You cannot describe this place to people, you have to show them. The big, honkin' red rock formations are stunning. Do not miss Balanced Rock, and make sure you take a picture of yourself pretending to hold it up. It is likely that you will see lots of bunnies hopping around and enormous buck deer striding casually along. Do not go with a real photo bug who will want to stop every 100 feet to take a picture unless you are one yourself.
The traffic on Garden of the Gods road is usually horrendous at all times of day, so you might want to take Hwy 24 to 30th street (better Google it; I'm not sure I have the right numbers) from Manitou Springs instead. Manitou Springs has great shopping.
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