City Spotlight: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is a beautiful, vibrant city nestled at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. Ranked as #5 in Best Places to Live by U.S. News, Colorado Springs offers a wonderful mix of gorgeous natural features and booming businesses. According to the U.S. Census, the housing costs for home ownership are a bit higher, but rental costs are on par with U.S. averages and median income is higher, offsetting the difference for many families. Colorado Springs residents also have particularly high rates of high school and college completion, creating a strong, well-educated workforce. The city offers a dependable public bus system serving the downtown area, though service in the remote suburbs can be limited.
- State: Colorado
- County: El Paso County
- Incorporated: June 19, 1886
- Elevation: 5,740 ft to 14,110 ft
- Area (total): 194.9 sq mi
- Area (land): 194.6 sq mi
- Area (water): 0.3 sq mi
- Population (2010 census): 416,427
- Population (2015 estimate): 456,568
- Zip codes: 80901-80951, 80960, 80962, 80970, 80977, 80995, 80997
- Area code(s): 719
- Time zone: Mountain Standard Time (MST)
Attractions and Things to Do
One of Colorado Spring’s greatest attractions is the world-famous Pike’s Peak, the most visited mountain in the U.S. and the second most visited in the world, behind only Japan’s Mount Fuji, with over half a million people visiting the Summit House every year. Barr Trail is a popular, advanced hiking trail to Pike’s Peak summit, with over 12 miles from the trailhead to the summit, and a 7,500 ft gain in elevation. Barr Trail has spaces for overnight camping and allows both dogs and bicycles. While you might have to pay for parking, hiking or driving to the peak itself is free. There’s also Pikes Peak Cog Railway, an 8.9 mile, 3-hour round-trip train ride up to and down from the summit, for a leisurely and scenic ride through the Pike’s Peak region. During the summer, the Railway also offers one-way tickets for those interested in hiking up or down and riding the other way. In December, the Railway has a special Santa Trains ride, a 45-minute round trip up to Minnehaha Siding with Santa’s elves.
In addition to Pike’s Peak, the city itself has a major outdoors scene, with over 9,000 acres of parkland and over 350 miles of trails, including the famous Garden of the Gods and the Manitou Incline. Several of the city’s many trails are ADA compliant, with plans to improve accessibility of existing parks and trails and to build accessibility into the many planned trails, parks, and playgrounds.
The Garden of the Gods is a 1,334.64-acre National Natural Landmark, with astounding and breathtaking scenery, including 300-foot high red sandstone formations; around 5 miles of paved and unpaved trails intended for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking; naturalist-led fun and educational walks; the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site; technical rock climbing; and much more. The park itself is free to the public, though some programs and sites within it have a small admissions fee.
The Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, also called the Chambers Ranch, is an amazing living history museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The ranch is located right off the entrance to the Garden of the Gods. It has four sites, each with buildings and costumed museum guides dedicated to portraying the life of a household from four periods of history: American-Indian life in 1775, a log cabin from the 1860s (the Galloway Homestead), a farm from the 1880s (Chambers Home and Ranch), and a 1907 Edwardian Country Estate.
The Manitou Incline is a steep hiking trail, one of Colorado’s most popular, rising over 2,000 feet in less than a single mile. The trail’s base is nearby the base of Barr Trail, right across the street from Cog Railroad, and just outside of West Colorado Springs.
The North Cheyenne Cañon Park is a gorgeous, 1,600-acre park home to beautiful forests, an array of wildlife, and breathtaking falls, including the Helen Hunt Falls. The Helen Hunt Falls visitor center offers interactive exhibits and scheduled hikes and walks.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the United States, with 950 animals and astounding views of the city below. The zoo offers several hands-on educational programs and events, alongside an antique carousel and the Mountaineer Sky Ride to the zoo’s summit.
As Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Olympic Committee Headquarters, the U.S. Paralympic Committee Headquarters, the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, the U.S. Olympic Training Center Velodrome, the World Arena Ice Hall Olympic training site, 23 National Governing Bodies for Olympic sports, the World Figure Skating Museum, and the future U.S. Olympic Museum. Colorado Springs offers a tremendous number of opportunities for athletes and sports fans alike thanks to its elevation, numerous trails, and many sports centers.
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is dedicated to the history of Colorado Springs and the surrounding Pikes Peak region. The museum offers free admission to see its more than 60,000 objects, including exhibits on quilting, fine art, pottery, Native American arts, the city’s history, author and activist Helen Hunt Jackson, and much more.
The city also has nearly 30 other wonderful museums, both large and small, dedicated to history, the arts, and several air and space museums.
Colorado Springs’ economy is strong, with several thriving industries and an unemployment rate of just 3.5% as of October 2016, below the national average, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The majority of industries have also seen at least moderate growth over a twelve-month period, and the unemployment rate has been overall falling for the past few years. Wages also tend to be at or slightly above the average for the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, commute times range from 30 minutes to under 10 minutes for the majority of the city, with only outlying, rural areas experiencing longer commutes, making the city an even more attractive place to live and work.
The government is the largest employer in Colorado Springs, with the military contributing a significant amount of the city’s workforce. Even outside of government employment, many of the city’s industries are contractors for the military. Understandably so, given the large number of bases in the area. Colorado Springs serves as the home to Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, NORAD, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The aerospace industry, especially research, is also a major employer in the area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado Springs was the third highest paying metropolitan area for aerospace engineers as of 2015, with Colorado being the highest paying state overall.
Manufacturing, especially in the high-tech industries, corners a good-sized share of the workforce. The Colorado Springs Business Alliance list over 400 different manufacturing companies covering everything from electronics to refurbishing recycled materials.
Tourism is one of Colorado Springs’ more enduring industries, due to the majestic Pikes Peak that soars over the city, the Rocky Mountains, and the over 55 attractions and activities local to the city. The city is also famous for its hotels and hospitality, and serves as a popular site for destination weddings and vacations.
As in most areas, health services and education make up a large portion of the workforce, with 37,600 jobs between them as of November, 2016. Many of the aforementioned manufacturing companies also specialize in healthcare equipment and innovative health technologies.
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