Teller County Bustles With Rich Supply of Nongaming Options and Special Events

Trevor Phipps

When people plan to  spend a day or two in Teller County, many visitors think instantly of the gambling options available in Cripple Creek. This is a development that changed the face of the county’s entertainment landscape several decades ago, and still has become a big draw with the continual expansion pursuits of the major casinos.

But alas, there is a lot more than rolling the dice, playing cards or hitting the slots in town.

In fact,  many plan their trip around one of the region’s several events or decide to spend the day in the beautiful outdoors.

However, one factor often forgotten is the array of nongaming businesses in the region. From great places to stay and eat, to museums to check out and places to shop, the Ute Pass region has plenty of options for fun activities outside of gaming.

So, for those who say gambling isn’t really their thing, there is still plenty to do in the Teller high country. The following is a list of some (but not all) of the nongaming businesses in the region that are worth taking some time to check out.

Food and Lodging

In the past year or so, the Ute Pass region has slowly become a prime culinary hub. New eateries and saloons seem to be popping up all over the region, and many of the eateries that have been around for years, are still running strong.

In the middle of Ute Pass in Cascade, the Wines of Colorado was taken over by new owners and people say their food is now amazing, not to mention the atmosphere. The town is also the home to a new Vegan eatery called Fern’s Diner and Drinkery, opened up in the old Mildred’s Café location at the foot of the Pikes Peak Highway.

Green Mountain Falls hasn’t really gained any new eateries, but people still love to go to the town and check out their mainstay restaurants. The Pantry has always been a favorite for breakfast and lunch and the Mucky Duck caters to those wishing for more of a fine dining experience. The Blue Moose Tavern prides itself in winning the region’s best pizza award for a number of years, and also is dubbed as the best place on the mountain for live music.

In Woodland Park, it seems as if the city has really stepped up to be a culinary hotspot and a place for bar-hopping. The city has experienced a virtual invasion of new eateries.

Peak View BBQ remains to be a hot spot on the east side of town, and many seem to enjoy their food and beverage options. Judge’s Chargrill has recently moved into the old Stuft and Denny’s building, across the highway from Walmart. The Chargrill has become a very popular Mexican/American Cuisine hub.

For breakfast and lunch, people enjoy the famous eateries that have been around for years. Just about every day, the parking lots of Joanie’s Deli and Bakery, Grandmother’s Kitchen and the Hungry Bear are filled with hungry customers.

110 Reserve likes to be a called a “social gathering spot,” instead of a bar or restaurant, and it has gained much popularity since it opened its doors. People can hang out on their patio and enjoy views of Pikes Peak, while having some food or a beverage.

Bierwerks and the Historic Ute Inn are also two popular hangout spots, centered in downtown, that people like to bounce back and forth from. Thai Good eats has recently opened up their full service Thai restaurant, and their pool hall is a new popular hangout spot.

For those wanting different tastes, Woodland Park is also the home to three Asian food restaurants and three Mexican Food eateries. The food truck craze has also struck the city as several trucks and trailers can be seen across town.

West of Woodland Park in Divide, McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub and Russ’ Place in Divide have become big favorites. The Iron Tree and Thunderbird Inn in Florissant also seem to have gained loyal followers. Fat BBQ Shack in Lake George proudly claims to have the best BBQ in the region..

In Cripple Creek, many seem to enjoy the casino restaurants, but there are now some new options. The Creek Restaurant has really made a name for themselves after celebrating their-second year anniversary and the Gold Camp Café continues to gain a reputation as the best place for lunch and early morning treats. For Mexican-food lovers, it’s hard to beat the take-out options at the El Burro Loco at The Mercantile, located right next to the Gold Camp Café.

And Creations Everlasting Boutique And Tea Room, located inside the Double Eagle casino, is regarded as a prime spot for visitors with their unique gifts and award-winning coffee, pastries and sandwiches.

For lodging, Woodland Park’s Country Lodge and Microtel seem to be the favorite places to stay. However, bed and breakfasts in the region also seem to be popular such as the Edgewood Inn in Woodland Park, the Cripple Creek Hospitality House, and Hotel St. Nicholas. Pikes Peak Paradise just west of town is new and also gaining in popularity.

Shopping Hubs

Besides being a good place to go to eat and stay, the Ute Pass region also sports several retail spots to shop. The area now offers several niche shopping hubs where people can find all types of gifts and unique items.

The Painted Bear in Green Mountain Falls is one of the regions newest stores that has quickly became a favorite. Inside the store, people can find all sorts of items from carved bear statues to unique paintings.

The Cowhand in Woodland Park has remained strong in the city for the last few decades. The store is still open and people can find anything they want when it comes to Western-style wear and other gifts.

Miss Priss’ Boutique is another good spot for women’s clothes, and Vicki’s Home Décor next door has just about everything needed to decorate a home. For furniture, people love to shop at Tweed’s Fine Furnishings and William’s Log Cabin Furniture.

The Brazenhead Marketplace in town remains a place where people can find anything from wagons to home decor. The Our Reserve Gallery is another new business and it features art masterpieces made from a variety of local artists.

For music lovers, Rocky ‘n’ Roll Music seems to have just about whatever a musician could want. The Mountain Vapor Lounge and Vapor Bay provide those who vape with everything they need as well as a spot to hang out.

For groceries, people seem to like the big box stores like Safeway, City Market and Walmart. However, others prefer to shop at the smaller stores such as Natural Grocers, Mountain Naturals, the Florissant Mercantile, or the Venture Foods in Cripple Creek or Divide.

Further up the mountain, the entire city of Cripple Creek has several stores along the main strip to check out. Among these, Creations Everlasting and the Trade and Transfer Company seem to be very popular, along with The Mercantile.

Victor is also starting to become more of a shopping hub with their antique stores and other shops. The Victor Trading Co. and Manufacturing Works is a favorite as they are one of the only places that make and sell custom brooms.

Educational Opportunities

On the northeastern side of the county, the Ute Pass Historical Society has a nice gift shop with a plethora of local history books. The organization also has a building in Green Mountain falls where some items can be purchased on weekends during the summer.

The Dinosaur Resource Center is another favorite spot to learn in Woodland Park. The museum features gifts and several events during the summer.

In Florissant, the Pikes Peak Historical Society has a museum and they also put on educational events during the year. The Florissant Fossil Beds national Monument also hosts a variety of educational opportunities. And, Mueller State Park south of Divide also offers educational events such as nature walks.

In Cripple Creek, the heritage center located before off Hwy. 67, greeting motorists before getting into town, boasts some of the best views in the area. The Cripple Creek Heritage Center is open every day and year-round. It features a large museum where people can learn about the history of the mining district.

The Cripple Creek District Museum on the east side of Bennett Ave. is probably the biggest museum that celebrates the city’s history. They have an awesome gift shop and they hold events such as live music throughout the summer. The museum recently celebrated their 70th-year anniversary.

The city also has one of the country’s only museums that is purely focused on red light districts. Visitors can go to the Old Homestead House Museum to learn about another side of the town’s history.

The city also has featured the Jail Museum and the Fire Station Museum ,which are open for more hours during the summer. People can go to one of those two city-operated museums to learn more about the firefighters, police, and criminals of the town’s past.

The city of Victor has probably some of the most historical significance around. The Lowell Thomas Museum offers tours around town to all of the historical spots as well as a large museum with interesting artifacts.

At Victor’s Gold Camp Ag & Mining Museum, people get the chance to see old time machinery and blacksmith exhibits during events.

Events Outside Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is not the only local town jammed packed with events this summer and fall (see related story).

The City Above the Clouds is featuring an active summer, highlighted by some great festivals.

On July 4, the city plans to host its annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration at the city’s Memorial Park. The event will feature fishing contests for kids, live music, a beer garden, and vendors supplying food and other items.

The day after the Fourth, the Woodland Park Middle School football field will host the annual Symphony Above the Clouds. In lieu of fireworks this year, the event will feature a popular drone light show synchronized with patriotic music.

Bingo is back in town at the Ute Pass Cultural Center. On June 22, the Ute Pass Kiwanis will be putting on disco bingo.

The farmer’s market has also made a return at Memorial Park every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. People can shop for local produce and handmade gifts at the art festival that takes place at the same time.

On August 5, Vino and Notes benefitting the local Habitat for Humanity will take place at Memorial Park from 12 to 8:30 p.m. The next weekend Memorial Park will host the Mountain Artists Festival on August 12 and 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Salute to American Veterans Rally will then take place at Memorial Park on August 18 and 19. Live music and other events will most like take place at venues across the region during that weekend.

Down the Pass, Green Mountain Falls will feature the 15th annual Green Box Arts Festival from June 30 to July 15, capped by various performances, classes and workshops.  The town’s annual Music series, featuring concerts at the Gazebo on Monday evenings, kick off on July 10 and extends for two months.

And the 85th annual Bronc Day festival will occur on July 29.

All in all, Teller County and the lower Ute Pass has a lot more to do than just recreate in the outdoors or to try your odds at a casino. The summertime is often the best time to experience some of these nongaming businesses and events in the region.