Nestled in the rocky hillside of Colorado Springs is the United States Air Force Academy, the elite university that prepares students to serve in the Air Force. The Academy is home to more than 4,000 cadets, as well as a few attractions that are fun for the whole family.
Begin your day at the Academy by stopping at the Visitor Center. Pick up a map of campus, grab a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, and wander through different exhibits to learn more about the university’s history. The Visitor Center even has live falcons—the Academy’s mascot—for tourists to meet.
The Cadet Chapel is a must-see attraction at the Academy. This magnificent center of worship welcomes all faiths and features a stained-glass interior with 17 spires that reach 150 feet into the sky. The Cadet Chapel cost more than $3.5 million to build, and is free to the public. To get there from the Visitor Center, follow Academy Drive to the next visitor parking lot, or walk 0.3 miles along the marked nature trail.
James B. Bruni Auditorium at the John H. Martinson Planetarium and STEM Center
Air Force Academy alumnus James B. Bruni helped raise more than $2.5 million to renovate and reopen the long-closed planetarium this spring. The building originally was used for teaching cadets to navigate using the stars, but now it’s open and giving free shows to the public on weekdays. This domed building is just a short walk from the Cadet Chapel.
Where to get lunch
After visiting the Air Force Academy, head to downtown Colorado Springs for some spectacular lunch choices. With streets lined with restaurants and bars, there’s a little something for everyone. Try out Bambino’s Urban Pizzeria (E. Bijou St.), Oskar Blues Grill & Brew (N. Tejon St.), or Springs Orleans (E. Pikes Peak Ave.). If you’re lucky, maybe the Thunderbirds will buzz you overhead.