Have you ever been to the Western Jubilee, National Museum of World War II Aviation or Paint Mines Interpretive Park? There’s no shortage of things to do in Colorado Springs, but we all get stuck in our ruts. That’s where a book like 100 Things To Do in Colorado Springs Before You Die comes in handy, whether you’re new to town or have lived here for years. It’s the first book by long-time local journalist and Springs magazine contributor Kirsten Akens, and it’s a great reference for finding new, well, things to do in Colorado Springs. We talked with Akens about some of her favorite discoveries and what went into writing the book.
Springs: So 100 things is a lot. Was it hard to come up with that many?
Kirsten Akens: After all of my research, I had a spreadsheet of more than 400 things I could have included, so the hard part was cutting the list down to so few. It is worth noting that even though the title says “100 Things,” with sidebars and such, I actually cover around 200, and the list includes a few towns east and west of the Springs, and some Southern Colorado day trips.
What sparked this book idea for you?
I had been doing a lot of travel journalism, visiting and reporting on cities across the U.S. and Canada and had connected with other writers who were travel guide authors. Reedy Press came up multiple times as a really awesome publisher to work with. When I researched their multiple book series, I realized that even though they had “100 Things” books in more than 70 places across the U.S. including Denver, they didn’t have a Colorado Springs edition. So I pitched them. This series felt like a perfect fit from the beginning.
How did you go about putting the list together?
I made a monster master list of everything I could think of, reviewed local Best Of lists from the past few years, and then began crowdsourcing through Facebook.
What were some new discoveries you found in researching and writing—maybe even stories behind well-known spots or activities that you weren’t aware of?
I really wanted this book to not only be beneficial for tourists, but also interesting for locals to read, so I spent quite a bit of time researching local history in order to include small bits when it made sense. For instance, I knew that Roman Villa was celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, and had planned to include them from the get-go because my husband and I have been enjoying their pizza and pasta for 20-some years. But I hadn’t known quite how many other restaurants we have locally that have been around for more than 35 years.
Do you have a top favorite? Or a Top 5?
If I didn’t believe strongly in something for some reason, it didn’t make the book. So while there are activities included that I don’t do myself—for instance, I don’t ride bikes, but lots of folks do, so I knew I needed to include Pike Ride and mountain biking trails—my favorites list is really long. People ask me this question a lot, and I’m more interested in finding out their interests and offering recommendations based on that.
What activities would you point long-time Springs residents toward, even if they think they’ve seen everything around town?
Seeing a concert at Western Jubilee, meeting someone new across the world through the Colorado Springs Portal, touring the National Museum of World War II Aviation, grabbing a coffee at Story Coffee Company (the only tiny-house coffee shop in the world, as far as we know), hiking at Paint Mines Interpretive Park or viewing a show at the newly reopened U.S. Air Force Academy Planetarium.
Where would you recommend that new residents dive into the list?
I would send them to the Culture and History section. They’ll learn a lot about the area by visiting places like Rock Ledge Ranch, the Pioneers Museum and Cave of the Winds.
Tell us about the curated lists of activities. Those seem like great groupings for exploring.
Because this book covers so many different areas of Colorado Springs, the curated lists offer an easy way for tourists in particular to hit a few based on their interests or the season.
You’ve lived here a long time. How has the process of writing and releasing this book changed your perspective on Colorado Springs?
I’ve been in the Springs for 27 years and after working as a journalist, primarily reporting locally for more than a dozen years, I knew there was a ton to do and experience here. Writing this book didn’t really change my perspective, but solidified that fact for me—and reinvigorated my interest in continuing to write and share more about my hometown.
Get Your Copy
Find some local secrets, and start checking off your list of new activities with your own copy of 100 Things To Do in Colorado Springs Before You Die.