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Explore Colorado's colorful past in this spirited mountain town

  • 3 min to read
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A day in Central City transports you to a higher elevation and a charming historic era.

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This time capsule of a community sits off I-70 just 35 minutes west of Denver. Surrounded by stunning mountain views and lined with beautifully preserved historic buildings, Central City hearkens back to one of Colorado's most innovative periods. Its creative spirit is alive and well in 2020, with many talented artisans and entrepreneurs calling Central City home.

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Central City's downtown is awash in colorful murals that hearken the mining town's entrepreneurial past and creative present. Courtesy of Central City.

No need to plan extensively for your visit: one night is all you need to refresh your sense of adventure. Wrap up work on Friday and be in Central City in time for dinner and drinks at Dostal Alley Microbrewery, which has been brewing its refreshing suds with local wild hops since 1997.

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Need to get away? Wrap up work on Friday and be in historic Central City in time for dinner. Grab a drink at Dostal Alley Microbrewery, which has been brewing its refreshing suds with local wild hops since 1997. Courtesy of Central City.

Stop by the Central City Visitor Center on the way into town for a free face mask and plenty of helpful information on attractions from friendly locals. 

Book a cozy B&B room at the eclectic Nicki Lee Mansion, where Nicki herself will greet you and provide an experience one guest said was "for the soul that appreciates simple elegance." To stay where you play, snag a room at one of Central City's two casino hotels or reserve a spot at one of several nearby campsites offering RV and tent camping.

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The Nicki Lee Mansion in Central City is brimming with history, quirky and cozy creature comforts for your next weekend stay. Courtesy of Central City.

On Saturday morning, start your day with freshly brewed coffee and a savory plate of huevos rancheros or steak and eggs in the old-fashioned dining room at Millie's Restaurant

From there, you can explore Central City's delightful history as an innovative Rocky Mountain mining town. For some, the fascination is endless. 

"I love spending my days walking up and down these hallowed streets of my heroes," said David Forsyth, who serves as Executive Director and Curator of the Gilpin Historical Society

From gold miners and theater entrepreneurs to gunslingers and gamblers, Forsyth has spent the last 30 years researching Central City's most colorful characters. He even pays them a visit from time to time.

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Now home to creatives and entrepreneurs alike, Central City has given many mountain miners and railway trail blazers a place to shine. Courtesy of Central City.

"I like to go wander the cemeteries, looking for somebody or another," Forsyth said. "There's a lot of history out there to be discovered and enjoyed." 

Gilpin County is home to 11 mountain cemeteries, filled with elaborate headstones, picturesque scenery and of course, peaceful plots for notable figures like artist Frank "Pancho" Gates and casino proprietor Alice Ramstetter. According to Forsyth, in the 1950s, Ramstetter was arrested after refusing to shut down her casino's slot machines when gambling was outlawed. She brought her own bed and alarm clock to jail, and on Sunday mornings, Ramstetter was escorted to church where she played the organ for services, in true stubborn mountain town fashion.

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Gilpin County is home to 11 mountain cemeteries, filled with elaborate headstones, stunning scenery and peaceful plots for notable local figures. Courtesy of Central City.

Discover more of Central City's history on a tour of the Gilpin History Museum, a former school constructed in 1869, or Washington Hall, the oldest continuously operating government building in Colorado. See how Central City has brought its creative spirit into the 21st Century with a visit to the Mountain Heart Gallery.

Spend your afternoon hiking or biking any of the dozens of mountain trails that surround Central City or kick back and try your luck in one of the town's entertaining casinos.

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Central City is surrounded by stunning mountain views and beautiful hiking and biking trails, like the ones around Chase Gulch Reservoir. Courtesy of Central City.

You'll certainly join an illustrious crew of celebrities, musicians and politicians who have enjoyed a night or two in Central City. Over the last century and a half, the town has racked up quite the star-studded list of visitors, from P.T. Barnum and Ulysses S. Grant to Paul McCartney and Goldie Hawn. Folks like Charlie Pride and Dog the Bounty Hunter still pass through regularly, proving you just never know who you might spot in Central City.

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Try your luck at one of Central City's mountain casinos, where you might spot celebrities like Charlie Pride or Dog the Bounty Hunter behind a slot machine. Courtesy of Central City.

Central City's businesses and organizations are taking precautions to keep patrons safe this year. All businesses and public, indoor areas are requiring face masks and encouraging social distancing, while regularly cleaning all surfaces and spaces. 

To plan your next weekend adventure, go to VisitCentralCity.com.

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Vocalist Jennifer DeDominici performs on a balcony outside the restored Opera House in Central City. The town's rich history combined with its modern, creative spirit make for a great weekend getaway this year. Courtesy of Central City.

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