Since my mom moved to the area, we stayed pretty busy for a while showing her around.  One day, we took a trip to show her some of our favorite places. 

First, we went to Garden of the Gods.  This an area where it looks like God just decided to place a small group of very large, oddly shaped red rocks in the middle of otherwise brown and green rolling hills.  It is beautiful, and there are several trails that wind through the rocks in the park.  The rock shapes change as you meander down the trail, viewing them from different angles.  Many of the rocks have names based on the way they appear from certain angles, such as “Cathedral rock,” “Kissing Camels,” “Sleeping boy,” etc. 

It was a bit nippy that day, as you can tell!  We were all bundled up. 

You can just see JR in the hole behind A

The kids’ favorite part was climbing on certain rocks where it was allowed.  I think they spent most of the morning looking for those climbing areas, while we enjoyed the view. 

JR on "Balancing Rock"

After we all tired of exploring the rocks, we headed to the zoo.  This zoo is great, as one of the first things you get to do after coming in the gate is feed and pet the giraffes.  It is a hit even with folks who wouldn’t normally pay to do such a thing.  There are, I believe, 13 giraffes, ranging in age (and height) from newborns to senior citizens.  As with any animal, the babies are absolutely adorable.  While we did manage to feed a couple of the babies, it was difficult to get a pic of them since the adults tend to move in for the food pretty quickly. 

Even Nana managed to overcome her "Ick factor" and let a giraffe lick a cracker from her hand.

We were very blessed when a group of folks who had purchased LOADS of crackers tired of feeding the giraffes and handed the crackers to our kids.  I think we got to spend a solid 20 minutes feeding and petting these amazing animals. 

This senior giraffe was penned up seperate from the others, and was desperate for some lovin' (or maybe it was just desperate for a cracker). Whatever the case, he decided little A would suffice just fine, and he reached over much further than I thought he could and took a big lick right up A's coat and face! YUCK! A loved it, and just giggled for several minutes afterward.

N's first carousel ride. He wasn't so sure at first, but after the first round, he had a huge smile on his face the rest of the ride. I never could get him to look at the camera though!

This was our 2nd favorite exhibit (after the giraffes, of course)....the atrium. It is a room just filled with hundreds of parakeets, cockatiels, canaries, finches, and a few others. I got lucky enough to have one of the parakeets climb right onto my hand and sit there for a minute. M and Nana really liked this exhibit as well.

M was lucky enough to get some one-on-one time with an elephant. OK, I'm kidding. It was just a big cut-out. Made for a neat photo-op though!

After the zoo, we decided to head up and see the Will Roger’s Shrine.  It is a castle-like structure, built in remembrance of the late Will Rogers who died in a plane crash.  His life-long friend built it and dedicated it to him.  It sits on the side of a mountain, over 8,000 feet high, overlooking the city of Colorado Springs and the famous Broadmoore area.  It is a fascinating place just because of how it was built, though.  I found this partial description on the shrine’s website:  

“The shrine has an entry gate with stone piers, an eighty foot high observation tower, looks like a fortress with a stone turret, and is built of 5,000 cubic yards of native Cheyenne Mountain gray-pink granite quarried from a single boulder. Anchored 28 feet into a solid rock buttress, the entire structure, void of nails or wood, is bound by 200,000 pounds of steel and some 30 wagon loads of cement.”

As I said, it is quite impressive.

The Shrine

When you first walk in, there are murals painted all over the main floor.  They contain amazing detail and tell many stories of the past.  Some of the doors are 4-6 inch thick metal, just as you would picture in a renassaince-type castle.

It is actually a rather small space inside, with only about 4-6 rooms.  There is one room on each floor, and 2 outdoor overlooks as you go up.  If I remember correctly, there were about 16 small flights of stairs that zig-zagged their way up the tower. 

The view from an overlook about half way up the tower.

In the “basement” area of the shrine, accessed via a seperate outdoor entrance, there is a small chapel area.  It, too, is ornately beautiful.  In addition, at the top of the tower are chimes that sound heavenly music hourly throughout the day. 

After the shrine, we were all quite cold, the toddlers were falling asleep, and we all agreed it was time to call it a day.  We headed home to rest up for another adventure with Nana.