Destination for Meetings and Events: Cripple Creek, Colorado
By Beth Buehler
Groups looking for a destination that combines rich history, fun activities and majestic mountain surroundings will strike gold in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Located about 45 miles west of Colorado Springs near the base of Pikes Peak, the small town captures the spirit of the western frontier and will have increased capacity to host groups upon the grand opening of Wildwood Hotel and Casino’s 101-room, $14-million hotel on June 1.
“The hotel will be the first hotel built since casinos were approved in Cripple Creek back in 1991,” says Hotel and Casino Sales Manager Nanci Ciampa. Groups and leisure travelers can pre-book guest rooms and the more than 2,800 square feet of meeting and event space. Wildwood Casino’s culinary team has prepared a catering menu and offers customized options. If overflow is needed, the casino’s existing property, The Gold King Inn, offers additional accommodations.
Wildwood, one of nine casinos within walking distance along historic Bennett Avenue, is the only Vegas-style casino in town and features new and classic slots, video poker machines, table games, and dining at Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill and Joe’s Diner.
Gold Rush Glory
To understand the aura of Cripple Creek today, it’s important to have a snapshot of the past. Bob Womack had been on a gold search for nearly 15 years when in 1890 he discovered the precious metal in Poverty Gulch, which later became the town of Cripple Creek. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, known as the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp,” between 1890 and 1910. And they weren’t disappointed. More than 22.4 million ounces of gold, worth approximately $11.2 billion in today’s dollars, were extracted from more than 500 mines in the Cripple Creek and Victor region.
Gold production was down to less than one percent of what it once was by the early 1940s, and the community had dwindled to only 600 residents by 1990. Legalized gambling in 1991 changed Cripple Creek’s fate with many of the historic buildings refurbished as casinos. The Cripple Creek Historic District is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
Local Experiences for Meeting Agendas
To get a real taste of the area, make sure to make room on the agenda for a 45-minute ride on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad through mountains and forests (during fair-weather months) and a tour of the historic Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, descending 1,000 feet below ground (the equivalent of 100 stories) and named after the first woman to strike gold in the Cripple Creek area. The train ride starts at the historic 1894 station house.
Built only two years later, during the flurry of the Gold Rush, Butte Theater carries on the tradition of presenting melodramas and other shows. To explore more history, check out the various historic buildings preserved at the Cripple Creek District Museum.
If possible, plan events in tandem with and play off the themes of Cripple Creek’s Donkey Derby Days, Ice Festival, Top of the World Rodeo and other unique community events such as motorcycle rallies, music festivals and more. The nearby town of Victor hosts Gold Rush Days. If luck is on your group’s side, you might even see the town’s wild donkey herd wandering the streets.
“Cripple Creek is a unique mining town that can transport your group to a exciting time in Colorado History,” Ciampa says. “The community is a unique destination because of its rich history, beautiful scenery and entertainment.”
Photos courtesy of Wildwood Hotel & Casino and City of Cripple Creek.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.