacts and equipment from throughout the history of firefighting are on display in the museum, open to visitors from Monday to Friday. There is no cost for admission and the museum is open beginning at 8:00am until 5:00pm. Among the various items on display in the Dr. Lester L Williams Fire Museum is a combination hose wagon from 1896, an Ahrens-Fox Pumper vehicle from 1926, and numerous historic documents and photographs. The museum also features rotating exhibits.
375 Printers Pkwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80910, Phone: 719-385-5950
10. Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center
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The Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center has been a beloved local landmark of the residents of Colorado Springs for several years. The stone structure was formerly the residence of the area’s Starsmore family. The house was moved in 1992 to its current location after being bought by the city. The visitor center provides a great introduction to the Cheyenne Cañon, along with its rock formations, beautiful waterfalls, wildlife, and wildflowers. The Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center offers a window for birdwatching, free maps of Cheyenne Cañon, information about the region, interactive nature exhibit, interesting dioramas, and more.
2120 North Cheyenne Cañon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, Phone: 719-385-6086
11. Pioneers Museum
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The Pioneers Museum in the city of Colorado Springs is the only facility in the region of Pikes Peak dedicated to the research, collection, and interpretation of the rich history of the area of Colorado Springs. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00am until 5:00pm. There is no admission fee to visit the museum, but you may have to pay for parking. Free parking spots may be open on Vermijo Avenue. Exhibits in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum tells the history of the region, and rotating galleries highlight particular topics of historical importance.
215 S. Tejon St, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-385-5990
12. Red Rock Canyon
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Visitors can explore the Red Rock Canyon dawn to dusk. Horses, bicycles, and dogs are permitted on the majority of the trails. Activities that guests can enjoy at Red Rock Canyon include hiking, biking, climbing, skiing during the snowy season, and paragliding among a few others. For people who plan on visiting with their dogs, the Lower and Upper Dog Loops provide an off-leash area. There is also a free-ride bike park on the east side of the site’s first parking area. Several trails around Red Rock Canyon are good for cross-country skiing when there is snow.
South of U.S. 24 near 31st St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
13. Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Festival
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The Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Festival have been an annual local tradition in the town of Manitou Springs since the year 1995. This event takes place in honor of one of the community’s beloved former residents, Emma Crawford. Crawford’s arrived in 1889 in Manitou Springs and later died in 1891 from illness. Being buried at the summit of Red Mountain was her dying wish. It took twelve people, including her fiance, to carry her coffin to the top of the mountain at 7,200 feet. In 1929, her coffin came sliding back down the mountain.
354 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, Phone: 719-685-5089
14. Fountain Creek Nature Center
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The a short distance from the downtown area of Colorado Springs is the Fountain Creek Nature Center. Visitors can explore Fountain Creek, look for blue herons, and walk through the wetlands among other activities. The center provides a unique glimpse at the Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area. It also serves as the entrance to an array of fund and interesting discovery experiences. The exhibits housed inside the Fountain Creek Nature Center include topics like life in the wetlands, climate and weather, wildlife, and plants. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the nature center also offers group tours, special events, and interpretive programs.
320 Pepper Grass Lane, Fountain, CO 80817, Phone: 719-520-6745
15. Manitou Springs Heritage Center
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The Manitou Springs Heritage Center is a non-profit, educational center located at the base Pikes Peak. It is focused on the collection, preservation, research, and interpretation of the culture and history of the town of Manitou Springs, as well as the surrounding Pikes Peak area. The Manitou Springs Heritage Center is open from 11:30am until 4:30pm, Wednesday through Sunday. There are several exhibits on display within the center for visitors and local residents alike to learn about Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak. The heritage center also offers haunted walking tours during the Emma Crawford Festival each year.
517 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, Phone: 719-685-1454
16. Old Colorado City Farmer’s Market
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The Old Colorado City Farmer’s Market is a long-standing tradition in Colorado Springs. For over twenty year, the farmers market has been happening on the streets of the quaint town. There are twenty-four vendors at the market full-time and many other temporary booths that take up shop at the Old Colorado City Farmer’s Market. Visitors can find all kinds of local fresh produce; such as fresh herbs, cantaloupe, squash, and corn; along with bread, cheese, honey, salsas, and more.
Colorado Ave & 24th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80944, Phone: 719-574-1283
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17. Peterson Air & Space Museum
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The Peterson Air and Space Museum is open to visitors free of charge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The museum first opened in 1982, originally called the NORAD Visitor Center. In 1996, all of the original building of the Municipal Airport were designated on the country’s National Register of Historic Places. Colorado decided to create a historic district out of the area of building, which is where the museum is situated today at the center of the district at the Peterson Air Force Base. All of the museum’s heritage items are a part of the Heritage collection of the U.S. Air Force.
150 E. Ent Ave, Peterson AFB, CO 80914, Phone: 719-556-4915
18. Pikes Peak Birding & Nature Festival
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The Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival typically takes place during a weekend in May every year. The Fountain Creek Nature Center serves as the primary venue for the annual festival. Guests can join a memorable guided birding experience during the festival, led by an experienced birding field trip guide. During these excursions take people through the area’s higher elevations, foothills, and prairies for a chance to see a wide array of birds. These field trips are available only to people who are registered for the Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival. Sign up for the field trips are first-come, first-served.
320 Pepper Grass Ln, Fountain, CO 80817, Phone: 719-520-6745
19. Self Guided Tours Air Force Academy
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Visitors to the Pikes Peak Region can take a self-guided tour of the Air Force Academy to see the beautiful campus’ iconic sights. Guests can explore part of the campus along the Nature Trail, heading towards the Cadet Chapel. The paved, but still somewhat strenuous, path is about a third of a mile in length and winds through one of the most iconic areas of the Air Force Academy. The walk back to the Visitor Center is largely uphill. Visitors can see the Cadet Chapel, Arnold Hall, Honor Court, the Field House, and the Falcon Athletic Center.
2304 Cadet Dr, USAF Academy, CO 80840, Phone: 719-333-2025
20. Territory Days in Colorado Springs
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Territory Days in the town of Colorado Springs takes place within the historic district between 27th Street and 23rd Street. The district comes alive for families and friends with entertainment, fun, food, and live music. The event is one of the largest craft fairs in the state of Colorado and features a variety of different activities, such as pony rides, a petting zoo, a play area for children, toy train rides, gunfight re-enactments, gold panning, and more. Territory Days first started in 1975. The name of the event was chosen in honor of “Colorado City,” the Colorado Territory’s first capital.
21. The Manitou Springs Incline
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The Manitou Springs Incline is a cable car track turned into a heart-pounding workout. The incline is considered to be an advanced hike and an extreme trail, gaining an elevation of almost two thousand feet in less than just one mile. It is not a hiking trail to be take likely, and is possibly one of the most challenging and unique trails in America, drawing hiking enthusiasts, Olympic athletes, military, and runner from all over the world. The Manitou Incline is known for providing a people with a rather tough workout. The incline features a total of 2,744 steps.
Manitou Springs, CO
22. Walking Tour Mineral Springs
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The Walking Tour Mineral Springs starts at the Depot at the Eleanor Bliss Center for the Arts. For the average person, the walking tour will take around two hours to complete. Among the places visitors will pass during the walking tour of the town are the Steamboat Spring, the Black Sulphur Spring, the Soda Spring, the Lithia Spring, the Sulphur Spring, the Iron Spring, the Heart Spring, and the Sulphur Cave. Visitors to Manitou Springs and the surrounding Pikes Peak region can explore the mystery behind many springs in town and their curative properties and how Steamboat became a world-class destination.
23. Ute Pass Trail
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The Ute Pass Trail travels through a forested area on the north side of Colorado’s Pikes Peak. The four-mile trail is used primarily for hiking, but visitors can also use the moderate trail for horseback riding, running, and biking. Dogs are also permitted on the Ute Pass Trail. Hiking the trail is best between the months of May and September. The trailhead of Ute Pass can be found near the parking lot of Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The Ute Pass Trail is thought to have originally a buffalo trail, then a wagon road in the 1860’s, and also used by Ute Indians.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829, Phone: 719-685-5089
24. Artwalks Old Colorado City
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The First Friday ArtWalk in the history Old Colorado City is a free event that takes place on the first Friday of each month, beginning in April and running until December. The ArtWalk happens along West Colorado Avenue, between 23rd Street and 27th Street, in the art district of Colorado Springs. The self-guided art tour features more than four hundred artists, open artist studios, and art galleries. There are often up to one hundred original works of art available for sale in a single location along West Colorado Avenue. Guests can also meet some of the artists, and view demonstrations.
W. Colorado Ave between 23 St and 27 St, Colorado Springs, CO
What are the 25 Best Free & Affordable Attractions in Colorado Springs, Colorado?
The 25 Best Free & Affordable Attractions in Colorado Springs, Colorado according to local experts are:
Attraction Spotlight: Fine Arts Center
Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Fine Arts Center of Colorado Springs aims to educated and inspire the community about visual and performing arts. Visitors will experience extraordinary cultural and historical performances and exhibitions that are sure to delight.
The Fine Arts Center of Colorado’s history began way back in 1919 when the founder of Colorado Springs, General Willian Jackson Palmer, was successful in his attempt to turn his town into a cultural oasis. The town earned the name “Little London” because of its established refinement and cultural influence in such untamed and rugged surroundings. Artists from all around the world flocked to Colorado Springs to get a taste of the budding fine arts town.
In 1920, the Broadmoor Art Academy was founded and quickly gained a reputation as the “cultural heart of Colorado”. It was renowned for having fabulous exhibitions and knowledgeable instructors, including Boardman Robinson, Willard Nash, and Kenneth Adams.
In 1929, the Broadmoor Art Academy began expanding into a multi-disciplinary art district, thus, the idea for the Fine Arts Center was born. The Fine Arts Center of Colorado Springs was built in the year 1936 and has developed into one of the nation’s only arts institutions that features a theatre, a museum, and an art school all in one building.
Permanent Collection: The Fine Arts Center’s permanent collection focuses its collecting practices to work produced in North and Central America, mainly Hispanic and Native American work. However, many pieces from European and Modern American artists are heavily featured.
The Art School:
The Fine Arts Center prides itself on offering a large variety of courses for artists of any age and any skill level. The facility offers classes year-round with qualified and supportive instructors for anyone interested in painting, drawing, pottery, photography, or filmography. For more information on the classes offered and how to sign up, visit the Art School’s web catalog.
The Fine Arts Center offers a variety of outreach programs to members of the armed forces and their families. In partnership with AspenPointe, the Fine Arts Center hosts art-therapy courses to help these heroes and their families turn their tragic experiences into art in a safe and healthy way.
Fine Arts Center of Colorado Springs, 30 W Dale Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-634-5581
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Attraction Spotlight: National Museum-World War II Aviation
Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, National Museum-World War II Aviation aims to provide visitors with unique and exciting educational experiences while simultaneously promoting a better understanding of the influence that American aviation had on World War II.
The museum’s campus is spread out over more than 20-acres near the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport and its interior displays are housed in a 44,000-square-foot facility. There is also a 65,000-square-foot restoration hanger, and currently, the museum is undergoing a huge expansion project which includes the addition of a 148,800-square-foot Aviation hall.
Currently, only about one-third of the museum’s vast collection can fit on site, but thanks to generous grants and donations from the community, the museum can expand and display all of its significant World War II memorabilia.
The museum boasts one of the largest collections of fully restored World War II aircraft in the nation. The goal of this collection is to tell the proud American story of influence and innovation of aviation in the second World War.
The aircraft is consistently rotated to provide new educational experiences to the museum’s returning visitors. The aircraft is generously loaned to the museum from personal collections from all around the United States. Currently, there are more than 40 different aircrafts on display at the museum, fighter jets, cargo aircraft and everything in between is on display.
Some of the exciting aircraft that is currently on display includes the Beech T-34 Mentor, the Howard DGA-15, the North American B-25 Mitchell, a Cessna A-37, and a Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Many of these are still in excellent flying condition!
There is also an extensive collection of more than 3,000 artifacts, historical documents, and rare objects in the museum’s permanent collection. These pieces are all representative of one of the most innovative and important times in American history.
These displays include historical photographs, pilot and flight equipment, plane replicas, plane engines, landing gear, and period clothing. Visitors can get up-close-and-personal with thousands of exciting pieces of history.
The museum also has quite a collection of restored and operational vehicles used by US troops during World War II. The functioning vehicles are on display outside and include a M2A1 Half-track, an M3A1 Scout Car, an Airfield Crash Truck, a M38A1 Jeep, a Clarktor 6 Tow Tractor, a CT-21 Tow Tractor, and two Tow Tractors from the Mobilift Company and American Coleman.
Currently under restoration is a M15 Combination Gun Motor Carriage from the White Motor Company.
Education and Programs:
Because the primary goal of the museum is fostering education, there are a variety of educational STEM programs available year-round for children of all ages.
Sky’s the limit is an introductory to aviation course for children enrolled in Kindergarten and 1st grade. The future pilots will engage in hands-on and interactive educational experiences that teach them the basics of science and math that make the magic of flight possible.
Keep ‘Em Rolling is an interactive course aimed at children in grades 2-3 which teaches students about flight and the innovation of people in the World War II era.
Salvage for Victory is a two-part course for children in grades 4-6 and aims to educate students about the rationing and recycling efforts that occurred during the war. Students will learn how to build airplane replicas and even conduct their own salvage drive to experience the time.
Keep ‘Em Flying is a course aimed at students in grades 6-8 and allows them to explore the more complex principles and forces of flight. They will learn how to design, build and test their very own aircraft utilizing the principles they have learned.
Wings Up is a course aimed at students in grades 9-12 and helps students investigate the STEM principles that were used in the aircraft design process of World War II.
There are also a variety of private and group guided tours for visitors to enjoy as well as a world-class gift shop and café.
National Museum-World War II Aviation, 755 Aviation Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80916, Phone: 719-637-7559
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Hotel Spotlight: The St Mary’s Inn in Colorado Springs
Centrally located in central downtown Colorado Springs, The St Mary’s Inn is a cozy turn-of-the-century guesthouse close to the Colorado College and all downtown restaurants. Built in 1895, the quaint 14-bedroom inn has been beautifully restored to offer luxurious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and modern amenities throughout.
Bedrooms enjoy air-conditioning and central heating, mini refrigerators and free Wi-Fi while private bathrooms have rain showers and Jacuzzi whirlpools. A delicious full English breakfast is served each morning in the inn’s elegant dining, and lunch and dinner can be enjoyed at the lodge on request. The St Mary’s Inn is within walking distance of several excellent restaurants in Colorado Springs, as well as other entertainment.
The St Mary’s Inn features eight exquisitely appointed and elegantly decorated guest suites with contemporary décor in cool, serene hues that reflect the surrounding environment, comfortable furnishings, and high-quality linens and fabrics. All suites have king or queen-size pillow-top beds dressed in high-quality linens, down or hypoallergenic comforters, and pillows, and en-suite or private bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, Jacuzzi tubs, single or double vanities, lighted make-up mirrors, plush towels and bathrobes, and organic bath products. Sitting areas have plush sofas and overstuffed armchairs, writing desks and chairs, and large windows with stunning mountain views. Modern amenities in all suites include individual climate control with heating and cooling functions, mini-fridges, flat-screen televisions with cable channels, clock radios, irons and ironing boards, and complimentary high-speed wireless Internet.
A complimentary European-style buffet breakfast is served each morning (for guests in the main lodge only) and includes freshly brewed coffee and tea, fruit juices, fresh seasonal fruit, egg dishes, and Italian meats and cheeses. Other delectable daily selections include newly baked sweet treats such as croissants, or blueberry muffins, homemade granola and Greek yogurt, and an assortment of fresh bread, jams, and preserves.
Amenities and Recreation
A delicious full English breakfast is served each morning in the inn’s elegant dining, and lunch and dinner can be enjoyed at the lodge on request, and other amenities at the Inn include free parking and easy access to the restaurants, bars and entertainment of downtown Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs rests the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains near the glacier-carved Pikes Peak, a natural landmark in Pike National Forest with a network of hiking trails and a traditional cog railway for tourists leading to its summit, which is over 14, 000 feet.
The city offers much to see and do in the way of attractions and activities, including the Garden of the Gods park, which is home to iconic red-sandstone formations and spectacular mountain views, the 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Old Colorado City, and the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Rock Ledge Ranch is an educational living history farm and museum set in a beautiful park in Colorado Springs. The Ranch lies within the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, which is managed by the Living History Association (LHA), whose mission it is to protect, preserve, restore and maintain the natural and historical integrity of Rock Ledge Ranch. The property has seen several periods of development throughout history and significant historic structures that were built during certain times remain. Lovingly restored back to their former glory, these landmark buildings, include Rock Ledge Ranch, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
530 N Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, Phone: 719-540-2222
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