Denver February 02, 2018
The Tiny Town Near Denver That’s So Much More Than A Speed Trap
Next time you’re zooming past the quaint little town of Empire on your way up to Winter Park to hit the slopes, you may want to go ahead and hit the brakes. You might be wondering why you would ever need to slow down for such a “dot on the map.” Well, first of all, this tiny town is known as a speed trap, so taking it slow will definitely help you avoid getting a ticket. But, even more importantly, you’ll want to stop and enjoy the rich history and interesting attractions this charming town has to offer.
Empire is a hidden gem in Clear Creek County with a population of fewer than 300 residents in their town, that is made up of less than a quarter square mile.
It is located just off I-70 on US Highway 40 and is about a 45 minute drive from Denver. Many have made it a favorite pit stop on their way up to Winter Park Resort to ski or snowboard. Empire is even known as a great place to "go" with their cute little green house that serves as a rest stop and has a long-standing reputation of super clean restrooms.
Empire is nestled in the Rocky Mountains and surrounded by be beautiful evergreen trees with Clear Creek meandering by. Back before Colorado was even a state, "Empire City" got it's start as a mining community that flourished during the Colorado Silver Boom.
Unfortunately, this former mining settlement didn't quite become the "empire" its founders were hoping for. After World War II, mining ended around Empire and the town has since had to rely on tourism to survive. Especially during ski season.
When stopping in, you'll want to park your car along historic Park Avenue and you will soon be surprised to discover unique shopping and dining opportunities as you stroll around town.
You will delight in all there is to do and see including an antique/stained glass store, record shop, coffee house, diners, and Redman Hall, which features the work of local artists.
These days, the Dairy King is a welcome sight for weary snow bunnies on their way home from the slopes.
This cash-only diner is located smack-dab in the middle of town and serves up unbeatable burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
If you're looking to show your Colorado pride, stop into Colorado Country where they sell Colorado inspired gifts, clothing, and other souvenirs.
Jenny's Pizza Empire can be found nearby. This building has quite a history in Empire as it has worn many hats in town over the years, and has served as a feed and grain store, gas station, bar, and poker parlor (just to name a few).
You may be surprised to see the "original" Hard Rock Cafe as you are passing through.
Established in 1934, this restaurant was open for decades and was even a popular spot for miners to eat and sleep (there was a dormitory above the restaurant). Unfortunately, Hard Rock Cafe closed in 2012 and is now vacant.
If you've got a serious sweet tooth, you've got to stop into Lewis Sweet Shop.
Inside this colorful store, you'll find shakes, malts, and a huge selection of candy (you should really try the chocolate covered bacon).
For a little history, stop and see the Peck House, which was the oldest and longest continually operating inn found in Colorado.
The Peck House was built in 1862 as a family home. In 1872, an addition was built and it opened as a hotel. Many famous names stayed at this inn over the years, including Ulysses S. Grant and General Sherman. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but is no longer in operation.
Who knew there was so much to do and see in this tiny town along your way? No matter what you do in Empire, after exploring this tiny town, you will definitely look at it as more than simply a “speed trap,” but also a wonderful place to stop and visit.
If you’ve ever stopped in Empire, we’d love to hear about your favorite spots. Please share in the comments below.
If you’re in search of beautiful Colorado towns to visit this winter, check out these
7 Enchanting Towns Around Denver That Feel Like You’ve Fallen Into A Snow Globe.