Fairplay Colorado, located 85 miles southwest of Denver, is a small 19th-century town that was a supply center for surrounding gold mining camps. Today it is probably best known as the town on which (many believe) the fictional “South Park” animation series was based on. Whether or not you are a South Park fan, the town is a step back in history.
Fairplay has several well-preserved buildings that reflect the architecture and lifestyle of mining era. Original log houses plus the several late 19th/early-20th-century commercial buildings line Front Street.
But our main reason for stopping was to visit the South Park City Museum. The museum is a restored gold mining town that consists of over 40 19th-century buildings. About a half dozen of the buildings come from Fairplay itself. Others have been relocated to the museum from several of the country’s ghost towns.
All of the buildings have been restored and furnished with period furnishings, products, and clothing. They included a museum (in a former 19th-century brewery) that explains the town’s history: from its founding placer gold mining sites to its later days of hardrock mining for silver and other minerals.
Additional buildings and exhibits include a dredge, mill, railroad station and train, multiple homes, saloon, inn, courthouse, assay office, blacksmith shop, general store, pharmacy, chapel and even a reproduced Masonic Hall. Each building has panels that explain the town’s history and how its residents worked and lived. One building is devoted to housing a dozen dioramas that portrayed the town’s mining history. Another building contains hundreds of articles from the time period that people donated to the museum.
It is a fascinating step back in time to give you a feel for what it must have been like to have lived and worked in a mining town.
Trout Capital of Colorado
While Fairplay and its surrounding areas are renowned among fishing enthusiasts for their trout fishing opportunities and beautiful natural surroundings, claiming the title of “Trout Capital of the World” might be a stretch, considering the numerous other places globally that are also famous for exceptional trout fishing. However, it remains a popular destination for anglers seeking quality trout fishing experiences in Colorado.
The Scenic Fairplay Area
And don’t forget the area around Fairplay. It is located in a high-altitude grassland region surrounded by mountains. In addition to fishing, the area is know for its stunning landscapes, its proximity to mountain and other outdoor sports.
Fairplay Dining and Lodging
Fairplay is very small town with limited lodging and dining options. But we didn’t come here for the accommodations or the food.
We stayed at the Riverside Inn Travelodge. Fortunately we were in an end room which minimized the noise from our neighbors. The white noise of the air conditioner also helped. The bed was comfortable, but the pillows were too hard for us. While it wasn’t a great place to stay, it was probably the best in the area and could have been worse.
As for food, we were in town on a Tuesday night. As many restaurants are closed on Monday and Tuesday, we didn’t have many food options. Although we were tempted by the burgers at the Park Bar, most people we asked recommended Casa Sanchez for its Taco Tuesday deal. The draw is fully-loaded chicken and beef tacos for $1.50 (2023 pricing)
Our dinner began with chips, guacamole, nachos, and a pitcher of Top Shelf margaritas (with top-of-the-line tequila and agave nectar). We then added a chicken taco and and an entrée of shrimp and mushrooms in garlic-butter sauce, rice and refried beans. Once again, it was probably one of the better places in town but not the most promising introduction to the region’s Mexican restaurants.