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Central City, Colorado: The little mining town that can

Central City Main Street

Central City Main StreetWhen I first moved to Colorado, more than 24 years ago, Central City was really a 150-year historic, ghost town, a former bustling mining town with no industry to replace it. As a single mom, I recall many “clear my head” road trips through the windy Clear Creek Canyon road to stop at the Teller House and other historic stops. That’s why last week, I re-visited Central City and the Fortune Valley Hotel & Casino.


Legalized gaming changed the face of Central City and several other nearly extinct gaming towns. Central City jumped into action and soon became a favorite stop for Denver metro gamers. It was really perfect — as it maintained its intimate mountain charm and the historic buildings. Then the lagging Blackhawk allowed corporate casinos to come in, and the formerly overlooked town became the first stop and often the last stop for modern-day gamblers, a Colorado mini-version of Las Vegas.


Althought there’s a time and a place for the glitz of Vegas, even in Denver, I prefer the intimacy of the small town gambling that I re-discovered in Central City at Fortunate Valley, one of only a handful of accommodations — others include Century Casino and local B&Bs. No garish corporate structures in this mountain town. The casinos blend in with the historic features of the town, and surprisingly appear to belong to the mining era, rather than newer builds. The historic downtown is picture-perfect, although unfortunately some buildings remain empty.


Fortune Valley rooms are clean and comfortable, nothing fancy, but who really stays in their room? From the valet to reception to casino hosts and dealers, Fortunate Valley staff are so friendly. Unlike some of the other corporate casinos, the staff appears to really like their job.
I decided to try my hand at craps, and the moment I walked up to the craps table, the staff welcomed me. After I informed them that I was a novice, the staff — and several of the other guests — offered to teach me. It was fun and exciting to learn craps, and I didn’t feel like the staff was just trying to turn some chips for their employers. I will definitely return to Central City and Fortune Valley — next time, perhaps I’ll ride my scoot up the canyon.


MORE ABOUT CENTRAL CITY: Less than 30 miles from downtown Denver, Central City offers one of the best nearby options for fall travel, whether the goal is a half-day break from the city or an indulgent weekend getaway. And the Central City Parkway is a drive that will take you to another time. As you travel the wide open Central City Parkway from I-70 to this historic mining town, you’re transported back to the Old West, where you can walk the historic streets of Central City, take in a museum, some music or have dinner, or even partake in more exciting pursuits of 24/7 Black Jack, poker or slots — and now craps. Just 30 minutes from Denver, but centuries back in time, Central City is a fitting end to eight miles of scenic views along the Central City Parkway. For more information, visit is all about a 40-something,quasi-traveled chica exploring the world with shoes that fit the destination and adventure. : heels, flip-flops, golf shoes, biker boots, and sometimes barefeet. Come take the journey. Come find your shoes. Come travel with me. Diana Rowe, Denver-based travel writer,