Best of the High Country 2024

Rick Langenberg and Trevor Phipps

Fire off the cannons, uncork the wine and champagne bottles and start dancing, as it’s time again to party, celebrate and have fun; and yes, enjoy The Best of What the Teller and Pikes Peak High Country offers.

TMJ readers, online viewers, residents, gaming and history enthusiasts, and many visitors came out in force to voice their favorite picks in the last few months. The voting this year (done online) crashed all previous records with more than 10,000 ballots carded. Amazing.

And in the wake of the unprecedented glitz and excitement generated with the 2024 Oscars, especially this year with the special allure over “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things,” “Barbie,” Killers of the Flower Moon, “American Fiction, and other film masterpieces, we have one prime message for our friends in Hollywood: MOVE OVER.

While Hollywood may have recently celebrated their 96th annual party in grandiose style, Cripple Creek, Woodland Park, Teller County and the entire Pikes Peak region has gained quite a reputation for an equally competitive showdown: the infamous Best Of Championship, sponsored by TMJ News (The Mountain Jackpot) newspaper and featured for close to 35 years. And not to be too bias, our contest is way more objective than that of the egotistical stars from Hollywood, who had their recent night in the spotlight.

(If we hear one more interview with an entire movie cast on a late-night talk show, we will get sick. Yes, we must hear how the poor staff of Oppenheimer was forced to stay at a Holiday Inn Express for a month-plus while doing their filming in New Mexico. Such torture. Talk about being out of touch with the real world. Well, onto more positive subjects, like the Best Of the High Country.)

Once again, readers and TMJ Best Of voters declared their favorite places to gamble, play slots, grumble at politicians, bureaucrats and journalists (yes, a rare concept in our land of enlightenment.) And with the definite end COVID, the good or bad times (depending on your view) are back.

In addition, voters were not shy about announcing their top  picks for public servants, casino employees, local personalities, bartenders, politicians and more. In a heavily contested Best Of the High Country 2024 contest, TMJ readers and Best Of participants dealt a few upsets and surprises, as well as making obvious choices for the region’s high and low points. For the sixth year in a row, we continued to add more categories for Best Of competitions. We have strived to encompass a much wider area than Cripple Creek, Victor and southern Teller (Contrary to public opinion, there is a world beyond the CC/V district. But we must give the southern Teller folks credit, as their strong interest and enthusiasm in the Best Of showdown three decades ago really led to this annual edition. Don’t every say people in Cripple Creek and Victor aren’t competitive and don’t have opinions.

For this week, we are unveiling the bulk of Best Of winners and finalists for the heavily competitive casino, business and regional categories. Much more will come during our March 26, as we focus more on individual winners and other key business contests. And in the near future, more articles will appear, celebrating the accomplishments of some of the grand winners. And best of all, thanks to the many people who participated in this year’s contest. You are the Best of The Best.

2024 Best  Of Regional Winners, Part  One

Best Area-wide Event

Gold – Salute to American Veterans Rally

Silver – Ice Fest

Bronze – Lighter Side of Christmas Parade

Honorable Mention – Donkey Derby Days

The famous veterans’ rally won the hearts of the majority of the voters this year, as it received another strong welcome from its new location in Woodland Park. This  put an end to previous controversies in Cripple Creek.  The event always brings out thousands of people to take some time to appreciate those who have served in the military and for the sometimes forgotten prisoners of war. The ceremonies at Memorial Park were outstanding.

However, the Ice Fest this winter in Cripple Creek became the talk of the town with bumper-to-bumper summer-like traffic from families who wanted to see this fantasy winter wonderland attraction, only available in a handful of communities. Woodland Park’s Lighter Side of Christmas Parade shined big time, along with Donkey Derby Days.

Last year’s champ: Salute to American Veterans Rally

Best Area Hotel

Gold – Country Lodge/Microtel

Silver – Little Beaver Inn

Bronze – Golden Nugget Cripple Creek

This year one of the longest running hotels in the area snagged the Gold as area’s top hotel, with the Country Lodge and Microtel in Woodland Park, ending on top of the lodging favorite chart.  The Woodland Country Lodge is the only hotel in town with a bar and restaurant which could have been what set it apart from other

The Little Beaver Inn in Green Mountain Falls also seemed to be a hot spot for those who wish to stay a night away from home in a unique setting. After the Wildwood Casino recently rebranded to Golden Nugget Cripple Creek, they seemed to like the features of one of the gambling town’s newest hotels.

Last year’s champ: Country Lodge

Best Wait Staff

Gold – Over Ice

Silver – Russ’ Place

Bronze – Red Diamond Gastro Pub

Over Ice is a rather new addition to the area for 2023, but their exquisite service and craft-made cocktails seemed to win over the hearts of voters. The small eatery and pub has been the go-to spot for holidays and special occasions like the Super Bowl.

Russ’ Place took the silver in this category due to the servers working hard to serve all of their patrons even when the place is loaded with demanding customers, like Trevor from TMJ. Another new eatery the Red Diamond Gastro Pub also impressed voters this year with their quick service and their ability to handle a packed house quite well.

Last year’s champ: McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Best BBQ

Gold –  Roy’s Crew BBQ and Breakfast Too

Silver –  Peak View BBQ

Bronze – Crystola Roadhouse


Another new eatery for Teller County, Roy’s Crew BBQ and Breakfast Too came in and swept the Best BBQ category for 2024. The eatery’s large menu of house-smoked meats and fresh baked goods has had the whole town talking since they opened.


Peak View BBQ which has been a local staple that has won the category for the last several years still proved to be viable with their second place finish. The Crystola Roadhouse also remains to be a top spot for barbecued meats.

Last year’s champ: Peak View BBQ

Best Local Hangout

Gold – The Creek

Silver – Russ’ Place

Bronze –Soi 24 Pool Hall (Thai Good Eats)

Talk about a landslide victory once again. When it comes to kicking back and relaxing, locals enjoy having a cold one at The Creek in Cripple Creek.  John and Miki Freeman have done an amazing job in reviving this historic gem and lately it has been super busy proving its worthiness.

Russ’ Place always seems to be rather full at happy hour earning them second place on the list. The Soi 24 Pool Hall next to Thai Good Eats in Woodland Park has also become well-known to be a top spot for locals to kick back.


Best Woodland Park Bar


Gold –Over Ice

Silver – 110 Reserve

Bronze – Soi 24 Pool Hall (Thai Good Eats)

Over Ice came in the beginning of 2023 and they quickly became one of the bests local spots for a cocktail. With a stellar wait staff and specialty drinks voters chose it as the best bar in 2024.

With its new indoor event space, readers seem to still like the unique atmosphere of 110 Reserve as it snagged the silver for the second year in a row. Voters also still like having a drink and shooting pool at the Soi 24 Pool Hall and many can’t wait for their new menu to come out.

Last year’s champ: Soi 24 Pool Hall (Thai Good Eats)

Best Area Sports Bar

Gold – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Silver – Soi 24 Pool Hall (Thai Good Eats)

Bronze – Russ’ Place

When it comes to watching a game or athletic contest, the sports bar side at McGinty’s won the hearts of locals. During football season the bar side sports a number of screens, so people can watch the game of their choice; and yes, they can avoid a debacle called The Denver Broncos.  In fact, their network of televisions screens and sports options can’t really be rivaled, except by some of the casinos.

With their large amount of big screen TVs, the Soi 24 Pool Hall also snagged several votes for being the best place to watch a game especially for hockey fans. Russ’ Place also has several screens that are always displaying some type of sports action.

Last Year’s Champ: McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Best Area Breakfast

Gold – The Pantry

Silver – Grandmother’s Kitchen

Bronze – Hungry Bear

For the first meal of the day, TMJ Best of participants always favor The Pantry in Green Mountain Falls which has been around for decades. The Pantry is well-known to be one of the best breakfast spots in the region, with visitors from the Springs and Pueblo on the weekends.

Grandmother’s Kitchen is another local staple that many tend to head to first thing in the morning. The Hungry Bear is another locally famous breakfast joint that seems to be super crowded every morning.

Last year’s champ: The Pantry

Best Area Lunch

Gold – Judges Char-Grill

Silver –  Joanie’s

Bronze – El Burro Loco at The Mercantile

Honorable mention: Peak View BBQ  and

Last year’s champ: Joanie’s

When needing to stop for lunch, Judges, with its new spacious location, won hands down as the  lunch-time favorite with an ideal menu. Many, though, opted for the scrumptious sandwiches at Joanie’s Deli in Woodland Park.  Their menu features many delicious options and fresh baked goods, and they even

The Cripple Creek Mexican-grill eatery, El Burro Loco at  The Mercantile,  is also a top favorite with their authentic, Mexican-style dishes. Check out their stellar reviews.  Peak View BBQ and Creations Everlasting are also great spots for some good lunch food, and a place to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Best Area Restaurant

Gold – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Silver – The Creek

Bronze –  110 Reserve

McGinty’s once again stole the top prize for being the best eatery around, hands down. With the work of head chef Larissa Vendola and the steady hand of proprietor Tracy McGinty, McGinty’s has practically become a culinary institution in Divide.

The Creek also has pleased several customers this last year giving the busy gambling town a go-to spot for some grub. 110 Reserve is new to the list this year but after revamping their menu and adding things like pizzas and burgers, the new menu gets thumbs up from TMJ readers.

Last Year’s Champ: McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Best Fine Dining Restaurant

Gold – Wines of Colorado

Silver – Saltgrass Steakhouse


Bronze: The Briarhurst in Manitou

After gaining new owners and management, the Wines of Colorado has stepped it up a notch with their new menu and bar seating. The menu has something for everyone and it seems like their parking lot is packed all of the time with hungry customers.

The new Saltgrass inside the Golden Nugget Cripple Creek is the perfect example of a big city steakhouse situated in a small town. The Briarhurst in Manitou Springs is also a good place to go for those looking for a fine dining experience.

Last Year’s Champ: Swiss Chalet

Best Weekend Eatery

Gold – Russ’ Place

Silver – Thai Good Eats

Bronze – Sam’s Gyros & Kabobs

Last year’s champ: Russ’ Place

On the weekends people tend to enjoy taking the cruise up to Divide. Russ’ Place nailed number one this year for the best place to eat on weekends.

Thai Good Eats with their unique menu carrying items people can’t get anywhere else also seems to be a good place to go during a weekend drive. The new Sam’s Gyros & Kabobs is also another place to swing by during the weekends and enjoy Mediterranean cuisine.

Best Coffee

Talk about a competition.  The Teller High County now bustles with some many great coffee hangout that it’s so hard to pick a winner. Our voters struggled too, and from a fondness for so many great hubs that  Teller County may go down as the coffee paradise of Colorado.  So here we go.

Woodland Park Coffee Shop

Gold – Righteous Grounds Coffee Roasters

Silver – Coffee Cottage

Bronze – Human Bean

Last year’s champ:  Righteous Grounds

When it comes to enjoying a cup of Joe and java specialty, people absolutely love the Righteous Grounds, which is celebrating its second or so year in the City Above the Clouds.   They repeated as the Gold champ in a super-tight competition. Locals and visitors love their coffee in the High Country. The fact that they roast their own coffee beans could have been the key to making the Righteous soar to the top. They also pride themselves with great employees and owners. The only downside is you may run into someone from TMJ there, like Rick or Trevor. Locals also enjoy the cozy Coffee Cottage in Gold Hill Square South, while Human Bean is the favorite for folks on the go.

Cripple Creek Coffee Shop

Gold – Creations Everlasting

Silver – Gold Camp Café

Bronze – Golden Nugget

Creations Everlasting repeated again as the favorite spot in Cripple Creek for coffee in a neck-to-neck contest with Gold Camp Café.  There are no losers here. Meanwhile, many coffee-goers admit they like to get a java fix, right before hitting their favorite video poker slot or game of choices. And their apparent favorite coffee-friendly spot is Golden Nugget.

Last year’s champ: Creations Everlasting

Best Steak

Gold – Saltgrass Steakhouse

Silver – Judge’s Char-Grill

Bronze – Red Diamond Gastro Pub

As soon as it made its way to Cripple Creek, the Saltgrass Steakhouse quickly became popular. Their large selection of steaks and other food options made them a local favorite and earned them the number one spot. Ever since moving to their new location, Judge’s Char-Grill added steaks to their menu and quickly got recognized by voters. The Red Diamond Gastro Pub also has a delicious steak on the menu that locals seem to absolutely love.

Last year’s champ: The Steakhouse at Bronco Billy’s

Best Seafood

Gold – Thai Good Eats

Silver – Fusion Japan

Bronze – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Even though Colorado is not necessarily known to a top spot for seafood, readers seem to like the unique flavors offered by Thai Good Eats. Their shrimp fried rice and other seafood dishes made the new eatery not only a place know for Thai food but also one that knows how to cook seafood.

Being the only option for sushi in the area, Fusion Japan received several votes from people saying that fish is best consumed when raw. McGinty’s is locally famous for their fish and chips special on Friday and Saturday nights which earned them the bronze for best food from the sea.

Last Year’s Champ: Wines of Colorado


Best Asian Food

Gold – Thai Good Eats

Silver – Fusion Japan

Bronze – Mayflower

Now that they have their full-service restaurant open in the former home of Judge’s Char-Grill, readers love having another option for Asian food. Their recipes come straight from owner/chef Danielle Bowers’ family cookbooks and the quality and authenticity of their food cannot be matched.


Voters also seemed to recognize that Fusion Japan is not only a top spot for sushi, but their other Japanese and Chines menu items are also a local favorite. The Mayflower has also impressed readers once new owners took over proving to be perhaps the best for those looking for traditional Chinese food flavors.

Last Year’s Champ: Thai Good Eats


Best Burger

Gold – Russ’ Place

Silver – Judge’s Char-Grill

Bronze – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub


The best burger competition winner yet again came as no surprise to anyone as Russ’ Place has taken the top prize basically since the eatery opened. Their giant burgers loaded with toppings make the mouths water of just about every motorist as they make their way through Divide.


With their new and bigger location, Judge’s Char-Grill has put themselves on the map locally for having one of the best burgers. McGinty’s remained in the top three in this category for 2023 as customers seem to love the fact that the beef is raise locally at a ranch right across the highway from the restaurant.


Last Year’s Champ: Russ’ Place


Best Antique Shop/ Market

Gold – Creations Everlasting

Silver – Oddities Ally- Victor

Bronze – Blue Front Grocery

Every year Creations Everlasting seems to win over voters’ hearts with their unique selection of items and the charisma of owner Edie Smith. The shop also has a popular coffee shop where locals like to hang out. Oddities Alley in Victor offers very unique gifts and things you just can’t find anywhere else. The new Blue Front Grocery also pleased readers with its collection of antique class and vintage vinyl records.


Last Year’s Champ: Brazenhead Market


Best Clothing Store

Gold – The Cowhand

Silver – Colorado Gearlab

Bronze – Creations Everlasting


The Cowhand once again took the top trophy for best options of clothes. Their giant selection of Western-style wear has kept them number one for several years.


Many readers also like the mountain clothes options Colorado Gearlab has to offer. Creations Everlasting (perhaps due to their official NFL merchandise) also earned several votes for a top spot to go clothes shopping.


Last Year’s Champ: The Cowhand


Best Area Dentist

Gold – Forest Edge Dental

Silver – Dr. Stephenie Kaufmann

Bronze – Rampart Family Dental Center

Last year’s champ: Forest Edge Dental

Forest Edge Dental Care has been a favorite hub in Woodland Park for teeth mending and captured the gold again in this heavily contested competition. Their win is attributed to their affordable prices, and ability to accept a variety of insurance plans and offer special packages of their own, not to mention their wide variety of specialized services and a highly staffed operation, led by the personable and talented Dr. Andrea Montano. Forest Edge actually came to the community’s defense during the COVID-epidemic. As the Forest Edge folks stated in describing their recent win: “Forest Edge Dental Care is committed to providing each and every patient with the highest standard of dental care at the most affordable prices. Dr. Montano has built her practice upon lasting relationships with her patients, based on mutual trust and open communication. Winning the Gold award, for the third time, is testament to Forest Edge’s ability to offer a wide variety of services, acceptance of multiple insurance plans, and the Gold Discount plan. Dr. Montano and her staff are happy to be part of the Woodland Park community and continue to enjoy being one of the finest dental practices in all of Teller County.” Many voters, though, favored Dr. Stephenie Kaufmann, a mainstay in the community for years and highly regarded for her dedicated staff. Rampart Family Dental Center is another big favorite under the reign of Dr. Morrill.

The 2024 Best Of Winners Are…

Cripple Creek Casinos

Safest/Cleanest Casino

Gold – Triple Crown Casinos

Silver – Century

Bronze – Double Eagle

Honorable Mention:  Bronco Billy’s

Last Year’s Champ: Triple Crown

In a competition originally prompted by the coronavirus epidemic, (I know we shouldn’t mention that word), few changes occurred in the top guard compared to last year. Once again, the Triple Crown Casinos group, which sports three prime gaming outlets on Bennett Avenue, prevailed as the safest and cleanest gaming operation in Cripple Creek. TC has followed detailed procedures first implemented during the ghastly and nasty coronavirus scare, which shut down the industry for three-plus months. The Century Casino, which even greets customers as they enter the doors, including our newspaper delivery folks, took the runner-up spot.  Old Bob Womack, the namesake legendary figure the property was originally named after, would have been proud.  Bob liked a whiskey here and there, (or maybe more than a few) but prided in having a safe environment. Meanwhile, Double Eagle snagged the Bronze titles.

Best Casino Atmosphere

Gold – Triple Crown Casinos

Silver – Golden Nugget

Bronze – Century

Last Year’s Champ:  Triple Crown

In yet another triumph for the Triple Crown Casinos group, McGills, located at the tail end of its cadre of casinos on Bennett, won hands down as the casino offering the best atmosphere. Many lauded the ample space, crafty layout and location right next to the Pint & Platter. That  came in handy last week for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  And it’s not too late to celebrate St. Patty’s in Cripple Creek. Golden Nugget, with its single-floor Vegas-type layout, though, commanded a strong runner-up spot. Plus, many like Golden’s new rebranding effort and improvements undertaken at the property. And quite a number of Best Of voters enjoy the friendly environment of Century, capped by the spirit of Bob Womack.


Most Money Won and Where?

Gold – Golden Nugget

Silver – Triple Crown

Bronze – Bronco Billy’s

Last Year’s Champ: Wildwood

The myth is that Cripple Creek gamblers can’t win big in the old mining camp. Wrong. Unfortunately, if we disclose the specific amounts big winners came away with, we may face bodily injury.  Let’s just say, there are some big jackpots to be had in Cripple Creek.  The big jackpot winning strikes occurred at Golden Nugget, which is following in the footsteps of its former operator, the Wildwood. In the past, they have provided regular press releases about huge strikes that made your eyes pop, with the question, “Why Can’t That Happen to Me.”  This is a title in which the town’s sole gaming property, located off the main drag, has taken for several straight years. These apparent riches are bound better to get better with the new ownership, under the reins of Fertitta Entertainment. But as expected, Triple Crown and Bronco Billy’s made respectable showings.


Loosest Slots

Gold – Midnight Rose  (Triple Crown Casinos

Silver – Century

Bronze – Double Eagle

Honorable Mention – Johnny Nolon’s

Last year’s champ – Triple Crown Casinos

No competition whatsoever, as the Triple Crown Casinos easily gained the illustrious title as King of the Loose in Cripple Creek, or where gamblers can make out with their bets. This year’s victory was attributed to sterling reviews of the player-friendly slots of the Midnight Rose, one of the first casinos opened during the kick-off month of gaming (October 1991). This was the seventh consecutive year Triple Crown has won this competition. Talk about an annual tradition. Not surprisingly, many of our voters favored the namesake hangout of Bob Womack, whose legacy is peppered throughout the walls of Century.  For a lengthy period, this casino was even named after this old legend, considered the main pioneer behind the 1890s gold rush. And the Double Eagle and Johnny Nolon’s also fared quite well.


Most Welcoming Casino

Gold – Triple Crown Casinos

Silver – Century

Bronze – Bronco Billy’s

Last Year’s Champ: Century

It only makes sense that the gaming property rated at the top for its atmosphere also takes home the bacon as the most welcoming. Chalk up another victory for Triple Crown, which sports three distinctly different gaming properties. We can attest to the Welcoming fact, in the way we are greeted when we deliver newspapers there, or try to figure out what door to use, among the various entrances and nuances from the sidewalk changes on Bennett.   Very friendly employees. But this is a trait that characterizes the town as a whole, and separates it from  Black  Hawk and Central City. Both Century and Bronco Billy’s also ranked high in the welcoming and friendly category.


Best Table Games

Brass Ass – (Triple Crown)

Silver – Golden Nugget

Bronze – Double Eagle

Honorable Mention – Bronco Billy’s

Last year’s champ – Triple Crown

When Amendment 50 was implemented in the summer of 2009, the stakes definitely changed for Colorado gaming with the arrival of new (more Vegas-style games), such as Roulette and Craps and much higher limits. Although Cripple Creek hasn’t fared as well as Black Hawk with these games, the town definitely abounds with much more excitement. And with the official ending of bet limits in the summer of 2021, the table stakes are now even greater and quite wild. Some have referred to this development (ending betting stakes) as a game-changer for Cripple Creek. This is something the town needed to do years ago.

Probably no local place characterizes this fun local table action as much as the Brass Ass. This is what folks imaged with these new added games, without getting too pretentious or too Vegas or Black Hawkish. But at the same time, many of our voters favored the single-floor, mini-Vegas look of Golden Nugget (formerly the Wildwood), which boasts a great table atmosphere. At the same time, some opted for the more laid-back table style at Double Eagle. Plus, the early birth of the Chamonix project at Bronco Billy’s has attracted much excitement. The great atmosphere at Cripple Creek table game areas still rates as one of the town’s best kept secrets. But the secret is coming out of the bag with unlimited stakes and a better environment for high rollers. Get ready for more fun.

Best Casino Eatery

Gold – Lombard’s (Double Eagle)

Silver – Dynamite Dick’s (Triple Crown)

Bronze – Saltgrass Steak House (Golden Nugget)

Last Year’s Champ: The Steakhouse (Bronco Billy’s)

The changes and expansion development action in Cripple Creek has changed the restaurant scenario quite a bit from 2023. As a result, Best Of participants opted for a traditional favorite and an eatery that appeased to everyone’s tastes. When the dust settled, Double Eagle’s Lombard’s captured the gold as Cripple Creek’s favorite casino restaurant. As noted in the casino’s website, “whether you’ve got a hankering for a flame broiled old fashioned burger, a filling rainbow veggie salad, some tasty stir fry, a basket of fish and chips, or a few slices of a mouth-watering pizza our seasons, friendly and local chefs will cook up a savory meal that exceeds your expectations.” Kind of tells the story of Lombard’s definite rise in popularity.

Meanwhile, Dynamite Dick’s at Midnight Rose, snagged many votes as did the fairly new Saltgrass Steak House, a culinary masterpiece of the Golden Nugget, known formerly as the Wildwood.


Best Casino Food Deals

Gold – Lombard’s (Double Eagle)

Silver – Miner’s Pick (Triple Crown)

Bronze – Home Café (Bronco Billy’s)

Honorable Mention: Dynamite Dick’s (Triple Crown)

Last year’s champ – Miner’s Pick

Like most gaming towns, the Creek is bustling with great casino food deals, and great options for folks, whether they are on the go, or want a good meal at an affordable price. For this year’s competition, the town’s favorite casino eatery also snagged the gold as the place with the best food deals. Makes sense. The Miner’s Pick, located below the Brass Ass and part of the Triple Crown network, grabbed the silver. And it’s hard to beat Bronco Billy’s Home Café for affordable options.


Best Casino Lodging

Gold – Century Casino

Silver – Golden Nugget

Bronze – Midnight Rose (Triple Crown)

Honorable Mention – Double Eagle

Last year’s champ – Golden Nugget

You can only hold back a classy lodging hub for so long. In a change from the last two years, TMJ Best Of participants gave the definite thumbs-up for the amazing and spacious luxurious suites and overall lodging amenities of Century casino. They are known for their award-winning king and queen setups.  Century returned to its gold status as the town’s lodging favorite. The Golden Nugget hotel, which gained prominence as Cripple Creek’s first new casino hotel in years, when it opened in 2021, secured the runner-up spot.   Many TMJ Best Of participants opted for the newest gaming lodging project of significance (until the recent opening of the Chamonix).   In addition, many favored the Midnight Rose, with its fairly new renovations. Look for big changes and enhancements, along the local lodging front.  More Lodging amenities and destination area enticements are becoming catch phrases for the new look of Cripple Creek.

Best Casino Players Club

Gold – Golden Nugget

Silver – Century

Bronze – Bronco Billy’s

Last Year’s Champ – Century

Courtesy of a well-publicized rebranding effort, Golden Nugget leaped off to a quick start in the player promotional arena by snagging the gold as the best players club. With a slew of improvements since the acquisition of the former Wildwood was announced, the Nugget, which sports casinos in a variety of markets across the country, has made its presence known in Cripple Creek.  Its Players club offers a wide range of benefits. After all, Golden Nugget Hotels and Casinos features an American chain of luxury hotels and casinos that now encompasses close to 10 resorts. The company runs as a division of Laundry’s Hospitality within the Fertitta Entertainment portfolio.

These Players’ clubs in Cripple Creek are quite popular and are a heavily favored tool to get patrons to return. Also, hitting the mini-jackpot in this competition were Century and Bronco Billy’s.

Best Casino Entertainment

Gold – Speculation about the Chamonix Opening

Silver – Cripple Creek rumors

Bronze – Debates over special events

Last Year’s Champ: Talk about marijuana and the Cripple Creek recall issue

Not much say on this one, with most voters citing casino entertainment as one area that local gaming establishments need work, when it comes to stepping up their game. Hopefully, this will occur with the town’s recent developments in bringing back more special events and the opening of a $300 million lodging project (Chamonix) that will showcase a variety of great amenities. But what the casinos lack in live music they make up with in unique style, courtesy of the town’s flair for rumors and political speculation; and yes, wild social media posts.  Cripple Creek is not spared these days from this rumor madness. Please bring back more live music and shows, so we can mute out some of these bizarre rumors, which take on a life of their own. Fleetwood Mac could even reunite and do a sequel album to their popular masterpiece “Rumours,” based on Cripple Creeks rumors.

Best New Casino Lodging Project

Gold – Chamonix, Chamonix and Chamonix

Silver and Bronze – Talk about more housing

Last year’s champ – Bronco Billy’s Expansion

Yes, the project that has been the source of constant discussion, curiosity and debate, the new nine-story (from the base of Bennett Avenue) Bronco Billy’s mega $300 million expansion, including a 300-plus-room hotel, parking garage and special four-star amenities, definitely won hands down as the town’s premiere new lodging project. The project, part of the Bronco Billy’s family, featured an initial opening in late December.  A more formal grand opening party will probably occur this summer, when all the special amenities, such as a rooftop pool and spa are completed.  The development is called the Chamonix, with the name stemming from the European resort that hosted the first Olympics. The massive construction effort involved a process that mesmerized tourists and regular gamblers.  It is probably the most ambitious lodging venture ever done in the Creek in modern history. Shortly after COVID, the project appeared dead, but then experienced a massive re-birth and a more accelerated construction pace that critics never imagined. The Wildwood Hotel, now known as the Golden Nugget Hotel, which opened in the summer of 2021, still gets credit for kicking off this trend of more casino hotels, in the bid to make Cripple Creek into a destination area

Best Casino Bar

Gold –  Pint & Platter

Silver – Johnny Nolon’s

Bronze- Golden Nugget

Last Year’s Champ – Golden Nugget

Casino bars are becoming a growing part of the town’s social scene.  And with COVID restrictions ending, this trend will continue.  So not surprisingly, TMJ respondents by a landslide margin favor the Irish flavor of Pint & Platter, located inside McGills. Pint & Platter offers a great atmosphere, except you may run into TMJ journalists on occasion, who enjoy a pint or two.  A really great addition to the town.  But many of our readers enjoy the always friendly spirit at the main entrance bar at Johnny Nolon’s. Old Johnny was known to handle many of his business dealings right inside his own drinking and gambling hub, and often got into a few fights and even shoot-outs there. So much for the good old days. Woody’s, the sports bar at Golden Nugget, also snagged many votes, as it allows folks to play slots, partake in live sports wagering and watch a game on one of probably 50 TV screens, while sipping their beverage of choice.  Casino bars are one of these closely guarded secrets in Cripple Creek, a trend that sometimes get overlooked, following the closure of smaller casinos.


Best Casino Manager

Gold – Matt Andrighetti, Golden Nugget

Silver – Eric Rose, Century

Bronze – Jerry Berger, Triple Crown

Last Year’s Champ – Eric Rose

In a slight changing of the guard, Matt Andrighetti, the personable manager at Golden Nugget, and a veteran of the limited stakes gaming arena for years, became the popular pick for best manager.  Matt was often featured on television, when the COVID epidemic hit, and when a number of big contentious gaming issues took center stage. Eric Rose, the head skipper of Century Cripple Creek, grabbed the runner-up spot. Eric is known for providing a much-needed breath of fresh air to the often-mundane council meetings. His past talks on lodging, recreational marijuana and special events are pretty much right on the mark.  Jerry Berger of the Triple Crown crew also emerged as a top pick in the casino manager showdown.


Additional Cripple Creek Competitions

Best Cripple Creek Bar

Gold – The Creek

Silver – Pint & Platter

Bronze –  Woody’s Bar and Grill/Johnny Nolon’s

Last year’s champ: The Creek

When in Cripple Creek, not everyone wants to spend all of their time in a casino. The Creek quickly became a local favorite hangout spot as soon as they opened their doors in the summer of 2022. The Creek is also a prime spot for post-council meeting gathering spots, where the town’s woes are always solved. It is also knowns for their friendly and amicable staff and owners.

The Pint & Platter is a different type of casino bar that has received stellar reviews in Best Of competitions for the last six years. And both Woody’s at the Golden Nugget and Johnny Nolon’s have gained quite a following among bar patrons.


Best Cripple Creek Retail Shop

Gold – Creations Everlasting (Double Eagle)

Silver – The Mercantile

Bronze – Colorado Trading and Transfer Store (District Museum)

Last year’s champ – Creations Everlasting

Creations Everlasting serves as an absolute gem for tourists, out-of-town visitors, sports buffs and locals, with its wide assortment of NFL merchandise, vintage items, clothing, coffee, and boutique specialties. It shows why non-gaming outlets can succeed in Cripple Creek. Plus, it is led by Edie Smith, the town’s leading personality for 15 or so years.  Edie knows how to treat her customers.  The Mercantile is also one of the newer nongaming shops that brandishes unique items with a Colorado theme.  Colorado Trading and Transfer store, once again, proved that historic relics are still hot items.


Best Cripple Creek Specialty Shop

Gold – Colorado Trade and Transfer Shop

Silver – Creations Everlasting

Bronze – Blue Front Grocery

Last Year’s Champ: Creations Everlasting

No big surprises here, as the Colorado Trade and Transfer shop has continued to gain much popularity with its historic treasures. This shop is one of the reasons the District Museum has gained allure as one of the best museums in Colorado. Creations Everlasting and the new Blue Front Grocery, located near the Golden Nugget, also fared extremely well in this contest.

Best Cripple Creek/Victor Event

Gold – Ice Castles

Silver – Donkey Derby Days

Bronze – 4th of July Celebration.

Ice Castles, the iconic winter family-friendly wonderland attraction, became the talk of the area throughout the winter.  Cripple Creek was designated as the Colorado home of Ice Castles, which is only available in a handful of communities across the country. Daily traffic to and from the Castles resembled the summer peak months. Hopefully, Ice Castles will return next winter. Donkey Derby Days, meanwhile, made quite a comeback as a summer event. The Two Mile High Club made a great decision by expanding the festival into a several-day gathering and a great way to pay tribute to the town’s favorite personalities, its herd of donkeys.  And as usual, the July 4th fireworks celebration is a definite classic and an event that makes southern Teller stand out.