Best places for cheap fun in Colorado Springs?

Last week I noticed the $2 mini golf place on North Academy had a new sign and said something about being open year round, I think?  This must be new, because I know they weren’t open last fall when we tried to go.  Anyone know the details?

I’m often asked for cheap and free things to do around Colorado Springs, but I don’t have a good, comprehensive list.  So, I’m going to put one together but I need your help:

What are the best free or cheap things to do in Colorado Springs?

I’m talking cheap bowling nights, cool parks, fun hikes, museums, places to ride bikes… whatever is cheap or free, I want it on the list!  If you’ve got tips to share, please leave a comment. I’ll be categorizing them and posting throughout the next few weeks, including making a map similar to the Colorado Springs Bargain Map – maybe even in time for some spring break fun.

Can’t wait to hear your insider tips!

Image Credit: TheMunkyHouse

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  1. The Picture Show / Dollar Theater (in the Citadel Crossing parking lot) – shows movies for $1.50, except on Tuesdays, when it’s $0.75. Can check their website for movies showing and times.

    Brunswick (on the corner of Circle and Galley), Mondays (and I believe also Wednesdays) after 9PM does “cosmic bowling” with $0.99 games and $0.99 shoe rentals.

  2. Focus on the Family play area is free, ice blocking at cottonwood is fun and super cheap, PIoneer Museum, Olympic Training Center, Garden of the Gods (easy hikes and picnics), Rock Ledge Ranch is fun and pretty cheap for a family, Picture Show movie theater, just hitting different neighborhood parks with the kids for play or picnics is a favorite of ours

  3. There are a few splash parks around town- also Uncle Wilber’s fountain downtown…Not super cheap but Fargo’s Pizza is an excellent family place to have dinner..pizza & drinks for about 5 people is $20…then there is the ever popular balloon machine in the arcade for $1 the kids can get a balloon…We can take our kids out to dinner and not worry about noise levels or behavior issues and have a blast for $25!!

  4. You have already posted about the Lowe’s building events (www.lowesbuildandgrow.com), which are usually the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Home Depot also has a building clinic on the first Saturday of the month (http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ContentView?catalogId&langId=-1&pn=Kids_Workshops&storeId=10051). Michaels periodically has free or low cost events too (www.theknackkids.com).

    Focus on the Family also has a great kids play area, which is free. It has a huge slide. My son just finally got big enough to ride it, and he loved it. If I remember correctly the food at their little cafe is pretty reasonably priced too.

    Another cool thing to have would be a list of good playgrounds. We periodically find ourselves in a neighboorhood and wondering if there’s a playground nearby, or just wanting to go someplace other than our standard playground.

  5. Just 9 miles North of town off Powers (turn right on Old Farm Road) is Black Forest Regional Park. It has tennis and basketball courts, bathroooms, playground, pavillions for picnics as well as other tables. Bike, cross country ski, and hike/horse trails. http://maps.google.com/maps/place?rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGIC_en&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=black+forest+colorado++park&fb=1&gl=us&hq=park&hnear=black+forest+colorado&cid=15902681290822813613

  6. When I went to the Fine arts museum on Tue I noticed that the Numismatic museum (money museum) has 1 free day a month too. It was a saturday or sunday, but I can’t remember if it was the 3rd or 4th of each month.

  7. My kids love the Focus on the Family 2-story slide. It’s free and they get a work out climbing the steps over and over!

  8. In Cheyanne Canyon Park there is a trail called cutlers trail. Not to bad of a hike but near the top of the trail you can see Seven Falls for free!

  9. I believe Hitts Mini Golf is open all yyear weather permitting.

  10. Have you heard of geocaching? Our family loves it. It’s like treasure hunting with a gps. There is the initial investement of a gps unit but after that, it’s free! Check it out at geocaching.com. There are caches all over town. It’s also a really fun thing to do to help break up a long road trip.

  11. As mentioned above, admission to the The Pioneers Museum is free, and they have delightful exhibits and public programs. If you are new to the city, it’s a great way to get acquainted with the unique history and culture of our town. And if you are a native like me, it’s a great place to take all of your out-of-town guests. Rock Ledge Ranch is enchanting also, and catapulting one’s self back to the 1880s is a good way to forget about your troubles. Go see them both before the end of the year and let our city council know how much you want to see the museums kept open.

    Garden of the Gods is offering a free lunch-time program series on Tuesdays at noon. I’m giving a talk on General Palmer and Glen Eyrie this coming Tuesday, May 23, at noon at the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center, and it’s FREE. Other upcoming Tuesday programs include photography in the garden, and information on wildlife. (Reservations are required – call the GoGs Visitors Center for the full calendar to to RSVP)

    Glen Eyrie is also a fun place for a mini-retreat in the middle of town. Tours of the castle are inexpensive, and the Glen allows free hiking Monday-Thursday. You have to make reservations for both hiking and tours, which you can do on the Glen Eyrie website.

    The Artwalks in Old Colorado City and Cottonwood Gallery are lots of fun, free, and they have free snacks! Both make for a fun date-night or girls-night-out, and you get to meet some great local artists too.

  12. I agree that Rizuto’s (Barnes and Oro Blanco) is a great place for inexpensive but yummy, enormous ice cream cones!

  13. Amanda T says:

    We enjoy story times at both the library and Barnes and Noble. And we’ve enjoyed meeting several characters at Barnes and Noble story times.

  14. - Rizuto’s Ice Cream is super cheap
    - Deerfield Spray Park is free (if the City allows it to be open this year)
    - Uncle Wilber and Julie Penrose Fountains are free (if the City funds them)
    - The Picture Show Movie Theater
    - Story times at the Library and Barnes and Noble
    - Garden of the Gods
    - Olympic Training Center
    - Money Museum
    - The Mint in Denver offers really cool free tours
    - The Pioneer Museum
    - Peterson Air & Space Museum (if you can get on base)
    - The Air Force Acadmy & Chapel
    - Glen Eerie Castle has a small admission fee
    - Figure Skating Hall of Fame & Museum (small admission)
    - A walk around the lake at the Broadmoor Hotel
    - Penny arcade in Manitou (though I don’t think its really a penny)
    - Little Monkey Bizness in Denver is ALOT of fun for the little ones!
    - Little Biggs used to be free for 18 months and younger, we never went back after she turned 18 months because it wasn’t worth paying for!
    - Public skating times at the World Arena Ice Hall
    - Focus on the Family play area

  15. My kids love going to Palmer Lake to feed the ducks they are there year round and always very hungry. They also have a trail around the lake and a nice playground with that spongie stuff on the ground. There are a lot of trails around Palmer Lake area, especially the one up to the reservoir (great place for a picnic in good weather). We also love The Rock House in Palmer Lake they are open April through November. We can feed our family of 4 sandwiches, hot dogs, and ice cream for dessert for $20.00. We love the all the Pikes Peak Libraries. We go for story time, check out books, and to play on the computer. We also love going to the Broadmoor. We will get a coffee drink or nothing at all and just walk around the lake, look in the shops, it is so beautiful and you don’t have to buy anything just tip the valet. With summer coming up does anyone know of a cheap place to go swimming?

    • Tacy Melvin says:

      If you have a military connection the Peterson AFB Pool is pretty cheap. And they have “family nights” on T/Th when it’s a little cheaper, I think $3 a person with 5 and under free with a paying adult. The times we’ve been haven’t been too crowded.

  16. Vistors always want to go to Seven Falls, but it is expensive and you don’t get to see much!! Instead we always take company to Helen Hunt Falls–it’s a good little hike and you are right ON the falls (word of warning–NOT handicap accessible!!)

  17. A bit out of town, but favorites of ours are Black Forest Regional Park and Fox Run Regional Park. They both have nice fields, trails and playgrounds and make us feel like we’ve gotten out of town without driving too far.

  18. A couple of our favorite family hikes are Red Rock Canyon and Castlewood Canyon (I think Castlewood has a $5 admission fee). We also like the Incline but it isn’t for the faint hearted. I also second Katrina’s recommendation for geocaching, we love it.

  19. I have a two year old and when it’s cold or gloomy out, we’ll go to the mall playplaces, Focus on the Family playplace or Mr. Bigg’s Lil’ Bigg Town. Mr. Biggs is her favorite and it’s only $5 for her to play for hours. But I guess that wouldn’t be cheap if you have several small kiddos. My favorite is the mall because I can go for a walk with her in the stroller, then let her play and get some exercise too! For outdoors play I like Black Forest Regional park. It’s shady and not over-crowded.

  20. Erin Rogers says:

    Bear Creek Park is wonderful! Great learning center and wonderful trails! We take out cub scouts there during the summer. Katrina is right about Geocaching! Our family loves it!

  21. the library is having an activity all next week for spring break http://ev.ppld.org/evanced/lib/eventcalendar.asp?ag=&et=Childrens+Library+Programs%2C+Family+Library+Programs%2C+Tween+Library+Programs&dt=mo&df=calendar&cn=0&private=0&ln=ALL, also School Crossing (http://www.eschoolcrossing.com/)is always having fun and (most of the time) free activities for kids.

  22. Pinz bowling on 105 toward Palmer Lake does $1 a game & $1 shoe rental on Tuesdays from 4pm to close (midnight).. they do have bumpers for kids & those racks for kids to bowl from too. Oh, a lot of their snack bar food is also $1 on Tuesdays … and of course, the Rock House in Palmer Lake is an easy drive up 105!

  23. Alyce Miller says:

    There is also letterboxing. It is very similar to geocaching but without the GPS. There are hundreds of boxes in the springs and the two websites for finding them is atlasquest.com and letterboxing.org. You simply have a log book and stamp (homemade or store bought), stamps pads, pen, and bring the whole family. The letterbox contains a logbook, stamp(usually homemade), and sometimes a stamp pad. You follow the directions, discreetly find the box, stamp your stamp in the letterbox log book and stamp the boxes stamp in yours, and discreetly return the box to its hiding place. Kids absolutely love this and it is basically free. Check the websites above for the rules of etiquitte for letterboxing. We have been able to do this year round. Just bundle up and head out.

    • Thanks for this info! We’re going to try this with our 3 boys. Sounds like fun. :)

    • I also do geocaching and letterboxing… great fun! The kids love finding the “regular” sized caches to see what’s inside! I was interviewed for an article the Gazette did a few months ago about letterboxing. You can search for it on their website.

  24. A friend reminded me that the paint mines are a good place to hike around and picnic too

  25. Sharon Ford says:

    I think the Numismatic museum (money museum) is free all the time – check first though. It’s a fun one if you like to see that sort of thing – not great for little kids.

  26. Bear Creek Dog Park is a great place to exercise your dog(s). It’s free and it’s huge so your dog(s) can get quite a workout. I spend just about every Saturday there and love it.

  27. My favorites:
    - Hitts mini golf (I agree, I think they’re open year-round but only if it’s warm)
    - Academy lanes (at USAFA, have to be military or DoD employee to use) had $1 bowling and $2 shoe rental on Thursdays
    - Red Rock Canyon (http://redrockcanyonopenspace.org/) is similar to Garden of the Gods in rock formations, but more hike-oriented–a beautiful treasure! (click on the “trails” link to get a map that you can print and feel like you won’t get lost)
    - Here’s a map of all of the city parks:
    http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=1894
    (lots of different links, depending on what kind of map you like)
    - I really like the playground at Maizeland and Academy–has some good little kid stuff, plus big slides and things to keep the big kids happy (my 9-year-old has a good time)
    - You can go to Chuck E Cheese and just play games without buying pizza (good way to get out of the house, a bit of sensory overload for me!), plus the climbing tunnel is free
    - Garden of the Gods (mentioned by several folks already)
    - Disc golf at Cottonwood Creek Park–it’s less crowded early in the morning, I don’t really feel comfortable there with kids once it’s busy, because some of those folks are SERIOUS about their disc golf–but it’s great to go and have the kids aim at a few baskets, then take a walk along the path by the creek
    - There’s a nice walking/biking path along Cottonwood creek that runs between Academy and Union (and crosses union too)–you would have to park near in a neighborhood, but it’s pretty and the kids like to explore
    - I agree with everyone else who said the library is the place to go
    - For some reason, kickball and wiffle ball are more fun on a “real” baseball field (see the parks map above to find one, my favorite neighborhood ones are at Dublin park and Fremont park)
    - Elementary school playgrounds, at least in D-11, seem to always be right next to a park and feel pretty public. Does anyone know the rules here? I’ve always felt free to use those, in addition to park playgrounds.
    - Wander around the Colorado College or UCCS campus! Go in the student rec center, let the kids run in the open spaces, wander through the academic buildings and look at the displays (make sure your kids don’t disrupt the classes, but college students LOVE seeing children on campus)
    - For older kids, the East library has a chess club the 3rd Friday of the month at 4pm (haven’t tried it yet, probably will tomorrow)
    - In the summer and spring, go to “thunderbird overlook” at the Air Force Academy (easily accessible via the main road from the south gate) and watch the airplanes, gliders, and parachuters. The parachuters are the favorites of my kids–a good time is 8-9am in the summers.
    - Watch the big kids at one of the skateboard parks (caution–your kids may try to emulate the big kids!)
    - Lots of Air Force Academy sports are free (think gymnastics, baseball, etc), see the schedule at http://www.goairforcefalcons.com/, access fields from the North Gate (exit 156 of I-25)
    - Colorado Museum of Mining and Industry has a nice tour that is good for about 8 and up, and you can usually find buy one, get one free coupons
    - NOT free, but fun, is the North Pole amusement park, and you can usually find buy one, get one half off coupons. Lots of rides appropriate for little kids.
    I think I have my spring break planned now!! :)

  28. I’ve lived here my whole life and while I’ve been to events at the Broadmoor we’ve never gone to just check it out, walk around etc. Anyone who does this, can you share the details please? Where do you park, get drinks, where can/can’t you go, someone mentioned tipping valet…how does that work? Are there ducks to feed? Playgrounds? Thanks gals!

  29. You don’t even have to park in the parking lot at the Broadmoor. If you drive south past the hotel, there is on-street parking close to the entrance (a little walk). Totally free! Years ago, we used to bring board games into the hotel and buy a hot chocolate at the drugstore that used to be there. Good memories…

  30. If you want a nice drive up into the mountains, our family discovered a really fun and interesting historical hike at Victor. They have a loop hike that is probably 1 – 2 miles long that passes the old gold mines that used to be a large part of Victor in the past. Besides being absolutely beautiful up there, the history is fascinating and there are flyers and information posted all around the hike. And it is free! While there you can drive past the old mines and drive to a parking lot that is high above the present mines. Above the parking lot is another old mining site with lots of history and you can look down and see the mining trucks working. It’s really, really fun. If you love to hike and love the history of Colorado your family would really enjoy this!

  31. There are free movies and refreshments on Peterson AFB http://www.21fss.com/inside.php?page=story&id=135

    Also $1 bowling and shoes for kids on Sunday afternoons http://www.21fss.com/inside.php?page=bowling&view=pricing

    There is a rock climbing room at the PAFB gym too. That is free with a belaying test.

    • can anyone get on PAB?

      • Yes, with a military ID or with a friend who has one.

      • If you want to go the Peterson Airforce museum, and you don’t have military connections, you call in advance and give your information/ID and set a time to come. They do a security check on you, but it is super easy. You just show up at the gate and they admit you. It was a fun place to go. My boys just loved it!

  32. Wow, these are fun to read. I’m so glad your going to organize this information for us!!! It’s not here in the Springs, but an awsome and totally hands on museum was the firefighters museum in Denver. It wasn’t the most expensive museum but not the cheapest either, I had a buy 1 get 1 free admission coupon. I was bummed though b/c they made me pay for my 1 year old. We did several things for the kids in Denver that day and this was the cheapest and best. I’m a little bias b/c I don’t care for crowds and this was very low key!

  33. What an awesome list – it’s too bad we’re moving soon…

    We really like hiking at North Cheyenne Canyon.

    I also discovered recently that Skate City off Austin Bluffs has free military skating (all ages) on Sundays from 4-6 and they also have a class for ages 2-6, called the Pixie Class, ($4 per child, includes skates) on Friday mornings from 9-10:30 – but be on time because it fills up quickly.

  34. Here are my favorites
    - map of city parks is available at http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=1894
    - Red Rock Canyon open space (like garden of the gods, but less touristy and more wild)–see the maps at the link above
    - Air Force Academy bowling alley has cheap bowling on Thursdays (used to be $1 a game and $2 for shoes)–must be military or DoD employee
    - ball (kickball, baseball) is more fun on a “real” baseball field (my favorite local ones are Dublin Park and Fremont Park, both made for little kids, neither one crowded)
    - The playground at Palmer Park (Maizeland and Academy) is really good–enough big stuff to keep the older ones happy, plus lots of little kid things
    - You can go play the games and crawl in the tunnels at Chuck E Cheese without buying the food. Not free, but can be cheap depending on what games you play (all games are 1 token, unlike L’il Biggs where the really good games are several tokens)
    - Wander around campus at UCCS and Colorado College! Walk through the academic buildings to look at displays, walk through the student union, run around in the open space (for some reason the steps at UCCS enchant my little one)
    - At the Air Force Academy, go to Thunderbird Overlook (accessible from the road in the south gate) and watch the airplanes, gliders, and parachuters. In the summers, 8-9am is a good time to catch the parachuters most (but not all) weeks
    - I like the North Pole amusement park–not super cheap, but they have lots of good little kid rides, and you can always find a buy 1, get one half price admission. Bring your own picnic lunch to make it cheaper!
    - We buy a zoo membership every year, and it’s good for many days of entertainment. We always pack in the lunch and discuss how we’re not going to ride everything, just one thing (carousel or ponies or train) per kid.
    - There’s a great walking/biking path (concrete, wide) along Cottonwood Creek starting at Academy and going across Union (I don’t know how far it goes east of Union). You’ll have to park in along neighborhood streets to be close, but it’s fun to explore.
    - Disc golf at Cottonwood Creek Park is fun, but is best enjoyed with children early in the day before it gets too crowded–some of those people are serious about the game and don’t want to wait for my 4-year-old to throw the frisbee 47 times!

    Hmmm…Now I have spring break planned! Thanks for the ideas!

  35. The Broadmore has a really cool old movie theater in it. They show all kinds of movies, you have to call though to figure out what they are showing that night (they usually rotate a couple movies throughout the week). I think it’s about $5 for adults, but it’s very kid friendly and you can bring whatever snacks you’d like!

  36. Spring break activity’s at the Broadmoor. but I don’t know if they are for guests only so call first but it doesn’t look like it :
    http://www.broadmoor.com/event-calendar.php

  37. Katrinna says:

    We will be visiting from Texas soon. We are leaving this Saturday and I have been looking for places to pan for gold. I know that you can pan for gold for free at Garden of the Gods,Ghost Town Museum and the Museum of Mining but my husband wants to know where we can just go out in the wilderness by a stream and pan for gold, not somewhere you have to pay to do this I have checked with some of those places. I also know that some places are private land but if anyone knows where we can go just off and away on a trail by a stream just to do it for free that would be great.

    • Carrie Isaac says:

      Hmm, well, I’m sure you could do it anywhere in the national forests… Not sure if you’ll actually find gold, though! :) There’s lots of different streams that would be on public property, one I can think of is the one that follows Phantom Canyon Road. It’s a fun, historic, and beautiful drive, and there’s definitely “public” creek that you can pan in!

  38. Antonette says:

    Papa Johns allows patrons to create and make their own pizza.
    Volunteering for Special Olympics is rewarding and fun.
    Elementary schools sell skate passes where you can skate for $1.00 all summer.
    There is a free juggling club that meets at the Downtown YMCA. (all levels welcomed)
    Anually, prior to the Ren Fest they bring an elephant and performers to Acaia Park.
    Sky Sox Fri night home game fireworks can be seen without going to the game.
    Including the family in the preperation of a picnic meal and eating on a blanket can’t be beat. Free park concerts are a bonus treat.
    Fargos has $3.00 personal pizzas 7 days a week during lunch hours.
    Helen Hunt Falls is beautiful in the winter … the water fall actually freezes and water runs under the ice.

  39. Elisabeth says:

    Saturday and Sunday, our flea markets are open year round; concerts in the summer in Manitou Springs public library front lawn is free; $2.00 Tuesday sky sox games; Serenity Springs wildlife Center is a little more expensive, but worth the treat ot show your kids these amazing animals, humane society accepts volunteers and is a great way to show your kids the responsibility of animals and caring for others.

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