Colorado has some pretty popular mountainous vacation destinations, such as Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail, located west from Denver on I-70.
But long before this highway takes you to those more well-known resorts, you’ll find a city called Golden laden with history and attractions. Here are the top six reasons to visit:
1. The West Lives Here
Buffalo Bill Cody, famous for his Wild West shows, died in 1917 at the age of 70 and was buried on the summit of Lookout Mountain. Heading west on I-70, you’ll pass this location before you get to Golden and can get out and visit the grave site and the Buffalo Bill Museum.
Enter the city and you’ll drive under a golden arch emblazoned with the town’s motto: “Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden, Where the West Lives!”
The Golden History Center details this city’s other claim to fame: it was the territorial capital of the short-lived (and unrecognized) Territory of Jefferson for about sixteen months during the American Civil War. It was also the capital of the much longer-lived Territory of Colorado beginning in 1862 until the venue was shifted to Denver City in 1867.
Golden is proud of its historic past, and its downtown area is decorated with historical murals and plenty of stores selling carvings of buffalo and other iconic western animals. Don’t forget to visit the Astor House, which operated as a boarding house for 100 years – in particular during the city’s heyday as a mining town.
2. Golden Brews
Practically every large city in the United States has a few micro-breweries, and Golden is no exception. Four breweries welcome you to tour their headquarters and sample their wares: the Golden City Brewery, Cannonball Creek Brewing, Barrels & Bottles Brewery, and Mountain Toad Brewing (worth a visit for the name alone).
Restaurants in Golden will often feature “limited edition” beers which are available nowhere else. So if you’re a beer connoisseur, don’t forget to stop in at a restaurant and check out what they have to offer.
Then there’s the MillerCoors® Brewery, which is by no means a micro operation. Instead, the facility here is the world’s largest single-site brewery. Visitors who wish to take a tour of this famous label can do so quite easily – simply park in a designated lot and take a shuttle to the entrance. There, you’ll be given an audio device with headphones and be able to set off on a 30-minute exploration of the facility. You will see how beer is malted and brewed and get an insight into the packaging process as well.
Visitors will then be able to relax and sample a couple of brews in the facilities hospitality room. After browsing through the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs, most folks will have their photos taken with a gleamingly large copper brewing kettle just outside the building. Alternatively, you can pose proudly beside a gigantic Coors beer can.
Located on the campus of the School of Mines is the National Earthquake Information Center.
This is a working location – here scientists monitor earthquakes worldwide and provide reports on where they took place and their magnitude. They also analyze the human impact of these events. This office has limited staff for tours, so be sure to call months in advance for a reservation.
4. Mining Heritage
The Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum celebrates Golden’s mining history, with several mining artifacts. The museum, established in 1874, features displays of fossils, gemstones, and even meteorites.
Also on display are two Apollo 17 moon rocks, as well as one of the crowns worn by Miss America — festooned with minerals, of course.
5. Railroad Spotting
Golden began life as a gold mining town, but it was also the site of the first railroad leading into the mountains of Colorado.
The Colorado Railroad Museum was founded in 1959. Here, 15 acres worth of freight and steam trains can be found, as well as examples of narrow gauge stock.
During November and December 2015, the Polar Express story will be re-enacted. There is also a general store where books, clothing, toys, and a host of other souvenirs can be purchased.
The Table Mountain Hotel is home to the Table Mountain Grill & Cantina. This restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and offers Southwestern cuisine, including the popular flaming cheese appetizer.
The lines at D’Deli start spilling out onto the sidewalk early in the afternoon, so get here before the crowds for some of the best sandwiches this side of the Rockies. They have so many, it may be hard to choose, but they are all flavor-packed and loaded with things you wouldn’t have thought to put on a bread roll.
Barrels & Bottles, mentioned in the section on craft breweries in Golden, is also a restaurant that specializes in sandwiches, but owners Zach and Abby encourage folks to bring their own food to the beer tastings.
More than just a little town with a catchy slogan, Golden is home to some of Colorado’s top attractions and justifiably proud of its rich heritage.