This town embraces the Old Wild West with extra Christmas sparkle

The annual Old Golden Candlelight Walk shuts down main streets Friday, Dec. 1 beginning at 6:00 p.m. as young and old are invited to walk through sparkling downtown, candle in hand, singing Christmas carols.
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Some people know Golden as "Where the West Lives." Others know it as Denver's coolest suburb or where some of science's brightest engineering minds go to attend the Colorado School of Mines.

Still others think of it as home to the main brewery of Miller Coors' Coors Light and Coors Banquet lines. 

All of this is spot on! But, Golden is also so much more than all that.

Join us Friday on Instagram as we explore the city for our weekly #9Neighborhoods tour!

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The western Denver city, home to about 21,000 people, is surrounded by 24 miles of mountain and biking trails and 402 acres of open space.

It boasts 10 museums, dozens of trendy restaurants, several craft breweries, and is home to the Clear Creek White Water Park, an 800-foot stretch of river with a series of drops and pools intermixed with flat, broad shallow surf waves.

Each year around the holidays, the city celebrates with its Olde Golden Christmas.

The city's main thoroughfare, Washington Avenue, gets lit up with a dazzling display of holiday lights, as does Clear Creek and Clear Creek History Park.

Holiday parades wind down Washington Avenue each Saturday (Dec. 2, 9 and 16), as well as carolers, a holiday art market, live theater and more — it's literally a city-wide celebration.

The annual candle walk shuts down main streets Friday, Dec. 1 beginning at 6:00 p.m. as young and old are invited to walk through sparkling downtown, candle in hand, singing Christmas carols. The tree is lit and the Christmas festivities begin!

The annual candle walk shuts down main streets Friday, Dec. 1 beginning at 6:00 p.m. as young and old are invited to walk through sparkling downtown, candle in hand, singing Christmas carols. The tree is lit and the Christmas festivities begin!

And tucked in between all those lights and holiday events, Washington Avenue is dotted with a host of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries and more.

GOLDEN’S WILD WEST HISTORY

As the mining industry boomed across Colorado’s front range, Golden quickly became known as the last “flat place” before miners would trek into the Rocky Mountains, offering them a place to rest, fuel up, and gather supplies to pan for gold in the often brutal Rockies. 

The city was founded in 1859, originally called, “Golden City.” Did you know it was the capital of the federally recognized “Colorado Territory” in 1862?

Legislature met in Golden until 1867 in what is today the aptly named "Old Capitol Grille." Locals were outraged when, in 1876, the new state of Colorado decided on Denver as the capital city. 

Even before Adolph Coors would bring his namesake brewing operation to the Golden City, the Colorado School of Mines was established in 1870. 

A staple in the community, Coors Brewery has called Golden home since 1873, and helped to bring new residents to the community in its early years. 

With a university, brewery, and plenty of business, Golden was bustling in the late 1870s. Golden’s Paper Mill, established in 1867, was - at the time - the only paper mill west of Missouri!

Clay quarries provided materials for pottery and bricks. Coal miners thrived. Five smelters ran at once and the city was home to four flour mills. Colorado Central Railroad brought industry and people to the area. 

In the 20th century, streets were revitalized and urban renewal projects began as early as the 1920s. 

After World War II, Golden nearly tripled in size - and new homes, schools, businesses, churches, grocery stores and public buildings were constructed. 

The 1980s would prove difficult for the area, as the price of petroleum declined and several of Golden’s mainstay businesses shut down. Since that decade, the Golden Urban Renewal Authority was established to help the city thrive once more.

Golden is a city filled with wild west history: Buffalo Bill, the legendary showman, scout, and buffalo hunter, is buried atop Lookout Mountain in the city (although Cody, Wyoming may debate that…), and it is also home to the Colorado Railroad Museum.

In addition to its famous Olde Golden Christmas, the city hosts Buffalo Bill Days each year, a tradition that began in the 1940s with a trail ride up to Lookout Mountain and the site of Buffalo Bill Cody’s burial.

Since then, it’s grown into a local tradition with vendors, entertainment, old wild west themed games and more. 

MODERN DAY GOLDEN: A SLICE OF THE WEST

Always the heart and soul of the western city, Washington Avenue is full of local businesses, tourist shops, and places to grab a Coors or something to eat.

Many of its buildings date back to the first days of the city and hold a special historical and cultural significance for both the city and the state of Colorado.

One place to get arguably some of the best pizza in the metro? Woody's Wood-Fired Pizza (1305 Washington Ave.) was recently named to Pizza Today's Hot 100 list and cuts some seriously mouth-watering slices.

For a real dive into Colorado history, head to the 158-year-old Buffalo Rose (1119 Washington Ave.), which pre-dates Colorado statehood by nearly two decades. It's closed until next fall, but said in an announcement that it plans to reopen as "a completely renewed restaurant and event center."

Besides the fact that Coors' huge brewery (311 10th St.) is in Golden (you can take tours there, by the way), Golden has no shortage of micros, too.

Among them is Mountain Todd Brewing (900 Washington Ave.), right up the street from Coors Brewery, as well as Cannonball Creek Brewing Co. (393 Washington Ave.), which serves up Mindbender IPA, Trump Hands IPA, Solid Gold Belgian Golden and many more. Even on a Wednesday night, we found Cannonball Creek’s parking lot packed with cars and its tap room seats nearly full. 

And then there's Golden City Brewery (920 12th St.), which is unique in that it's set in an old machine shop and also serves pretzels and brats — plus the beer garden, of course. 

Wine lovers, there's a place for you, too. Indulge Bistro & Wine Bar (1299 Washington Ave.) is a contemporary option with an extensive wine list and "eclectic bar fare."

When we asked our Facebook fans which places they loved in Golden, there were too many to visit - even if we had a week.

One of the recommendations we saw over and over was Bob’s Atomic Burgers. This casual, low-key eatery across the street from the Coors Brewery tours parking lot serves up a mean burger with no frills. The family-owned burger spot dishes up classic burgers, but lets customers design their own or make it “atomic.”

The most Colorado thing you’ll see in Golden is a spot called Pedal Pushers - a bike shop that serves craft beer on tap. Yes, that’s right, there’s a little bar inside the store that specializes in repair and sales of bicycles.

And it’s not just any tap - it’s been specially made from an old set of bike handlebars. 

Another top recommendation for coffee is Bean Fosters. This large coffee shop isn’t downtown, but is worth the trip. Serving locally-roasted Novo Coffee, there are ample tables, comfy chairs, and lots of used books, which makes for a delicious aroma for coffee lovers and avid readers alike. 

For a cultural experience, Sherpa House (1518 Washington Ave.) serves Himalayan fare in a colorful house atop a hill with a beer garden and authentic Nepalese decor outside that welcomes you inside to try their famous buffet. 

Sticking true to Golden's western roots, the Old Capitol Grill & Smokehouse (1122 Washington Ave.) is housed in the former capitol building and dishes up all the Old West favorites, steaks, burgers, you name it.

Speaking of roots - there’s quite a story behind the Rock Rest Lodge. Specifically, a wall-mounted Rhinoceros known as  Murray, the World’s Only Beer-Spitting Rhino.

Oh, and it’s rumored to house the ghost of a woman in a red dress named Molly Barton. Quirks aside, the funky old bar and lounge serves up typical American bar fare and is famous for its drinks, wings and bar-b-que as well.

Golden Sweets (1299 Washington Ave.) is a great stop-in for the family, serving up ice cream and candy in a vintage-style shop. Or, right up the street, try Goozell Yogurt & Coffee (1200 Washington Ave.) for fro-yo or house-made coffee.

Not enough sugar for your sweet tooth? Stop by Gold Mine Cupcakes for a delicious - and beautiful - treat. 

Our viewers also loved Bonfire Burritos. They told us often there’s a line out the small food truck, parked in a lot at 17025 S Golden Rd.

Until this week, you’d have to get there early as they closed mid-afternoon, but beginning this weekend, they’ll start serving burritos for dinner as well. The team there was building a pergola and outdoor seating space for this weekend’s re-opening when we stopped by on Wednesday! 

Grateful Bread is another local treat - but you can only pick up their freshly baked loaves on Saturdays so plan ahead! The rest of the week they’re wholesale only. 

Check out the other local recommendations in this Facebook thread:

All this fun doesn't come cheap. The median home price in Golden for all-size properties is $525,000, according to Trulia.com. And a two-bedroom lease will cost you about $1,950 a month.

This summer, Golden also was one of the stops of the inaugural Colorado Classic pro cycling race, which replaced the USA Pro Challenge after that race struggled to bring in enough revenue to sustain it.