News And Notes
Aug 20

Great American Vacation: Grand Finale!

I’ve been sharing details of our family vacation to Colorado, and this week, it’s the grand finale.  Drum roll please….

Our final day in Colorado Springs took us bright and early to the top of Pike’s Peak. I planned this activity for the last day because I was concerned about the altitude and felt like a couple days into our stay it wouldn’t be an issue. I chose not to drive the windy road to the top, but instead took the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway. The railway began in 1891 and climbs to the very top, a full 14,115 feet up.

The Leitman family takes a trip to Pikes Peak on their Colorado vacation.


We were on the 8am train and arrived at the terminal at 7:30am to park and browse the gift shop. Gift shops are a VITAL part of our vacations. The ride up the mountain was a bit of a tight squeeze in the packed car, but well worth it. The scenery was beautiful and it was interesting to see the landscape changes as we got higher in elevation. 

Jen Leitman on her family vacation to Colorado

The guide was very engaging and friendly; he shared the history of the railway and several corny jokes. We also saw a lot of marmotsmule deer and bighorn sheep. At the top of the mountain, the views were breathtaking. I would recommend going on the early train as I’m told the skies are much clearer and have a tendency to cloud up later in the day. The gift shop at the top is large. Definitely stand in line for one of their famous donuts. They can sell out early- you’ve been warned. Most importantly, enjoy the views and get your photo taken!

The altitude didn’t really affect us, although my daughter was “freezing,” her words, not mine. And my husband reported feeling a bit light-headed. The trip up the mountain was about an hour and a half; you get maybe 40 minutes at the top and then make sure you are on time to the train for the trip down.

Afterward we ate in Manitou Springs at PJ’s Bistro. It was delicious and exactly what we needed. The menu was robust with sandwiches, burgers, salads and German food.

Full from lunch, we headed over to Garden of the Gods. This amazing park is a National Natural Landmark with dramatic views and huge sandstone rock formations, with Pike’s Peak in the background.

Family vacation to Colorado: Garden of the Gods

Up until this point in our trip, the weather had been clear and sunny. It was not anymore. The rain rolled in and we were on hold for a bit. Eventually it cleared up and we walked around the park. There were areas where we could climb the rocks. My daughter loved it and left very inspired! It was very active and for her first science project of the school year, she chose to describe how Garden of the Gods was formed.

We ended our vacation with a last dinner at a great tapas place we found in Old Colorado CityTAPAteria was a tasty final meal. We ordered several small plates, wine and left very satisfied. Old Colorado City was charming and if we had more time, I would’ve enjoyed exploring it more. There were numerous great-looking restaurants and shops on the main street.

I would absolutely suggest taking a trip to Colorado. We had a blast. Everyone was super friendly, the mountains were stunning, all of our activities were well worth it and I don’t think we had one bad meal. This is a vacation that can be tailored to any budget. Our next trip is to Baltimore to visit family over Labor Day weekend. I can’t wait to have steamed crabs! Best. Meal. Ever. Stay tuned!

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Posted at 10:04 am, August 20, 2014 | Permalink

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