Downtown Denver is the pivot around which the rest of the city rotates. It is the tenth largest downtown area in the nation, providing such a variety of activities, shopping and entertainment that it is seldom necessary to leave the metro area. And the view? One-and-twenty visible miles of the Rocky Mountains bolster the city's reputation as one of the most beautiful in the country.
The Berkeley Park neighborhood — located on Tennyson Street, between 38th and 44th Avenues — sneaks up on you. From 38th Avenue, one is given little hint of what lays inside the neighborhoods' confines. What you will find, however, is surprising fortitude, cutsie storefronts (though less polished than their prestine counterparts on Old South Pearl and Old South Gaylord), and, to tell you the truth, lots of squirrels. Since Elitch Gardens Amusement Park closed its gates and relocated downtown, some feared that the neighborhood would disintegrate with it, but with that came a lesson: do not underestimate Berkeley Park.
Cherry Creek inhabitants have a reputation for sipping tea in fur coats with their pinky fingers at attention and playing bridge in angora sweater sets. As trite and petty as this imagery may seem—and as far from reality as it probably is—Cherry Creek is populated by some of Denver's most well-to-do citizens.
Colorado Springs is a military hub. Located 65 miles southwest of Denver, the city houses five military bases and the U.S. Air Force Academy. In turn, Colorado Springs has a reputation for being a strongly conservative locale. Second to the military industry, however, is tourism, and when in Colorado Springs, it is apparent that you have entered a town that caters to its visitors.
When Evergreen was established in the mid-1800s, its spruce and pine trees were so abundant, you couldn't even get a horse between them. Lumber, hence, became the town's main contribution to the region. Evergreen has since become less woodsy (probably due to the abundance of log cabins), and has established itself as a well-to-do community. The town, located 30 miles west of Denver on I-70, has a population of approximately 30,000 people, most of who commute to Denver for work though many are able to work and live in Evergreen.
Five Points contains more history, bridled within its perimeters, than most of the Denver-Metro area combined. It has traditionally been a bastion of the African-American community and culture, and a source of diversity awareness in a predominately homogenized state. However, due to a surge in construction, gentrification has changed the face of the neighborhood, and African-Americans families no longer chiefly occupy it.
Fort Collins, Fort Fun, FoCo—whatever you want to call the "college town" located about 50 miles north of Denver, it is a hub for Colorado culture without the pretensions often associated with Boulder. It is where microbreweries flourish, Colorado State University students play Frisbee golf, and Hewlett Packard employees carve out cookie cutter neighborhoods.
If drinking a Coors taps the Rockies, Golden, Colorado is the keg (and not in a sense that it is flanked by frat boys). In 1873, Adolph Coors thought it'd be a swell idea to open a brewery at the heart of the foothills. Now his little brewing company is an international conglomerate with fifteen brands and a stately (though slightly ominous-looking) edifice still serving as the headquarters in Golden. It is also one of the main attractions for tourists and beer-ophiles in the region. Take the 90-minute Coors Brewery tour and then head to Washington Avenue, Golden's historic district, for some shopping and good eats.
Denver's Highlands neighborhood (not to be confused with Highlands Ranch) has undergone drastic changes in the past few years. From shady to chic, this neighborhood, in all its picturesque glory, is on the up-and-up. Highlands is now a cove of cozy restaurants, novelty stores and martini bars just outside the bustle of Downtown Denver.
Propped up against the foothills, Lakewood is a rapidly re-developing city of 140,000 people, adorned with recreational parks and an incomparable view of the Rockies. Unlike Denver's newer neighborhoods, Lakewood has endured some less-polished years, yet the city has pulled through with pizzazz. Enter Belmar, Lakewood's brand-new, brand name-filled shopping/eating/living/meeting center. Recently opened in April 2005, Belmar Center houses conference rooms, a 770-person Grand Ballroom, a 400-person covered plaza terrace, shops, lofts and everything in between, including an outdoor skate rink.
The home of Red Rocks, Morrison is home to less than 500 people and boasts that (besides tourism) its major industry is margaritas. It is a thriving mountain community that offers rural living right outside the city. What you will find in Morrison is anything but the ordinary. For example, you can begin your stay in one of the luxurious bed and breakfasts "embedded" within Morrison, join the locals for dinner at one of downtown Morrison's cozy neighborhood restaurants, and cap the night off with a magnificent view of the starry sky minus the hum drum of urban existence.
If life were a Norman Rockwell painting, Old South Pearl Street would be the backdrop. The nine-block strip of Victorian houses, shops and eateries has a mid-20th century wholesomeness that could only be rivaled by, say, a rural town in Ohio. But Ohio, Colorado is not, which is the best thing about this quaint nook. Although it is marketed as the "Heart of South Denver," resting between East Evans Avenue and Butchel Boulevard, Old South Pearl Street is located only 7 miles from downtown Denver, and even closer to the University of Denver.
Although still largely under construction, the Stapleton neighborhood has taken the recognizable shape of an idyllic, suburban neighborhood. Denver's Stapleton neighborhood embodies the "green plan," a world-recognized outline for a sustainable community.
Unlike downtown Denver, a cornucopia of big businesses and big buildings yet still an epicenter of Denver culture, DTC has been simplified to just big business (and medium-sized buildings) and some hotels.
The city of Aurora is situated just east of Denver, still within sight of the snow-crested Rocky Mountains. Once a provincial farming community, Aurora has become one of Denver's largest suburbs and a city in its own right. With almost 300,000 residents, numerous historical sites and a range of activities, Aurora is a notable destination for shopping, relocating and entertainment.
A hilly city of slightly less than 100,000 people, located about 30 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder is an attractive city, recognized nationally for its aesthetic appeal and unique, bohemian ambiance. The city is dominated by the culture and activities of the University of Colorado—many of the bars and pubs are crowded with twenty-something grad students, law students and professors in wire-rimmed glasses. Students, nature-lovers, and visitors from all over the world provide Boulder with a diversity that seconds only Denver.
Broomfield didn't just appear; it was planned from the get-go. In the 1950s, after farms had dotted the landscape for about a century, developers decisively created a "dream community." In a prim-and-proper epoch, a "dream community" was to be wholesome and family-oriented. Broomfield's vision has been gracefully carried out.
Littleton, like so many Colorado cities, emerged during the gold rush of the mid-1800s. Today the Denver suburb is richly historical and pristinely new at the same time. Located southwest of Denver in Arapahoe County, Littleton's city limits shoot erratically in all directions, with some parts eeking into the two neighboring counties. But within those borders is a family-friendly city of 40,000 people, humble and unassuming.
Little known to even Coloradoans themselves, Westminster, a suburb of Denver located about twenty minutes northwest of the city, used to be the country's largest apple and cherry orchards before 1950. Since then, Westminster has been noted for its exponential growth. Due to a toll road that went through Boulder and Denver, Westminster went from a small town to a formidable city. Now, it is has a population of over 100,000, its own burgeoning economy, and a growth plan that can accommodate its residents.
The City of Arvada wants feedback. Instead of encouraging their citizens to remain mum on community issues, every other year, city officials send out a survey — a citizen satisfaction survey. What they found out: Arvad-ians are pleased with their quality of life, they feel safe (Arvada boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the Denver metropolitan area), and were satisfied with city government. Actually, traffic congestion and the rate of growth is the largest concern among residents. That aside, Arvada's 100,000 residents are a happy lot.
Castle Rock's namesake sits atop a mid-sized butte with a constant, imperial gaze on the 35,000-person town. The rock, an oblong slab of rhyolite stone is like a flag, staking the ground that Castle Rock's newish homes are built upon. True, Castle Rock is almost as old the dinos that once roamed it, but it did not get its kick-start till this century. Forty-minutes outside Denver, Castle Rock is a commuter's refuge from the city with moderate real estate prices and big, green back yards — just make sure you follow the water regulations.
Englewood, besides being home to 32,000 Coloradoans, is also home to a handful of community-oriented facilities and programs that build amiability among its residents and a healthy outlet for the town's youth.
The town of Parker is by no means a hop-skip-and a jump from Downtown Denver. Nor is it even a leap. Although Parker is considered part of Denver's suburban community, it is located 20 miles southeast of the city. For Coloradoans who want to live in the area, that has not been a deterrent: between 1990 and 2000, Douglas County, where Parker is located, saw almost a 120 percent population increase, placing it at the top of the list of fastest growing counties in the United States. Parker took the cake as the fastest growing municipality in the county, with a 332 percent increase.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Washington Park neighborhood is hinged around none other than Washington Park. Three stars for you if you got that one without help. Located in South Central Denver, Wash Park, as it is known among its residents, is an ideal location for young professionals in between owning their first place and still needing a roommate. The Park's eastern edges, flanked by tall, 70s-style apartment complexes and condos are a prime destination for this demographic. On the west, the park is bolstered by Victorian-style brick homes.
The City of Black Hawk is a town of heavy-set men in snake skin roach killers, cocktail waitresses in short, black mini-skirts, and a hope—a hope that you might win it big. Despite Black Hawk's 22 casinos (which is more than Atlantic City), the town lacks the neon glow that characterizes its bigger-than-life counterparts, Reno, Las Vegas of the boats in Kansas City. Instead, it has something very Colorado: cowboys.
Within the perimeters of Denver's Capitol Hill district, you will find one of the most diverse and eclectic neighborhoods the city has to offer. Squared off by Broadway, Colfax, Downing and Sixth Avenue, Cap Hill for short, is teeming with pink-haired, pierced and tattooed hipsters, who are live in one of the many studio or one-bedroom apartments in the area.
Thornton is a commuter's paradise. Located just off I-25, fifteen minutes from Denver and under 25 from Boulder, the town is teeming with ways to cater to the car parade — about 100,000 in total — that passes by every morning and night.
Commerce City: doesn't it sound bustling? In actuality, it's not — but that's half the city's appeal. A mere 45,000 residents populate the 65.5-square-mile city situated between I-76 and I-270, just twenty minutes east of Denver International Airport and about fifteen minutes from Denver.
In a region where many Denver suburbs are celebrating their actual centennial, the town of Centennial is a comparable tot. In 2001, the area that became Centennial — comprised of formerly unincorporated land in Arapahoe County — ended a legal debate that took over two years in the State Supreme Court and Legislature. The City of Greenwood Village came out on the losing end after efforts to annex the land to improve their tax base.
Situated in burgeoning Douglas County, the 87,000 residents of Highlands Ranch know how to pick a planned community. Besides off-leash dog runs, batting cages, skate parks and other public amenities, each of Highland's Ranch's four neighborhoods — Eastridge, Westridge, Northridge and Southridge — has their own recreation center. The city is ornamented with 14 neighborhood parks, 2,000 acres of open space, three community parks and 70 miles of trails.
Lafayette is another one of those Colorado wonders: it's technically been there for over a century, yet the majority of the town was built in the past ten years. The 25,000 people who comprise Lafayette have it made: half-hour from Denver, twenty minutes from Boulder, and plenty of breathing room.
Situated between Fort Collins and Boulder, the 81,000-person town of Longmont is a veritable residential oasis. And like its neighbors, Longmont offers a wealth of outdoor activities. Jog along the St. Vrain River or on one of Longmont’s seven greenways, which lace through the city's 1,500 acres of parks and open space. You can sun yourself at McIntosh Lake or row a boat on Union Reservoir.
Louisville, the tiny town six miles east of Boulder and 25 miles northwest of Denver recently topped the list of Best Places to Raise Your Family: The Top 100 Affordable Communities in the U.S. In July 2006, Money magazine also ranked Louisville the fifth best place to live in the country.
Located seven miles from downtown Denver, Wheat Ridge has been a longtime home for commuters and suburban residents, with a vivid view of the mountains and easy interstate access. Eighteen schools including a Montessori center and two parochial schools service Wheat Ridge.