We drove out to Cripple Creek, Colorado, last week while we were up in the mountains to look at the gorgeous autumn foliage. Cripple Creek is an interesting town located in the mountains of Teller County and is well worth the drive to visit if you have the chance. The biggest draw for tourists to visit Cripple Creek is that many of the historic buildings have been converted to casinos, but that certainly isn’t the only reason to go there. In addition to the casinos, the town holds a variety of events throughout the year geared to bring tourists to the area, some of which are quite unique and fun.
This was our first time back to Cripple Creek in several years. On our first trip to Cripple Creek, we went up specifically to play a few slots and generally just to see what the town was all about. This was before we started going to Las Vegas on a somewhat regular basis, so we weren’t used to the “video game” style slot machines. We stuck a dollar into one of the first slot machines that we came across and pulled the handle (yes, we were old school). The rows of characters spun and stopped, then spun and stopped again, then again, and again, and again. After several minutes of spinning and stopping, a message appeared that an attendant had been notified to assist us as the blue light on top of the slot machine started flashing and bells started ringing. Our first experience with free spins turned out to be a good one. We put a dollar in on this trip as well, but without the same success, so that was the extent of our gambling this time.
Cripple Creek was first settled in the mid 1800’s, but it was the discovery of gold that put Cripple Creek on the map. After the discover of gold in 1890, people flocked to area and by 1900 more than 50,000 people lived in the gold camp. Although most of the mines have long since closed down, there are still working mines in the area. There is even an old ghost town near by that is definitely worth a visit. Today, the town relies mostly on tourism and gambling rather than mining, but for those who come to gamble, there is still that hope that they might be the ones to strike it rich.
Some of the events that draw people to Cripple Creek are the Ice Festival in February with a variety of beautiful ice sculptures. There is the “Top of the World Rodeo”, which is the highest elevation rodeo at 9,640 feet. There are ghost walks throughout the year and, in September, there is a cemetery tour. But probably the most unique event that the town holds every year is “Donkey Derby Days” which occur in June and this year was the 84th occurrence of the event. There are certainly plenty of reasons to come and enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the scenery, and if you’re in the mood, the gambling.
Although we didn’t spend the night, there are several hotels in and out of many of the casinos. There are also several restaurants and the town is definitely growing. This was just a day trip for us from Colorado Springs, but the weather was perfect, the scenery gorgeous, and we had a wonderful time walking the streets, sticking our noses into some shops, and having a quick bite to eat. For whatever reason, we don’t think of going to Cripple Creek very often, but we’ll have to make sure it isn’t as long between this visit and our next.