5 Days in the Sunshine State: Exploring Colorado!

300 days of sun, sprawling plains, mountain ranges – Colorado really has it all.

I recently visited the Sunshine State, where I explored all the way from Colorado Springs to Denver City, including surrounding wilds and national attractions like the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Garden of the Gods.

Here’s how I made the most of my time in Colorado in 5 days, doing everything from a city stay with great shopping and cultural opportunities, like Denver’s best museums and artsy Downtown, as well as exhilarating guided tours, waterfall visits and hiking. Moose, elk, and chipmunks included!

Day 1 – The Broadmoor

Thanks to the new Aer Lingus direct Dublin to Denver flight, getting to Colorado has never been easier. My flight took around 9 hours, and from Denver Int. Airport to Colorado Springs, the drive was less than an hour and a half. Denver City was just a 45 minute drive away.

A Stay at The Broadmoor

5,000 acres of pure luxury and breath-taking views of the Pikes Peak Region, The Broadmoor is the world’s longest running Forbes 5* and AAA Five-Diamond Resort – and you can feel it from the moment you arrive.

The main courtyard is surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn and features an impressive fountain in the centre, welcoming me onto the property and then leading me into the lobby. Colorado’s state flower, the Blue Columbine, was planted along the way.

The Broadmoor, originally a dairy-farm turned casino, turned resort, opened in 1918. Over a century later, the iconic hotel is home to 20 restaurants cafes and lounges, two legendary golf courses, a world-renowned Five-Star Spa, 20 distinctive retail outlets, over 780 rooms in its main section (not including any cottages or cabins) and an array of programs for guests of all ages and interests. The resort is large, with several different sections and towers scattered on the grounds. I stayed in the south tower, opposite views of the mountains and another area of The Broadmoor, at the foot of which was the Ristorante Del Lago.

The hotel has an elevated western ambience. Chandeliers, rich red rugs and western art are scattered throughout the space, all embracing the beauty of Colorado and the American West. From the main lobby to the south tower the walk was short but plentiful, as there are several boutiques along the way. This is perfect for those who love to shop, as there is such a wide variety of things available to buy. Artisan chocolate makers, shoe boutiques, luxury jewelry shops, the resort really does have it all. 

I particularly enjoyed Yarid’s Boutique, with a selection of unique accessories, shoes, bags as well as some clothes. The assistants in the shops were beyond helpful and the general service at the hotel was, well, impeccable. From asking for a toothbrush to getting help with my luggage, staff were polite and above all – great to talk to. 

Once I reached the south tower, my room was just on the third floor. It was spacious, with a large bathroom, bed, and sofa space, all making for a very comfortable stay. I was served a Mediterranean platter with some local beverages and received a warm Broadmoor welcome.

Day 2 – Seven Falls & U.S Olympic and Paralympic Museum

The first thing the rising sun in Colorado Springs hits is Pikes Peak, with its snow capped top visible from the window in my room. My bright and early start for a day full of activities in Colorado Springs was accompanied by a strong orange glow slowly overcoming The Broadmoor, almost instantly warming the air. 

Breakfast at Urban Egg

For breakfast, I visited Urban Egg, a restaurant in Downtown Colorado Springs, about 10 minutes from The Broadmoor. This was the perfect start to the day, as the meals were hearty and flavourful, and the eatery was bustling with people from all over. The menu had everything from pancakes to avocado on toast – my personal choice, as well as the Honeydew juice, a refreshing mixture of honey, cucumber and lime. 

While I ate, a walking event was on, which was a fantastic way to really see and capture the sense of community in Colorado Springs. Hundreds of people strolled down the street in high spirits, adding to the great atmosphere.

The Seven Falls

After breakfast, it was time to head to the Seven Falls located in the South Cheyenne canyon, also known as The Grandest Mile of Scenery in Colorado.

Seven Falls has been a staple of the Pikes Peak Region since 1883, when the first visitors were charged a toll of 10 cents to visit the park by road. Today, the charge is upwards of 14$, and is recognized as one of the state’s most captivating natural wonders. Seven Falls is an important part of the heritage of the Western United States – it’s historic, it’s moving, and it’s a journey in and of itself. 

Seven Falls are owned and maintained by The Broadmoor, having acquired it in 2014. Since then, The Broadmoor has made several improvements to the area, something that’s immediately noticeable on the drive in. The road to the falls is paved, tastefully matching the color of the landscape, a pale red. I really appreciated this, as while everything was perfectly manicured, it blended in perfectly with the mountainous and wild terrain of the canyon. There were several benches along the way, well-kept lawn and planted flowers. The area was extremely clean, and most importantly accessible. 

The Seven Falls attraction is over 140 years old, and while the nature of the falls remains unchanged, there are facilities in place that made my experience very enjoyable, plenty of restrooms, places to snack, sit, enjoy the fresh air and feel the mist of the waterfall on your face. 
The views from the Seven Falls are amazing. There are two main viewpoints in the area, one looking at the falls and canyon from the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ lookout, reachable by a few flights of stairs or the mountain elevator. Up top, there are a few lookout stations as well as a gift shop selling different crystals, stones and memorabilia. 
The second viewpoint is located as you head upwards beside the falls, only accessible via 224 steps. If you’re up for the challenge, the view is well worth it, and at the top of the falls the trail branches out into the forest so you can continue your hike. 

At night, the Seven Falls are lit up by sparkling lights, which can change colour to celebrate different occasions!

Lunch at The Well

Food court style, The Well had an inside and outside space perfect for group dining. We had plenty of choice from seafood to fried chicken, and everything was high quality and tasty!

Olympic and Paralympic Museum

Colorado Springs is also known as the Olympic City, and is home to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee Headquarters, 20+ National Olympic Governing Bodies, more than 50 National Sport Organizations, the Colorado Springs Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum. Athletes and coaches have long recognized Colorado Springs as the epicenter of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements. The region boasts incredible natural training grounds (also thanks to the altitude), inspirational views and vistas and a commitment to excellence that transcends sports and infuses itself into their educational,  medical, technological and cultural assets!

If you want to feel inspired (and teary) then the Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Downtown Colorado Springs is the perfect place to go. The museum opened in the summer of 2020, and is the nation’s only U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum. The museum tells the stories of Team USA through one-of-a-kind artifacts, interactive media and technology, and art. It is the physical home of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame. 

The inside is a grand space, open and airy, with an interactive hall of fame available. I got to personalise my experience by picking my favorite summer and winter Olympic sport, insert my name, and when I came up to the interactive screen exhibits, the code on my lanyard was recognised and the screen greeted me with my name and ‘talked’ to me.

Beside the hall of fame, there is a tall atrium with glass lookouts jutting out above you as you walk in. These have white lines marked on them, and our guide explained that these are records – one for a long jump, and some for vaulting in both the men’s and women’s section. This was extremely impressive as it really showed the scale of the achievements of the athletes. 

One of my favourite things at the museum were the interactive exhibits, which are engaging and really highlight the athletic achievement of Team USA. You can try archery, skiing, and even race against an athlete of your choice. Though, as I saw, before you can even kick off, they’re usually finished! 

There are great visual depictions of some athletic achievements, like the world record for the long jump by Bob Beamon, at nearly 9 metres, laid out on the ground for you to see. The most interesting part of the exhibit was the collection of original Olympic torches. The designs and their adaptation to place were fantastic insights into the past, with a clear evolution in design from bronze torches to sleek, almost ceramic looking designs. 

The medal collection kindly donated by Paralympic and Olympic athletes was also very intriguing, with a showcase of how their design changed over the years, from small medals to the first medals held up by bronze laurel leaves, to more recognisable modern day medals with a material, colourful ribbon. 

There was a short film about Team USA available to watch near the end of the exhibition, highlighting the significance and achievements of Paralympic athletes, as well as the general Team USA spirit. By the end of the museum tour, I left feeling inspired. The exhibits did a great job at showcasing the ups and downs of a professional athletic career, as well as the perseverance of the human spirit. 

Dinner at Ristorante Del Lago

I ate dinner at Ristorante Del Lago, an Italian restaurant at The Broadmoor, just a walk across the lake from my room. Meats and cheese were sourced locally, and bread and pasta were made in-house. Wine was imported from Italy.

I started with a cheese and meat board, followed by a classic spaghetti pomodoro and finished off the night with tiramisu, all accompanied by a red and white wine. Dinner was served with a view of The Broadmoor lake, lit up and glittering after a spectacular sunset. The verdict? Showstopping.

Day 3Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Garden of the Gods & Denver City Transfer

Breakfast at Red Dog Coffee

The day started off strong with bagels and smoothies at Red Dog Coffee located in Manitou Springs!

I had a classic bagel with cheese, bacon and eggs, as well as a fruity mix for the day to keep me energised. The portions were big and filling, and the atmosphere was that of a smalltown eatery. Homely, lively, and filled with locals.

After breakfast, we headed out for a short walk through Manitou Springs, where I discovered several drinking fountains with different types of water, like Manganese or Lithium infused. They had a…peculiar fizzy taste and were only to be consumed in small amounts, but were supposedly very, very good for you! Many people recovering from Tuberculosis traveled to Colorado Springs to heal because of the existence of these springs, and thanks to the generous amounts of fresh air. While the altitude was a definite difference from Dublin, with pressured ears and dry noses, each walk I took on the trip was accompanied by a pleasant, fresh breeze.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Recognized as the world’s highest cog railroad, The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway is an important part of the heritage of the Western United States, and is rooted in Native American culture. Long before the towering fourteener west of Colorado Springs was referred to as Pikes Peak, it was known as Tavá Kaa-vi — the Sun Mountain. The mountain was named such by the indigenous Nuche tribe, a Numic-speaking people (Uto-Aztecan) known today as the Ute. The Ute are the oldest residents of Colorado, and they lived throughout Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona as well. The state of Utah is named for the tribe, and a large number of landmarks and natural resources in Colorado are named for the tribe, its bands and important people (Ute Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest and the town of Ouray, to name a few).

Pikes Peak Cog Railway is one of only 3 cog railways in America, and has been operating since 1891. Pikes Peak inspired “America the Beautiful” written by Katharine Lee Bates, whose experience in 1893 on top of Pikes Peak moved her to pen the poem that became one of the most patriotic songs honouring America. Pikes Peak is also sometimes described as the ‘gateway to heaven’, standing at over 14,000 feet of elevation, it is truly a sight to behold.

The journey starts at the station, painted deep blue and red, housing a large giftshop and plenty of restrooms. From there, the train ride takes you 9 miles up to the summit of Pikes Peak, but the journey transports you back in time. We entered Pike National Forest, traveled along Ruxton Creek, by Diamond Rock, within the steep, rocky walls of Englemann Canyon, past stacked boulder formations, a striking waterfall, and through Deer Park.

We moved up Son of a Gun Hill, through the Icebox, a cool shaded canyon, past the remains of Halfway House Hotel, eventually moving above timberline, where the views get more expansive. And with each turn or climb, we got to hear the stories of historical points and significant people who shaped the region along the way.

Due to the snowfall up top, we were only able to head to an elevation of 12,500 feet. This was enough however to see the stretching plains of Colorado behind us and sprawling mountain ranges ahead of us. We liked to joke – 50% of Colorado is flat, and for the other 50% you need an oxygen can. Thankfully, because we weren’t going to the top, cans weren’t necessary, but the altitude did make us all very sleepy!

The railway moved at the perfect speed up steep inclines, with enough time to enjoy the scenery and waterfalls we passed on the way. The forest line stopped at 11,500 feet, and we were soon in snow that was up to the windows on the right side of the train. Marmots poked through the snow looking for food, and to the left, a reservoir was visible, as well as the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, rough and snowcapped.

At the top of Pikes Peak you can find the state-of-the-art Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center (altitude: 14,115 feet) which opened in June 2021, providing people of all ages and abilities an exciting new experience on the summit of Pikes Peak. The facility provides improved accessibility throughout the entire summit, engaging interpretive exhibits that share the history of the mountain, a revamped gift shop, and indoor and outdoor dining areas where visitors can enjoy a world-famous Pikes Peak donut and other delicious treats while taking in the expansive views. The building and outdoor walkways were designed to create a seamless, immersive experience, similar to the Seven Falls, which are also operated by The Broadmoor.

The conductor in the carriage was very informative and enthusiastic, and truly livened up carriage 2! The journey was a little bit over an hour and a half in total round trip, but if you make it to the summit it’s between 3-3.5 hours. You get 40 minutes at the summit to shop, eat, and soak up the sights.

Garden of The Gods

After Pikes Peak, we drove towards Garden of the Gods Trading Post, just 15 minutes away from the station. The Trading Post is the oldest and largest gift shop in Colorado, a feat hard to beat! It first opened in 1929, spanning 2,000 sq ft and grew to 25,000 sq ft by 2024. The trading post sells everything from work by local artists, to traditional and contemporary Native American jewelry, Navajo rugs, sculptures, and pueblo pottery—history is right at your fingertips here. There are also plenty of sections for contemporary gifts, thousands of magnets, keychains, postcards, stickers, shirts – general apparel. After an hour in the shop, you still haven’t seen everything!

There is a food court available, and we ate burgers at the Balanced Rock Cafe. My favourite delicacy available? Cinnamon roasted pecan nuts.

Beyond the treeline of the cafe, you can see rocks jutting out of the land and their bright orange colour. We had a jeep tour scheduled with Sidewinder from Adventures out West Tours. Sidewinder was extremely passionate about his job, and highly knowledgeable on the surrounding area, but made every ounce of information fun!

This historic sight-seeing adventure was a great way to enjoy and learn about the Pikes Peak region. Sidewinder took us on a journey through time in the foothills of Pikes Peak.  The tour highlighted western scenery and some of Colorado Springs’ most famous historical sights. Attractions included North Cheyenne Canyon, the Shortline Railroad and its 100-year-old tunnels, Old Colorado City, and Garden of the Gods, the spectacular red rock park. In the open-air Jeeps, photo opportunities were truly unobstructed! This tour is about 70% on paved roads and 30% on dirt and is offered year-round. 

Transfer to the Limelight

After an exciting day out, we arrived in the 4* Limelight hotel in Denver city, just an hour and a half away from Colorado Springs. The Limelight is quite central, only a 20 minute walk from downtown. The rooms were very spacious and Union Station was visible from my room, bustling day and night. Here, we settled in before dinner, which was at the Nocturne. It was about a 25-30 minute walk from the hotel, passing through downtown RiNo district, otherwise known as the River North Art District. I dropped into some boutiques on the way, a busy flea market, as well as the Denver Central Market, which was a food hall with plenty of organic and local meal options.

At the Nocturne, we had a unique 3 course menu accompanied by a live Jazz show. I was sat right beside the stage, and found it to be one of my favourite dinners of the entire trip, as the passion and skill of the musicians was simply incredible, combined with the great food.

I had a vegetable gnocchi starter, followed by ragu and steak, finished off with a sweet fizzy meringue. The group and I picked out local wines, which all proved to be unique and delicious. 

Day 4 The Denver Art Museum

Breakfast at Citizen Rail

Easy and in-house, Citizen Rail is part of the Limelight hotel, and was the perfect place to have breakfast before a day full of museum visits and walking around Denver city.

For breakfast, I opted in for a sweet treat and had blueberry pancakes. These came served in a hot pan, and had a warm, gooey filling. With tea and juice on the side, I was ready to digest some art!

The Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum was founded in 1893 as the Denver Artists’ Club. Today it is one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the West Coast with global art collections that represent cultures around the world as well as work by artists from Denver and the Rocky Mountain region. It’s internationally known for its Indigenous Arts of North America collection, and the museum also has one of the finest collections of Latin American Art and Art of the Ancient Americas.

During my trip, the Museums’ newest exhibition, Biophilia: Nature Reimagined was on. Biophilia brings together more than 80 imaginative works, including architectural models and photographs, objects, fashion, digital installations, and immersive art experiences that collectively highlight the transformative power of nature.

The interactive aspect of the exhibition, including getting to sit on beautifully sculptured chairs and watching flower lamps open and close above my head while laying down on raised mats, were fantastic ways of immersing myself in ‘nature’. Moss carpets, home decor and cutlery were also parts of the exhibition, and connected daily life with biology.

As well as Biophilia, I visited the American West exhibition, which encompasses two centuries of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper related to the West. PIWAA’s holdings date from the early 1800s to the present and include an impressive mix of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by renowned artists who worked in and depicted the West. The collection of bronze sculptures, several significant paintings by members of the Taos Society of Artists, and examples of 20th-century modernism make this collection one of national significance.

It was classically beautiful, with both large and small scale paintings of buffalo on plains, wild horses, mountain landscapes – all within arms reached.

The Denver Art Museum was one of the first art museums in the nation to collect Indigenous arts from North America. As early as 1925, the DAM recognized and valued the fine aesthetic qualities of Native arts, when many other institutions only valued them as anthropological material. While they collected the early artwork of Indigenous people, they also focused on the work of contemporary Native artists at every moment in time.

Today, the museum has over 18,000 objects by artists from over 250 Indigenous nations. The work encapsulates multiple artistic traditions from these cultures, and ranges from ancient times to the present. Because of the museums early commitment, they now have one of the strongest and most comprehensive collections of Indigenous arts from North America in the world. The depth of their collection allowed me to explore the visual diversity and excellence of Indigenous arts as well as to consider the contributions that Native artists have made to artistic conversations throughout time. This was a very special and educational experience.

There were several different exhibitions with art from different regions, including full-sized tipis, beaded clothing, narrative drawings, horse regalia, jewelry, dolls, pottery and basketry to name a few. There were also works that included monumental carved poles, a dugout canoe, and ceremonial items.

Dinner at Tavernetta

As close as PigTrain Coffee, Tavernetta was just a 5 minute walk away from the Limelight. Inspired by the food, wine, and culture of Italy, Tavernetta brings la dolce vita style to Denver’s bustling Union Station neighborhood with fresh handmade pastas, an Italian directed wine & spirits list and world-class hospitality.

For starters I got a cheese and meat board to share, as well as a focaccia and some salad. For my main, I had gnocchi di patate with shiitake mushrooms. Desert was three scoops of refreshing ice-cream!

Day 5 – Rocky Mountain National Park Cub Lake Hike

Breakfast at PigTrain Coffee

Less than a 3 minute walk from the Limelight, PigTrain is an eatery located just inside Union Station. They serve delicious coffee, juice and tea, as well as in-house pastries and sandwiches. I opted for a herbal tea, and a danish to get me going.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rico Martinez from Aspire Tours was waiting outside the Limelight at 8am sharp, where we departed towards Moraine Park, approximately 2 hours away from Denver City. On the way, Rico gave us information on landmarks, wildlife sightings and cool trivia – like passing by the Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King wrote The Shining.

Soon, we were at Moraine Park, having entered Rocky Mountain National Park territory. By this point, I had already seen plenty of mule deer, elk and even some bighorn sheep. The weather was warm, but a cold front was approaching, so I stopped by the newly opened Moraine Park visitor centre to pick up an extra layer. It came in very handy later on!

The Cub Lake Trail I hiked was around 8km, gaining over 540 feet of elevation, and along the way I saw meadows, wildflowers, and water features. After crossing the Big Thompson River at the beginning of the trailhead, the hike follows the western edge of Moraine Park, making it an excellent vantage point for viewing wildlife.

Once I got deeper into the forest, light snow started to fall. The views were incredible, and the atmosphere was great. Cub Lake itself was stunning, with waterlily pads scattered all over the water. Frogs could be heard in the distance, and just around the corner – a moose grazing in a meadow.

The day trip with Aspire Tours took over 9 hours, but was a great amount of fun thanks to Rico. The moose sightings and large elk we saw were the highlight of my trip.

Day 6 – North Creek Shopping District & Shopping Centre

Breakfast at Local Jones

Located in Cherry Creek North, Local Jones has an extensive menu, with delicious smoothies and pastries as well as savoury items, like avocado on toast or bagels. For breakfast, I chose an American classic, scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, alongside some roasted potatoes. As a sweet side, I got the cinnamon swirl pastry, which came in a large pan and could feed at least 4 hungry people.

Cherry Creek North

For the final day of the trip, I visited Cherry Creek North, a shopping district just 15 minutes from central Denver. What’s unique about Cherry Creek North is that it’s a completely walkable outdoor community. It has more than 300 businesses (Denver’s highest concentration of locally-owned stores), including boutique hotels, more than 65 restaurants, home furnishing stores and galleries, clothing and accessory retailers as well as numerous spas, salons, gyms and specialized personal health services, all located minutes from downtown.

I visited a boutique called Show of Hands, where there were quirky gifts and ceramics, perfect to bring home.

Lunch at the Cherry Cricket

Calling all burger lovers! The Cherry Cricket had endless burger configuration options, and I opted for something new – The Bison Burger. Alongside this, I got some traditional mac and cheese. Portions were large, so I split mine in half, and enjoyed great veg on top of the bison meat. As far as burgers go, this one claims the no. 1 spot!

After visiting Cherry Creek North, I went to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center which has over 160 shops, with more than 40 stores exclusive to the area, including high-end retail options. The Center is also home to a movie theater and 15 eateries including dining hot spots, and is often called Rocky Mountain region’s premier shopping destination. I can’t argue with that, because the place pulled me in for a few hours!

I returned to the Limelight to collect my luggage, and headed over to the airport to finish my trip.

Aer Lingus Direct Dublin to Denver Flight

Aer Lingus now operates 4 weekly flights from Dublin airport to Denver International Airport, where you can preclear US Immigration before stepping onboard their transatlantic flight.

Economy fares start from €299 each-way and business class from €2699 return including taxes and charges. Flying with Aer Lingus, customers enjoy complimentary meals and soft drinks on board plus the very latest inflight entertainment system boasting latest blockbusters, box sets and more.

Visit Colorado

It’s never been easier to visit the gateway to the Rocky Mountains thanks to this new direct flight! Colorado is full of great sights, people and experiences, and I recommend touring the Sunshine State for both active travellers and those who prefer to explore in a more relaxed manner.

Looking for inspiration for your Colorado itinerary? Visit www.colorado.com to discover what adventures await you. For specific activities in Colorado Springs, visit www.visitcos.com, or for the Denver leg of your trip, see www.denver.org.

Take a look at @TravelTimes on Instagram to watch the Reel from my trip!


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