The USO, a non-profit organization, has been providing support for US military service personnel and their families for nearly 75 years. And thank goodness for these dedicated folks who work diligently to keep our brave heroes connected to their families, homes, and country during some of the most trying times. The USO is there for them from the moment they join the military and throughout their time in uniform; most especially during their deployment.
Bob Hope Hollywood USO Lounge at LAX
The USO has Airport Centers all over the country to offer hospitality to traveling soldiers and their families. They have many programs at their centers in the military bases that help service men and women and their families.
But I think they are most known for the entertainment they bring to our troops abroad and present to them and their families at home. Their trademark USO tours bring America and celebrities to troops who are far from home. But USO tours aren’t limited to entertaining troops away from home. There are tours designed for the families at home and abroad as well.
The Sesame Street/USO Experience presents shows around topics that are unique to military families. We had the pleasure of attending a performance last July in Fort Carson, Colorado Springs.
The show was free to all military personnel and their families, all you had to do was get a ticket on the day they were scheduled to be distributed, then show up on the day of. My daughter managed to get us more than enough tickets, her husband was sent off for field exercises after she got the tickets and my husband decided not to attend. We gave the extra tickets to the USO volunteer at the gate, there were families waiting for last minute tickets, the show was clearly sold out.
When we arrived on base we didn’t know what to expect, we’d never been to a USO show before. We were pleasantly surprised to find not only friendly volunteers (I think they were volunteers) to greet us and take our tickets, but there was this huge Sesame Street mural that everyone was using as a photo backdrop.
The line for this photo op was quite long so we decided to take pictures after the show. We followed the line of families heading into the theater. Along the way we passed tables of “souvenirs” that we were told we could help ourselves to. My daughter stocked up on a magnet, Sesame Street dvd, and other goodies. We remarked how awesome it was to get free souvenirs too! The last time we took the kids to Sesame Street Live, it a civilian show, we had to buy souvenirs, so we were ready to pay for any souvenirs offered.
So image our delight when we entered the theater and were given more souvenirs! The kids were given those spinning light toys sold at most of these events. We should know, we’ve paid as much as $15-20 for each one at other shows. We were all given USO bandanas. The kids put them on as soon as we settled into our seats. They thought it was very cool!
Seating was open and on a first come first serve basis. We were early enough and got good seats.
Once everyone was seated the show started. This show centered around “moving” something that all military families must do often. Soldiers and their families are re-assigned to a new base roughly every 2-3 years. In the 4 years my daughter has been married her husband has been re-assigned twice, they may have to move again in a year or so. This can be difficult for young children. The Sesame Street cast addressed the issue in a fun and positive way. But as we’ve all come to know Sesame Street has a gift for turning life’s difficult times into something positive and bearable.
The show wasn’t very long. I think it lasted about 45 minutes at most. It was filled with color, song, and dance. Jett, my almost three year old grandson, was delighted. He didn’t even get scared when the characters came down the aisle.
I think all the kids in the audience had a great time. The show’s length was perfect too. It was just long enough hold the children’s attention, specially the younger ones.
After the show some of the characters came off the stage and families were taking photos with them. We choose not to join the crowd. Instead we headed for the mural at the entrance so we could take photos there before anyone else came out.
When we got to the mural we had it all to ourselves. We were able to take a few photos before folks started exiting the theater, all bound for the mural, they obviously had the same idea we did.
Jett fell asleep on the short ride home the whole time clutching his spinning toy.
It was so much fun for all of us. We’re grateful to the USO for bringing the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families to the base. They truly bring some sunshine to military personnel and their families!
If you and your family are part of the military of this great country take advantage of the services the USO has to offer. They do a great job of making your life just a bit easier. Don’t forget, thank the staff and volunteers, from my experience they are very dedicated to their mission. Paying it forward is a great idea too! We always leave a few diapers, baby wipes, and toiletries at the airport centers whenever we stop by on our travels. It’s a great help to the next family who comes in!
Click here for more information, to find a center, or see what programs are offered in your area! Click here for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Family show schedules!
What’s a vacation without trying new restaurants? I mean of course you have to eat regardless of where you may be, but vacation time is a great time to try new restaurants. Whether you’re in search of the perfect burger, like me, or just want to try something different vacation time is the perfect opportunity to do both. And that’s exactly what we do when we’re on vacation.
You don’t necessarily have to step out of your comfort zone and go in search of something very exotic like candied grasshoppers or fried monkey brains. I personally am not that adventurous. But you may want to try an area’s specialty or hot spot.
This summer we spent a week in Colorado Springs visiting my daughter and her family. Now Colorado Springs is hardly lacking in restaurants, just about all the big chains are there. That’s good to know if you’ve a yen for the familiar, which happens sometimes when you’re away from home. This trip gave us the perfect opportunity to sample some local places and also some that are familiar to most folks, but we don’t have in Hawaii.
Having said that here’s a short list of what I thought were great eats in Colorado Springs.
Larkburger! This Colorado company has gone all natural. Everything from ingredients, to operations, and packaging is all natural and eco-friendly. They even have a compost bin in every store where you toss the packaging after your meal.
This place is really a burger joint. But oh what a burger they serve! Their signature Larkburger is a classic burger made with black angus meat. It’s simply delicious!
They also have chicken, vegetarian, turkey, and ahi burgers on the menu. And of course hand-cut fries, salads, and house made dressings and sauces.
My grandson, Jett, loves his Larkburger kid’s meal that includes a sandwich, fries, fruit, and a drink.
A trip to Colorado isn’t complete without a burger from Larkburger! Try an order of their Truffle & Parmesan Fries, you won’t be disappointed!
I love pizza, who doesn’t? A pizza from Dion’s is a yummy treat. This pizza place started in New Mexico and now has locations in Colorado (2) and Texas (1). They serve pizza, subs, and salads. Their gourmet pizzas are amazing!
I always judge a pizza by its crust, and Dion’s makes them just right! I’m a purist and like my pizza without all that extra toppings, just cheese please. Their cheese pizza is covered with cheese, not bare spots there!
My daughter loves The Duke City topped with cheddar, turkey, green chili & parmesan. Yum!
This next one isn’t a restaurant, it’s a farmer’s market. You’ll be surprised at all the great eats you’ll find at Colorado Springs’ Sunday Market Downtown in Acacia Park. Aside from buying locally grown veggies you can indulge in some terrific mini pies, fresh tamales, handmade chocolates, and gourmet lemonade. It’s really an out door buffet!
Not only is the Sunday Market a place to find great eats in Colorado Springs, it’s a fun place to spend Sunday mornings. Just pick a spot on the lawn and listen to the band while you chow down on your yummy food. Afterwards the kids can play in the playground or splash zone. Best of all admission to the park/market is free!
My grandsons loved the chicken tamales and lavender lemonade!
For more free things to do in and around Colorado Springs click here!
Qdoba Mexican Eats serves tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, and quesadillas the way you want it. I’m the concept is very much like Chipotle. You choose your entree and order it which your choice of protein, toppings, and sauces.
Their servings are huge! You might consider sharing a burrito or an order of Knockout Tacos.
Their tortilla chips are fresh and crisp, they’re handcut and made in house daily. They go great with the queso dip!
This is a nationwide franchise, unfortunately we don’t have one in Hawaii. Guess I’ll just have to visit my daughter more often!
Amy’s Donuts has donuts galore. There are only 2 locations, Colorado Springs and Columbus, Ohio. If you’re lucky enough to get to one of them your eyes will pop at the colorful variety of donuts they make!
If you can think of a topping you’re almost guaranteed to find it on one of Amy’s Donuts!
The kids loved it! We had to make several trips to the donut shop in that one week! The boys couldn’t decide which one was their favorite, so we got a variety each time we went.
Like my pizzas, I prefer my donuts simple. But don’t fret they have those too!
For our daily coffee fix we hit up Dutch Bros. Coffee. Their Dutch Freeze is a meal in itself.
Dutch Bros. is also a franchise with locations mostly on the west coast. In my opinion they’re better than Starbucks. But to be fair I’m not a big Starbucks fan and rarely go there for coffee.
I always see Carrabba’s Italian Grill ads on TV and have heard my mom talk about them. But I had never been, we don’t have them in Hawaii either. So when I saw one in Colorado Springs of course we had to go in for dinner one night. Let me tell you, we were glad we did.It’s similar to Olive Garden, which was always on our list to go to places on the mainland, (we don’t have them here too), but it’s really not.
I still like Olive Garden, but I think prefer Carrabba’s now that I’ve tried it. I ordered their Chicken Marsala and kept my fingers crossed. Marsala it seems is always hit or miss, of course I compare it to my own recipe which is the best. The Chicken Marsala at Carrabba’s came very close to the one I make at home.
They don’t have unlimited breadsticks like they do at Olive Garden. That’s really one of the main reasons we like Olive Garden. But they do bring fresh bread that you can dip in olive oil. My husband loved that part best!
I said earlier sometimes you have a yen for the familiar when you’re away from home. So one of our favorites is Ihop. It really is one of the best places for breakfast.
Yes, we actually have a local ihop, but we rarely go. Somehow their service and food is always bad at our local ihop. So we look forward to eating there when we’re on the mainland.
We like it because it’s usually very family friendly. The kids get a kick out of the Funny Face Pancake on the kid’s menu. They order it everytime.
Whatever you’re hungry for you’ll almost certainly find it at an ihop. Great pancakes too!
There were more places I wanted to try, but couldn’t get to them in just one week. This only means that another visit to Colorado Springs is definitely in the cards for us. (Of course it is as long as my son-in-law is stationed there!)
We visited my daughter and her family in Colorado Springs this summer. It was my first trip to the area. I mean we’ve been to Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado, Utah border, but that was just for a day. It’s an awesome park and well worth the visit if you’re in the area, but it hardly counts as a trip to Colorado, and neither do the times I’ve had to switch planes in Denver, I never left the airport.
So this summer we flew in to Denver for a week long visit with Jaime, Joel, and Jett. Our grandsons Dion and Devon were with us. Let me tell you, a week wasn’t enough! We all loved Colorado Springs! It’s very family friendly with so many things to do and places to go!
So here are 9 free things and places you can go in and around Colorado Springs!
America the Beautiful Park in downtown Colorado Springs is a great place to spend the day.
There’s plenty of free parking at this large park.
There’s lots to do here. There’s a great playground with slides, spinner bowls, and artwork called Quirks that provide kids “out of this world fun.”
The park also has walking paths where you can walk and even ride bikes. You can also access to Midland Trail and Pikes Peak Greenway Trail from the park. And there are plenty of wide green spaces for kids to run around in and grownups to relax on. Pokemon Go fanatics, like my grandsons, can run around safely catching Pokemon. I’m told there are many lurking in the park just waiting to be captured!
Park facilities include a picnic pavillion (there was a party going on when we went) and clean restrooms.
But the piece de resistance is the Julie Penrose Fountain.
It’s a sculptural fountain designed by David Barber and Bill Burgess to represent the movement of water between the atmosphere and the earth. The large sculpture rotates!
On a hot summer day kids, and adults can splash in this fountain, just don’t play on the sculpture and its platform.
The kids had a great time! I was pretty impressed with the fact that there was a lifeguard on duty!
While we were there an enterprising fellow set up a tent ans was selling snow cones. I don’t think this is park sanctioned, but no one seemed to mind and it was very welcome on a hot day![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
The market is open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm in Acacia Park in the middle of downtown. There are lots of vendors selling Colorado grown produce and farm goods, yummy pies, gourmet lemonade, fresh tamales, and more.
The kids can play in the playground while you browse the market’s goodies. The playground also has a splash zone if you want to get wet! We passed on this, we’d just dried the kids off from their frolic in the Julie Penrose Fountain.
If you’re looking for entertainment a band plays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. You can listen to the band while munching on tamales and sipping cool lavender lemonade under a tree! That’s what we did!
By the way, the lemonade is sold in pint size mason jars for about $5, you can bring the jar back anytime for a $1 refill. They have several flavors to choose from including lavender and jalapeno.
For dessert we picked up some yummy mini pies and handmade chocolates.
Ok, I know this isn’t really Free if you add in what you will buy at the market. But entrance to the park is free as is listening to the band, so I think it qualifies. It’s up to you what you spend at the market, but you had to have lunch anyway, right? I think we paid about $6 or $7 for 6 chicken tamales, not a bad deal at all. Did I mention they were delish? The vendor provides forks and napkins if you’re going to eat your tamales at the park. But go early, he sells out!
Street parking is free if you can find a spot. We did, right by the park entrance. Don’t worry there’s plenty of street parking, you may just have to walk a block or two if you go during the busy times.
Not to be missed is the Garden of the Gods. This amazing park is located in Colorado Springs. It features beautiful rock formations. There’s lots of things to do and see both at the park and its visitor center across the street from the main entrance.
If you’re a rock climber then this is the place for you! Just remember to get a climbing permit before you go!
Again for the Pokemon hunters there’s a Poke Stop in the middle of the park and lots of wild Pokemon to capture too!
Try visiting the park at sunset, it’s gorgeous!
Another fun park to visit is Aga Park in Fountain Colorado. It’s a short drive from Colorado Springs to visit the City of Fountain.
This is the oldest park in the City of Fountain, and it’s not very big, just 4 acres. But the kids love the splash area so it’s definitely worth the half hour drive on a hot summer day![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
If you’re up for a drive to Denver pay a visit to Hammond’s Candies and satisfy your sweet tooth. They have free factory tours every half hour from Monday – Saturday.
You get to see how they make their delicious candies and have a great time too.
I know the tour is free, but the candy shop sure is tempting! We picked up a few sweets to take home, who can resist?
While you’re in Denver you can also take a free tour of the United States Mint. Learn how our coins are made and a bit of history too!
There are 4 mints in the US, only 2, Denver and Philadelphia, have tours. Only coins are minted in these facilities. If you want to see them print paper money you will have to visit the US Treasury in Washington DC.
Talk a walk in a local neighborhood and visit a neighborhood park. Believe me just about every neighborhood has one! Most of them are equipped with cool playground equipment, a playing field, and a shaded pavillion. The kids loved playing in them!
They’re free and not crowded at all. You’ll have the park to yourself on weekday mornings and afternoons. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Take a stroll along Manitou Springs’ quaint main street. Lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Sooner or later you’ll run into the Penny Arcade. It’s an indoor arcade with kiddie rides and games. My grandson Jett loves that place! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Visit Library 21c in Colorado Springs. This ultra modern public library is probably the Pikes Peak Library District’s crown jewel. The multi-leveled building has lots of bright comfy spaces for reading and is even home to a cafe.
There are children and teen programs such as Baby Time and Story Time, and even a Teen Writing Group.
It is arguably the best library I’ve ever been to! It’s a great place to be on a rainy afternoon.
I think my love for zoos began when my grandmother, Julia, took me to the Manila Zoo at the age of 2. I don’t remember that visit at all, but I heard about it all my life. My grandma loved to tell the story about that first visit. Seems when we returned my grandfather asked me what I had seen at the zoo. My reply was “Edna”, a close family friend who we ran into that day. Grandma would tell that tale every time I visited her to anyone who was present.
But seriously since then I’ve visited many zoos around the world, and I’ve passed my love for them on to my children and grandchildren. I know these days it seems to have become politically incorrect to encourage zoo visits. Animal activist groups call for closing down all zoos for various reasons. I’m not so sure I totally agree. I can see both sides. On the one hand it seems cruel to keep these beautiful animals captive for everyone to gawk at; on the other hand it’s not likely they would survive if released to fend for themselves.
In fact many zoos I’ve been to act as a shelter for injured and abused animals rescued from circuses, side shows, and individuals who mindlessly think it’s alright to keep wild lions at home. Also many zoos have conservation and breeding programs, good things in my mind. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Today I want to tell you about Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. In my opinion it is arguably one of the best zoos around.
The zoo’s Encounter Africa exhibit received the Significant Achievement Exhibit Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). It’s sort of like an “Oscar” for zoos.
Yes the elephant enclosure is awesome, but we’ll get to that later.
First of all the zoo is located on the side of Cheyenne Mountain, so animal exhibits are built in tiers going up the mountain. This unique design makes this zoo stand out from the rest, not to mention the views from the lookouts are amazing!
Watch my video of our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo!
You begin your zoo visit, well most of us anyway, at the bottom. From the entrance a path leads you uphill into Africa.
The first exhibit you encounter are giraffes. That is if you take the right fork.
The left takes you across the road to the Mountaineer Sky Ride; a chair lift that takes you up and down the mountain. There are separate charges for this ride. Tickets are round trip, you can stop at the top overview to see the inspiring vistas, climb the rock wall, play in the playground, or grab a snack from the concession stand, but you can not access the zoo from the top nor can you walk back down. We opted to skip the chair lift and headed straight for the giraffes.
The walk way leads to the Giraffe Feeding Experience. $5 gets you a fistful of lettuce from the lady in the kiosk.
The giraffes are expecting their snacks so they crowd around the fence waiting to be fed. The kids loved this experience!
This exhibit gives you a unique perspective. You’re standing on a bridge that puts you eye level with the giraffes who are in their enclosure below.
We had such a good time feeding the giraffes we were hesitant to leave, but we’d only just arrived and there was so much more to see and do!
The path led from the giraffes to the rest of the African Rift Valley exhibits. You’ll run into the lion enclosure which you can view thru the glass or look down into from above.
If you need a rest you there are benches around or you can stop at the at Elson’s Place for a crepe or a cup of lemonade.
There are also clean restrooms in this area, it’s right next to the elevator that takes you to the next level. If you have the energy or don’t want to wait for the lift you can walk up the stairs to the next level. We had a stroller so we took the lift.
However you decide to go up you’ll end up at the award winning Encounter Africa exhibit. That’s where the great views and the elephants are!
This truly is a wonderful place! As you enter the area you’ll pass the Elephant Demo Area. You can purchase fruits and veggies from the zookeeper and feed the elephants in this area.
Then you proceed along a bridge that has magnificent views of the area. You can see clear to the Broadmoor Hotel.
At the end of the bridge is the Elephant Barn where you’ll see even more elephants. (There are restrooms here too).
When you’ve had your fill of these gentle giants you can double back over the bridge and exit the way you came in.
Beware of the “rhino sign” if you want enter the plane perched near the entrance. Rhinos spray to mark their territory. The kids got a kick out of it!
Now it’s time for a bit of an uphill hike to the Australia Walkabout. It’s a new exhibit and I think one of my favorites!
Here you’ll encounter beautiful peacocks strutting their stuff. They’re not in enclosures so they may well cross your path!
You’ll also meet the Red-Necked Wallabies. They’re too cute and quite friendly. They can hop right up to you.
Yes the wallabies and peacocks pretty much run free in this part of the exhibit.
But further in you’ll find Alligators, Emu, and Tree Kangaroos. They’re not loose so don’t worry you won’t be the gator’s lunch! From this exhibit you can detour to the Asian Highlands and Rocky MOuntain Wild exhibits on the left before heading into the center area where you’ll find the Monkey Pavillion and restaurants.
We skipped the Asian Highland exhibit and went straight to the Rocky Mountain Wild to see the grizzly bears! They were magnificent!
To get to the Grizzly enclosure you take the stairs or elevator up. Believe me it’s worth the trip!
Luckily we got there in time to catch a wild life talk. The knowledgeable volunteer told us all about the bears. The ones were were watching were rescued from Montana, if I recall correctly. Anyway, they had gotten too close to people and were brazenly wandering on to people’s porches. To save them they were relocated to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. See, zoos can be good homes for animals that need to be re-homed!
We watched the bears thru the glass wall of this barn like structure. They were very visible that day.
One guy was intent on fishing. We were told their “river” is routinely stocked with fish which seem to disappear consistently!
The bears were a delight. Maybe this was my favorite exhibit, after all.
Once you’re done with the bears back down you go and walk thru the rest of the Rocky Mountain Wild area. You’ll see huge moose, wolves, mountain lions, and other animals that inhabit the Rocky Mountain wilderness.
From there it was time for a break, and a snack! We ended up at Grizzly Grill, a cafeteria style restaurant that has pizza, burgers, soups, sandwiches, and more.
Most of us opted for the humongous swirled ice cream cone!
After our snack it was time to head over to Primate World, but not without passing Aquatics to see the hippos.
We viewed some indoors, then later saw them wading in the pool outside.
Then is was Gorilla time! Now be prepared, the building where you view the gorillas and orangutans smells awful! I do mean awful! At least when you enter. But somehow, I don’t know how, but you get used to the smell. My daughter had warned me before we entered. And boy was she right. I almost backed out, but she insisted the smell goes away in a few minutes. I was skeptical, but she was right.
I’m so glad I stuck it out! The gorillas were intreguing, and the orangutans a delight. Specially the little baby orangutan.
This was the last exhibit for us, it was time to go home; and just in time too! I had started to rain.
As you can tell this zoo really amazed me. It is probably one of the best, if not the best zoo, I’ve ever been too. And I’ve been to many!
One of the things I liked about this zoo is the friendly and informative staff. They were everywhere!
There were also plenty of interactive displays that allowed everyone to participate, like feeding giraffes and elephants. Watching the volunteer keeper examine the bear’s paw, it had a small injury she was checking on. And of course there are the goats. I forgot, the kids stopped by to pet them!
They also had many animal demonstrations, talks, walks, and other educational programs. I’m sure at least one of the kids we saw participating in the summer program will be inspired to become a zoologist or vet!
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is amazing! Definitely worth a visit! I plan on visiting again the next time I visit my daughter in Colorado Springs!
Click here for more information about this fabulous zoo!
Entrance to the Renaissance Village in Larkspur, Colorado
I haven’t been to a Renaissance Festival in years. I think the last time we’d gone was well over 10 years ago in Texas. I was thrilled when my daughter told me there was a Renaissance Festival scheduled in her area during our visit. When I told my grandsons, Dion and Devon, about it they were excited. They’d never been but had seen TV shows about them and wanted to go.
We headed for the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur, Colorado in the late afternoon. We waited for the day to get a bit cooler and were hoping the festival grounds wouldn’t be too crowded. It seems we arrived at an ideal time. Parking was easy, we found a spot on the field close to the main entrance. It was great we didn’t have to wait for the bus that shuttles revelers to and from the lot.
We purchased tickets at the booth located to the left of the main entrance then made our way in to the village thru the arched gateway. Our tickets were collected by attendants in period dress, fun!
Walking thru the gate and entering the village was like going thru a time warp! No make shift props here. The village was a replica of what seemed to be a Renaissance village complete with real buildings (not just facades), wandering minstrels, magical creatures, and shops manned by sales associates in costume. Many of the revelers were in costume too!
There was so much to see and do we had a hard time deciding which way to go. You get a village map and a schedule of events when you buy tickets. It’s very helpful when you’re planning your time.
The village is quite spread out with shops and eateries lining the paths. Rides, games, and shows are scattered through out the village.
The first stop we made was the “weapons” shop”. Devon “needed” a sword!
The shop is filled with a large variety of wooden weapons. Swords, sabers, battle axes, shields, and more.
They’ll even personalize your weapon for you!
The sales associates were of course dressed in period costume, they even spoke in old English!
They were lots of fun! Devon had a hard time deciding which weapon he wanted to take home.
He finally decided on a battle axe. This lovely wench wrote his name is fancy letters.
The axe cost $20 including the writing.
Suitably armed it was time for a snack. The first of many that afternoon!
First the kids and Jaime opted for roast turkey drumsticks. They were huge!
We’d later indulge ourselves in margaritas (not exactly Renaissance fare, but very welcome on a hot summer day).
We’d also grab pretzels, chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake, kettle corn, and other snacks.
The place has a bunch of food booths offering everything from hot dogs, to nachos and burritos, to baklava and crab cakes, and so much more.
We had such a good time sampling all kinds of food I’m surprised we all didn’t end up with tummy aches!
Other than the food we also enjoyed the shows, rides, and games. There was a maze that ended with a slide down the dragon’s throat. Fun!
Next to that is the gigantic rocking horse. There were also camel and llama rides in the village center.
Games included a ring toss, basketball shooting, and throwing fresh tomatoes at a guy who taunted contestants. That was fun to watch!
But the fun doesn’t stop there! Wandering artists entertained crowds throughout the village.
There were musicians, “unicorns”, and more!
There were also shows scheduled during the day. Clowns, arcobats, hypontist, comedians, pirates, and animal shows. But I think the most popular event was the Jousting Tournament! You can be part of the crowd and boo or cheer your knights as they battle it out on horseback in the main arena.
We had a great time!
The Renaissance Festival is located in Larkspur, Colorado; it’s about half way between Denver and Colorado Springs.
The festival runs every year in June and July. This year’s event was their 40th. festival, they really do know how to do it up right!
I know it’s too late to go this year, but mark your calendars and plan on spending the day at next year’s Renaissance Festival!
I’d heard about the Garden of the Gods park and had seen pictures years ago. I’d always wanted to go, but couldn’t fit it into our travel plans. Imagine my delight when my son-in-law was stationed in Colorado Springs, the city where this amazing park is located! Now for sure a park visit was in the cards!
Last month I finally got my wish, a visit to Garden of the Gods Park, during a visit to my daughter and her family. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful park is less than a half hour away from my daughter’s house. Such beauty in the middle of a big city, but then Colorado is a beautiful state with so many natural wonders to visit.
We set out for the park late in the afternoon, we were hoping for cooler temperatures. In the summer the park is open 5:00 am to 11:00 pm, it closes at 9:00 pm in the winter months. The Visitor & Nature Center is open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm in summer, and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in winter.
It’s very easy to get to the Garden of the Gods, it’s 2 1/2 miles from the Garden of the Gods Road exit on I-25. The way is clearly marked. The Vistor & Nature Center will be on the left and a little further along the park entrance is on the right. Entrance to both the Park and the Visitor & Nature Center are free. So you can visit and enjoy them many times.
We skipped the Visitor & Nature Center this trip, it was almost closing time when we arrived. I’d hoped to return but didn’t get around to it this trip, but I will next time. We headed straight for the park and parked in the main parking lot not far from the main entrance.
From the parking lot you simply follow the paved path into the heart of the park. You’ll pass clean bathrooms on the way in. This looped path takes you past some amazing rock formations. There are some benches along the way if you need to rest.
If you want to see more of the park you can hike along one of the many trails or take a free guided nature walk. You can pick up a trail map at the visitor center. Guided nature walks are scheduled for 10:00 am and 2:00 pm weather permitting. They meet in the main parking lot, you’ll see a sign posted at the meeting place.
You can also do some rock climbing at the Garden of the Gods. You will need to register and get a permit for this activity. Click here for rock climbing regulations and permit application.
There are companies that offer bus, jeep, and segway tours in the park. They would be a great ways to explore the park. Click here for more info!
On this visit we walked the looped path, it didn’t take that long. We stopped to admire many of the rock formations, including the “kissing camels”.
The wildflowers along the path were gorgeous. And we were lucky enough to spot some jack rabbits! The kids got a kick out of that!
The Garden of the Gods is a great place to bring active kids. They can run off all that energy! Our teenager, Dion, liked it too. He especially liked it when he realized that there was a Poke Stop in the park and that he could “capture” Pokemon. Yes, he was playing Pokemon Go in the park, him and a bunch of other folks!
The park is also dog friendly. We met many pups along the loop. My daughter sometimes bring her dogs with her for a day out at the park.
Our visit was pretty short, we spent just about 2 hours wandering around. When we exited the parking lot we headed for the exit that takes you to Manitou Springs, it was a nice drive that passed by the “Balance Rock” formation. There’s a pull off so you can stop by for a photo. We skipped it, the kids were getting hungry and need.ed dinner. But we’ll get to it next time!
The Garden of the Gods is a wonderful place for just about everyone. It’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours when you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet. It’s definitely worth a visit! Click here for more park info!
Here’s a short video of our walk in the Garden of the Gods.