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9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

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If you're looking for adventurous family travel, look no further than Colorado's Pikes Peak Region. A vacation here will help your family members connect with nature and with each other in unexpected ways. You won't want to miss these nine amazing adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for families.

9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

1. White Water Rafting

Challenge your family to venture out of its comfort zone with a white water rafting excursion in Canon (pronounced “canyon”) City, Colorado. This town is about a 2.5-hour drive from Denver. Rafting down the Arkansas River is the main draw here mid-April through mid-September.

Rafting down the Arkansas River in Canon City, Colorado ~ 8 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Rafting down the Arkansas River in Canon City, Colorado (Photo credit: Echo Canyon River Expeditions)

Whitewater rafting guidebook author and veteran raft guide, Leland Davis, named Colorado's Arkansas River among the 10 best rafting spots in the U.S. in this Huffington Post article. He said, “The Arkansas River is the ultimate rafting destination in the Rockies, flowing through a wide glacial valley surrounded by 14,000-plus-foot peaks before plunging into the thousand-foot-deep slot canyon of Royal Gorge. Whether you’re looking for mild adventure or a total whitewater thrill ride, the Arkansas has what you’re looking for.”

View of the Arkansas River from above ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

View of the Arkansas River from above (Photo credit: Echo Canyon River Expeditions)

Unfortunately, I was sick the day of our rafting adventure and therefore unable to participate. Still, my 12-year-old daughter braved the Arkansas with the rest of our group of parents and kids. It was a favorite activity amongst the children in our pack. My tween said it was, “awesome…until we dumped over!” Yes, it was scary. But she has also declared the experience, “the most exciting thing I've ever done.” All summer long, she regaled friends and family member with tales of her harrowing experience rafting in Colorado. Watch her boat flip experience in the video below.

Thankfully, our group was in the able hands of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, which has been leading rafting adventures for many years. Choose from all sorts of rafting experiences from half-day to multi-day, and from mild to extreme. The youngest suggested age for rafters is 6 years.

White water rafting in Canon City with kids

Rougher waters eventually led to a boat flip (Photo credit: Echo Canyon River Expeditions)

2. Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Right next door to Echo Canyon River Expeditions, you'll find the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. Opened in July 2016, I was pleasantly surprised by how much adults and kids alike enjoyed this relatively new, family-owned attraction. Some of the first dinosaur bones ever found were discovered in Canon City. It makes sense, then, that this educational and fun place would be built here.

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Spring for Families

How would you like this guy to swim up next to you? (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Start with a guided tour of the dinosaur skeleton fossil casts (included with the price of your admission). We learned much more this way than by simply wandering through the indoor space, reading informational signs. Did you know that the most terrifying dinosaur was not Tyrannosaurus Rex? Nope, it was Allosaurus because its bottom jaw could come down 90 degrees to use as an axe. Plus, this dino had bigger arms than T-Rex and therefore could grab its prey. What's more, Allosauruses hunted in packs like the much smaller Velociraptors. Terrifying!

An animatronic T-Rex at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

An animatronic T-Rex at Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Next up, wander along the path of animatronic dinosaurs outdoors on the Dinosaur Wildwalk. This exhibit features 16 moving dinosaurs. Some of these track your movements or roar.

Kids might be most excited by the outdoor ropes courses, though. Choose from the junior course for ages 2 to 9, and one for bigger kids and adults. You'll want to stop into the on-site gift shop, too, to peruse all sorts of dinosaur-related souvenirs.

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience ropes course ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience ropes course (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. “Roughing It” at Royal Gorge Cabins and Glamping Tents

Across the street sits Royal Gorge Cabins, a convenient and pretty spot to spend the night in Canon City. Choose a one- or two-bedroom cabin, or “rough it” in a glamping tent. I got a chance to tour the snazzy glamping tents, which feature electric lights, a cooler, and a deck with a grill, table and chairs.

Glamping tent at Royal Gorge Cabins ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Glamping tent at Royal Gorge Cabins (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

My daughter and I bedded down in a gorgeous, modern two-bedroom cabin. It was home to two baths, an indoor/outdoor fireplace, a patio with table and chairs, equipped galley kitchen, and cozy living room. We argued about who should get the upstairs bedroom with the crazy beautiful views. In the end, I won.

Royal Gorge Cabins ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Our Corner Pocket Cabin (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Our cabin was situated just above the canyon, which caused the wind to whip furiously through my upstairs windows all night. I tried shutting them, but then I got too hot. So in the middle of the night I made my way to the cool air conditioned downstairs room to sleep next to my daughter. (That's what I get for insisting I get the room with the view!) I totally recommend these unique accommodations, but be sure to request a cabin other than Corner Pocket. I asked my fellow travelers and no one else experienced the whipping wind and banging windows, which was due to this cabin's proximity to the canyon.

Our modern Royal Gorge Cabins living room ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Our modern Royal Gorge Cabins living room (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Bring in your own food to cook or grill meals, or head back across the street for delicious food served all day at 8 Mile Bar & Grill. The same friendly couple owns and runs River Canyon River Expeditions, Royal Gorge Cabins and 8 Mile Bar & Grill. Want to learn more about this unique resort? Read reviews of Royal Gorge Cabins on TripAdvisor.

8 Mile Bar and Grill is located just across the street from Royal Gorge Cabins ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

8 Mile Bar and Grill is located just across the street from Royal Gorge Cabins (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Riding the Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway

After a few days in Canon City, make your way an hour north by car to Colorado's second biggest city, Colorado Springs. At over 14,000-feet-tall, you can't miss the beautiful Pikes Peak. But to really appreciate this mountain, you will need to journey to its summit.

Train at the top of Pikes Peak ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Train at the top of Pikes Peak (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Almost all kids love trains so they'll enjoy the journey up Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway. A cog railway features a central toothed rail for ascending very steep inclines, and this is the highest one in the world. The conductor gives historical information about Pikes Peak and the railway throughout the 1.5-hour climb, pointing out interesting spots, like Minnehaha Falls waterfalls. You'll also be treated to the stunning view that inspired the lyrics to the song, “America the Beautiful”. During the journey, you may spy mule deer or marmots (a.k.a. whistle pigs).

The view that inspired the lyrics to "America the Beautiful" ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

The view that inspired the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Once at the top, you get about 30 to 40 minutes to explore. That's enough time to grab a snack, snap some photos and use the restroom. The snack bar‘s most popular item is their doughnuts, mostly because it's difficult to make donuts at such a high elevation. Purchase a bag of these goodies along with a cup of hot chocolate as reward for making it all the way up.

Be sure to bring a sweater and/or jacket even on a warm Colorado Springs day. Temperatures at the top can be 30 to 40 degrees colder than below. You should also make advanced reservations to be sure to nab seats on the train. Pack some things to entertain the kiddos, too. The ride up may capture their attention but by the time you head back, they'll be ready for some travel toys and games.

View from the top of Pikes Peak ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

View from the top of Pikes Peak (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If you tend to suffer from motion sickness, beware that you will need to ride backward either up or down on the journey. (Unless a seat mate is willing to swap with you.) Drink lots of water and bring along some Dramamine just in case you experience nausea from the elevation or the ride.

Manitou Springs is the wee town at the base of Pikes Peak. I wish we'd had time to explore here. It's got some adorable-looking shops and restaurants, plus its very own castle. Read more about what there is to do in Manitou Springs on TripAdvisor.

The darling train station in Manitou Springs ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

The darling train station in Manitou Springs (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Exploring Cave of the Winds Mountain Park

Now that you've gone up, it's time to go down…into Cave of the Winds Mountain Park. Register in advance for one of three cave tours during which you'll learn about the cave's history and its stalactites and stalagmites.

Inside one of the caves at Caves of the Wind Mountain Park ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Inside one of the caves at Caves of the Wind Mountain Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

After the kids have had their fill of learning, let them loose for some play. There's a giant adventure slide, a ropes course, gem panning, and climbing wall.

The adventure course at Canyon of the Winds Caves ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

The adventure course at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If you're very adventurous, give Bat-A-Pult a go. It launches riders up to 40 miles per hour on a 1,200-foot flight across Williams Canyon. (Must be 42+ inches to ride.) If that's not scary enough, go for the Terror-dactyl instead. It shoots brave souls 200 feet into the canyon at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. (Riders must be 48+ inches and weigh 100 to 250 pounds.)

The giant adventure slide at Caves of the Wind Mountain Park ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

The giant adventure slide at Caves of the Wind Mountain Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Touring Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is the most beautiful place I'd never heard of. This National Natural Landmark is made up of some startling 300-foot sandstone rock formations, surrounded by trees and greenery. In the distance you can see the snow-topped Pikes Peak. All of this is framed by a heavenly blue sky with cotton ball clouds. A visit here made me feel like I'd stepped into a painting.

View of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak in the distance ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

View of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak in the distance (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Start with a visit to the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. With its interactive, electronic displays about this free City Park and its animal inhabitants, you may have a hard time convincing the kids to leave. But you must if you're going to get a closer view of the rock formations.

A closer look at Garden of the Gods ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

A closer look at Garden of the Gods (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

We took an informative 45-minute motorized tour of the park. There are all sorts of Garden of the Gods tours to choose from, including Segway tours, horseback adventures and guided hikes. This was my favorite part of our adventures in and near Colorado Springs for families. Someday I hope to return and get closer to this natural beauty than I did from the seat of a trolley.

Our trolley tour of Garden of the Gods ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Our trolley tour of Garden of the Gods (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Visiting the Animals at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

I have to admit that I wasn't all that excited to visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I figured this zoo would be the same as any other zoo. Boy, was I wrong. America's only mountain zoo blew me away with its habitats and the amount of animals and species housed here.

This zoo is home to the largest herd of giraffes at any zoo in the world. The best part? Hand-feeding lettuce leaves to the giraffes! At other zoos I've visited, you must wait a long time for your turn to give the giraffe a cracker of some sort and quickly move on. Not so here! Lettuce leaves are available for purchase all day, at a reasonable price, too. Then just go offer the leafy treats to these long-legged beauties. They'll gently pull the leaves into their mouths with their dextrous black tongues. Get a feel for this exhibit by watching their Giraffe Cam.

Feeding giraffes at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Feeding giraffes at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Another highlight of our visit to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was the wallaby display. You walk through the exhibit, with free-range wallabys hopping about. It was amazing to get so close to these adorable Australian marsupials.

All of the animals were particularly active on the day we visited, too. Did you know tigers swim? Apparently they do at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo! Sadly, my group only had a few hours here. I advise planning to stay the whole day to explore the displays of 750 animals, representing 170 species from around the world.

This tiger took a dip to cool off during our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado City

This tiger took a dip to cool off during our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Playtime at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

I believe in balance during family vacations. If there's too much go-go-go site-seeing and amusement parks, your whole crew will get overwhelmed and cranky. On the other hand, if there are too many educational activities, some kids may get bored. I like a nice blend of manmade fun and nature-focused fun. After lots of learning and play in the great outdoors, treat kids to a stay at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs.

The indoor water park, arcade, ropes course, miniature bowling alley, and climbing wall will keep kids content for hours…or days, depending on the length of your vacation. My daughter's favorite part was MagiQuest, an electronic scavenger hunt of sorts that requires the purchase of a special magic wand. (Good news: the wands work at all Great Wolf Lodge locations.) Meanwhile, mom and dad can belly up to the bar to enjoy a creative cocktail or two.

If you want to stay in the adorable Great Wolf Lodge indoor cabins you've seen on TV, you're going to need to pay a premium for a Themed Room. It may be worth it, though, not only for the extra space afforded by bunk beds for the kids, but also for the smiles on your children's faces when they see the room set up.

Watch my video tour below of the Great Wolf Lodge to discover all that this resort has to offer in Colorado Springs for families.

9. Serious Relaxation at Cheyenne Mountain Resort

If you're looking for a more peaceful place to rest your adventure weary heads, choose Cheyenne Mountain Resort instead. With its expansive grounds and idyllic setting, this resort reminded me of where Baby stayed with her family in Dirty Dancing. Expect more traditional activities at this picturesque lakeside resort. Think outdoor swimming pool, golf, spa, basketball and tennis. The sandy lakefront beach looked like a glorious place to while away the hours reading a book while the children play. Plus, for an additional fee, kids aged 5-11 can play at the Cheyenne Kidz Camp. And the food at their three on-site restaurants? Delicious! Read reviews of Cheyenne Mountain Resort on TripAdvisor now.

Lake view at Cheyenne Mountain Resort ~ 9 Amazing Adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for Families

Lake view at Cheyenne Mountain Resort (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I recommend planning to spend at least a week exploring the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado. My daughter and I covered all of this in four whirlwind days. Give yourself time to relax and really soak up all of the beauty of Canon City and Colorado Springs for families.

For another Colorado family vacation idea, read Vail in Summer ~ 14 Things to Do Off-Season in America's Biggest Ski Resort.

Which of these adventures in Canon City and Colorado Springs for families would you like most? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: My daughter and I were hosted by Colorado Tourism and Visit Colorado Springs. Our accommodations, activities and most meals were provided. I did not receive any other compensation related to this story. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says:

    These are all so amazing! I’d do the rafting and the Dinosaur Experience with the family first. My kids would LOVE both of those. Thanks for the heads up on all this stuff.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The Dinosaur Experience really exceeded my expectations – you can spend a long time there between the educational activities and ropes course!

  2. Diana Elizabeth says:

    I have not yet visited Colorado even though it is not “too far” from Arizona. After reading your post I think I need to plan a trip to Canon City ASAP!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Diana – And there are always such cheap flights from Phoenix to Denver! It really makes sense for us Zonies to travel there!

  3. Catherine Sargent says:

    These all look like fun activities. Going white water rafting has been at the top of my bucket list.

  4. There really is so much for families to do! I think that since we have done a lot of zoos, cave exploring and scenic hikes, the white water rafting would be our first choice. Sounds like such an adventure!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Canon City and Colorado Springs definitely are a good fit for an adventurous, nature-loving family!

  5. Now this was a detailed post. I never knew it was so much to do in Colorado Springs with families and yours look great doing all of these things!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you, Kiwi. Glad I could share all of the fun things to do in Canon City and Colorodo Springs with you!

  6. There are so many places to visit and activities to try. I would like to try the white water rafting! The place is so beautiful!

  7. Wow what a great place to visit! My son is dying to do white water rafting! I’m keeping this on my bucket list!

  8. I love that my children are old enough to join me on adventures. It’s not so much about entertaining them now as experiencing new things with them.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      So true. Each phase of parenting comes with new challenges and benefits, especially when it comes to traveling with kids. I love seeing the world through my kids’ eyes!

  9. Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says:

    The Royal Gorge cabins will make me want to stay there forever! There’s no doubt that Colorado has plenty of outdoor activities that will make you appreciate nature more! I love it!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      The cabins were so modern and pretty, with everything you’d need. I could live in one for sure!

  10. Louise Bishop says:

    We would love to visit that area! We’ve been neat there before and love doing those kinds of activities!

  11. Chrystal | Nevermore Lane says:

    This looks like so much fun. I want to travel to Colorado some day. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who has never been there. White water rafting is top of my list too.

  12. Our Family World says:

    Oh wow. This is one fantastic family adventure! I would love to try white water rafting someday. I’ve been wanting to do this but somehow many summers have come and gone and we haven’t had a chance to do so. Next summer it will be Colorado for us!

  13. Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    I have Colorado Springs in our travel bucket list. Oh my goodness, there is so much to do, and so much to see. I hope we do get to make it there next summer!

  14. Neat we are moving to CO so that’s some awesome information to know about!!! Looking forward to the Zoo and Great Wolf Lodge!!

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