~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Cripple Creek became famous in the 1890s when Bob Womack discovered gold, just east of town, and convinced investors to take a chance on his findings. It was a gamble that secured the path for an unprecedented gold boom.
After gold was found, the area bustled with several mining towns and dozens of high producing 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 and was known as the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.”
In the 1890s, Cripple Creek became the mining district’s largest city because it was the prime business location 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 visitors each year due 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 into the heart of Cripple Creek, off Hwy. 67, the 11,000 square foot building that overlooks the town is the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Entry to this gem is
free, and it is a prime starting point for learning more about the area. The three-story building offers information on the area including the history of the early settlers and the gold mining boom.
In the town of Cripple Creek, there are many different museums that offer insights into 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. It has won a number of awards and been recognized by national magazines. The Old Homestead House Museum offers a unique look at the area’s red-light district and parlour houses. The old jailhouse in town was closed years ago, 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 Narrow Gauge
Railroad, meanwhile, offers a short trip on a steam train that takes you on a journey part of the way to Victor. During the ride, the historian/engineer gives incite to the history of the mining district.
Victor, Colorado 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.
Unique Shops To Visit
Even today, the Cripple Creek region serves as a local shopping hot spot. On the third block of Bennett Ave., there are a number of stores that offer items people cannot find anywhere else. Included in this area are gift shops, a candy store, and outlets 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.
Exciting Recreational Activities
Since Cripple Creek and Victor are located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, there are also a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. Both towns offer a slew of hiking trails that offer spectacular scenery, while allowing hikers to learn 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 some of the world’s finest gold specimens.
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 a hefty lineup of activities and classes, and even sports a fitness center. The department within the city offers residents activities for the children, martial arts classes, and archery.
A local law was passed several years ago, allowing ATVs 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 1800s and no longer offers 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 for the entertainment of families, tourists and gamblers. The Butte Theater is run by the city of Cripple Creek and it usually offers a line-up of amazing classic melodramas, musicals and holiday shows. Unfortunately, these performances are now temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hopefully, many of these shows, and traditional events, will resume in 2021.