The Quest For Tourist Gold In Historic Cripple Creek

Gaming Community Abounds With Unique Shops and Attractions

Trevor Phipps

Cripple Creek became famous in the 1890s when Bob Womack struck gold just east of town and convinced investors to help finance his quest for rich ore—at least for a brief period.

After the precious medal was found, the area boomed with several mining towns and dozens of high producing gold mines. The town grew and became famous because of the entertainment and night life it had to offer.




In the 1890s, Cripple Creek became the mining district’s largest city and was known as one of the most prominent areas in the state. 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 visit in Colorado. This year marks the 30th anniversary of gaming in the high country. Ever since Oct. 1991, the town has offered limited stakes gaming, a move that transformed the region. Now the gambling town attracts thousands of tourists each year 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.  The following are some of the main highlights that await the non-gaming visitor.




Educational Experiences




Just before entering town coming from Hwy. 67, the 11,000 square-foot-building that overlooks town is the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Entry to this gem is free and visitors get the chance to 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.




Cripple Creek sports 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 parlour houses. The old jailhouse in town was closed in 1992, and is now the city’s jail museum with a focus on criminals of the past. 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 museum 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 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.




Exciting Recreational Activities




Since Cripple Creek and Victor are located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, outdoor opportunities abound. Both towns offer a slew of  hiking trails. Victor offers a variety of trails that take people near old mining locations from the 1890s. 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 Mountain 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 activities, including classes to take and a fitness center. The department within the city offers residents activities for the children, martial arts classes, and archery.




A 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 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 run by  the city of Cripple Creek, has returned to full action and seating following the pandemic.  Like most venues offering live theater, the Butte was forced to close for an entire season. But those days are over.

The Butte offers a full lineup of shows, including Halloween and Christmas performances, comedies, classic melodrama and musicals and community entertainment.


Making a return to town for 2021 is the famous The Creek Bar and Restaurant. The eatery’s new menu offers several unique dishes such as elk medallions and buffalo steaks.


All of their hamburgers come with the option of having beef, buffalo or elk all for the same price. On Sundays, the bar welcomes football watchers and has the upstairs reserved just for Bronco fans.