We hiked, we explored, we totally, completely, head-over-heels fell in love with the Centennial State. Beautiful colors, cool natural waters, wild animals, delicious coffee, natural playgrounds, outdoor fun at every turn. We had a wonderful time on our first family vacation as a tribe of 5!
As we were planning our Fall Break, we decided to book airfare wherever we could fly on points for the cheapest. Denver won and we started looking for where to go from there. We decided to spend 3 nights in the Mannitou Springs area and then a couple more in Denver. A mix of kid-friendly hiking, yummy eateries and a wide variety of unplanned fun.
In Mannitou Springs, we stayed in this adorable AirBnB. It was the perfect cozy place to cuddle, play games and settle down at the end of adventurous days. It was at the foot of the Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which just made the drives to and from “home” even more amazing. We loved hiking the open space too! We went at dusk one evening and saw deer, bunnies and birds all over. Norah got within 30ft of a two doe and froze, just watching them for several minutes. She came running back to us, “Mom, I didn’t even say anything but that deer knew I was a friend! She just stared at me like she KNEW I was an animal rescuer!” 🙂
On our first night in the area, we went to Seven Falls. The Broadmoor Hotel owns the property, so you park on their premises and take a free shuttle up to the park. It is a 1 mile walk up to the falls- they say it is Colorado’s “Grandest Mile.” The walk was breathtaking! So many beautiful fall colors, a rippling stream and mountains surrounding you on every side. We were all in awe of God’s amazing creativity and the love He shows us through His creation.
At the top of the walk is the Seven Falls (seven waterfalls pooling and crashing their way down the cliffs). There is a mountain elevator to an observation deck or the epic 224 stairs to the top of the falls. We did both! The kids were the most amazing, they climbed the stairs with so much ease, all while Josh and I were consciously breathing and stretching our legs… Josh does have the added excuse of wearing Miles on the steep stairs ;). At the top of the falls, we all stood and watched the water. We hiked higher into the woods- the kids running over rocks and feeling the cool stream water. We heard animals snapping branches and felt a tree shake as a woodpecker went to work. At the top of the trail, we hid in what looked like a bear cave as rain began to fall. The kids were giggly and happy and amazed. We had the best talks about Jesus and his creation. We explored, we laughed and we had this “moment” that just made the vacation forever memorable. Even after we got home, we all said that Seven Falls was our favorite adventure.
On the second day, we visited the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge is like an outdoor amusement park. We took a gondola (hanging 1200 feet in the air) over the 2200 foot gorge. The drop was breathtaking! Josh did the Royal Rush Skycoaster- essentially a slingshot out over the gorge. CRAZY! They have an amazing playground and outlooks… and the icing on top, was seeing a flock of wild rams. Norah was so excited! As we walked over the Royal Gorge Bridge, we found the Oklahoma flag and timed popcorn falling to the Arkansas River below. After finishing the scavenger hunt, the big kids earned their “Junior Ranger” status and badge. They pledged to protect all animals, throw away litter and obey their parents- win, win and win! 🙂
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was incredible! They have the area set-up in different continent zones and the animal exhibits are huge. The first area into the zoo is the Giraffes. They are walking around, heads over the railings, ready to eat from your hands. We paid $5 for two helpings of romaine and the kids LOVED feeding the giraffes. Their long tounges were hilarious, even Miles was all giggles.
After the giraffes, we saw the rest of the zoo. Jonah loved seeing the Lions and thought immediately of Emmy. Norah loved the Elephants and watching them bathe themselves in water and sand. We fed the birds and held a reptile in the Australia, we howled with the Wolf and fed chickens in the Rocky Mountain Wild. And, at the end of the day, we saw the most particular sighting- wild deer were in many animal habitats. They were wandering the paths, they were eating the rhinos leftovers and a huge buck was watching tourists from Primate World. We asked a zoo keeper about it and she said its “totally normal.” They do their best to keep all the animals safe, but given the area, the deer do wander in and out of exhibits. 🙂
Our last adventure in Colorado Springs was Garden of the Gods. This area is gorgeous! We hiked the Siamese Twins trail and saw Pike’s Peak in the distance. The area was perfect for rock climbing and pretending and once again, sitting in awe of God’s beautiful world.
After all our outdoor fun, we headed to Denver and stayed at the Hyatt House Downtown Denver (free with points!) This… oh, it was memorable. The big kids loved sleeping together, watching TV in bed and being in the hustle of the city. Miles… well he had a rough night the first night. He cried literally all night long, we kept taking him out of the room to walk laps around the fitness room. Pretty sure we gave the security guards a good show that night. Somehow, the big kids didn’t wake to his screams til 4am and after that sleep was sporadic for us all. That next day is a big blur or zombie survival. We checked out a delicious (much needed) coffee place, we found a downtown park to play at and we shopped a bit on 16th street. We all napped (PTL) and spent the evening watching a movie as a family.
The next day we all woke up early, but much more refreshed. Josh took the big kids to a couple more coffee shops, to VoodDoo Donut and Torchy’s Tacos while I napped with Miles. Later, we all played at City Park and visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science before heading home. The museum was awesome! So much for kids of all ages and so interesting for adults too. We could have spent many more hours here!
Colorado was a beautiful family time! If we could dream a way, we may be convinced to move there. 😉 I felt refreshed and thankful after a week of fun. I was reminded what an incredible Dad my husband is and how fun our kids are. Overall, as we boarded the plane back to Oklahoma, Josh and I agreed that this trip was the gratifying confirmation that we can still “do this.” We can still adventure and explore and travel- even when we’re outnumbered by these 3 amazing kiddos!