Colorado Springs, Colorado, is one of the most beautiful spots in the US. Even better, there are lots of great free things to do in Colorado Springs with kids. Take in the breathtaking views, learn about the area’s gold rush history, take a challenging hike and soak in one of the iconic hot springs that gives the area it’s name.
It’s astonishing there are as many truly free things to do in Colorado Springs as there are. For example, the huge (1400 acres!) Garden of the Gods Park has free admission. The climate is surprisingly mild; as such, it is classified as an alpine desert. As a result, the Springs boast a moderate, dry climate and more than 300 days of sunshine annually.
The peak tourism months are June through August, but Colorado Springs is also an amazing place to visit in the winter. You will find the winter months mild and filled with activities that are great for families.
There are many things to know before visiting Colorado. Get to know the state; then, enjoy these things to do with your kids – absolutely free! – in Colorado Springs.
TravelingMom Tip: Opening hours and days can change at any time. Please always check before you head off for a visit to any attraction or destination.
1. Garden of the Gods Park & Visitor Center
Open year-round, Garden of the Gods is a registered National Natural Landmark located in Colorado Springs. An American icon, Garden of the Gods features 300-foot rock formations against one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers, Pikes Peak. It is recognized as the most visited attraction in the region.
In addition, educational activities can be found in the Visitor and Nature Center and Museum. Here you can find interactive exhibits to further your knowledge of the formations. Whether you’re interested in geology, ecology or cultural history, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Believe me, your family will walk away from a visit to Garden of the Gods with an education to rival any you will find in a classroom. I think you will be amazed this attraction is one of the completely free things to do in Colorado Springs.
If you’re planning a visit to Garden of the Gods, it would be worth your while to check out the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. While not free, it is fun and educational. Here, you can enjoy beautiful views of The Broodmoor and the city of Colorado Springs as you walk around the grounds.
2. Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
As a homeschooling mom, I can tell you with certainty that history matters … a lot. Therefore, the Pioneers Museum is of great interest to me. It is the only institution collecting and researching the extensive history and culture of the Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs Region. As a result, it is one of the best free things to do in Colorado Springs.
Open year-round, the Pioneer Museum also features exhibits and events detailing the robust history of the area. The Museum’s active changing exhibition schedule has featured a variety of subjects, including Western art, antique quilts, Plains and Pueblo Indian culture, space exploration and more.
3. Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Recognized as a unique experience, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is one of El Paso County’s most popular open spaces. Located on 750 acres in the sweeping plains of eastern El Paso County, the mines have evidence of human life as far back as 9,000 years ago. The colorful clays were used for making pottery and ceremonial paints.
The park features fantastic geological formations, including spires and hoodoos, formed through erosive action and the forces of nature. The park includes a restroom facility, four miles of trails, interpretive signage, and many natural wonders. In short, homeschoolers, scholars and educators alike will love this educational gem. This makes the Paint Mines a priceless addition to the list of free things to do in Colorado Springs.
4. Manitou Springs
Where can you find the springs that gave Colorado Springs its name? At Manitou Springs, actually. Currently, there are eight springs open to the public, each with its own distinctive flavor and effervescence.
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Centuries ago, the great tribes of the plains and the Mountain Utes paid homage to the healing and spiritual powers of the mineral springs. They believed the medicinal waters were a gift from the Great Spirit Manitou.
Make sure to stop at the Manitou Springs Visitor Center to pick up your free Mineral Springs brochure/map, detailed content chart, and sampling cup. Yep, free spring water is one of the most refreshing free things to do in Colorado Springs.
5. The Manitou Incline
So, you think you are quite the hiker, eh? The Manitou Incline, located in Manitou Springs, will test your stamina as well as your perseverance. It is considered an extreme trail and is not for the weak of heart.
The Manitou Incline gains nearly 2,000 feet of elevation over less than 1 mile. As a result, it’s not considered a beginner trail. However, people from all walks (or climbs) of life have successfully conquered it. It is, perhaps, the most challenging trail in the country, attracting runners, military, Olympic athletes, and hiking enthusiasts from around the world. Most importantly, the Manitou Incline is famous for dishing out a tough workout and offering those of us who have done it perspective on our current physical shape.
6. The Gold Belt Scenic Tour
Like Pikes Peak Highway, the Gold Belt Scenic Byway is nationally renowned. It is a national scenic byway running through Colorado’s gold country. Located just an hour from Colorado Springs, it is a convenient side trip.
When driving the Gold Belt Scenic Byway Tour, you’ll retrace the historic travel routes of the world’s largest gold rush. Each of the roads offers gorgeous scenery, from rolling mountain park lands to deep red rock canyons. This makes it one of the best free things to do in Colorado Springs.
The Byways can be driven year-round weather permitting, but visitors should take note. Four-wheel drive is required to navigate certain stretches of the Shelf Road and Phantom Canyon. And those with trailers and RVs are discouraged from driving the complete route.
7. United States Air Force Academy
The Academy is free and open to the public year-round. Learn what it’s like to be a training cadet, enjoy the scenic beauty of the trails, attend a sporting event and even tour the famed Cadet Chapel, known around the world for its unique architecture.
Check out the USAFA website for more information on what is open to the public. Another educational great on the list of free things to do in Colorado Springs.
8. Cripple Creek Heritage Center
What makes Cripple Creek one of the best free things to do in Colorado Springs? Well, in the late 1800s, thousands of fortune seekers made their way to the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak area for the country’s last great gold rush. Now, more than a century later, you can make your own discoveries at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.
The Center offers 11,600 square feet of hands-on exhibits, which interest kids and adults alike. Immerse yourself in the old days of the World’s Best Gold camp. Check out the Cripple Creek website for a list of current exhibits. A must see, Cripple Creek is open year round.
9. Art on the Streets
Beautiful, original and local art is literally around every corner in downtown Colorado Springs, thanks to the Colorado Springs’ Art of the Streets Program. Visitors enjoy the seamless immersion of outdoor beauty and local art. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains while simultaneously embracing the vibrant arts and culture scene of the region.
The program began in 1999 as a way to let locals and visitors alike enjoy world-class art without going to a pricey gallery. Artists create unique and eye-catching pieces each year in hopes of being featured throughout the downtown area. Each year the committee’s central theme of community is captured in each of the works chosen to be featured.
Likewise, art always ranks in the top of the free things to do in Colorado Springs!
10. Focus on the Family Visitor Center
Open year-round, the Focus on the Family Visitor Center has welcomed more than 5 million guests since opening in 1994. The Visitors Center is chock full of fun and interesting things to do. From the Kids Korner play area to Whit’s End Soda Shoppe, kids and adults alike will be intrigued.
Our favorite is KYDS Radio, where kids can record their own voice on an actual Adventures in Odyssey episode written just for KYDS Radio. The complimentary CD you’ll take home is sure to become a family keepsake. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful addition to the free things to do in Colorado Springs.
11. Nature Centers – Bear Creek and Fountain Creek
At Bear Creek Nature Center, set off on a foothills hike, search for mule deer, and discover Bear Creek! Scrub oak thicket, ponderosa pine forests, meadows, a mountain creek, and abundant foothills wildlife attract families year round.
Fountain Creek offers wetlands, a blue heron search and exploring Fountain Creek. Visit El Paso County for more information about these two educational and free things to do in Colorado Springs.
Exceptional Sites That Cost Money
In addition to these truly educational and fun free things to do in Colorado Springs with the kids, you can also pay to visit some exceptional mountain locales. One of our favorites is Seven Falls, the only waterfall in Colorado to have earned a spot on National Geographic’s list of International Waterfalls.
A stop at the Olympic Training Center, home to athletes and coaches as they train for the next Olympic & Paralympic Games, would be of great interest to your young athletes. And don’t miss the fascinating new Olympic and Paralympic Museum too.
If your family is interested in caves, a visit to the Cave of the Winds is in order. Cave of the Winds is an historic natural landmark and is one of the region’s great year-round choice for family fun and adventure.
Also, don’t miss the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Old Colorado City, the COG Railway, the Money Museum, Memorial Park and so much more.