Friday, February 12, 2010

Central City, Colorado: The little mining town that can

When 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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yelp! Chit Chat Bistro Arvada, Colorado

Girlfriend getaways can be as simple as lunch and a glass (or two) of wine. Yesterday I took time out from a busy day (and let's be honest what day isnt' busy?) to meet my friend, Laurie, for lunch at a new restaurant, Chit Chat Bistro, near where we live in Arvada (west of Denver).

We're both amateur foodies who love to try new places and hope for the best. This time, we discovered a real gem: Chit Chat Bistro, just west of Ward on 58th Avenue. if you blink, you'll miss it because it's located in the west corner of an office building. But it's worth the trip. The food is yummy! The Italiano classico panini with marinara sauce on the side -- the panini bread is fresh and the right amount of crunchy, the marinara sauce fresh, oh and side salad with the fresh! balsamic vinegar dressing is to die for. My fork found it's way to my girlfriend's Classique de deli crepe, a huge portion, fresh, just the right amount of light. Very affordable: appetizers $5-$11; Soup and salads from $3.50 - $9; lunch plates $8 and dinners $9.50-$16.

It's casual and homey. Even Chef Niko stopped by our table. The piped music is so Greek, reminescent of the flick, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Go there. You'll love Chit Chat Bistro.

Until next time