Central City and Blackhawk were two dying mining towns until gambling became legal in Colorado. The intent was to fit casinos in the buildings that once housed saloons, and bawdy houses. Today, Blackhawk is thriving with large, modern casinos, while Central City’s casinos languish, although tucked into the old western buildings.
Even if you don’t gamble, a day trip here promises a ride through dramatic mountain scenery and a taste of the Old West. In Central City, you can listen to an opera performed on the same stage that Mae West once adorned, or go underground for a gold-mine tour. Reading the gravestones in the old cemetery gives a sense of the miners’ harsh, often abbreviated lives.
Central City and adjacent Blackhawk are approximately 36 miles from Denver. If you’re driving, do a loop. From I-70 get off at the Central City Highway exit, 243, and enjoy the ride as you climb higher and higher but on a wide freeway until you reach Central City. On the way home, if it’s daylight continue along Central City’s main street until you reach Blackhawk about a mile). Take Hwy 119, a two-lane road that winds through some spectacular scenery, back to I-70.
You can also take one of the casino shuttles that leave from the Denver area.