Colorado Springs, Colorado
I lived in Colorado from winter of 2014 to spring of 2016 — which was quite a long time ago. I recognize that there might be better restaurants or activities now, but I’ll still share some things I enjoyed while living there.
Where to live off post: I still hold that Lorson Ranch is the best community to live in. It’s just a short drive to the Fort Carson main gate, and there are grocery stores, gas stations, and casual restaurants just a couple of miles away. Lorson Ranch itself is a Saint Aubyn community, so the houses are all rock-solid compared to many other production builders. It’s about a 30-minute drive to downtown Colorado Springs, which isn’t too bad when you weigh the number of times each week you’ll need to be on post vs. anywhere else. You’ll also get a nicer and larger house for a lower price point than living further north. The only downside was that it was sometimes a struggle getting non-military friends to drive the 30+ minutes for dinner or game night, so we ended up doing most of the driving.
Where to eat: I am seriously so heartbroken that Johnny Martin’s Car Central went out of business. I swear we were there multiple times a week. My only other suggestion still in operation is the Penrose Room (assuming they ever re-open after COVID). The Penrose Room is Colorado’s only 5 star, AAA Five-Diamond dining experience. As you likely assumed, yes, it is very pricey. So this will probably not be a restaurant you go out to every Sunday after church. It’s very much a splurge experience that happens for special occasions. Dave and I dined there for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and to celebrate a job promotion. It’s the kind of place where the food is so delicious you forget you just paid SO much for SUCH a small portion, and it gives you the excuse to dress up and pretend to be posh.
Local activities: Royal Gorge Railroad Murder Mystery Dinner, Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak, Focus on the Family. The Murder Mystery on the Royal Gorge Railroad was my favorite thing in the Springs. I am a huge Nancy Drew fan, and I felt like I lived one of the books. An amazing dinner onboard a refurbished railcar, zipping through the mountains with spectacular views on all sides while solving a puzzling crime. You don’t want to miss it! Garden of the Gods is a spectacular field of sandstone rock formations that you can drive or hike through. Cave of the Winds is a fun cavern that offers unique tours. Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, at 14,115 feet. You can drive up it (if you are brave and have perfectly working breaks) or take a railcar up. At the top, be sure to grab one of their homemade donuts: everything tastes better at higher altitudes. And fun fact: Dave proposed to me at the summit! And last but not least, for anybody that grew up on Adventures on Odyssey, do yourself a favor and head to Focus on the Family in northern Colorado Springs. Their basement level is basically a Disney-style play place inspired by all of their children’s radio programs — yes, there is a Whit’s End with delicious ice cream.
Travel opportunities: The Stanley Hotel up in Estes Park is a must-do. The hotel inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining.” It lives up to the creepy hype. We don’t believe in ghosts, so the ghost tour didn’t do much for us, but it was entertaining in its own way and gave us access to normally closed parts of the property. There are a lot of trap doors and secret passageways to discover, and when we were there, they were growing a huge hedge maze. They have a whiskey bar that will blow your mind, and their smoked old-fashioned is the stuff dreams are made of. When you get done exploring the property, Estes Park can fill up all the rest of your time.