~ by Trevor Phipps~
Cripple Creek became famous in 1890 when Bob Womack discovered gold just east of town.
After gold was found, the area boomed with several mining towns and dozens of high producing gold mines. The mining district produced large amounts of gold but there were not a lot of active mines in the town of Cripple Creek. The town grew and became famous because of the other things the town had to offer.
In the 1890s, Cripple Creek became the mining district’s largest city because it was the location of businesses that supported the mining operations and miners. At one time Cripple Creek was THE place to visit in Colorado because it offered entertainment venues such as opera houses, saloons, casinos, and brothels. The area was also a shopping hub for the district where people could go to buy high-end furniture, grand pianos, and fresh fish.
These days the town is still considered a tourist destination and a top place to go to have a good time in Colorado. Ever since 1991 the town has offered limited stakes gaming, a move that transformed the region. Now the gambling town attracts thousands of tourists and visitors each year who want to try their luck in the casinos.
However, the town has much more to offer than just games for the gambling types. The Cripple Creek area provides many other entertainment options including educational experiences, shopping, recreation, and an exciting nightlife.
Just before entering town coming from Highway 67, the 11,000 square-foot building that overlooks town is the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Entry to this gem is free to enter and learn more about the area. The three-story building offers information on the area including the history of early settlers and the gold mining boom.
In the town of Cripple Creek, there are many different museums that offer education about certain aspects of the mining region. The Cripple Creek District Museum has multiple buildings and displays that concentrate on the mining history and characters of Cripple Creek’s past. The Old Homestead House Museum offers a unique look at the area’s red light district and parlor houses. The old jailhouse in town was closed in 1992 and is now the city’s jail museum which concentrates on criminals of the past.
Located on the southwest side of town an old fire station was turned into a museum highlighting the duties of early day firefighters. The Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad ride is a short trip on a steam train that takes you on a trip part of the way to Victor. During the ride, the historian/engineer gives incite to the history of the mining district.
Victor is the home to two other museums that offer stories to tell. The Lowell Thomas Museum focuses on the unique history of Victor. The Mining and Agriculture Museum showcases vintage mining and farming equipment.
Great Shops To Visit
Even to this day the Cripple Creek region remains as a local shopping hot spot. On the third block of Bennett Ave., there are a number of stores that offer things people cannot find anywhere else.
Included in this area are gift shops, a candy store, and a store where you can go to buy custom-made t-shirts.
The General Store offers many items that are related to the history of the town. Creations Everlasting located inside the Double Eagle Casino offers special gifts including official NFL merchandise.
Victor also offers a variety of unique stores as well. In Victor, you can find a plethora of antique stores that sell rare items. One place in Victor offers custom made-to-order brooms.
New Adventure Park and Hiking Treasures
Since Cripple Creek and Victor are located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, there are also a lot of things to do in the outdoors. Both towns offer various hiking trails where nice weather can be enjoyed while learning about the history of the area.
Victor offers a variety of trails that take people near old mining locations. In Cripple Creek, people can take a trip up Poverty Gulch where Womack first found ore containing gold.
The area is also riddled with several public parks that offer other recreation opportunities. Cripple Creek’s new adventure park offers activities like disc golf, hiking, doggie activities, a BMX track, playground, and sledding hill in the winter time. Victor offers a historic baseball field as well as an ice hockey rink in the winter.
The Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Department also offers various to do activities to do, including classes to take and a fitness center. The department, which sports its own facility, offers activities for children and adults, such as martial arts classes, and archery.
A new law was recently passed allowing ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) to be driven on the city streets of both Cripple Creek and Victor. Soon the area will have an ATV trail system that takes riders around the off-road areas between the two towns.
The Nightlife Scene
The Cripple Creek/Victor area has toned down their nightlife options since the late 1800’s and no longer offer a red light district. However, the area still has numerous activities to do once the sun sets.
Both towns after a variety of food options including fine dining, take and bake pizza and a German bakery. The various saloons in town offer karaoke, live music and comedy shows to entertain. The Butte Theater is run by the city of Cripple Creek and offers a rich line-up of classic melodramas, musicals, comedies and holiday shows to enjoy (see related story). The Butte is considered one of the best places to view live theater in the entire Pikes Peak region.