Before people came from all over the country for Breckenridge's views and ski slopes, they came for the gold and silver embedded in its hills.
The area is spotted with abandoned and resurrected mines that tell the story of the hard lives of some of Summit County's earliest
Among these is the Washington Mine, located on Boreas Pass in the southwestern outskirts of Breckenridge. Meticulously preserved and carefully reconstructed by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, the mine is nearly a three-dimensional diorama of the town's mining history.
What remains of the mine today was once just the small antechamber of a much bigger operation that extended up from the current site.
But local historians have salvaged and, in some cases, rebuilt a small, cute campus that nevertheless paints a pretty realistic picture.
The 90-minute to two-hour tours of the Washington Mine run twice daily most days of the week.
A great option for families with children - the tour is entertaining, dimensional and, at times, hands on - local historians lead their guests back through the pages of Breckenridge's history, showing and telling the way people lived in and out of the mines more than 100 years ago.
Kids will have an opportunity to explore an underground mine, peer down a mine shaft, meet a tommyknocker, detonate simulation dynamite and pan for gold, exploring the local history with at least four of the five senses.
For grown-ups, there's the tour itself, offering an insightful look into the happenstance and economics that built Breckenridge. Tour guides also cover some of the more popular local legends, with exacting historical accuracy, of course, including that of the discovery of "Tom's Baby," a 13-pound gold nugget.
Complete with an (interpretive) underground mine tunnel, rails for transporting gold, a prospectors cabin and all the mechanics once used to empty the earth of riches, the Washington Mine has been beautifully preserved and reconstructed by the heritage alliance and is well stocked with relics of the mining age.
Located just a few minutes outside of Breckenridge, it makes for a fun and convenient family activity that is a little more unique and interactive than the average in-town museum.