February 13, 2015
Downtown Ouray Today
DOWNTOWN OURAY PROVIDES an eclectic mix of unique galleries, shops, and marvelous places to eat. Stroll down Main Street or one of the quaint numrous streets and you’ll find great art, music, food, entertainment and shopping, all in a town quaintly Victorian and surrounded by heart-stopping scenery.
Little-effected by the current economic downturn, the town of Ouray is busy and prosperous. It looks and feels much as it did 100 years ago, with a few modern upgrades. Gone are the long strings of supply-laden pack mules and unattended horses headed back to the livery stable from the mines above town. Today it’s jeeps, SUVs and tour buses. The rowdy chorus of miners spending their pay in the bars is a fast-fading memory, although some of the old-timers are still around, and will be happy to tell you a tale or two of the olden days. And even better, at least three of the old mining days restaurant/saloons are still open and thriving – the Outlaw, the Bon Ton, and the Western Hotel. Main Street is now paved, and concrete sidewalks have replaced the original boardwalks. A two-flume system carries mountain run-off water beneath the cityinstead of through it to the river. Electric streetlights are brighter and more numerous, though it’s worth noting that Ouray’s original streetlights were powered by one of the first working hydroelectric power plants in the west, and one that’s still in operation today!
Although it’s quieter these days, so much has been preserved here that you can still imagine how it must have been when the mines ran three shifts and the saloons never closed. Ouray’s business community is devoted to keeping the historic experience alive, and the thriving center of town reflects this commitment. Beautifully preserved old buildings line Main Street and several of the side streets. Stop by and ask the proud proprietors to share their building’s histories with you. A complete walking tour guide is available at the Ouray County Museum on Sixth Avenue. The museum, occupying the townn’s historic hospital, is a treasure, well run with outstanding exhibits, several devoted to mining and lifestyle, and a series of changing, ongoing displays about the town and it’s history.
In addition to Ouray’s beautiful scenery and historic charm, the wonderful shops here bring visitors back to our valley year after year. Shopping in Ouray is just plain fun. Whether you’re looking for art, jewelry, postcards, books, unique gifts, apparel, pottery, flowers, furniture, candy, leather goods, ice cream, antiques, camping gear, rugs, groceries, handmade glass and ceramics, cookies, toys, Indian crafts, or even a stuffed alligator, you’ll find a store just for you. Plan to spend lots of time exploring all the nooks and crannies of each shop in and around historic downtown. Every shop is different. You won’t want to miss a single one.
Galleries frequently offer working demonstrations, at which you can observe artists doing their thing from glass blowing and woodworking to painting plein aire out front. Friendly shopkeepers are pleased to share their knowledge of the town and all it offers. They’ll even advise you of their personal favorite four-wheel excursions, hiking trails or town activities.
The clear mountain air, variety of outdoor activities and everything from a leisurely read of a good book in the park to a strenuous hike up to Twin Peaks are sure to whet your appetite. And whether you’re after an elegant dining affair or a casual meal, Ouray has a delightful array of restaurants from which to choose. You can pick up a picnic lunch for your hiking trip, order a pizza, indulge in a gourmet experience, munch a flaky pastry, try alocal microbrew, dig into an exquisite steak, eat family style or pick up picnic food at historic fourth-generation Duckett’s Market. The Outlaw Restaurant offers a nightly cookout along the river from May to October that includes steak, potatoes, corn and all the fixin’s. Several establishments offer patio dining so you can savor the mountain views along with your entree. Many restaurants provide daily menu specials. (Check the Menu Guide available in most hotels for a preview of what’s available at most local restaurants.)
There’s plenty of entertainment, too. Watch the local paper for event schedules or check out the bulletin boards at the pool or Post Office.
Downtown Ouray is a very special place. All of it beckons you to come, explore and enjoy.