Raising bright and inquisitive kids is the goal of almost every parent, but it can be hard to pull kids away from their favorite electronic devices. Whether they’re addicted to texting, video games or Facebook, it seems like today’s kids spend far too much time in front of a screen. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to do with kids in the Colorado Springs area.
Rather than trekking off to the old familiar spots, like the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Seven Falls, or Cave of the Winds, why not ignite an interest in Colorado Springs history. Two of the best ways to learn about the storied past of the Pikes Peak region are the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Ghost Town Museum.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Located in the beautifully restored El Paso County Courthouse (215 South Tejon Street), this extraordinary museum is also the official “municipal museum” of Colorado Springs. It portrays the culture and history of Colorado Springs by emphasizing the unique character of its earliest settlers. In its glory days, the Front Range community was a cultural mecca for Western artists, nomadic “gold seekers” and Pueblo and Plains Indians. In remembrance of this time period, the museum features a rotating exhibition with a variety of historical themes. But it doesn’t stop there.
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum also offers more modern themes, such as motorcycles, baseball memorabilia and juke boxes. Other collections include Van Briggle art pottery, a significant quilt collection and artifacts from the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute Indian cultures. Still, one of the most attractive exhibits here is a major mural by Eric Bransby. It is a pictorial history of the Pikes Peak region which traces the land from its earliest human occupancy to the completion of the Air Force Academy.
One of the main reasons this museum attracts such a diverse audience of thousands every year is its central location. Not only is it unique on the inside, the Pioneers Museum sits at the focal point of the downtown area, between the two primary downtown parks. Surrounded by lush green lawns and colorful flower gardens, the historic structure is accented by outdoor sculptures and a beautiful granite fountain. When you visit the Pioneers Museum you are in for a pleasant surprise. A visit provides a look into the spirit, past and present, of the city nestled at the foot of America’s most famous mountain.
Ghost Town Museum –
For some reason, the topic of ghost towns is intriguing to visitors of all ages. Once a fascination of Western movie producers, it is often startling for tourists when tourists realize that ghost towns still exist. If the story of this sudden Western migration isn’t enough to spark an interest in history, perhaps a visit to the Ghost Town Museum will.
When one visits an actual ghost town, and there are plenty left in Colorado, it’s easy to imagine the rough-and-tumble life of a gold prospector and how they would quickly leave one town and go to another in search of gold. There’s something about this lifestyle that free-spirited “Pikes Peak or Bust” nature that resonates with every American, and it was a significant factor in Colorado’s statehood. According to the Ghost Town Museum’s curators, “The miners and the people who provided services to them quickly populated the western frontier of the United States. They needed transportation, and before long the twin steel ribbons of the railroads were pushing into the mountains to transport ore for processing.”
During the Gold Rush of the 1860’s and 1870’s, towns sprang up overnight and soon blanketed the west. What began as small encampments soon became small towns and cities along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The quest for gold drove prospectors to every mountain peak and valley, but if gold wasn’t found or the mines played out, these towns were often left to become ghost towns.
Nothing in Colorado Springs better exemplifies what the towns of the Wild West might have looked like in the early 20th century. Visitors with children enjoy learning about what life was like 100 years ago, as they crank a butter churn, watch films about panning for gold, or play in an old-time arcade. Visitors also enjoy shopping for unique Colorado gifts or sipping an old-fashioned sarsaparilla soda.
Take some time this summer to rediscover the spirit of the American frontier by visiting the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Ghost Town Museum with your family.