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Destination Pueblo: Staycation

With gas prices climbing, summer vacation plans tend to dwindle.
There is hope.

You can kick off a memorable summer with a “staycation” on Memorial Day weekend.

What’s a “staycation,” you ask? A staycation is a vacation in your own backyard. For those pinching pennies but wanting something fun to do this summer, here are a couple of ideas that are keepers:

Remember those who have served our country on Memorial Day by taking a tour of “The Walk of Valor,” right here in Pueblo. This is a walking tour that takes you along the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, with a stop at the Center for American Values, where you’ll learn about the significance of the Medal of Honor and all those who have received the designation.

Continue your stroll across Veterans Bridge, a memorial to all those with ties to Pueblo who have served in the Armed Forces, to Heroes Plaza at the Pueblo Convention Center. Statues honoring the four Puebloans who have received the Medal of Honor are on display in the plaza outside the Convention Center, and more information and artifacts are located inside the building. You’ve probably seen at least one of these landmarks before, but this journey is truly unforgettable.

Southern Colorado is home to four scenic and historic byways. Pack up the cooler, load up the family, and set out along Frontier Pathways Scenic & Historic Byway. You can stop at Lake Isabel for a picnic. If you want to get out of town, head west and take the Gold Belt Tour, a loop through some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. If you head south, you can travel along the Highway of Legends, a gorgeous drive that meanders between Walsenburg and Trinidad.

East of Trinidad, you can catch the Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway and learn a little bit about Colorado history during your journey. All these routes are do-able in a day, but to make your trip really memorable, consider taking along a tent and camping overnight. Camping facilities are available along each of the Byways. Hiking, fishing and wildlife watching are just some of the fun and inexpensive activities you can do on your Byway staycation.

If you’ve been saving up for a big trip this summer, but the sky high cost of air fare is leaving you grounded, consider a staycation that will have you longing for the good old days by taking a train ride. To make your trip unique, start out at the Pueblo Railway Museum and learn how trains helped put our town on the map. Did you know that five different railroads – with five different depots – kept the rail yards that are still in use today busy with passenger trains and steam engines that hauled coal into town and steel out? Steam Locomotive #2912 is a restoration project at the museum that you can check out, and learn how steam and steel made Pueblo great.

Then take a trip up to Cañon City to ride on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. This scenic train ride takes passengers on a short but oh-so-sweet trip up the Royal Gorge – right under the suspension bridge and through some incredible scenery. The railroad offers a menu of services, from an economical ride in the scenic Vista Dome to a fancy and very fun Murder Mystery train ride that includes dinner and drinks. (Pssst, there’s a Mother’s Day Brunch train ride that’s guaranteed to make lots of memories for your family.)

Or, you could head south and a little bit west to La Veta and catch the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, which kicks off its season on Memorial Day weekend with excursion train rides. The 100-year-old steam engine that takes travelers through tunnels and over La Veta Pass is the star of the show, but you can ride the train on select dates throughout the summer to the summit and catch a live outdoor concert with entertainers that come close to upstaging the Iron Horse. A “Rails and Ales” event is also on tap this summer.

Have you given up the gas-guzzling car all together? We’ve even got a staycation for you. Get your hands on a bicycle and take Pueblo’s wonderful bike trail system on out west of town to the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo. You can learn all about birds of prey that are native to our part of Colorado, refresh yourself at the Coyote’s Den Coffee Shop then head out to Lake Pueblo State Park – if your pedal power is up to par – and check out raptors in their native habitat. Wildlife programs are available at both the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo and at Lake Pueblo State Park that will help you become a birding pro.

There is much to see and do in Southern Colorado that’s affordable and guaranteed to create lasting memories.

By Karen McMahon

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