5 Reasons to Experience Central City

Tucked into the Rocky Mountains, just 45 minutes from DenverCentral City is a mountain hamlet that feels like it was just transported from 1859. 

Main Street of downtown Central City on a summers day.

Downtown Central City

Red inflatable boat with three people whitewater rafting through rapids.

Rafting near Central City

Two shots of beer with Central City Colorado on the side.

Craft Beer in Central City

Black engine train in Central City

Central City Railroad

Aerial view of Central City

Summer in Central City

Coeur d' Alene Mine, a red barn-like building at the beginning of fall with green trees turning golden in the background.
Coeur d' Alene Mine
Exterior of Grand Z Casino Hotel on a sunny day. Many windows with blue awnings.
Grand Z Casino Hotel
Madam Lou Bunch Day: Man pushes old-school bed with man on front riding, clinging to the footboard. Woman riding behind him, clutching his shoulders, arm in the air.
Madam Lou Bunch Day
Central City Visitors Center in the bright sunlight.
Central City Visitors Center
Central City Opera House in the summer with a bright blue sky and bright green trees in the background.
Central City Opera House

Narrow streets lined with historic Victorian buildings containing some of Colorado’s oldest casinos, a famous opera house and incredible history. A weekend getaway to this beautifully preserved town should be on your bucket list.

1. World-Class Opera & Events

Central City Opera is the fifth oldest professional opera company in the country. What began in 1932 has bloomed into a renowned showcase of exceptional productions. Every July, the Opera Festival kicks off with performances like “The Light in the Piazza” and “Die Fledermaus.” A Sunday afternoon spent watching performers sing their hearts out in the circa-1878 jewel-box theater is perfection. Fun fact: Many of the artists live in town during the summer months.

August brings one of the Centennial State’s most unique events, Madam Lou Bunch Day. People dressed in Victorian attire (think colorful can-can costumes and snappy bowler hats) honor the owner of Central City’s most successful brothel (or sporting house if we’re using historical terms). Watch locals race brass beds down Main Street, enjoy live music and attend the Madam and Miners Ball.

With dozens of Colorado distilleries slinging hundreds of spirits, Stills in the Hills is a June must-attend. More of an IPA drinker? Each August, The Great Central City Beer Festival taps incredible pours from two dozen hand-picked local breweries for epic sudsy fun. In September,  25 artists descend on the town to paint fall landscapes and architectural portraits of town at the Plein Air Festival — fall in love with one of the creations? You can buy it on the last day of the event!

As the days get shorter and  October dawns, the Gilpin Historical Society hosts Creepy Crawl, a walking tour of town complete with murder reenactments and ghost stories. Get in the holiday spirit with Tommyknocker Holidays at the Teller House, a Victorian Landmark, annually in December.  

2. Rich History

Founded by miners in 1859, Central City is brimming with Gold-Rush-era tales. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you walk along the curving lanes. Begin your history lesson at Gilpin Historical Society Museum. Check out the Mountain Submarine in this 1869-schoolhouse.

Or visit the Thomas House, an 1867 Greek-Revival home that looks the same as when the family moved out in 1917. Over at the Coeur d’Alene Mine, you can see vintage mining equipment and learn how Central City got its start searching for gold. Pan for Au yourself at Hidee Gold Mine, an operating excavation site.

Take a haunted tour to learn more about Central City’s early residents and make your way through the Catholic and Knights of Pythias cemeteries.

3. Colorado’s Best Casinos

Central City is best known for its gaming establishments. After the town became the richest mining region in Colorado, casinos were established, and that tradition remains today. Dragon Tiger Casino is the newest and has baccarat, live Blackjack and electronic table games. Locally owned since 1992, Easy Street Casino proffers more than 250 slot machines, plus video poker. Voted “Denver’s Best Casino” by Denver A-List, Century Casino & Hotel has enticing video poker, slots and Blackjack.

Over at The Famous Bonanza Casino, more than 150 coin-operated slot machines sing like jukeboxes, offering incredible jackpots. Two floors of gaming accompany the only brewery in Gilpin County, Dostal Alley. Free drinks go along with more than 700 slot machines and live music from the likes of Uncle Kracker at Grand Z Casino & Hotel.


Breathe in the fresh, alpine air while rock climbing in Clear Creek Canyon or hiking to a deep-blue lake on the Loch Lomond Trail. Get your heart racing by whitewater rafting Clear Creek or heading down The Whole Casino mountain-bike singletrack. It’s 16.8 miles of handlebar-clutching bumps.

Cool off in the hotter months by paddleboarding or kayaking at Chase Gulch Reservoir — you can also fly-fish from the shore. Or feel the wind in your hair off-roading on Yankee Hill, a 9.5-mile rocky path with incredible peak views. If seeing the outdoors from the comfort of a car is more your speed, venture out of Central City on Virginia Canyon Road, a hairpin-turn, paved adventure with insane views or enjoy a longer drive on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.

5. Delectable Dining & Comfortable Lodging

All mornings should begin with sweet-potato-and-black-bean burritos washed down with honey-lavender lattes from Ante Up Cafe. Follow that with lunch at Dostal Alley, where the house pizza features mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onion and black olives. Pair it with a Cousin Jack pub ale, brewed on-site. Pick up a bag of Eureka Street Popcorn for an afternoon snack before ending your day at Mid-City Grill — the prime rib is slow-roasted to perfection.

After a long day of playing, lay your head to rest at one of Central City’s hotels. Century Casino & Hotel offers modern luxury with warm colors, pillow-top mattresses, Wi-Fi and spa-style bathtubs. Close to the gaming action, Grand Z Casino & Hotel recently renovated its 119 deluxe rooms. Each features modern furniture and comfy beds. Want to become one with nature? Sleep under the stars at Cold Springs Campground, Columbine Campground or Denver West/Central City KOA campground.

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