Winter Vacation Ideas: Colorado's Western Roots
Though you can explore Colorado's Wild West past at any time of year, the National Western Stock Show in January, museum exhibitions, and saloons dishing up heart-warming tonics make winter a great time to do so.
Wild Western Wear
Cowboy boots aren't only for show; they're also really comfortable! Get your Western attire at one of these long-time favorites in Colorado:
Rockmont Ranch Wear was the first to launch Western shirts with snaps, and it is located in Denver's lively LoDo area. They've been dressing up country bands and Hollywood stars for years, and if you recognize some of their characteristic styles, you'll notice their shirts everywhere.
Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg Co1626 Wazee St, Denver, CO 80202, USA
F.M. Light and Sons has been outfitting cowboys and visitors in Steamboat Springs since 1905, and is now owned by a fifth-generation relative of the original owner. The Old West is essentially a way of life in this town (think skiers in cowboy hats). Inquire about the $7.80 fake check that nearly resulted in a shootout in town in the early 1900s.
F M Light & Sons830 Lincoln Ave, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, USA
High Country Western Wear: This Arvada outpost sells men's and women's boots, as well as children's footwear and a variety of denim. They also provide a selection of cowboy hats made of felt, wool, and straw, as well as snap-front Western shirts (a Colorado classic!).
Winter Western Events
Integrate these festivals into your winter itinerary and join locals as they celebrate heritage, the Wild West and the winter season.
Durango Cowboy Poetry Reading: October
National Western Stock Show, Denver: January
National Western Stock Show4655 Humboldt St, Denver, CO 80216, USA
Winter Carnival, Steamboat Springs: February
Ski Joring Festival and Crystal Carnival, Leadville: March
Wild West Saloons
When one thinks of the Wild West, rowdy saloons in dusty towns come to mind, with guests peering out the window at showdowns between white-hatted good guys and black-hatted evil guys. The unique ambiance of these antique watering spots will delight you.
Denver's Buckhorn Exchange: Since 1893, this longtime favorite has served practically every Wild West historical figure you can think of as proud owners of Colorado's No. 1 liquor license and its oldest eating business. Buffalo prime rib, Colorado lamb, elk, and Gramma Fanny's pot roast with Colorado beef brisket are just a few of the famed menu offerings. Its vast weapons and taxidermy collections (including a famed jackalope) will transport you to another era.
Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant1000 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204, USA
The wooden and Victorian atmosphere of J-Bar in the Hotel Jerome, Aspen, serves as a humble secret in Aspen's fashionable façade. Order the Aspen Crud, a Prohibition-era cocktail that expertly conceals bourbon in a creamy vanilla milkshake.
Cascades Whiskey Bar in Estes Park: Whiskey and the Wild West are inextricably linked. The Stanley Hotel's newest bar features one of the state's largest whiskey selections, with over 300 options. At the newly acquired wooden bar, which dates back to 1909, you can have your favorite beverage plain, on the rocks, or in a Prohibition-inspired cocktail.
Lucha Cantina, Georgetown: At this modest bar on the former mining hub's main road, inquire about the haunts of the historic structure. The menu features Mexican and American comfort cuisine (plus points if you can take the ghost-pepper salsa), and the bar is bustling with mountain-town natives.
Western History Museums
These museums do a fantastic job of bringing together lesser-known histories and presenting them in an engaging manner. Do you want to know more? The Denver Public Library's Western History and Genealogy Department is located on the fifth level.
History Denver's Colorado Center: This huge museum uses interactive displays to enchant both young and old with Colorado's diverse heritage. Don't miss the virtual ski jump, which recreates Carl Howelsen's experience flying down a Steamboat ski hill in the early 1900s.
The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame & Museum in Colorado Springs is the greatest place to learn everything there is to know about rodeo. Hats, boots, chaps, and other memorabilia from big-name championship cowboys like Clark McEntire, Chris LeDoux, and Charles Sampson abound in the Wrangler National Finals Gallery.
The Black American West Museum in Denver highlights the most forgotten contributors to Western history with videos, a bookstore, and unusual items that you won't find in history books. The Dearfield exhibit, about a black pioneer community created in 1910, is very interesting.
The Aspen Historical Society, an advocate of historical preservation, presents a winter "Menu of Tours" that includes museums, hotels, and bus excursions in downtown Aspen. Trips to the Ashcroft ghost town, which you may tour on your own to learn about its colorful mining past, are among the most popular.
Craig's Cowboy and Gunfighter Collection Bill Mackin spent 50 years amassing cowboy Western memorabilia, and his collection is incredible. This special exhibit on the second floor of the Museum of Northwest Colorado features old (and we mean very old) spurs, chaps, saddles, and gun holsters.
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