Tiny Town Colorado Is A Place Of Wonder And Joy For All Ages
Tiny Town Colorado is a miniature village complete with its own little railroad, is snuggled into a mountain canyon 30 minutes from downtown Denver. A girlfriend and I decide it would make a perfect day trip for our collective kids to expend their uncontainable energy. We couldn’t have been more right.
The moment we enter through the gate, most of the kids burst onto the scene in full force. The first building to catch their attention, just a few short yards inside the village, is a miniature Denver Fire Station. My toddler son, still a little unsure, crouches before the building gazing in, trying to understand what he is and is not allowed to touch.
One of the older girls reaches out the front door and grabs his hand, pulling him into the unknown. At that moment he is introduced to a world where he can see through windows without having to stand on tiptoes and climb on porches without holding the hands of a grown-up.
Local business owner George Turner, with his young daughter in mind, began construction on Tiny Town’s precursor, Turnerville, in 1915, creating buildings one-sixth in size. Five years later, the village, located at the Denver-Leadville stagecoach stop, opened to the public. By the mid-1920s, Tiny Town housed 125 colorful structures and was enjoyed by 20,000 visitors a year who traveled on dirt roads to see this enchanting little land.
Unfortunately, the 40 years that followed brought Tiny Town floods, a fire and the rerouting of U.S. Highway 285, making the area less obvious to passersby. In 1966, the town of miniatures closed and was left empty.
Throughout the next few decades, many attempts were made to restore Tiny Town, but they were not very successful.
However, in 1987, the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management adopted the town as a civic project. With strict guidelines for refurbishment, lots were auctioned off and revival began. Doors were reopened to enthusiastic crowds in July 1988 and a new era for Tiny Town began.
My son, now uninhibited and weaving around each building with rapid-fire speed, gets drawn to a theater with “Majestic” scripted down the front and the words “Now Playing Chaplin” placed on both sides of the angular marquis. This is one of the buildings that can’t be entered, but when tiny noses smash against the window, a variety of period-themed miniatures can be seen placed meticulously inside with great attention to detail.
The next hour is spent winding in and out through an opera house, peeking through bars of an adobe jail, climbing to a windmill set atop a cluster of rocks and scaling cartoonish-painted cottages before stopping at one of the many picnic tables to refuel with snacks.
And finally, after much anticipation, we get to the train.
The only thing that had made the kids take any pause at all during their exploration had been the Tiny Town Railway train chugging past as it followed the mile-long track along the outskirts of the village. For those few brief moments, they would forget the rest of the village and excitedly wave to the conductor and his passengers.
Added in 1939, the train and its whistle are heard throughout Tiny Town. My son, so excited, takes his place next to me in one of the cars near the back as the older kids scramble to find a spot in the revered caboose. The conductor, complete with overalls and a blue-and-white-striped hat, walks past, collecting the $1 tickets from eagerly outstretched little hands.
The nearly 10-minute ride cuts along the canyon wall, with the earth angling sharply upward to our right in many places. We cross the narrow river in two places over wooden bridges, as well as chug through a small tunnel. The entire way, miniature structures dot the grassy area to our left, including a fun little replica of Coney Island, the hot dog-shaped diner in Bailey. Other replicas of Colorado structures, both present day and from the past, can also be spotted.
As the train comes to a stop, the kids unload from the caboose and my son begrudgingly gives up his seat to the next round of passengers. Only promises of another visit soon convince the group of heavy-lidded children to call it a day.
If You Go
6249 S. Turkey Creek Road
Tiny Town, Colorado 80465
Sheri L. Thompson is a freelance photojournalist who regularly contributes to gocolorado.com and goworldtravel.com. She resides in Denver, Colorado.