Small But Mighty Why visiting Georgetown should be on your list

  • 8 Reasons To Stop
  • Georgetown Loop Railroad
  • North Pole Adventure
  • Bighorn Sheep Festival
  • Lucha Cantina
  • Hamill House
  • Hotel de Paris
  • Ice fishing
  • Dusty Rose Tea Room

Less than an hour’s drive from Breckenridge and Vail and just 40 minutes from Keystone, Georgetown is a tiny mountain enclave that looks like something out of a winter storybook: a Victorian-era cluster of homes and shops tucked in a windy corridor in the shadows of the towering Rockies.

Many Denverites simply know the exit on I-70, in the heart of the Clear Creek Valley, as the requisite gas stop on the drive back from their ski day.

Those folks are missing out. For such a tiny town (population 1,200), Georgetown has a ton going on.

Photo by: Dan Adler
Courtesy of Historic Rail Adventures

Take a day off the slopes to cruise into the charming Wild West streets, or make a pit stop on your way to the resort from Denver.

Here’s what’s happening in Georgetown this season.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of Colorado’s first tourist attractions, and it’s still a crowd-pleaser today.

The route—which connects Georgetown to the former mining camp of Silver Plume (about two miles away by train)—gains 640 feet of elevation, winds through the steep, narrow walls of Clear Creek Canyon, and crosses four bridges.

Both the North Pole Adventure and Holiday Lights excursions are an festive way to spend a snowy day during the holiday season.

Georgetown residents are lucky enough to see bighorn sheep on a regular basis.

For the rest of us, it’s a special occasion—and your chances increase if you keep an eye out on Georgetown’s surrounding cliffs.

Hamill House Photo by: Ruth Rosenfeld

If you’re visiting during early season, locals and visitors alike will celebrate Colorado’s state mammal during the 9th Annual Bighorn Sheep Festival (think trained volunteers with telescopes and binoculars, live music, and plenty of activities for the little ones).

Lunchtime at Lucha Cantina is a must.

The grass-fed beef is local (and braised for six hours!), the chicken is hormone- and antibiotic-free, and even the juices used to make cocktails are squeezed fresh to order.

Photo by: Ruth Rosenfeld

Take my advice and order the strawberry margarita.

Usually they’re much too sweet for this whiskey-lover, but the tartness of the fresh squeezed limes balances this drink perfectly.

If you’re a history buff or just enjoy strolling museums, welcome to your happy place.

The Hamill House, a restored 19th-century Victorian home, lies in the heart of Georgetown’s historic district.

The Georgetown Firefighting Museum, newly opened in 2013, tells the story of the town’s firefighting history (full of impressive feats considering its surrounding terrain).

Learn about the history of hydroelectric power at the Georgetown Energy Museum.

Photo courtesy of Hotel De Paris Museum

And don’t miss the Hotel de Paris Museum, which, in its heyday, was a luxurious French-inspired hotel.

Want to know more about mining lore and the hardscrabble life of a mountain dweller at the turn of the century?

You’re in luck if your trip coincides with one of the Devil’s Gate History Club’s monthly talks, where locals discuss things like the history of the Easter Seals camp and how miners brewed beer in the 1800s.

Ski vacationers in town mid-December should carve out a few hours for the annual Georgetown Christmas Market.

You’ll think you’ve traveled back in time. Carolers in Victorian garb roam the streets spreading holiday cheer, the smell of roasted chestnuts wafts through the air, and the whole town twinkles with holiday lights.

Photo by: Ruth Rosenfeld

Squeeze in a little holiday shopping at a quaint boutique or two while the kids wait for St. Nicholas to appear in one of the thrice-daily Santa Lucia processions.

And, for those outdoorsy types and adrenaline seekers, Georgetown just happens to be situated on a lake that freezes solid—very, very solid—during the winter.

So grab a bite and pop in a shop or two, but make sure you get out there on the ice.

Try your hand at ice fishing (brown, brook, and rainbow trout), but don’t forget: Fishing licenses are required for visitors over 16 years of age.

(They’re available for purchase just down the road at Black Diamond Ski & Cycle rental.)

Or, for something really different, come for the (pulse-thumping) ice racing events in January and February.

Daredevils in Jeeps, Subarus, and other four-wheel drive vehicles deck out their rides and race across the frozen water.

Photo by: Ruth Rosenfeld

Georgetown is full of Victorian architecture and history, so it’s only fitting that the town have a proper tea room.

It’s open year-round, but during December, the Dusty Rose Tea Room holds a Christmas High Tea.

Choose from three services: petite (perfect for kids), afternoon, or high tea; all include a photo of your group.

I suggest the high tea for the full experience.

Start with savory items like cucumber sandwiches, deviled eggs, and meat pies; then move on to the sweets: apricot and pear-lavender scones, black walnut cookies, frosted madeleines, and more.

Whether you’re sipping tea, reveling at a holiday parade, indulging your history geek, or zipping across the frozen lake, Georgetown has a little of something for everybody—and a lot of Rocky Mountain character.

(Banner photo provided courtesy of Historic Rail Adventures)