Step Back in Time to the Old WestExperience a historical mining town with a vibrant arts venue.
Professional opera singers Mark Biesterfeld and wife Leah Creek Biesterfeld enjoy coming to the Central City Opera, the fifth-oldest opera company in the U.S. "It has beautiful, top-notch productions," says Leah. This distinctive mountain arts venue is located in the former gold-mining town of Central City, Colorado, once known as "The Richest Square Mile on Earth."
Located just 35 miles west of Denver off of Interstate 70, Central City was in the heart of the gold vein that launched Colorado's 1859 gold rush. Today, this historical town is the setting for modern-day entertainment. Take a stroll through the streets and you will see they are lined with refurbished Victorian storefronts turned into limited-stakes gambling casinos, as well as shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. Look to the north and you'll find Victorian homes peering down from the hillside. Walk west on Eureka Street and you'll see the beautiful Central City Opera House, a national historic landmark built 135 years ago with granite from nearby quarries.
Central City Opera is a unique mountain treasure. The opera house first opened its doors in 1878, and over the years the building has been revamped and restored, from its foundation all the way to its lovely frescoed ceilings. Snag a ticket to one of the opera's annual summer performances and you will find yourself immersed in a world-class production. The intimate setting and perfect acoustics will captivate your mind and engage your senses. "The talent is to die for," says Karen Barnhardt from the visitor center across the street. "People audition from all over the United States and Europe. It's the cream of the cream."
Central City Opera's Colorado Summer Music Festival kicks off each year in June. The opera also hosts Central City Days, a progressive summertime party that celebrates one of its current productions with food, wine and live music. For dinner and drinks before the show, visit the historical Teller House next door, which offers wining and dining venues during the summer opera season. Enjoy an upscale meal at Kevin Taylor's Rouge at the Teller House. For more casual fare, visit the Face Bar, named after a famous 1936 painting of a woman's face on the barroom floor.
Central City offers a host of other entertainment options. If you're coming to look for Lady Luck, you'll find the town's casinos within easy walking distance of each other. For a more intimate setting, mosey down Main Street to the Dostal Alley casino and brewpub, where you can play the slots, grab some grub, and drink a microbrew. Across the street at the Famous Bonanza Casino, belly up to the bar at the Gold Coin Saloon ― one of the oldest saloons in the state. Around the corner on Gregory Street, you might just win the mother lode at the Reserve Casino Hotel, the largest venue in town.
If gambling isn't your thing, visit the Gilpin County Museum to see mining artifacts and Central City Opera memorabilia. Tour the Coeur d'Alene Mine Shaft House. Or visit Central City Gallery, a venue hosted by the Gilpin County Arts Association that features the work of Rocky Mountain artists.
During the summer, you'll have a raucous good time at the bed races on Lou Bunch Day, named for Central City's famous 19th-century madam. In October, don't miss the annual Creepy Crawl for a guided tour of the town's allegedly haunted buildings. You can also visit the area's earliest inhabitants on your own by taking Eureka Street a mile west of town to three historical cemeteries, with headstones dating back to the gold rush.