Pearl Street MallPearl Street Mall (credit: CBS)

There are plenty of beautiful days on which to explore everywhere from Estes Park to Boulder to Colorado Springs on a budget. Although it is time to embrace the cooler weather, the Front Range boasts more than 300 days of sunshine. With the holidays around the corner and Denver’s summer in the rear view mirror, affordable top day trips are a must.

Garden of the Gods (Credit, Colleen Bement)

Colorado Springs

In just about an hour, Denverites can find themselves on a beautiful getaway day to the south in Colorado Springs. The Springs are a mixed beauty of green landscape and stark red rocks with far more than a day’s worth of things to see. Just below the majesty of Pikes Peak are the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs. Stop by one of our country’s proud treasures and see the chapel and incredible landscape where Air Force cadets are trained. Then drive up the hill a ways to the breathtaking Garden of the Gods Park and stroll through red rock greatness. Time for lunch means time for the quaint Manitou Springs with its delicious places to grab a bite and explore the unique shops for those great holiday gifts. On the way back up I-25, be sure to swing by The Broadmoor Hotel to take in this lovely old hotel’s charm and landscape. Be sure to pack the camera.

Related: Holiday Weekend Visitors Check Out Newly Reopened Royal Gorge Park

Colorado Springs / Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Step away from the crowded zoo up north and explore the unique Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to the south. Known as America’s only mountainside zoo, this adventure is nestled in lush green trees and rocks of Colorado Springs. The animals live almost 7,000 feet above sea level. Just southwest of the downtown area of Colorado Springs, this zoo was founded in 1926 by philanthropist Spencer Penrose for his own private collection of exotic animals. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s hope is to help visitors fall in love with animals and nature and take action to protect them.

Boulder

The home of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Flatirons and the Pearl Street Mall, Boulder is a 45-minute getaway from the downtown Denver life. Take advantage of the mild fall weather of Colorado and hike the incredible Flatirons. Start off in Chautauqua Park and meander up trails of rocks and greenery completely opposite from city life. For those enthusiastic hikers, trek up Bear Peak and get a taste of what it feels like to hike a 14er. Downtown Boulder is the fascinating Pearl Street Mall where visitors walk up and down streets filled with fabulous food, out-of-the-ordinary shops and street performers. Visit the historic campus of University of Colorado at Boulder to see one of the most impressive college campuses in the West. Young and inspired minds spend their school season here among plenty of lush trees and gorgeous architecture.

Breckenridge

The crisp and cool glorious fall weather of Breckenridge awaits local skiers and riders, as well as out-of-town visitors excited to explore the famous ski resort. Before the chill of winter really sets in, this charming and welcoming mountain town serves up a day’s worth of fun including unique shops, delicious restaurants and plenty of activities for the entire family. Zip down a roller coaster on the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster. Young and old will find a thrill on these 2,500 feet of coaster tracks. There is no place better than the mountains to enjoy ice skating, and Breckenridge has an indoor and outdoor ice rink open to the public daily. Of course, if Mother Nature is ready, this mountain has some of the best skiing in the country.

Estes Park shops (Credit, Colleen Bement)

Estes Park

Known as the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, beautiful Estes Park is the perfect fall getaway. Not far from Denver is The Stanley Hotel, ghost hunting, shopping and good food all along the St. Vrain River. Downtown Estes Park hosts relaxing and tasty restaurants from pubs to pizzas to burgers grilled to perfection. Ice cream, candy and taffy can also be found along with shops to stroll through. Then just up the hill is the unmistakable white site of the historic Stanley Hotel. This lovely old hotel inspired Stephen King’s novel “The Shining.” Take ghost tour with cameras ready to catch a ball of light or feel the ghostly chill of a breeze from the basement. Jim Carrey is rumored to have fled his room and found other accommodations while filming “Dumb and Dumber.”

Related: Steam Locomotive Makes Debut At Colorado Railroad Museum

Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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