Tucked among the snow-capped mountains and lush valleys of Colorado are countless adorable small towns. Many were founded as gold rush boom towns and have somehow stood the test of time, maintaining their vintage charm while also taking advantage of their natural surroundings to attract outdoor adventurers. Two perfect examples are Georgetown and Idaho Springs. Indulge your inner history buff by visiting iconic stops like the Argo Gold Mine & Mill, the vintage Georgetown Railroad, and the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. Then add in a touch of adventure by ziplining or whitewater rafting.
Almost a decade after the California Gold Rush, explorations into what is now Colorado took place, and although no one found all that much treasure, towns boomed with both population and business. Known as "The Mile High City" due to its exact one-mile elevation from sea level, Denver is also one of the most entertaining cities in the United States. Whether you would like to explore a thriving cultural scene, discover diverse neighborhoods, or simply observe the natural beauty of Planet Earth, Denver has an incredible amount to offer. Another great benefit of Denver? There are some pretty stellar day trips a short drive from the city. One of the best options is to cruise the historic mountain towns tucked away among the snow-capped peaks and forest valleys.
13th St. & Ford St., Golden, CO, US
Finding yourself inside the world's largest single-site brewery is pretty epic, whether you're a beer-drinker or not, and that's exactly what you'll get at the Coors Brewing Company in Golden. A 30-minute free tour will guide you through all the stages of the beer-making process, and even allows you to sample the wide variety of beers on offer. That's right, don't worry. You won't leave without having the opportunity to try some free beers (21 and up, of course)! Coors began whipping up beer back in 1873, and has been a part of Colorado history ever since. This place is more than just your everyday brewery; it's a part of American culture that goes deep. The town of Golden is a quaint, yet bustling area with mountain views and great shopping and restaurants, so spending an afternoon here after your time at the brewery will not be wasted.
987 Lookout Mountain Rd, Golden, CO, US
William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody earned his nickname from his hunting abilities and scouting for the Army after the American Civil War. Fast forward to 1872 in Chicago, and Buffalo Bill's life in show business was quickly taking off, making him a household name. He went on to create his own traveling troupe, educating people in the East about the Wild West (or his storybook version of it) while entertaining them. Parts of his touring Wild West shows, including figures like Annie Oakley, are still treasured and remembered to this day. Buffalo Bill died in Denver in 1917, and people flock to his grave year after year. Special exhibits at the museum, as well as views of those Colorado Rockies (he may have one of the most scenic final resting places in the world), make the entire experience magical and truly something out of history. You'll feel the nostalgia and fresh air as soon as you enter the scene. A one-mile hiking trail connects to the lookout deck for additional time outdoors if you want to add a bonus to your trip, and the gift shop and cafe will give you the opportunity to not leave-empty handed! This blast through the past is something out of a history book!
350 Whitewater Rd, Idaho Springs, CO, US
Rafting is an exhilarating feeling any adventure seeker must give a whirl, especially while in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Clear Creek is the perfect location, just 45 minutes outside Denver, so you won’t have to go too far out of your way for an afternoon of fun in the water. At Clear Creek you can choose your level of rafting trip, so whether you're a beginner or an expert, the raft guides can give you exactly the experience you want. Moving and grooving through whitewater allows you to see the Wild West from a whole other angle, and if you don't have a full group to fill up a raft, making new friends while trying something new is all part of the fun!
2350 Riverside Drive, Idaho Springs, CO, US
With gold planning such a central part of the West's history, learning how gold was mined, processed, transported, and handled is a must when you're in the area. The Argo Gold Mine was built in the late 1800s and was a source of ventilation and drainage to the ore that passed through it to the mill. The Argo Mill itself is five whopping stories tall, so there is plenty to see and learn! Being just 45 minutes from Denver, this trip is an easy afternoon activity that changes things up and makes for an educational, yet hands-on activity any age can appreciate. See the tools and equipment first hand by taking a tour, and give panning for gold a try at the end of your experience here in Idaho Springs.
1517 Miner St, Idaho Springs, CO, US
You've heard of pizza styles made famous by Chicago, New York, and a number of other cities, but while up in the mountains, giving "Colorado-style pizza" a try is a must-do. At Beau Jo's Pizza, they don't mess around. The pizza fiends here in Idaho Springs use the resources of their beautiful surroundings and bring a delicious, fresh and thick pie to the table. These pizzas can weigh up to FIVE pounds (you heard that right!), being loaded with oh-so-fresh ingredients and homemade sauce. If you're not in the mood for a slice or six, sandwiches, salads, and funky appetizers make this a gem known for great local food. With multiple locations around the state, Beau Jo's is loved by many and is putting Colorado on the map for styles of pie that you'll have to see with your own eyes to believe.
431 Chicago Creek Rd, Idaho Springs, CO, US
You have endless choices when it comes to deciding what kinds of outdoor adventures you're going to embark on each day in Colorado. AVA Rafting makes the decisions easier. Not only can you try your hand at rafting with top-ranked programs here, but ziplining, rock climbing, camping, and horseback riding are also their specialties. With AVA, you can choose package deals that combine any of the above activities into an organized trip that inspires you to stay outside and keep exploring all Colorado has to offer. Whether you're in a group, with a friend, or just a daredevil wanting to try something new, this company will make life easy during your stay, and allow you to enjoy endless views, mountain air, and exhilarating experiences, all with peace of mind. Because who wants to be stressed out while on top a mountain ziplining?
305 Argentine, Georgetown, CO, US
Built in a unique style known as "Country-Style Gothic," the Hamill House is the result of Joseph Watson designing the estate and later selling it to his brother-in-law, William Arthur Hamill, who expanded the home into the massive and interesting structure it is today. Multiple buildings on the property allow you to frolic about and feel as if you've stepped right back into the 1800s. For the history buff who wants to learn about the silver industry, the architecture of the place, or life during that booming era, the Hamill House Museum is a treasure not everyone knows about, but one that is loved by those who pay a visit. You'll find weddings being hosted on the gorgeous site, and all sorts of locals and travelers learning and exploring the area with an open heart and mind.
Since 1884, The Georgetown Loop Railroad has been one of Colorado's most attractive marvels; it was a spectacular feat for its time and remains an incredible experience today. In 1973, the railroad and nearly 1,000 acres around it were restored and designed for hiking and outdoor activity of all kinds. The train is very popular, especially during peak times of the year, so reserving tickets to ride the train ahead of time is recommended to ensure your spot, and you can book a mining tour as well. The ride alone is over an hour, so plan your day accordingly. You'll want to take in those Rockies, trees, and feel the awesome wind in your hair without a care in the world. Special events and festivals throughout the year make the railroad a constantly changing, fun place that's a piece of history you'll want the entire family to experience.
Colorado's past is something worth exploring, and you can do so easily in a variety of ways. There is always something to do in the mountains, whether it be educational or thrill-seeking fun. The cool thing about Denver? It's super easy to find activities both in the city and a short drive away. That's not a combination you'll find in many places! Any traveler will find something that captures their heart on this trip, all while gazing upon the stunning Rocky Mountain views.