Everywhere in the world (except for Fairplay and Alma), locals tend to avoid visiting their hometown tourist attractions. It gives them a kind of superior feeling and enables them to say things like, "I don't have to do that to experience the wonders of my surroundings; I live here."
While I'm all about embracing a superiority complex, I would still like to encourage locals to get out and patronize some of our area hot spots. You'll be amazed at what out-of-towners pay for.
Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, 633-9925, cmzoo.org
The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is the medieval-looking tomb of Spencer Penrose (the fellow that brought us The Broadmoor and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo), named for his dear dead friend, the American humorist Will Rogers, and placed on the side of a mountain above the zoo. Yeah, it is kind of a strange tourist attraction, isn't it?
There is a really good view, though, so just consider it a zoo bonus. If you've never met a shrine you didn't like, get ready to spend the day with monkeys, then drive up and check out some relatively unknown dude's final resting place.
May Natural History Museum of the Tropics
710 Rock Creek Canyon Road, 576-0450, maymuseum-camp-rvpark.com
The May Natural History Museum of the Tropics, located in an RV park just south of Colorado Springs, uses the same bait-and-hook tricks that Mother Nature herself invented. You're innocently driving down the highway when your kids spot the giant Hercules beetle that invites you to a wondrous adventure at the natural history museum. The kids are psyched and that big beetle is intriguing to anyone.
But you'll arrive to find you've been duped. The museum is only a large collection of average-sized bugs that have been dead for nearly 100 years, and a few trailers labeled the Museum of Space Exploration filled with posters. Kind of feels like a Rob Zombie movie, doesn't it?
5050 Pikes Peak Hwy., Cascade, 684-9432, santas-colo.com
I went to Santa's Workshop as a 13-year-old girl and it sucked, because everything sucks when you're a 13-year-old girl. But there were a lot of cute 17-year-old boys operating the ancient, kitschy 2-mile-an-hour rides and selling overpriced ice cream, so it wasn't that bad. I'm an adult now, and 17-year-old boys are gross, so the real, lasting draw here is feeding the llamas. You thought Santa had reindeer? Well somebody lied to you.
Focus on the Family Visitor Center
8685 Explorer Drive, 531-3328
People often use moving away as an excuse to finally visit all the tourist attractions in their towns. When I leave Colorado Springs, I'm going to make it a point to finally check out the Focus on the Family Visitors Center. Why does Focus on the Family need a visitors center? Well, nobody knows, but I have a feeling it will be a scarier, more disorienting ride than the Mind Eraser at Six Flags.
I'm not gay but it might be cool to try it for a week, and surely if they can cure homosexuality then they can also induce it. Admission is free, so keep them in mind the next time you're bored on a Saturday. At the very least, you'll have something to rage about on your blog.
Flying W Ranch
3330 Chuckwagon Road, 598-4000,
The Flying W Ranch is a mountain cattle ranch and entertainment destination right here on the western edge of Colorado Springs. When the performing cowboys aren't doing, uh, cowboy stuff, they sing songs about nights on the lonesome range to visitors who enjoy authentic cattle-drive dinners (buckshot-riddled, sinewy hare meat not included) and chuckle heartily at horse jokes. It sounds pretty cheesy, but where else do you get to look on as "the Old West comes alive"? (Except, you know, all of Colorado.)
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
515 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-5401, cograilway.com
The Cog Railway experience goes like this: A stuffy train packed to the gills drags you up the face of a mountain while some guy talks about trains and the Swiss and mountains. You might see a goat or a marmot or something, but probably not. There are boulders and some other things that the guy will point out, including a handful of amazing views, but it will be hard to get a really good glimpse of anything because of the 80 other people in front of you trying to see the same exact thing. You get to the top and maybe eat a doughnut if you haven't passed out from the thin air or spent all your money on junk with your name written on it. Then you go back down. Then you go home.