Screen Free Summer Bucket List in the Springs 2023

Summer has arrived!! I’ve lived Colorado practically my whole life and the Springs for 15 years. Here’s 40+ Screen Free Activities around Colorado Springs peppered with a couple Colorado Front Range Highlights. ☝️☝️The first half require getting out of the house, the last are stay at home activities.

Visiting Bishop Castle requires an extra time commitment, but crossing this item off your Summer Bucket List is sure to be unforgettable!

1. Visit a fire breathing Dragon!

Bishop Castle-this is place I have heard about ever since I moved to Colorado Springs over 15 years ago. It is a bit of drive, located in Rye, Colorado (southwest of Pueblo) but I as researched this destination more extensively– I’m more and more convinced the drive is going to be worth it! 👉👉👉The entire castle was built by one man (Jim Bishop) and has been featured on the Travel Channel, CNN and Reader’s Digest. Jim’s progressive journey in building this 3-story structure complete with grand ballroom, “soaring towers and bridges” and a fire-breathing dragon is sure to be memorable for all. Entrance is also totally free, but donations encouraged.

2. Go Castle Exploring

Glen Eyrie-Completed in 1871, this English Tudor-style castle located just north of the main Garden of Gods entrance provides historical tours 1-2 times/day and opportunities to enjoy a full afternoon English tea experience.

3. Sip tea with your kids like a Mountain Queen!

Miramont Castle-If you’re looking for more in variety in an afternoon tea experience, are willing to pay an additional $10/person than Glen Eyrie for an official High Tea Experience or tailored tea time centered around kids 12 and under Miramont is your place. They also offer self-guided historic tours of the grounds, and have an extensive flower garden.

4.Grab a Free Movie at USAFA’s Planetarium

Yes! I know I said this was screen-free but this one is so unique and educational that I’m saying lay-back (literally–lol!) and enjoy a unique experiences with your kiddos! This dome-shaped theatre-screen experience is totally free, just first come first seated. They have a variety of shows so check out their schedule for the most appropriate experience for your kids. I made the mistake of going to star gazing lecture the first time and it was waaaaay too in depth for my 7-year-old-and-under crew.

Also, show up early! To be really safe I would recommend 30 minutes before show time to be AT the Planetarium, since there are summer tourists on base who might also be vouching for a spot. Enter at the North Gate Exit off I-25 for the Air Force Security Check-point and make sure you bring: Driver’s license, Car registration and proof of car insurance. 😘Just in case they ask 🙂

I fully admit it. There are times I need a break and let the kiddos soak in some zoombie tube time. Check out these viewing suggestions for adult programs your kids can enjoy, learn something and grow a little attitude of gratitude!

3. Shoot arrows like an Olympian

The U.S. Olympic and Para-Olympic Museum-LOTS of artifacts and multi-media features. This museum is best for 3rd grade and above kids IF you really want them to understand the interactive features. Highlights include the opportunity to shoot “arrows” on a digital target, race on a 50-yard track against shadow images of the fastest American sprinters, sit in bobsled. ***If you’re super nerdy and your kids also enjoy a challenge download their grade specific teacher guides with scavenger hunt questions and build-in STEM activities.

4. Experience Colorado Springs history in 3D

Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum-Open Tuesday through Saturday, this museum offers free admission to walk through the founding of Colorado Springs and many changing spotlight exhibitions around Colorado history. They also have Family Fun Days each quarter making history come to life through crafts, demonstrations, and family-friendly activities located throughout the Museum. Reservations required.

The Western Museum of Mining & Industry-Closer to the Air Force Academy, WMMI creates opportunities for kids to prospect and pan for gold, walk through a mine shaft drift and much more.

5. Learn a little bit about cold, hard cash

The Edward C. Rochette Money Museum-what makes this Money Museum unique is all the cents (or is it sense?! Sorry friend, I’m a puny person) it shows and the free virtual exhibits available. Need a rainy day option for your kids? Here’s your opportunity!

6. Make your vote count!

Which one is the best of the three below? These three museums are on our family’s summer bucket list for the first time and we’re going decide which one is the best. I will be updating this post with personal highlights & beware tips as we check them off our goal sheet. If you visit them before me, please share your experiences below or email me! 😘

  1. Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum
  2. Space Foundation Discovery Center
  3. Pikes Peak Children’s Museum

7. Take the kids bowling for FREE-every day?!

The Summit Interquest Fun Center participates in Kids Bowl Free Program. You do have to pay for Bowling Shoes, but kids 12 and under can bowl two free games every weekday during the summer! You do have to sign up to receive the free games, but it’s a nice option for rainy days or times you might need to recover from sunburns acquired at the pool.

8. Summer Skating Punch Pass

Our daughter has transitioned from “never wanting to go roller skating again” a year ago, to now insisting her 8th birthday was at Skate City. Honestly, if your kids are a bit overwhelmed with skating, consider giving it rest for a bit and/or really asking yourself if their first experiences included you being on the rink to encourage them to test the waters. I’ll admit my absence was definitely a factor during her first skate lace-up. But when I was able to stick around and skate with her during another birthday party invite? Total game changer.

Again this punch pass is great for rainy days and pool recovery days! They also offer a variety of skate classes including in-line hockey, beginning skating, ball skating, artistic skating for a less than half the cost of other sports like gymnastics.

Summer hiking doesn't have to be crowded

Go hiking off the beaten (tourist) path

Okay if you’ve lived in Colorado Springs for any amount of time, you’ve at least heard of the Incline, Section 16 and Garden of the Gods (GoG) and possibility crossed them off your hiking bucket list. Yet, my friend do not despair!! There are a LOT of other hikes to explore in town to avoid the summer crowds. Some FREE alternative trails & parks are:

9. Black Forest Regional Park

A well-shaded playground covered by towering pine trees. I love listening to wind blow through the pines here. Very calming to my heart! Black Forest hosts 4 tennis courts, a richly thick patch of grass for multiple games of soccer, volleyball, or relaxing picnic and numerous trail to explore that begin behind the main pavilion by the playground.

10. Red Rock Open Space

Located on Highway 24 West of I-25, almost due south of Garden of the Gods, Red Rock provides unique experiences, including a mountain bike “obstacle course” park and dog park along with a different view of Garden of the Gods and large variety of trail length choices.

11. Bear Creek Regional Park

This 545-acre regional park two miles north of the Broadmoor supports picnic pavilions, playing fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, archery range, horseshoe pit, volleyball and basketball courts.

12. Go wading at the Creeks

Castlewood Canyon State Park–located just each of Castle Rock. Another hidden gem! This park provides trails that dip down to the canyon floor where kids can enjoy wading in large creek pools and finding shade on extra hot days. A good dose of trail options and even fresh water pumps at the parking lots to refill your water bottles.

If you’re not ready drive out of town, check out Cottonwood Creek and go wading at Cottonwood Park (just below the Rangewood Drive overpass on the northside of the playgrounds) or along the Monument Valley Trail in downtown Colorado Springs.

If you’re looking for ways to increase Wanderlust intrigue for the littles consider these equipment purchases for birthdays or holidays:

Kid-size Camelbacks-I love this backpack! We bought it for our son because the bladder is easy to fill and unscrew from the drink straw, the chest-strap clips is also a whistle, and there is just enough room him to pack a snack and rain jacket = not overload himself and make his pack too heavy.

Neck Guard–We purchased these wraps as temporary “masks” at the height of Covid, but they also serve as neck guards from summer sun, extra head or neck warmth for winter sports, are quick dry and can be quick cool-down tools if dunked in ice water and reapplied to the neck or head

Binoculars-encourage your kids to tip-toe as they hike and spy creatures from a far. These field glasses are durable with sturdy removable strap and traveling case. We’ve had our two pairs for over three years and they’re still as good as new.

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Watch out for cones at Rizutos! The generous portions will make you want to visit this bucket list destination more than once this summer!

13. Make Ice Cream or Go Enjoy a Big Cone at Rizuto’s

Need an opportunity to get out of the house and grab a cold treat buuuuut also not break the bank?! Then Rizuto’s is the place for you!! They provide generous soft serve cones just over a dollar along with with homemade ice cream options at reasonable prices. It’s a family-owned shop with a mission to provide “quality ice cream for families at an affordable price”.

If you’re feeling more adventuresome though and want to MAKE your own ice cream, join me in the adventure. Seth and I are making the plunge this summer to purchase an automatic ice cream maker . . . we haven’t decided on a model yet so if you have a recommendation share in the comments below or email me!

14. Visit Cave of the Winds

Okay so I haven’t revisited here since I was a kid buuuut I remember the scary fascination of touring the 15 cave rooms after taking an elevator down, down, down. Not to mention the freaky moment during the tour when they shut off all the lights and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. 😳😆🙃 Not sure if they still do that on tours, but I’m taking the kids this summer so I’ll let you know!

15. Enjoy free weekly concerts

As a former band geek, I can’t NOT share this idea. Listening to great music while soaking in some fresh air, sunshine and treat or two from a food truck or picnic dinner with friends and family?! Sign. Me. Up.

The Denver Post has compiled a list of all the Best Outdoor Concerts Series for Colorado Springs and as I explore them this again this summer, I’ll let you know which one I’d say is the best.

16. Join the PPLD’s Summer Reading Program

Don’t over look your library! If you pay taxes, you are funding this free resource. Kids earn a free book or journal just for registering and then earn additional prizes after 30 days of read, move or imagine activities.

Additionally, the Pikes Peak Library District has SO MUCH to explore: Maker Space Rooms with 3-D Printers, Sewing Machines; Story times, Free-age appropriate workshops around art, legos, 3-D printing, comics etc. When your activity bucket is running low, let the library do the work for you!

Also library card holder also check with your local library for 50% discounts and/or free admission to museums and other local venues. In Colorado Springs, this cultural pass discount through the PPLD includes the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado Springs Fine Art Museuem at Colorado Colllege, the Olympic Museum and much more!

17. Attend a running club & Do 5K with your kids

Running Clubs are great because they usually have participants from various endurance levels and ages from walkers and beginners to avid runners who are running half marathons and more on a regular basis. If you’re new to this outdoor activity, you’ve got people cheering you and your kids on as you try out a little cardio AND often times people hang out afterwards for drinks, appetizers etc. so your time can serve as an easy meal night or friendship building opportunity.

I recommend the Pikes Peak Road Runners Homepage for the most updated active listing of clubs. To date, it lists 16 clubs meeting at different times, days of the week and locations around Colorado Springs with leader contact info. Other local running club search results listed some outdated clubs like Gallup at the Garden that NO longer meet.

18. Tips your Hat to the Ranchers and Farmers

Whether you grew up around large livestock or not, reality is Colorado is half mountains AND half farm country. Don’t ignore the Eastern half and have fun learning about this side of the Colorado culture and economy by attending the Colorado State Fair, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo or a simple intro through a chuckwagon dinner at the Flying W Ranch.

19. Visit Splash Pads around the Springs

If money is tight or you just need a change of routine for you 10 & under crowd try out a splash pad near you. They are free and usually have playgrounds close by and may even be a little less stressful for you mom if your kids aren’t independent swimmers yet. Check the city schedule for times the water turns on and off and be aware nearby pavillions have lightning sensors installed so if some silver bullets show up within 6 miles the water automatically shuts off for 30 minutes!

20. Relish a decadent dessert at a boutique bakery

Need a change of scenery, a sweet treat, and a memorable moment all rolled into one? Visit these local Parisian and Dutch derived specialty bakeries. Marigolds provides a more formal feel with white linen tables cloths and quiet setting for lunch or dinner. Boonzaaijer’s Dutch Bakery has a more relaxed atmosphere with many unique desserts you won’t see at chain sit-down restaurants.

Summer Bucket List Simplicities

As I continue sharing this list, let’s be honest: does the idea of doing ALL these ideas make you tired? Don’t do all. The. Things. Plan for some stay-at-home days or weeks where kids are simply playing the yard, riding bikes, making art, Lego creations and even, (gasp!) helping you cook dinner! Creating great summer memories doesn’t mean you have to be lugging your kids off to some other “fun” location every day. Home, routines like running errands, and having daily quiet time are grounding and life-giving. Like music needs notes and rests, our lives need activity and downtimes . . .

“The pause is as important as the note”.

Truman Fisher, Jazz & classical musician

You need nap time aka down time too. It’s okay for kids to be bored. Let your kids know straight away that morning, “Okay my dear ones, today we’re going to do chores till lunch time and I need your help. If you keep a good attitude you will be able to . . . (watch a movie, have a rare sweet treat, play some video games, have a water balloon flight in the backyard etc.) this afternoon and I will be (name your rest activity: taking a bath, talking with friend)”.

With that said, here’s some at-home summer bucket list ideas:

Don't kick the bucket when you do this bucket list item--just prep with the right materials!

21. Make some art!

I love art and wood projects like craft birdhouses. Painting with my kids is totally on my bucket list, but the mess some projects make isn’t worth the payoff. Have you felt this way sister?! Do yourself a favor, keep the projects simple. My fav staple items are:

  1. A reusable table cloth-Slap it on your dining table and avoid nagging kids to keep their artwork on top of shifting newspaper and placemats
  2. Painters tape-you never know when this will come in handy!
  3. Water paint pads–for my youngest to feel like he’s a part of the party without a big mess
  4. Paint sticks-quick dry paint sticks kids can use to color wood, paper or cardboard without a drippy mess
  5. Sun-catchers-pick from a variety of rotating seasonal options, completed suncatchers can be great gifts for grandparents 😘🥳
  6. Bird houses or FREE take-home wood projects from Home Depot Kids Workshops
  7. Shaving cream-a great finale activity to any messier artwork time. Kids can finger draw and write with it, it cleans their hands and disinfects your reusable tablecloth all at the SAME time! Win. Win. Win!

22. Make homemade popsicles

A homemade frozen treat for delayed gratification tool is always a hit. Make this the one “extra” activity you complete with your kids on a rest day or chore morning. Be sure to purchase popsicle stick with holes in the dipping section. Otherwise your sticks can easily be pulled out from the popsicle base and your frozen treasure still seated inside the popsicle base.

23. Garden together! 🌱🌱🌱

If you’ve never gardened before here are some tips:

  1. Start small. Don’t plant 10 different veggies or herbs to start unless you live where the soil is naturally rich and humidity prevalent. Colorado has neither of these! Set yourself up for success by giving your family time to learn and research ideal gardening approaches for your area.
  2. Visit your LOCAL nursery. Staff at mom and pop shops usually know gardening tips for your area way better than any Lowe’s or Home Depot staff.
  3. Learn where to acquire the best soil–don’t go with the cheap stuff. Soil is the foundation to your garden “house”. Two years ago, we didn’t refresh our soil base, we figured we were good since we had paid for nice truckload of dirt to fill the whole box only the year before. However, last year we did re-fresh the soil with two news bags of soil mixed into the base soil. Holy cow! Our tomato plants practically turned into trees! Our garden the year before was way less impressive.
  4. Pick plants you like and your kids are interested in observing or enjoying. Maybe a veggie garden isn’t your thing but you love flowers? Give your kids an opportunity to pick out a flower tray or seeds they kind intriguing.

24. Enjoy a campfire in your backyard or inside?!

When you’re itching a little camping flare without all the packing and prep enjoy a night with friends and family around a firepit! Grab some marshmallows or really up your game with these specialty smore recipes Seth and I recently discovered.

But may be it’s raining, you forgot firewood or you just want camping ambiance inside?! We discovered these clean burning indoor firepits fueled by rubbing alcohol and they have been some magical! I’m still figuring out this whole Amazon affiliate thang so eventually I’ll show you a link to this firepit 😘 My apologies!

25. Find a new family board or card game

At the risk of being redundant from my 15 Cozy Screen-free Activities in Winter check out Petrie’s Game Café. I am big fan of this place because you can also rent games to test them out before you purchase them. Board games create structured fun together with the guideline of game objective and rules. Additionally old school games can eventually be a great way for siblings entertain themselves screen-free without mom and dad always having to be in the mix. Our oldest two kiddos have been punching out UNO independently for more than year now (youngest player was 4) and Skip-o for about 4 months (youngest just 4 months shy of 5).

Lost with where to start? Here’s my Kid Approved List of Indoor Games to Kick Boredom’s Backside

26. Go camping–even in the backyard!

Making camping reservations with is amazing, but you have to be on your A-game for prime picks. ☝️☝️Did you know reservation slots open 6 months PRIOR to your arrival date?!?? Dispersed camping is always an option, but sometimes even a tent set up in the backyard is a great getaway for families with young kids. Let the littles play in the tent all day, eat dinner outside and join them for a backyard sleepover for an evening or two on the weekend or just let them enjoy their nap time there and scratch the overnight idea 😉

27. Have a water fight–more than once!

Splash tables and water guns provide a quick way to cool off without leaving the house. Water guns with slide back water cartridges make refilling a pistole easy to do. Again, I’ll show you a link to my favorite water pistol and splash tables 😘 once Amazon and I become better acquainted . . .

28. Keep a weekend journal

When Monday rolls around do you ever just need sometime to gather your thoughts? Create a Monday routine with kids writing in a summer journal recording highlights from the weekend/week before. You can set different requirements for different ages: pre-K kids draw a picture to represent their thoughts vs. old kids write said number of sentences and draw a picture.

Have fun and breath!

Summer can be a great time to connect more with your kids! Remember every family has their own rhythm and needs. Guard yourself from comparison. What you see on social media or in public from other moms is a small part of their whole day. What refuels another mom might stress you out.

For instance, I purposely did NOT list ” Visit Cheyenne Mountain Zoo” as a Summer Bucket List for Colorado Springs. Summers at this zoo are crazy crowded with tourists, in my opinion, and not life giving. I’d rather go in the fall or spring. Morning hiking on the other hand? I’m game. That’s refreshing for me.

Do what fills your cup and fosters connection with your kids. Leave the rest!

As for daily summer routines and a need for structure? Certainly a need! I’ll chat about that in the near future; full disclosure: I’m NOT the mom who naturally creates daily summer routines. Complete opposite. I love flying by the seat of my pants! 🥳😳😆 But I’ve realized if I do this too much I pay for it and so does my family. Eecks!

Ahh but I digress! Back to this Summer Bucket list . . . pick 3 you’re going to try and drop me a line or comment below with feedback once you’ve completed your first activity. . . let’s keep trekking this parent path together! Hiking alone isn’t safe or good for the soul.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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