Colorado: America's Heart of Gold
Sharp snow-covered peaks, wide grassy plains, deep canyons, and cool mountain streams define the spectacular landscape of the Centennial State, which has enjoyed a rich history beginning with the Ute Indians who hunted the area's vast bison herds centuries before the arrival of Europeans. With its stunning cliff dwelling communities, Mesa Verde National Park embodies the rich, diverse, and complex heritage of the Puebloan and Navajo cultures.
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Back to TopNorthwest
Ashcroft Ghost Town
In 1880, silver strikes by 23 prospectors turned the humble mining camp of Castle Creek Valley, in the Elk Mountains into a boomtown of 2,000 within three years. Within half a decade the deposits dried up and the citizens left. Summer ghost guides lead visitors on a 60-minute tour through the 12 original wood structures, including three hotels, a newspaper office, and a jail, as well as a reconstructed blacksmith shop and laundry.
(970) 925-3721 www.heritageaspen.org/ac.html
Miners established this town during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859 and named it after Vice President John Breckinridge. Ninety-minute guided tours of the 249- building district begin at the welcome center and explore through a theatre, bar- bershop, courthouse, and churches. Seven additional sites, notably the Barney Ford Museum, home of an escaped slave and civil rights leader, and the Lomax Placer Mine, an 1860s hydraulic surface mine, offer guided tours as well.
(800) 980-1859 www.breckheritage.com
Independence Ghost Town
In 1879, gold drew 1,500 people to this town. By 1888 most prospectors had relo- cated to nearby Aspen, leaving Independ- ence a ghost town. Self-guided tours of the remaining six structures include a stamp mill, boarding houses, and stables.
(970) 925-3721 www.heritageaspen.org/indep.html
North Park Pioneer Museum
Exhibits inside this 1882 ranch-style home depict westward settlement from the early mining days. Self-guided tours through the 27 themed rooms include an antique toy room, a kitchen with a coal range, school- room with sewing cards, army room with World War II army and navy uniforms, and buggy shed with a 1936 Dodge.
(970) 723-3282 www.northparkvisitorsbureau.com
White River Museum
The 1880 U.S. army officers' quarters has been converted into a museum doc- umenting the history of Meeker and the Ute tribe. Unique artifacts on display include Chief Colorow’s peace pipe, the hand printing press that was used to produce the Meeker Herald, photos of Teddy Roosevelt with his handwritten comments on the importance of military service, and a Victorian wreath made of human hair.
(970) 878-9982 www.meekercolorado.com/museum.htm
Back to TopFront Range
Argo Gold Mill and Museum
This 1910 gold mine mill sits at the en- trance of the 4.16-mile Argo Tunnel lo- cated in the heart of Idaho Springs historic district. Visitors can view rock-drilling demonstrations in the mine tunnel during a 60-minute guided tour; a mining and milling museum displays grinding equip- ment and fire ore pieces.
(303) 567-2421 www.historicargotours.com
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave
William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody gained fame from his experience riding for the Pony Express, killing 4,860 buffalo in an eight-month period, and creating the popular traveling Wild West Show. A 5,000-square-foot museum displays his buckskin coats, shotguns, and costumes. A 17-minute video explores his controversial hero status and relationship with the plains Indians. His grave is located on Lookout Mountain, 200 yards from the museum.
(303) 526-0744 www.buffalobill.org
Clear Creek History Park
This late 19th-century mountain ranch features 10 original structures including two cabins, a blacksmith shop, school- house, and bee yard. Two blocks to the northwest is the Astor House Museum, an 1867 boarding house, and Golden History Center, a museum containing Golden area artifacts.
(303) 278-3557 www.goldenhistorymuseums.org
Colorado Railroad Museum
The 15-acre rail yard features a recon- structed 1880s depot, roundhouse, depot, general store, and more than 100 train cars including a Rio Grande Southern #0404 Caboose and a Coors Refrigerator Car #5400. Locomotive exhibits feature a 90-foot “Armstrong” turntable and arti- facts, such as Otto Kuhler oil paintings and William Henry Jackson photographs.
(800) 365-6263 www.coloradorailroadmuseum.org
Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District
Clear Creek runs along the 19th-century mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, which contain reconstructed his- toric buildings, such as the 1867 Hamill House and the 1875 Hotel de Paris. During the summer months, the narrow gauge Georgetown Loop steam loco- motive takes visitors 3.1 miles through Clear Creek Valley and past the Lebanon Silver Mine. Walking tours of the mine are available for visitors who want to see hard rock veined with silver inside the 1870s tunnel.
(303) 569-2504 www.colorado.com/Articles.aspx?aid=42175
MacGregor Ranch Museum
Founded in 1873 by the mountain ranch- ing MacGregor family, this working cattle ranch remains the oldest of its kind in operation. The 1896 ranch house has been converted into a museum containing MacGregor family artifacts, including diaries, clothing, and mineral collections. Visitors can explore the 42 buildings on the 1,200-acre site, including the milk house, smokehouse, and blacksmith shop.
(970) 586-3749 www.macgregorranch.org
Meeker Home Museum
Nathan Meeker, agricultural editor of the New York Tribune , began the “Union Colony of Colorado” here, a utopian community established within a town he named after his boss, Horace Greeley. Costumed interpreters lead visitors on 45-minute guided tours through the re- stored bedrooms that contain Meeker’s clock and bed stand, kitchen, and 1870 parlor.
(970) 350-9220 www.greeleygov.com/ museums/MeekerHome.aspx
Stanley Hotel and Museum
F. O. Stanley, inventor of the steam auto- mobile, built this hotel in 1909. Today it remains a historic landmark in Estes Park, Colorado’s oldest tourist town. Located 0.6 miles from the hotel, this museum contains exhibits on automotive history, featuring steam cars such as a 1909 Model R Stan- ley Roadster and Stanley’s airbrush por- traits of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Visitors can take a 90-minute guided tour of the historic hotel that leaves from the basement lobby.
(970) 577-1903 www.stanleymuseum.org
Timberlane Farm Museum
Costumed interpreters demonstrate farm- ing techniques of this working farm in Big Thompson Valley. Visitors can take self- guided tours of the 20-acre site and watch docents cut fleece and operate tractors, cultivators, and milking machinery.
(970) 663-7348 www.timberlanefarmmuseum.org
Back to TopEastern Plains
Centennial Village Museum
Adjacent to Island Grove Park, this five-acre outdoor museum showcases original and replicated structures, includ- ing 20th-century German and Swedish homesteads, which were moved here in 1976. Visitors can take self-guided walk- ing tours and view the late 19th-century cottage, chuck wagon, carpenter house, and a 1910 train depot.
(970) 350-9220 www.greeleyhistory.org/pages/centennial_ village.html
Limon Heritage Museum and Railroad Park
The 1910 depot, which once served both Chicago’s Rock Island Rocket and Union Pacific railroads, is now home to a restored railroad office and a western saddle boxcar. The museum contains Native American artifacts such as Arapahoe arrowheads, pottery, and clothing. The exhibit building offers displays of a prairie kitchen, barber- shop, and Cheyenne tipi.
(719) 775-8605 www.ourjourney.info/MyJourneyDestinations/ LimonHeritageMuseum.asp
Old Town Museum
This reconstructed six-acre village contains 21 restored 19th-and-20th-century build- ings, including the 1889 depot, 1911 schoolhouse, 1921 church, and longhorn saloon. The heritage hall museum features a chuck wagon, tractors, and World-War-II uniforms. Audio boxes inside each struc- ture enable visitors to hear recollections from contemporaries of the period.
(719) 346-7382 www.burlingtoncolo.com/old-town-museum.htm
Overland Trail Museum
This museum takes its name from the Overland stage route of the Oregon Trail, which was the most traveled road of its time. Designed to look like a trading fort, it contains exhibits and artifacts that include the sunbonnets and wedding dresses be- longing to 19th-century pioneers. The five- acre grounds feature a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, church, and granary with branding irons and saddles.
(970) 522-3895 www.sterlingcolo.com/pages/dept/plr/museum.php
This 13,500-square-foot museum presents local Wray area history from a life-size model of a bison to a 1960s Red Cross “Gray Ladies” uniform. Exhibits also in- clude an 1863 Mountain Howitzer cannon used against several plains tribes during the 1868 Battle of Beecher Island, an 1861 Steinway Square baby grand piano, and Korean-War-era uniforms.
(970) 332-5063 www.wrayco.net/museum.html
Back to TopDenver Area
Black American West Museum
This museum documents the history of black western pioneers with memorabilia, letters, photographs, and oral histories. The homestead exhibit displays educa- tional panels and artifacts from Dearfield, a black pioneer town founded in 1910. The military exhibit offers artifacts of Buffalo Soldiers, a black Civil War U.S. army regiment.
(303) 482-2242 www.blackamericanwestmuseum.com
Colorado History Museum
Commissioned by the Works Project Ad- ministration in the 1930s and completed by Colorado artists in 1977, this 200,000- square-foot museum contains a theater and dioramas illustrating 10,000 years of Col- orado’s history. A combination ticket ad- mits visitors to the Byers-Evans House Museum, located two blocks northwest. The Evans family lived in the 1889 Victo- rian house for 80 years. The two-story mu- seum features 19th-century furnishings, wallpaper, and artwork.
(303) 866-3682 www.coloradohistory.org
Forney Transportation Museum
This extensive 70,000-square-foot museum of antique cars began as the personal col- lection of industrialist J. D. Forney and has grown to showcase more than 500 trans- portation exhibits, including a Big Boy Union Pacific #4005 steam locomotive and Amelia Earhart’s Gold Bug Kissel auto. Self-guided tours lead through the “Any- thing with Wheels” exhibit, which contains steam tractors and carriage wagons. Chil- dren can ride on an operational full-scale 20th-century Cagney steam engine train.
(303) 297-1113 www.forneymuseum.org
Four Mile Historic Park
Situated along the banks of Cherry Creek, the Four Mile House was once the Denver stop on the Cherokee Trail, which ran from Tahlequah, Oklahoma to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Today costumed inter- preters offer 45-minute guided tours through the 1859 home; visitors can take a self-guided tour of the 12-acre park, which contains a recreated former tavern and inn, bee house, three barns, as well as 19th-century demonstrations of quilting and blacksmithing.
(720) 865-0800 www.fourmilepark.org
Hiwan Homestead Museum
This 17-room rustic lodge features a collection of artifacts, including Navajo blankets and Pueblo pottery, that illustrate how settlers lived in the mountains during the summer between 1890 and 1930. Self-guided tours of the recreated rooms include a Gothic-inspired chapel and a carpentry and printing workshop.
(720) 497-7650 www.co.jefferson.co.us/ openspace/openspace_T56_R10.htm
Denver’s first post office, theatre, and meeting hall, built on Larimer Street in the 1870s, still stand as part of the city’s 16-building historic district. The Larimer Square historic walking tour begins in the lobby of the Granite building, and travels through the Kettle Arcade and Lincoln Hall, which were once used for parties and dancing.
(303) 534-2367 www.larimersquare.com
Molly Brown House Museum
Located in Denver’s Capitol Hill district, this 1889 Victorian mansion once be- longed to “unsinkable” Titanic survivor Molly Brown who famously seized control of a lifeboat and searched successfully for survivors. The three-story museum offers 45-minute guided tours through the kitchen, bedrooms, and living room con- taining original artifacts, such as Brown’s books, cooking utensils, and polar bear skin rug.
(303) 832-4092 www.mollybrown.org
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
This 150,000-square-foot museum, housed in a 1939 Hangar #1 on the former grounds of Lowry Air Force Base, has 36 unique aircraft on exhibit, including a 1938 B-18A Bolo and a World-War-I-era Eagle Fokker D.VII. Four exhibits examine the history of avionics. Visitors can view World-War-I fighter pilot uniforms and sit inside a F-4 Phantom II cockpit.
(303) 360-5360 www.wingsmuseum.org
Back to TopSouthwest
Anasazi Heritage Center
The 10,000-square-foot museum features the Pueblo, Navajo, and Ute cultures with interpretive exhibits, such as a hands-on discovery area where visitors can weave cloth and grind corn on a mano and metate or explore the 12th-century Anasazi ruins 200 yards away.
(970) 882-5600 www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ahc.html
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
This 164,000-acre monument park boasts more than 6,000 recorded archeological sites, making it the richest outdoor mu- seum in North America. Visitors can park near and walk among the ruined sandstone walls, towers, and kivas, (ceremonial rooms), of the Ancestral Puebloan Sand Canyon, Painted Hand, and Lowry Pueblos.
(970) 882-5600 www.blm.gov/co/st/en/nm/canm.html
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum
The Denver & Rio Grande Railway com- pleted the narrow, three-foot gauge rail line in 1882 to transport gold and silver ore from Durango, up 3,000 feet through the rugged San Juan Mountains to Silver- ton. Today visitors can enjoy a 45-minute ride in Victorian-era steam locomotives or open-aired contemporary cars.
(970) 247-2733 www.durangotrain.com
Gunnison Pioneer Museum
This five-acre site contains 62 antique cars and 11 buildings, including a dairy barn, schoolhouse, and post office. The museum’s narrow gauge train is a Denver & Rio Grande Engine #268, complete with flanger, gondola, boxcar, livestock car, and caboose. (970) 641-4530
(970) 925-3721 www.pioneertrainmuseum.org
Mesa Verde National Park
Ancestral Puebloans, who lived in Mesa Verde between 600 and 1300 C.E., built the most extensive network of cliff dwellings in North America, including the 150-room Cliff Palace complex, which is nestled into the 324-foot wide, 89-foot deep natural cave along the Cliff Canyon wall. The onsite Chapin Mesa Archaeolog- ical Museum features timelines, prehistoric artifacts, and dioramas on Ancestral Puebloan culture.
(970) 529-4465 www.nps.gov/meve
Ridgeway Railroad Museum
Located at the start of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, this 1,000-square- foot museum highlights the history of railroading in the Ouray County area and includes model trains and rail equipment. Visitors can also see rolling stock outside the building, such as a Rio Grande stock car #5574 and engine #42.
Ute Indian Museum
This 10,000-square-foot museum lies on the original eight-acre homestead of 19th-century Ute Indian Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta. Visitors can view a 20-minute video on the traditional Bear Dance, during which Ute warriors courted women. Three exhibits explore Ute history, featuring original photo- graphs and artifacts, such as elaborately beaded moccasins, buckskin dresses, and Chief Ouray’s ceremonial outfit he wore in 1880 to negotiate a peace treaty after the Meeker Massacre.
(970) 249-3098 www.coloradohistory.org/hist_sites/uteindian/ute_Indian.htm
Back to TopPikes Peak & Central Rockies
Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum
Located in the restored 1903 El Paso County Courthouse, this museum contains exhibits on the history of the Pikes Peak Region. It features 40,000 objects, includ- ing Indian porcupine quillwork, clothing, tools, and mining gear. Visitors can see a reconstructed section of the house lived in by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885), an Indian rights activist.
(719) 385-5990 www.springsgov.com/SectionIndex.aspx? SectionID=38
Fort Garland Museum and Pike's Stockade
Built in 1858, the fort quickly became the center of U.S. Army operations against the Ute Indians. The museum features a recreation of Kit Carson’s quarters and a 40-panel display on the Buffalo Soldiers, a black U.S. army regiment, with displays of rare photographs and artifacts highlighting the crucial role of the 9th Cavalry.
(719) 379-3512 www.coloradohistory.org/ hist_site/ft_garland
Leadville Historic District
Fifty-eight historic buildings in the block downtown date back to the city’s frontier period. Sites include Tabor Opera House, the park commemorating the world’s largest ice palace, and the Healy House, an 1878 Greek Revival home that features Victorian furnishings of Leadville pioneers, such as silver tycoon, Horace Tabor.
(719) 486-3900 www.leadville.com/walktour
Historic Manitou Springs
This 138-year-old-town boasts a plethora of historic sites such as the three-building Cripple Creek District Museum, the Vic- torian Miramont Castle, a 46-room estate where visitors can sip high tea, and the Ghost Town Museum, featuring a black- smith’s shop, saloon, and stable, among other reconstructions, filled with thousands of artifacts.
(800) 642-2567 www.manitousprings.org
Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine
After discovering quartz veined with gold in 1891, Mollie Kathleen Gortner became the first woman in Cripple Creek, Col- orado, to stake a mining claim. Production continued for the next 70 years, producing more than $100 million worth of gold. Forty-minute guided tours include a ride in a miner’s cage down 1,000 feet into a gold mine. Visitors can also see demonstrations of a 1890s steam hoist, jack leg drills, and slushers in underground mining.
(719) 689- 2466 www.goldminetours.com
National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
This 71,000-square-foot museum high- lights the history of mining through 22 dioramas depicting early gold miners, hands-on exhibits, and the Fluorescent Room, which contains minerals that fluo- resce under black light. Visitors can follow the mine-gauge track in a reconstructed hard rock mine, see a 23-ounce gold piece from the local Little Jonny Mine, and read the biographies of industry inductees.
(719) 486-1229 www.mininghallfofame.com
ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy
This 30,000-square-foot museum, dedi- cated to a sport that was originally a daily activity of working cowboys, contains the Hall of Champions with recent inductees, two 20-minute multimedia presentations on the early rodeo, and many exhibits documenting rodeo history through arti- facts, such as a saddle used by Cody Wright in the 2008 Bronc Riding World Championship.
(719) 528-4764 www.prorodeohalloffame.com
Rock Ledge Ranch
This 277-acre living history farm museum contains outdoor exhibits that depict life in four areas central to the Pikes Peak region. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the 1775 Ute Indian exhibit, which contains original tipis, the 1860’s Galloway home- stead, the 1880’s Chambers home and ranch with blacksmith shop, and the 1907 Edwardian country estate.
(719) 578-6777 www.rockledgeranch.com
South Park City Museum
This recreated 19th-century mining town contains seven original structures and 27 restored buildings, including a brewery, dentist office, schoolhouse, and stage- coach barn. Visitors can see an arrastra ore crusher, a Wilfley separating table used to recycle metal in the mining dis- play, and costumed interpreters leading horses in the corral.
(719) 836-2387 www.southparkcity.org
United States Air Force Academy
Established in 1954 during the Cold War, the Air Force’s premiere military school boasts a 31,600-square-foot visitors center that features exhibits exploring how the academy builds the moral, academic, ath- letic, and military character of their cadets, in addition to a survey of Air Force history dating back to its early years as a junior branch of the U.S. Army. A 250-seat the- ater plays a 14-minute film on the academy life of a cadet. Self-guided tours of the 18,000-acre campus include the honor court, field house, Arnold Hall, and cadet chapel.
(719) 333-2025 www.usafa.af.mil
Western Museum of Mining and Industry
This 17,000-square-foot museum, located on a 27-acre site, showcases the history of technological metallurgy in the Pikes Peak region with an 18-minute video on early mining camps in the West, and exhibits on drill operating and gold panning. Sixty-minute guided tours let visitors see a full- scale underground gold mine recon- struction, a recreated 1890 assay office, and an operable 1895 Corliss 500-horse- power steam engine.
(800) 752-6558 ww.wmmi.org
Back to TopSoutheast
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
Located in the mountain branch section of the Santa Fe Trail, this reconstructed 1833 fur trading post was once the center for Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain’s boom- ing fur trading business with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. Visitors can view a 20-minute film about the post’s traders and trappers; costumed interpreters lead 60-minute guided tours through a trade room filled with buffalo robes, a blacksmith shop, and game room.
(719) 383-5010 www.nps.gov/beol
Boggsville Historical Site
Perched on the banks of the Purgatoire River, this 1866 nine-room adobe building was once the home of Thomas Boggs. Later it served as the last residence of Kit Carson.
(719) 456-1358 www.phsbc.info/boggs.htm
El Pueblo History Museum
This 9,000-square-foot regional museum contains nine exhibits on the history of the Pueblo area, which began Spanish ex- ploration. Visitors can see French armor, Indian beaded pouches, and adobe fur trader William Bent’s carved wooden chest.
(719) 583-0453 www.coloradohistory.org/hist_sites/pueblo/pueblo.htm
Francisco Fort Museum
The reconstructed 1862 adobe fort re-cre- ates a burgeoning 19th-century Colorado town with unique artifacts, such as an origi- nal 1850 letter written by Abraham Lincoln to one of his clients, musical instruments, and rifles. The six-acre site contains a coun- try store, schoolhouse, log cabin, and saloon.
(719) 742-5501 www.southerncolorado.info/attraction.php?id=80
Kit Carson Museum
The 1940 adobe building houses this 3,000-square-foot museum, which high- lights Kit Carson’s work as a trapper and frontiersman in the Bent County area. Ex- hibits showcase letters and photographs, while visitors can explore the grounds that contain a blacksmith shop, 1876 jail, and carriage house.
(719) 456-2507 www.phsbc.info/carsonmuseum.htm
Koshare Indian Museum
Located on Otero Junior College campus, the museum displays the history of the Indians of southwestern Colorado region. Visitors can see Koshare dancing and exhibits that contain paintings, baskets, pottery, and jewelry.
(719) 384-4411 www.kosharehistory.org
John and Margaret Thatcher’s 1893 Richardsonian Romanesque home was de- signed by New York architect Henry Hud- son Holly and remained a family residence for 75 years. Visitors can see original Tiffany chandeliers, mahogany woodwork, and Turkish rugs. Docents lead 60-minute guided tours through the 27,000-square- foot home’s 37 period furnished rooms.
(719) 545-5290 www.rosemount.org
Trinidad History Museum Complex
This historic city block includes three 19th- century historic sites: the 1882 French-style Bloom mansion; the 1873 Baca house with Rio Grande textiles; and the Santa Fe Trail Museum with unique regional artifacts, such as Kit Carson’s buckskin coat. Visitors can take a 60-minute guided tour of both the Bloom mansion and Baca house, as well as a self-guided tour through the Santa Fe Trail Museum.
(719) 846-7217 www.coloradohistory.org/hist_sites/trinidad/trinidad.htm