United States Air Force Academy#4 in Best Things To Do in Colorado Springs
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If you feel a need for speed, then plan a visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Not only is the academy a must for any lover of the movie "Top Gun" who'd like to see the impressive plane maneuvers first-hand, it's also a functioning educational institution for future pilots. Your first stop should be the Visitor Center, which offers a brief yet informative introduction to the academy and self-guided maps. From there, you're free to explore areas like the Cadet Chapel, the Honor Court and Falcon Stadium.
The academy's public areas are connected by long shady pathways, and recent visitors strongly recommended sporting a sturdy pair of shoes (though you can also drive around the campus). They also suggested keeping your eyes and ears open for passing planes; if you're lucky you might catch a training exercise. (In fact, consider reserving tickets for the Graduation Ceremony in May – it's known for its impressive airborne spectacles.) No matter when you visit, plan on spending several hours here. Recent visitors recommended taking your time to explore, and to make sure to see the chapel and the different overlooks throughout the area.
The U.S. Air Force Academy is located about 15 miles north of downtown Colorado Springs. Visitors must enter through the North Gate and show a driver's license to the gate guard for security reasons. You may also be asked to participate in a vehicle inspection. The visitor center is open to the public every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. You can find more information on the Air Force Academy website.
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#1 Garden of the Gods
It's easy to see how this natural landmark earned such an ethereal title: These magnificent red rock formations look as though deities themselves could've carved them. However, the sandstone pillars are, in fact, the work of geological activity along a natural fault line, as well as rainfall over millennia. You can learn about the garden's formations at the visitor and nature center, which houses numerous informative displays and hosts daily nature presentations. You are welcome to explore the park on your own time (either on foot or by bike); the visitor and nature center also offers guided hikes, as well as bike, Jeep, trolley and Segway tours (prices vary by vehicle and tour length). Or, if you're looking for a more authentic "Wild West" experience, you can reserve your spot on a guided horseback tour offered by Academy Riding Stables.
Because there is no admission fee if you are exploring the Garden of the Gods on your own; previous visitors recommended returning to the park throughout your time in Colorado Springs to see the rocks at different times of day. They also offered high praise for the knowledgeable staff at the visitor and nature center. Others were pleased to find out that many of the trails are paved – meaning those using strollers and wheelchairs can still access the park. If you don't want to deal with the landmark's heavy crowds, plan to arrive before 10 a.m. on a weekday.
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