Ashley Does: Choosing Adventure Over Stuff – A Birthday Weekend In Manitou Springs, Colorado (Part 1)

I loathe birthday parties.

It’s no secret. I don’t like having a bunch of other people’s kids in my house. I don’t like the chaos or the mess or the expense. I tend towards introvertedness (yep, that’s a word now!) and entertaining strangers and their children is just not how I want to spend a Saturday afternoon.

This year, we made the decision as a family to stop with the birthday parties and start a new tradition: Birthday weekend trips as a family!

The cost is about the same as that huge birthday party with friends and favors and rentals, but it’s fun you guys. It’s a blast. And we are building memories instead of accumulating more junk in the form of birthday presents (can I get an amen?!).

The kids have loved it, and now that we have been through all the birthdays in our family, I can look back and reflect on how this decision has enhanced our lives. 

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In February, we went to Glenwood Springs, Colorado for Eleanor and Caroline’s birthday weekend. Their birthdays are just one day apart and they have had joint parties since Caroline was born the day after Eleanor’s third birthday.

When we decided to travel instead of party for their birthdays, both girls were on board and very excited. The trip itself was a great way to break in a new tradition: we got to have a mini road trip, we had a special dinner out on Saturday night, and then we spent Sunday in the natural hot springs pools. It was a roaring success.

Two happy kids in a hot spring! We loved Iron Mountain Hot Springs and will definitely go back!

My oldest daughter and I nearly share a birthday. She was born just two days after I turned 24. We decided that we would combine our birthday trip the way we combined Eleanor and Caroline’s in February.

When we were researching great places to travel with kids in Colorado, the Springs area kept popping up with fun things to do, so we pulled the trigger and planned a weekend in Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.

Y’all – you have to do this trip!

There was so much to do, there’s no way we could do it all (and do it justice) in the 48 hours we had. We absolutely can’t wait to get back!


Colorado Springs is a gorgeous two-hour drive from our house. Long enough to feel like we’ve gone somewhere, but not so long that we have to make any potty stops and the kids don’t quite get to the “killing each other in the back seat” point of road tripping.

We left around 9 in the morning and arrived at our first destination around 11: The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

We should have scheduled two days just for this zoo, you guys. If you have never been and you like zoos – get yourself to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo now. The experience should have it’s own post…and it may at some point.

It was a bit on the expensive side for a zoo (just over $80 for the five of us) but it was so very worth it. We fed giraffes. We got up close and personal with wallabies. We saw the most beautiful reptile displays I have ever seen in my 33 years. (I had no idea snakes and lizards could look like pieces of art!) We played with goats. We got so close to several animals that it felt like we were all out in the wild.

Petting giraffes may be the highlight of Olivia’s year – or life. It was amazing to get so close to her favorite animal!

And did I mention the views? Because, the views.

When you climb up to see the elephants, lions, and other animals, make sure to stop and take in the amazing views of Colorado Springs! It was breathtaking.

After the zoo, we headed to downtown Manitou Springs for a late lunch at Creekside Cuisine (absolutely delicious food and beer!) and to tour the awesome mineral springs! A stop at the visitor’s center yielded a map and tasting cups for the town’s eight naturally occurring mineral springs. They each tasted different and while Joe and I loved the water, the kids weren’t so sure. It’s a bit fizzy and tastes like mineral water so it’s an acquired taste, I am sure.

The eats and drinks at Creekside Cuisine were amazing and if it’s nice out – definitely check out their patio! It was sunny and people watching was fun!

On the walk back to the car (there is free parking if you are willing to walk to downtown Manitou – which we of course were!), we found a great park where the girls burned off their ice cream treats from Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream. We had the most decadent, tasty ice cream and I appreciated that they had a very clear gluten free menu for Eleanor! My scoop of Mocha Java Jolt had chocolate covered espresso beans in it and was basically heaven in a cup. I have no pictures of the ice cream because….ice cream.

To top off the night, we did the one and only thing my 9-year-old specifically requested for her birthday: we swam in the hotel pool. I know, BIG THINGS right? She was the happiest, most exhausted, birthday girl ever!

She was psyched to sleep in the window seat and insisted – who are we to say no to the birthday girl?

Part 2 coming soon, featuring all the amazing adventures we had on Sunday including a failed hike and a blast from the past!


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