Best Of Cripple Creek and Pikes Peak Region

This is the best of Cripple Creek and the Pikes Peak Region

Best Of Cripple Creek and Pikes Peak Region

Part One

While Hollywood may have their annual Academy Awards competition, Cripple Creek and Teller County boasts of the infamous “Best Of” championship, sponsored by The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ) newspaper over the last two decades. (No worries as unlike our friends from Hollywood, we made sure to pick out the right envelopes when selecting the winners.) Once again, readers have declared their favorite places to gamble, play slots, cards and table games, dine, seek entertainment, hang out, converse and even gossip and grumble at politicians (yes, a rare concept in Cripple Creek and Teller County.

In addition, voters weren’t shy about announcing their top picks for public servants, casino employees, bartenders, local personalities and much more. In a heavily competitive “Best Of” 2017 contest, The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ) readers have dealt a few surprises and upsets, as well as obvious choices for the town’s high and low points. For this year’s contest, we continued to add a few more categories for “Best Of” contests, encompassing a wider area than just Cripple Creek and southern Teller County.  (Contrary to public opinion, there is a world beyond Cripple Creek.)

Due to space restraints, we are presenting the results of this detailed survey over the next two weeks with the main emphasis for our March 14 issue on casino and business-related competitions.  More Best Of winners will be announced in forthcoming issues in our publication and on our website and Facebook page.

So without any further delays, let’s pound the drums and shoot off the cannons: Here are the region’s newly acclaimed Best Of winners and finalists. Also, we want to make a special thanks to Tieva Simpson of our TMJ family for toiling over thousands of ballots in the final tabulations.    

We also would like to thank everyone who participated, as the volume of responses shattered previous records. We had to delay the recording of these results for weeks to tally the ballots.    


 Casino, Gaming and Business Competitions


The Most Money Won and Where

Gold — Century

Silver —  Bronco Billy’s

Bronze — Triple Crown

Honorable Mention:  Wildwood


In one of our newest competitions in the last several years for where gamblers win the biggest loot, Century led the way with reports of a $31,000-plus strike. Not bad for a small mountain gaming town.  Another TMJ Best Of gambler boasted of nearly as high winnings at Bronco Billy’s, while Triple Crown fared extremely well in this competition for the biggest loots, as did the Wildwood. Not surprisingly, many readers noted that they also have lost a hefty share of money in these same gaming-friendly establishments.  So the only way you can determine the accuracy of these reports is to play at these winning establishments yourself.  Go play in the Creek. 


Best Casino Atmosphere
Gold — Bronco Billy’s
Silver —  Wildwood
Bronze — Brass Ass (Triple Crown)

Honorable Mention: Century


In the battle for the ultra-friendly and the best casino atmosphere, it only makes sense that the gaming establishment with the most impressive longevity record among Creek casinos grabbed the gold. Billy’s started in Oct. 1991 as a small gaming hall and a few bar stools, with the intentions of becoming a true Colorado casino and establishing friendly customer service. After eight or so major expansions, capped by probably its most impressive surge into the former Gold Rush, this same theme remains.  Billy’s has been a frequent winner of the most-friendly competitions, largely because of their employees. The fact that Marc Murphy, the only original head CC casino manager remaining since the birth of gaming, is still in charge also doesn’t hurt. Our latest competition was no exception as Billy’s won this title in a landslide verdict. 


However, many of our readers favored the Wildwood, and many enjoyed the quaint atmosphere of the Brass Ass, part of the Triple Crown family of casinos.


Loosest Slots

Gold — Johnny Nolon’s

Silver — Brass Ass

Bronze — Midnight Rose

Honorable Mention — Bronco Billy’s

In another repeat victory in the duel of the Super Loose, Johnny Nolon’s, along with their sister or brother establishment, the Colorado Grande, emerged as the clear victor. This is the fourth consecutive win for Nolon’s in the battle of the loose slots.  That’s not surprising, as Nolon’s has frequently touted itself as the place “where the slots are looser,” a slogan backed up by some impressive statistics and touted frequently by head manager and owner, David Minter, one of the town’s well-known casino veterans. Well, TMJ readers and Best Of participants apparently agree with these claims that are part of the establishment’s colorful history. After all, old Johnny Nolon always liked a loose betting game, when he ran his saloon in the late 1890s. As far as larger casinos, the Triple Crown, with its Brass Ass and Midnight Rose properties, easily snagged the Silver and Bronze trophies respectively. Bronco Billy’s also fared well in this heavily competitive contest. 

Best Table Games

Gold — Triple Crown

Silver —  Bronco Billy’s

Bronze — Wildwood

When Amendment 50 was implemented in the summer of 2009, the stakes definitely changed for Colorado gambling with the arrival of new games such as Roulette and Craps and higher limits. Although locally, Cripple Creek hasn’t fared as well as gaming rival Black Hawk, (the evil Goliath of Colorado gambling), the town definitely abounds with much more excitement for table game and card buffs. In another repeat championship, Best Of participants heavily favored the mega table area offered at Brass Ass, part of the Triple Crown Casinos. This is just what folks imagined with these new added games. Meanwhile, in a neck-to-neck showdown for the runner-up spot, Bronco Billy’s slightly edged the Wildwood. Some of our participants also raved about the card game activity at Double Eagle and Century.   

Best Lodging in Cripple Creek

Gold — Century

Silver — Wildwood  

Bronze — Double Eagle

Honorable Mention: Bronco Billy’s/Midnight Rose

For the third consecutive year, TMJ Best Of participants favored the luxurious suites and lodging amenities of Century casino.  For quite some time, these deluxe, trophy-rooms were known as the best secret in town. But now, the secret is out, as Century won this title again in convincing fashion. And Century is playing out its lodging card in a major way in proceeding with ambitious plans for the renovation of the Palace hotel, one of the town’s historic gems since the 1890s. This could propel a trend for more lodging amenities in downtown Cripple Creek.


Many TMJ participants also enjoy the convenience and pool splendor of the Gold King Inn, owned by the Wildwood, which actually prevailed as the town’s first major new hotel project in the post-gaming era. And the Double Eagle, known for its lavish rooms, and the first major casino to gamble on lodging nearly 20 years ago, snagged the bronze.  Meanwhile Bronco Billy’s, with its move into the Gold Rush, is becoming more well-known as a big lodging player. Meanwhile, many TMJ Best Of participants favored the great accommodations and amenities offered at other local casinos, such as Colorado Grande and Midnight Rose. All in all, local lodging amenities were cited as one of the big improvements in town in recent years.  This category featured the most contestants among casino/business competitions.   


Best Casino Entertainment

Gold —  Bronco Billy’s

Silver — Triple Crown

Bronze — Double Eagle


TMJ participants raved about the acoustic performances at The Lounge (located just outside The Steakhouse in Bronco Billy’s), especially while waiting for their tables to open up. Plus, area residents are waiting in anticipation for the return debut of the Palladium by Billy’s, located directly outside the former Gold Rush property. In the past, this amphitheater hosted some memorable concerts and great times. But many readers voted support for the various entertainment and promotional outings at the Triple Crown establishments. At the same time, many Best Of responders cited casino entertainment as something they would like to see occur more in Cripple Creek.  


Best Local Entertainment

Gold — The Butte Theater

Silver — Cripple Creek City Council Meetings

Bronze — Gold Bar Room Theater

Honorable mention: DDA meetings


Cripple Creek is a town that prides itself on entertainment.  And probably no venue caters to this need better than the Butte Theater, which now ranks as one of the best and most comfortable hubs for live theater and community shows in the entire Pikes Peak region. The Butte, with the very impressive Thin Air Theatre Company, now showcases a diverse assortment of shows including Broadway musicals, comedies, melodramas and holiday performances.  There is no shortage of performances in the Creek. The Butte also has garnered much better support from the current group of elected leaders than past years, when the fate of The Butte became quite a political entertainment show, worthy of a melodrama skit itself.


However, with the lively debates over legalizing retail marijuana and cutting funds for the Salute to American Veterans Rally and motorcycle procession, the Cripple Creek Council Chambers has become the place to be the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month. Although the current council doesn’t particularly like controversies, they have been forced to set the tone for great entertainment shows. Personally, we wouldn’t think of being anywhere else on Wednesdays. These shows may even rival Donald Trump’s press conferences. Many readers, though, voted for the Gold Bar Room Theater. This spot, located inside the Imperial, has featured a variety of diverse acts. And for political hot times outside Cripple Creek, it’s hard to beat the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority meetings. Attend one of those wild affairs, and you may need a shot of whisky to settle your nerves. The only problem is they occur at 7:30 in the morning. Maybe, the Woodland Park government should open up their own mini-bar.


Best Casino Bar

Gold –Triple Crown (Pint & Platter)

Silver –Bronco Billys (Baja Billy’s)

Bronze — Wildwood (Salty Lime)

Honorable Mention: Johnny Nolon’s


With the arrival of gaming and the death of more retail establishments, casino bars have often become a frequent hangout, and a place to try your luck at video poker and other betting games at the same time, while grabbing a bite to eat.  For this year’s Best Of competition, the Triple Crown Casinos, which boasts many diverse bars at its three establishments, snagged the gold.  For the second year in a row, readers clearly favored the Pint & Platter at McGills Casino and Hotel, known for its authentic Irish pub atmosphere and many historic touches from the old country, great food, as well as offering a prime place for viewing sports games and enjoying ideal video poker opportunities. The Pint & Platter received rave reviews among our Best Of responders. There must be a few Irish gamblers in town.   


However, many TMJ readers also enjoy the bar atmosphere at the Baja Billy’s, part of the Bronco Billy’s family, and Wildwood’s Salty Lime. Both of these cantinas have commanded quite a following.  


Best Cripple Creek Bar

Gold —  Ralf’s Breakroom

Silver –Pint & Platter

Bronze — Baja Billy’s

In a new competition this year, TMJ Best Of participants rallied behind Ralf’s as the town’s overall favorite bar. Ralf’s has gained quite a reputation for attracting locals, famous dignitaries, journalists, storytellers and all kinds of sordid characters. It now reigns as the premiere non-gaming spot for cocktails/alcoholic beverages and great conversations. Its win demonstrates that people still like bars outside of gaming establishments. However, Pint & Platter, the Irish bar and restaurant, featured at Triple Crown’s McGills casino, generated a huge volume of top votes, as did Baja Billy’s.


Best Bar in the Region

Gold –Historic Ute Inn

Silver — Ralf’s Breakroom

Bronze — BierWerks

Honorable Mention: Russ’ in Divide

In a repeat victory, the Historic Ute Inn defended its title as the premiere bar/eatery in the Teller and Pikes Peak universe. Old Bert Bergstrom, the former Ute owner and one-time ruler of Woodland Park, would be proud. The Ute has an amazing legacy and is an overall fun place to hang out, whether you are a government bureaucrat, rich yuppie, a motorcycle enthusiast, military veteran, a lowly TMJ employee or fan, or someone just traveling through the area. Ralf’s, a definite institution in the Creek, snagged the Silver, and BierWerks, which has sported a place at Bronco Billy’s and is very well-known in Woodland Park, garnered the Bronze title.


Best Casino Food Deals

Gold — Wildwood

Silver — Triple Crown

Bronze — Bronco Billy’s

Honorable Mention: Century/Double Eagle

In a repeat victory, the Wildwood, which isn’t afraid to try different restaurant combinations, prevailed as a culinary favorite for best food deals, always a big competition in Cripple Creek. The Wildwood is known as the food discount champ, followed by Triple Crown and Bronco Billy’s. Currently, the Wildwood boasts of such diverse choices as Borriello Brothers pizza, the Creekside Cuisine, Mavericks, the Salty Lime and more, is a hard culinary act to rival when it comes to great deals.   
Best Casino Restaurant

Gold –The Steakhouse (Bronco Billy’s)

Silver –Mavericks (Wildwood)

Gold — Maggie’s (Colorado Grande)

Honorable Mention: Down Under (Triple Crown)

In our first-ever competition for the finest casino culinary spot, The Steakhouse easily snagged top honors. What other place do people make reservations several weeks in advance for a restaurant in Cripple Creek?  The Steakhouse is known for its culinary trophy dishes and a great atmosphere. Many of our readers, though, opted for Mavericks, at Wildwood, which has made quite an impression on gamblers and non-gamblers alike. And Maggie’s at Colorado Grande, with its name stemming from a legendary ghost, has been a consistent culinary hot spot since 1991.   


Best Region-wide Restaurant

Gold –Historic Ute Inn

Silver — McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Bronze — Carmen’s

Honorable Mention: Mucky Duck

In the quest for the gold as the restaurant of choice in our region-wide abode, the Historic Ute Inn won another repeat title. The Ute has made major strides under the ownership of the personable Karen Murphy, whose only weakness in life is rooting for the ugly New England Patriots. (Make her eat clam chowder for three weeks.) Try their elk burgers and steak bombs, and don’t forget to listen to a few lively stories from Karen and her husband, Elijah Murphy. Many TMJ respondents, though, enjoy McGintys, an amazing success story for Divide, the Center of the Known Universe. McGinty’s is even better now with its impressive sports bar addition, and will be a prime spot to visit for the forthcoming St. Patrick’s week. Of course, Carmen’s, a favorite spot among Woodland Park restaurant-goers, has also gained quite a following


Best Restaurant for Fine Dining

Gold — Down Under (Triple Crown)

Silver –Mucky Duck

Bronze –The Steakhouse (Bronco Billy’s)

Honorable Mention: Double Eagle

In a repeat victory, the Down Under was rated as the best restaurant in Creek and area for fine dining. Maybe this is an attribute to the restaurant’s Australian flair, great entrees and buffets, and even some ideal Greg Norman wines. (“Try this wine and entrée, mate, and you’ll hit the golf ball 300 yards,” as Greg would say.) But voters outside Cripple Creek, definitely favored the Mucky Duck in Green Mountain Falls, while The Steakhouse definitely snagged a hefty volume of tallies from Creek voters and those outside the town.



Best Casino Players Club

Gold — Bronco Billy’s

Silver — Century

Bronze — Midnight Rose

Honorable Mention: Wildwood

Chalk up another victory for Bronco Billy’s, which isn’t afraid to tout its players’ club, often regarded as the promotional lifeblood of local casinos. In a tight competition, Billy’s edged past Century, Triple Crown and Wildwood. All in all, Best of responders praised the players’ clubs of virtually all local casinos. They offer some great deals, so check them out next time you visit Cripple Creek.  



Best Area-wide Retail Store

Gold — 9494 Gifts with Altitude

Silver — The Cowhand

Bronze — Creations Everlasting


Best Of voters again picked 9494 as their favorite retail hub. This shop, specializing in a variety of items, has fared quite well in virtually every Best Of contest conducted by TMJ. But with more people participating in the contest from the entire region, The Cowhand, a historic institution for decades, and a mainstay for tourists and those who like western and cowboy/cowgirl garb, snagged the Silver. If you don’t know what to buy, just ask store owner and civic leader Merry Jo Larsen, and she will lead you in the right direction. And Creations Everlasting, located in the Double Eagle also, made an impressive showing in the Best Retail showdown.


Best Local Hangout

Gold — Ralf’s Breakroom

Silver — Historic Ute Inn

Bronze — Blue Moose

No competition whatsoever. Ralf’s, whether it is due to the duel charismatic and obnoxious personality of owner Chris Hazlett, who also serves as  a member of the acclaimed city council; or the great customer service of his daughter Katie, or just the ideal atmosphere as a great hangout, this establishment won the Gold in this heavily competitive contest. But the Historic Ute Inn and the Blue Moose, the ideal source for Real News and not Alternative News in Green Mountain Falls, also have gained quite a following for top hangout choices.


Best Cripple Creek Event

Gold — Salute to American Veterans Rally

Silver — Donkey Derby Days

Bronze — Cripple Creek Ice Fest

In a big upset from last year’s verdict, TMJ Best Of voters heavily rallied behind the Veterans Rally and motorcycle ride, both a popular and controversial event. It is regarded as one of the largest motorcycle processions and veteran events in the Rocky Mountain region. Recently, talk of cutting the funds for this gala practically stirred up a riot in the CC Council Chambers, with Marketing Director Steve Kitzman preparing for a quick exit, in case he got tarred and feathered.  Nevertheless, you can’t argue with success. Many voters, though, favored the traditional Donkey Derby Days festival and Ice Festival. The latter event attracted nearly 80,000 followers.


Best Area Event (outside of Cripple Creek)

Gold — Cruise Above the Clouds

Silver –Woodland Park July 4th Celebration

Bronze – Manitou Springs Coffin Races

No big surprises here, as the idea of just giving the Cruise Above the Clouds hardly any money when it came to Woodland Park’s community investment funding this year generated quite an outrage. It even raised the blood pressure of Mayor Neil Levy, who usually takes a low-key diplomatic stand on virtually every issue, except for not supporting the Cruise Above the Clouds enough.  Regardless of the special event politics in WP, this festival has been amazingly successful in the last few years. Many TMJ readers, though, were quite impressed the July 4th celebration in Woodland Park, while Manitou’s Coffin Races continue to awe locals and visitors alike.