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Seventy miles south of Denver on I-25, COLORADO SPRINGS was originally developed as a vacation spot in 1871 by railroad tycoon William Jackson Palmer. He attracted so many English gentry to the town that it earned the nickname of "Little London." Despite sprawling for ten miles alongside I-25, modern Colorado Springs, a bastion of conservatism compared to liberal Denver, still retains much of Palmer's vision, thanks to a high military presence, fundamentalist religious organizations, the exclusive Colorado College and a well-to-do Anglo-American community.

Motorists whisk through the incredible Garden of the Gods, on the west edge of town off US-24 W, without bothering to get out of their vehicles. This gnarled, twisted and warped red sandstone rockery was lifted up at the same time as the nearby mountains (around 65 million years ago), but has since been eroded into finely balanced overhangs, jagged pinnacles, massive pedestals and mushroom formations. The visitor center, at the park's eastern border (tel 719/634-6666), has details on hiking and mountain biking trails.

At the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, 101 Pro Rodeo Drive, off I-25 exit 147 (daily 9am - 5pm; $6), videos and displays explain the sport's various disciplines (calf roping, barrel racing and the like).  Other local exhibits of note include the painting and sculpture gardens of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W Dale St (Tues - Fri 9am - 5pm, Sat 10am - 5pm, Sun 1 - 5pm; $6), ranging from Native American art to Post-Modern pieces; the displays and demonstrations of specialized mining equipment at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, east of I-25 exit 156A (Mon - Sat 9am - 4pm, Sun noon - 4pm; $6); and the town's history museum, the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, 215 S Tejon St (Tues - Sat 10am - 5pm, Sun 1 - 5pm; free), part of which is a restored courtroom, location for a number of Perry Mason episodes.

The scenic pine filled campus with a Rocky Mountain backdrop, is home to America's future Air Force officers. Enter Colorado's third most popular attraction at the North Gate for a glimpse of a B-52 bomber. Travel six miles to the visitor center, chock-full of exhibits, short films and a gift shop. Tour the stunning Cadet Chapel with 17 magnificent spires reaching 150 feet into the sky. Or check out Falcon stadium where the Air Force Falcons Football team plays, and keep an eye above where the skies are colored with cadets practicing parachuting and flying Thunderbird jets.

THE CADET CHAPEL Soaring 150 feet toward the Colorado sky, the Air Force Academy Chapel is an all-faith house of worship designed to meet the spiritual needs of cadets. It contains a separate chapel for each of the three major religious faiths represented in the Air Force - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish - plus two all-faiths worship rooms. There are two main levels, with the Protestant nave on the upper level. The Catholic and Jewish chapels and one all-faiths room are located beneath it. Beneath this level is located the larger all-faiths room and two meeting rooms. Each chapel has its own entrance, and services may be held simultaneously without interfering with one another. The aluminum, glass and steel structure features 17 spires. There is no significance to this number. Original designs were judged to be too expensive, so changes were made, among them a reduction in the number of spires. The changes did not alter the basic design or the interior square footage of the chapel, however. The shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million to build. Furnishings, pipe organs, liturgical fittings and adornments of the chapel were presented as gifts from individuals and various organizations. A designated Easter offering was also taken at Air Force bases around the world in 1959 to help complete the interior. The principal designer-architect of the chapel was Walter A. Netsch Jr. of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago. Construction was by Robert E. McKee, Inc., of Santa Fe, N.M.

The most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world behind Japan's Mount Fuji, Pikes Peak forms a stunning backdrop for Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods. At an altitude of 14,110 feet above sea level, Pikes Peak is the 31st highest peak out of 54 Colorado peaks. It is the farthest east of the big peaks in the Rocky Mountain chain, which contributed to its early fame among explorers, pioneers and immigrants and made it the symbol of the 1859 Gold Rush to Colorado with the slogan, "Pikes Peak or Bust". The 8.9 mile Cog Railway started operating year round in 2007 weather permitting.
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August-Colorado Springs, CO-Crowne Plaza
97 rooms/230