The north part of town is a sprawling place, but some of its attractions will make a drive worth your while.
First of all, the U.S. Air Force Academy (usafa.af.mil) is open to the public. Visitors can access the beautiful Cadet Chapel, Arnold Hall, Cadet Field House and Falcon Stadium daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and get more information at the Visitors Center, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Academy is also open for sporting events, from the big Falcon football games to basketball and hockey.
While the Academy prepares cadets for the future, plenty of places around here focus on the area's Western past. One is the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy (101 ProRodeo Drive, prorodeohalloffame.com), which pays tribute to past and present rodeo champs. If after that you're still yelling, "More cowbell!" you can head west to Flying W Ranch (3330 Chuckwagon Road, flyingw.com). Chow down on a chuckwagon supper with live music by the Flying W Wranglers, and explore the Western Village during the summer.
Not to be overlooked is the Western Museum of Mining and Industry (225 North Gate Blvd., wmmi.org). It may not seem exciting outwardly ("This is slag, kids"), but let's face it: Mining for gold, silver and coal back in the day wasn't exactly a safe process, and unpredictable dynamite is always interesting. WMMI is also notable for its celebrity mascot burros, Oro and Nugget.
Other good places to take the kids include got-to-see-it-to-believe-it Wilson Ranch Pool (2335 Allegheny Drive, wilsonranchpool.com); the indoor aquatic wonderland at Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center (3920 Dublin Blvd., springsgov.com/parks); Shotz Lazer Tag & Billiards (4474 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., shotztag.com); and Paint the Town (7844 N. Academy Blvd., paint-the-town.com), which offers supplies and support when an artistic mood strikes. Of course, the biggest no-brainer is Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center (5825 Mark Dabling Blvd., mrbiggsffc.com), with go-karts, bumper cars, bowling, an arcade and mini golf.
For the more refined: There's a Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea House at 5965 N. Academy Blvd. (pikesperkcoffee.com). And in the Tri-Lakes area, you'll find cozy outfits like Speedtrap Coffeebar (84 State Hwy. 105, #2, Palmer Lake, speedtrapcoffeebar.com), Wesley Owens Coffee (1773 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument, 481-2145) and local roaster Serranos Coffee Co. (625 State Hwy. 105, Monument, serranoscoffee.com). Palmer Lake and Monument have small, quaint downtown areas with boutique shops and businesses like Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (304 State Hwy. 105, trilakesarts.org). TLCA, similar to Cottonwood Center for the Arts, offers studio space, galleries and art classes, also hosting numerous concerts, lectures and evening events.
While you're up that way, visit Peak Ranch Alpacas (19850 Beacon Lite Road, peakranchalpacas.com) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. This family farm raises and boards alpacas and sells alpaca felt items, from felted soap to apparel to homemade goodies. Check its website for periodic felting classes.
Still more artistry resides at GOCA 1420 (1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., galleryuccs.org), the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' contemporary art gallery. Headed by Caitlin Green and Daisy McConnell, 1420 and downtown sister GOCA 121 draw local and national artists for creative, conceptual shows. GOCA's mission to take art out of the gallery has resulted in interactive, conceptual pieces set in grocery stores, and in-house visual exhibits based on sound.
Locals Barbershop (5230 N. Nevada Ave., #120, localscut.com), just down the hill, offers urban art on its walls — last year, Indy readers actually voted it the city's Best Place to See Emerging Artists. You can also go here for live music and a beer or, if you insist, just for a haircut.