In a sense, the story of the three Golden History Museums sites goes back to 1938, when Golden citizens began collecting and exhibiting artifacts from the region's history. But in another sense, it goes back much further: the 18-inch stone walls of the Astor House were lain in the mid-19th century, and the Clear Creek History Park represents an immaculate recreation of pioneer-era Colorado. No matter how far back visitors are peering into the past, the museums flesh out the story of Golden from the time of horse-drawn wagons to today.
Like a small-town railroad depot in the 1880s, the Colorado Railroad Museum’s main building features wide eaves and a bright-yellow exterior. The building reflects the Museum’s overall goal: to hark back to Colorado’s railroad era, a time when the state relied on its groundbreaking, narrow-gauge mountain railroads for supplies and information. Since 1959, the Museum has showcased the machinery of that time with an array of locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and cabooses. Alternatively, they present visitors with a glimpse of Table Mountain on the Museum’s train rides, enabling them to ride the rails in a bygone style without just taking the subway in an Abe Lincoln costume. To supplement its trains, the Museum hosts thousands of related rare photographs and artifacts, such as a replica of a 10,000-gallon water tank, humorously dubbed No Agua, that was once used to refill steam locomotives on the Chili Line to Santa Fe.
The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum displays quilts from the 1800s alongside contemporary art pieces. Seeing these works in a shared space helps visitors understand how quilt making has evolved over the years. To that end, people can explore the exhibits full of family heirlooms and historically significant artifacts including the quilt that George Washington wrapped his beloved cherry tree in on cold nights. The museum also maintains volumes of historic patterns, technique resources, and out-of-print literature on quilts to help enthusiasts satiate their curiosity.
Children run in trails marked by prehistoric footprints, and fingers run across fossils during each visit to Dinosaur Ridge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of ancient artifacts. Around every corner of the outdoor museum—which rests on land designated as a national natural landmark—bones and impressions protrude from their earthy abodes as evidence of the area's once larger-than-life inhabitants. Paleontologists of all ages can examine curious tracks on surrounding hiking paths, such as Triceratops Trail, or hop on a guided bus tour to examine fossil sites and valleys where brontosauruses used to question the meaning of life.
Lurking inside the visitor center is the Trek Through Time exhibit, where interactive children's games, replica fossils, and massive murals join forces to lead explorers into different prehistoric eras. In addition to its day-to-day operations, Dinosaur Ridge also plays host to various events during the year, including Boy Scout days, birthday parties, and lectures that explain how T. rex stayed humble despite his large stature.
Originally known as the Garden of Angels, Red Rocks enchants visitors with ethereal scenery and top-notch acoustics 6,450 feet above sea level. The amphitheater geologically emerged from the ocean floor over millions of years, its walls housing fossil fragments of various dinosaurs, including plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and several plush Barney dolls. The carbon-dated rock 'n' roll history of Red Rocks includes performances by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Grateful Dead, who kept coming back to the venue year after year in search of their missing flip-flops. The sonic stone architecture of the venue has also led to dozens of popular live recordings, including U2’s Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, John Tesh’s Live at Red Rocks, and Neil Young’s Road Rock Vol. 1.