This rocking little town along the lower Arkansas River offers plenty of outdoor play and unexpectedly unique accommodations.
For good reason, there’s often a wait to get a table at Di Rito’s Italian Restaurant (gotodiritos.com) right on Cañon City’s Main Street. The gratis appetizer, a dish of roasted garlic and fresh bread, is so good the menu specifically notes that additional servings cost extra and most folks order more anyway. When playing at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park (royalgorgebridge.com), plan to have lunch at the newly renovated cafeteria, rebuilt after the tragic 2013 fire that burned down the visitor center. Burgers, sandwiches and salads are all available with floor-to-tall ceiling windows looking out on the gorge. For a pleasant afternoon on a tree-shaded terrace, set up a private VIP wine-and-cheese tasting at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (abbeywinery.com).
Just eight miles west of the city, the new Royal Gorge Cabins (royalgorgecabins.com) and luxury glamping tents have taken over the once commonplace Echo Canyon Campground. The modern luxury cabins come with one or two king beds options (the second king in a loft with great views), and include a kitchenette, gas grill, outdoor seating and corn hole games. The glamping tents range from spacious single or double queen options, each with their own fire pit, fire starting kit and some with a private patio. Echo Canyon Campground still offers a few bring-your-own-tent sites, but those are slowly being converted to the next generation of the glamping experience. There are a number of other standard campgrounds and RV resorts in the area, too.
Spring and summer are prime time to visit the area thanks to the snow melt runoff of the Arkansas River in the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park hosts a bunch of activities like a zip line, gondola, theater showing the colorful history of the area, a playground, and a brand new Via Ferrata rock climbing area right up the walls of the gorge. Echo Canyon River Expeditions (raftecho.com) offers a number of rafting trips on the Arkansas River that range from easy family friendly floats to fun rolling whitewater through the gorge and under the bridge. For a more leisurely time, tour the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (dinoxp.com) looking at the full-scale fossil casts, uncovering treasures in their dig pit, or taking on the challenge of the ropes course with full scale animated dinosaurs. Train buffs will love jumping on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad (royalgorgeroute.com) ride with their open air car and dome car where meals are served for this two-hour out and back ride up the Gorge, under the bridge, and along the river.