When planning our giant summer road trip, we originally planned to just make a quick day trip to Colorado Springs from Boulder so I could take Brian and the kids to Garden of the Gods. I visited the park as a child and had such fond memories of it, there was no way I was going all the way to Colorado and not going there this summer! But part way through our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park we decided to change things up.
We needed one less day to explore Rocky Mountain National Park than we thought, so we cancelled the last night of hotel in Estes Park. We also cancelled our first night of hotel in Boulder, Colorado. Then we booked two nights in Colorado Springs to give ourselves more time to do some exploring in that part of the state.
We spent the first day in Colorado Springs visiting Garden of the Gods, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and Cave of the Winds Adventure Park. That night during dinner, I shared all other other fun things to do that I found and we all agreed to head to historic Cripple Creek where we toured the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, visited the Cripple Creek Heritage Center, explored the Outlaws And Lawmen Jail Museum, and rode the Cripple Creek And Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Rain Rain Go Away, Come Again Another Day
When our tour of the Mollie Kathleen ended and we exited the mine, it was pouring rain and the wind was whipping across the top of the mountainside like nobody’s business. The weather was nuts and we immediately bolted for the gift shop where we picked up some souvenirs and watched the rain through the windows.
We kept waiting for the rain to subside, but it wasn’t going to happen, so eventually we made a run for it and jumped in the truck. We needed something to do that was inside and dry, so we headed over to the Cripple Creek Heritage Center right as it began to rain even harder!
By the time we ran into the Heritage Center entrance, we all were soaked and stood in the doorway for a while watching the rain and soon the hail. Luckily, we were now inside and the Cripple Creek Heritage Center is a pretty awesome place to be stuck in a storm.
Visiting The Cripple Creek Heritage Center
Overlooking the historic town of Cripple Creek, the Heritage Center is a three-story, 11,600 square foot Visitor Center designed in a style reminiscent of the town’s heyday. As a member of the Pikes Peak Country Attractions Association, the Cripple Creek Heritage Center also acts as travel and informational resource center for tourists.
We weren’t sure what we would find when we ducked into the Heritage Center to get out of the rain, but I can definitely say what we found is way better than anything we imagined. When we turned away from the rain and into the museum, we were greeted with amazing exhibits and a HUGE wall of windows offering guests views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Cripple Creek.
Historical displays and photographs, interactive exhibits, and museum quality models combine state-of-the-art technology with tactile, audio, and video techniques to immerse visitors in the colorful history of the Cripple Creek Gold Camp.
We learned all about Cripple Creek’s humble beginnings in the late 1800s as a 15-person gold camp, the glory days of its gold rush, its almost extinction, and its renewed journey to the present-day tourist town packed with casinos, quaint shops, delicious restaurants, museums, and historic buildings.
A few of the exhibits include:
- Early Explorers
- Cripple Creek’s First Residents
- American Indians
- Business of Mining
- Gold Camp Lifestyle
- Treasures of the Cripple Creek Mining District
We also learned more about the state of Colorado, gems and minerals found in the Pikes Peak Region, local wildlife, and the area’s fascinating dinosaur discoveries. And yes, there is a huge dinosaur statue on the third floor that you can’t miss!
Our Favorite Museum Exhibit
While we enjoyed the entire museum, even the small model train display on the bottom floor, there was one exhibit that stood out…
At the Cripple Creek Heritage Center, there is a GIANT model of the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, showing it’s 1,000 foot mining elevator descent and the different horizontal shafts/tunnels. There is even a tiny replica of the underground tram! It was so cool to see this model after touring the the Mollie Kathleen, because it gave us a totally different perspective on the experience we just had!
Know Before You Go
- The Cripple Creek Heritage and Information Center is located at 9283 South Highway 67, Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813 in Teller County right across the road from the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.
- The Cripple Creek Heritage Center is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Admission is free.
- Beautiful exhibits and displays, some of which are interactive, introduce visitors to the glory days of gold mining and the boomtown that was Cripple Creek, as well as area geology and regional recreation opportunities.
- There is a model train exhibit and half-hour film downstairs and upstairs there is a giant dinosaur!
- Special dog runs for small and large dogs are available outside. Service animals are welcome inside the Heritage Center.