After washing off the giraffe spit and meerkat dust from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, cmzoo.org), what comes next for you and the fam?
Sometimes you just want to go home, kick up the barbecue, pop a microbrew, and enjoy the spectacular views of our beautiful Front Range.
But sometimes ... you don't. Sometimes, you (or your kids, anyway) want more.
A great option in this case is to turn the young ones loose in one of our parks. Up north, the sprawling Fox Run Regional Park (2110 Stella Drive, elpasoco.com) offers a little of everything: a dog run, ponds, barbecue pits and pavilions, hiking trails and playground equipment. Wilson Ranch Park (2335 Allegheny Drive, springsgov.com) will let you swim, or play in-line hockey or tennis.
Moving south, Acacia Park (115 E. Platte Ave., springsgov.com) offers a downtown setting with seasonal play in the Uncle Wilber Fountain (unclewilberfountain.org), a playground, and a stage that features music and activities during the warm months. It can also attract a good number of homeless people, so if that's something that bothers you, you might find yourself moving more toward the nearby shopping and local eateries.
No such caveats exist at Bear Creek Park and Nature Center (245 Bear Creek Road, elpasoco.com), where trails for hiking, cycling and horseback riding meet a nature center that offers guided and unguided activities for both the younger set and adults. A similarly educational site exists at Starsmore Discovery Center (2120 N. Cheyenne Cañon Road, springsgov.com) located at the entrance to the 1,600-acre North Cheyenne Cañon Park. It houses interactive exhibits, a rock wall and maps of the park, and hosts a variety of learning programs from How to Rock Climb, to identifying native butterflies.
Fun and games
We'll get back to wholesome outdoor activities later. But perhaps it's more a day to pump coins and tokens into video consoles and take out some aliens. If you're up north by the Air Force Academy, try Brunswick Zone XL (1180 InterQuest Pkwy., bowlbrunswick.com), where bowling, food, laser tag and video games come together under one roof. Or there's It'z (3035 New Center Point, itzusa.com), where some folks find the buffet, game room and climbing wall more to their liking. Collect tickets and cash 'em in for prizes.
For a truly free-range experience, you can't beat the classic machines and atmosphere of the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade (900 Manitou Ave., manitouspringspennyarcade.com). If the words "Space Invaders" and "Defender" mean something to you, this is the place to be, at least in warmer weather. (Some games are under a roof, but in open air.) Also offering lasers: Battlefield Colorado (1605 S. Corona Ave., battlefieldcolorado.com) is 12 acres of outdoor laser-tag awesomeness, taking advantage of the lovely Vanguard School athletic fields.
Trampoline World (780 Vondelpark Drive, trampolineworld.co) is exactly what you think it is: trampolines as far as the eye can see, and you. Little Monkey Bizness (1015 Kelly Johnson Blvd., coloradosprings.monkeybizness.com) and Jump-n-Jack's (563 N. Academy Blvd., jump-n-jacks.com) promise huge energy expenditure as well.
Meanwhile, CityRock (21 N. Nevada Ave., climbcityrock.com) has indoor climbing walls, lessons, competitions and more. There are no ropes required in the bouldering and kids areas, and you'll be immersed in a little history — the downtown building once housed the Ute Theatre, a Springs landmark that closed 30 years ago.
Bones to bats
Deeper history can be had to the east and west of town. In Woodland Park, give the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (201 S. Fairview St., rmdrc.com) a try. Tour with one of the many knowledgeable staff members, and be carried away to a time when giants roamed the earth. More prehistoric info lies just up the road at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (15807 Teller County Road 1, nps.gov), where you can see petrified redwood tree stumps and fossils in the visitor center, then get out for a guided ranger walk. If you plan ahead, you can also reserve a tour spot at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (4729 Twin Rocks Road, Divide, wolfeducation.org), where another primitive experience awaits: howling at the wolves (really!) in sanctuary.
On the other side of I-25, out east in Calhan, is the Paint Mines Interpretive Park (29950 Paint Mines Road, elpasoco.com). Tracing human interaction with geology as far back as 9,000 BCE, the colorful and spectacular landscape offers tons of hiking.
Near the 30th Street entrance to — it must be mentioned, even though you probably already know about it — Garden of the Gods (1805 N. 30th St.) is Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site (3105 Gateway Road, rockledgeranch.com). From spring to late fall, the ranch is alive with period-clothed interpreters. Depending on the time of year, visitors can participate in sheep shearing, a pow-wow, blacksmithing, and many other period-appropriate activities. Your kids might even be invited to join in some marbles, or learn how to walk on stilts.
On the more sedate side, there are plenty of activities that allow adults and youngsters to relax and create. Try Color Me Mine Ceramics at the Chapel Hills Mall (1710 Briargate Blvd., colormemine.com), where you choose a ceramic piece and let fly your creativity. The many branches of the Pikes Peak Library District (ppld.org) offer various classes, activities and more; call to see what's happening at the time.
Another place with lots of books — but also a kids' play area, pizza and that aforementioned beer — is the Poor Richard's complex (324½ N. Tejon St., poorrichardsdowntown.com). Check out the lending library of books and videos, and of course the great brain-based games, toys and animal puppets at Little Richard's Toy Store.
And really, the closest approximation to the chill-out time you might have envisioned may exist at Security Service Field (4385 Tutt Blvd.), where the Colorado Springs Sky Sox play Triple-A competition for just a few bucks a ticket. Deals abound — see skysox.com for a rundown — but sometimes, when baseball, peanuts and Cracker Jack call, you just have to answer.