By Amy Spagnola
With a mountainous area six times the size of Switzerland and many professional sports teams, Denver attracts residents looking for active amenities and fun places to dine, shop and play in their own backyards. The facts back it up: The American Fitness Index ranked Denver as one of the top five healthiest cities in the country for 2012. Denver ranks in the top 10 of Forbes’ lists for “Best Places for Business and Careers” (fifth); “America’s Most Wired Cities” (seventh) and “America’s Safest Cities” (10th). From green-conscious Stapleton to energetic Capitol Hill, each Denver area offers something unique.
DLM scoured the city for the most thriving, up-and-coming areas to live, and we found neighborhoods and suburbs—new and old—that attract buyers and have staying power for the long haul.
Sitting higher than the surrounding parts of the city, Hilltop is one of Denver’s most affluent communities, with a median home price of $638,593. Many of the original houses in this area are being rebuilt and replaced by larger homes. Residents enjoy easy access to churches, synagogues and hospitals, as well as shopping and local parks. Graland Country Day School is a popular private school with an extensive selection process, and Cranmer Park has 23 acres of open space and playing fields.
Best For: Established Professionals, Families, Faith-Focused
Experience Hilltop: Brunch at Snooze, then walk off their delicious pineapple-upside-down pancakes with a trip to Cranmer Park.
As one of Denver’s most affluent areas, Cherry Creek is known for its high-end shopping, art galleries, eateries, spas and salons. With homes priced significantly higher than surrounding neighborhoods (the median single family home is just shy of one million dollars), Cherry Creek is ideal for those seeking car-less jaunts, great schools and entertainment for the whole family.
Best For: Successful Creatives, Pedestrian-Happy, Art Aficionados
Experience Cherry Creek: Don’t miss the Cherrk Creek Arts Festival on July 5-7. This annual art celebration draws more than 350,000 visitors. Also, restaurants such as Elway’s, True Food Kitchen and Cherry Cricket draw diners of many preferences.
The ninth most populated city in Colorado, with the median home or condo price at $241,800, this is one of Denver’s most popular areas for getting a taste of city culture without the hassles of a metro hub. With the Arvada Center showcasing musicals and art classes and Old Town Arvada offering festivals, pottery studios and playhouses, this is a charming enclave. “Arvada has a great, cozy, small-town feel,” says Colin Stok of RE/MAX. “With it’s amazing historic ‘Old Town’ square lined with restaurants, a library, and pubs to the many parks and shopping strip malls, you will always find something to do.”
Best For: Small-Town Fans, Culture Fiends, Dynamic Families
Experience Arvada: Visit Olde Town Square during the Fall for the Festival of Scarecrows. There will be scarecrow and pumpkin decorating contests, a pumpkin patch, cornstalk maze and festival booths that the whole family will enjoy.
Featured in Travel+Leisure, this 250-acre region northwest of downtown has three distinct districts: Lower Highland (LoHi), Highlands Square and Tennyson Street. Locals love the area’s access to the mountains, as well as biking and running near Sloan’s Lake. Some of the best restaurants and shops in Denver are located here, making it easy to live and play in the Highlands.
Best For: Successful Singletons, Outdoor Adventures , City Dwellers
Experience Highland: Many of Denver’s top restaurants are within walking and biking distance. Linger and Root Down will never disappoint, and newcomers such as Corner House offer delicious cocktails and thoughtful cuisine. There’s Prost Brewing Company for German brews, and Little Man Ice Cream for dessert. Need more? Check out Z Cuisine, Masterpiece Delicatessen, Williams & Graham and Central Bistro & Bar.
Open space and parks comprise more than 25 percent of Castle Rock, making it ideal for those looking for more space. Many Castle Rock residents commute north to the Denver Tech Center for work. However, downtown Castle Rock brings them home for the small town charm and eclectic shopping and dining. In 2011, Castle Rock was ranked #19 on Money Magazine’s “100 Best Places to Live in America” and in 2010, Family Circle ranked them them number one on its list of “the 10 Best Towns for Families.” Home prices range from $110,000 to $1.3 million, and neighborhoods such as Castle Pines offer homes surrounded by forests and landscaped grounds, truly capturing the elegant beauty of this area.
Best For: Friendly Neighborhoods, Nature Buffs, Rural Dreamers
Experience Castle Rock: Red Hawk Ridge Golf Course features extreme elevation changes, award-winning design and dramatic vistas, which makes it fun and challenging for golfers of all skill levels.
If you think Boulder is strictly a “college town,” then you’ll be surprised at all it has to offer. This city is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise; sitting at the foot of the Flatiron Mountains, there is hiking, jogging, tubing and skiing nearby. Pearl St. Mall offers dining that any foodie would appreciate—Boulder has a multitude of award-winning restaurants—as well as many breweries and locally owned boutiques. With a strong school system and good local economy, Boulder’s housing market tends to be higher than the surrounded areas. The city has infamously earned many awards, including the #1 Happiest City (moneywatch.bnet.com), #1 Brainiest City (portfolio.com), 4th Best City for the Next Decade (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance), #1 Best City to Raise an Outdoor Kid (Backpacker Magazine), #1 Town to Live Well (forbes.com), #6 Healthiest City to Live and Retire (AARP), #1 Foodiest Town (Bon Appetit) and more. A short drive from Denver, Boulder is a well-balanced mix of youthful, small town charm and big city living.
Best For: Active Adventurers, Foodies, Green-Living Enthusiasts
Experience Boulder: The annual Shakespeare Festival, held outside at the Mary Rippon Theatre, includes favorite Shakespeare plays, such as Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In addition to the plays, you’ll have a magnificent view of Boulder’s Flatiron Mountains.
Near Coors Field, the Pepsi Center and Elitch Gardens, an urban makeover changed lower downtown into an enclave of nightlife and shops. Home to many brewpubs, this historic area is filled with industrial buildings and Victorian architecture. “This is where struggling artists used to live before being priced out by higher rents, new condos and people wanting to hang with a late-night crowd,” says Don Bobeda of Prudential Preferred Real Estate. “Left behind in Lodo are great clubs, restaurants, shopping and a feeling that the place is settled but still fun.” The median listing price in this neighborhood is $826,000.
Best For: Fashionistas, Sports Fans, Bar Crawlers
Experience Lodo: The lavish Fluff Bar will serve your hair needs, and shopping on Larimer Square will not disappoint. Grab a beer at Wynkoop Brewing Company, and then dine at Osteria Marco, Vesta Dipping Grill or The Squeaky Bean.
Littleton dates back to the 1859 Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, which brought not only gold-seekers to the area, but also merchants and farmers. Today, historic downtown Littleton has graceful turn-of-the-century homes, quaint restaurants and high-end art galleries. With Littleton Public Schools, as well as charter and private options, the area is not lacking in education. Many of these aspects contribute to this Denver suburb being the 20th largest city in Colorado. The area is perfect for those who want the discreetness of a suburb, but also the amenities of a city.
Best For: Boutique Shoppers, Busy Families, Small-Town Foodies
Experience Littleton: Don’t miss Littleton’s Carousel of Music on August 14. During Western Welcome Week, families come for the music and food. Stop by Lola’s Sugar Rush (featured on Food Network’s “Unwrapped”) on Main St. for cupcakes, lollipops and more.
The anchor of Governor’s Park is the Governor’s Mansion at 400 E. 8th Ave. Built in 1908, this Georgian Revival style mansion was given to the state in 1959. Since then, every Colorado State Governor has lived in the mansion with the exception of Bill Owens. This hip area features a mix of single-family homes, apartments, lofts, condos and historic mansions. The area offers an international selection of restaurants from Luca D’Italia to Little India. Not far from the popular Golden Triangle area, this neighborhood is home to new buildings like The Beauvallon and The Prado. The neighborhood of Speer hosts the highly educated, with nearly two-thirds of adult residents having earned college degrees. Average prices for a single-family home are around $285,000.
Best For: Couples, Culinary Buffs, Educated
Experience Governor’s Park: Movie Under the Moon takes place in Governor’s Park across the street from Lala’s Wine Bar + Pizzeria. Lala’s offers pizza, beer and wine, and the sales benefit a charity organization. Typically scheduled from June through August, admission is free. lalaswinebar.com
Ranked #29 in CNNMoney‘s Best Places to Live in 2011, Parker is a young town with numerous recreation opportunities. “It’s a family friendly town with a sense of community and amenities for all,” says Sana Wood, a realtor for Kentwood Company. “Old town Main St. features unique shops and restaurants and is within walking distance to parks and rec centers.” As one of the fastest growing communities in Denver, Parker’s Douglas County schools are award-winning. Students in Parker have scored, on average, 12-19 percent higher on testing than the state average. “Home prices range from the mid-200,000s to more than one million for young family communities to more mature communities, such as Piney Creek and The Timbers with private golf courses,” says Wood. Another exclusive golf club neighbor is Betts Lake at Colorado Golf Club, which combines lakefront living and mountain views within the gates of the well-planned golf community.
Best For: Families of All Sizes, Community Oriented, Outdoor-Inclined
Experience Parker: One the third Thursdays of July and August, there are 3rd Thursday Art & Music events at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events (PACE ) Center. Enjoy live music, food and local art. For dinner, try elev. 5900 Kitchen and Bar, and for beer, Elk Mountain Brewing.
2013 is a big year for Stapleton as it expands north of I-70 and will nearly double in size. Adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, newer Stapleton neighborhoods will have urban agriculture amenities, such as community gardens and edible landscapes. Every home in Stapleton adheres to green standards of energy efficiency. Stapleton won the “Best Sustainable Neighborhood” award by Pacific Coast Builders.
Best For: Urban-Junkies, Green-Conscious, Culture Vultures
Experience Stapleton: On June 15, cycle in the Denver Century Ride or simply cheer on participants. Enjoy modern Mexican food at Chef Richard Sandoval’s La Sandía.
With a top 10 U.S. household income rating by CNNMoney, Lone Tree’s beautiful surroundings provide its active residents with recreational and family outings. As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, it’s a great place to start a business and a family. Douglas County schools provide top-rated education, and Sky Ridge Medical Center added to this area’s success in 2003. One Lone Tree neighborhood in particular has been honored with both local and national architectural and design awards: Heritage Hills. These new semi-custom luxury homes have a design that pulls the community together.
Best For: Growing Families, Young Professionals, Neighborhood Lovers
Experience Lone Tree: For a musical evening, enjoy Lone Tree’s Summer Concert Series in Sweetwater Park on June 15 and July 20. The family-friendly event has featured acts, such as the Lone Tree Symphony Orchestra and the Beach Boys Tribute Band. Park Meadows will satisfy your shopping needs.
Midtown is a new boutique neighborhood, off 68th and Pecos adjacent to Clear Creek Regional Trail, which broke ground in late 2012 as an alternative to the Highland and Berkley neighborhoods. The architecture of the housing is a playful mix of modern and traditional design. The area’s Garden Shed Community Center will be a gathering spot featuring art exhibits, community events and parties; it’s scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.
Best For: Aspiring Urbanites, Young Couples, Eco-Minded
Experience Midtown: On May 18, Denver’s most extreme Open House Tour will pit teams against each other in a citywide house scavenger hunt that benefits Habitat for Humanity of Colorado. Drive around urban Denver to answer clues and win a $10,000 cash prize.
Westminster is the “middle-ground” town between Boulder and Denver. Stok says, “Westminster has tons of open space and gorgeous mountain views. Trails and historical sites are abundant around town,” says Stok. “And it is located with convenient access to major highways.” With fun family-centered activities such as the Westminster Promenade (ice skating, movies, bowling and improv comedy) and Adventure Golf and Raceway, there is a lot of fun entertainment to be had in this scenic area of North Denver.
Best For: Open Space Lovers, Mountain Enthusiasts, Trail Runners
Experience Westminster: Take the family out for an afternoon adventure at Westminster’s Butterfly Pavilion. Children and adults alike will be captivated by the center’s 1,600 free flying butterflies, outdoor gardens and nature trails.
Voted by 10best.com as one of the “Top Ten Reasons to Return to Denver,” Wash Park is technically split into two regions: Washington Park and Washington Park West. Both areas are appealing for young professionals in their 20s and 30s, as well as families and empty nesters looking to enjoy this neighborhood’s proximity to coffee shops, bars, record stores and outdoor pursuits. The actual Wash Park hosts more than 250 picnic permits per year with 165 acres and 54 flowerbeds. In fact, one of the flower gardens at Wash Park is a replica of George Washington’s gardens at Mount Vernon.
Best For: Single Professionals, Families, Pet Owners
Experience Wash Park: Participate in the Liberty 4-Mile Run on the Fourth of July. Lunch at Vert Kitchen for the “Best Sandwich in Colorado” according to Food Network (Roast Turkey with balsamic figs, chévre, salad and tomato), then have breakfast-for-dinner at Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery.
Bordering the western side of City Park, this cosmopolitan region offers residents a blend of culture and recreation. Uptown is close to the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science. With a mix of Queen Anne mansions, high-rise apartments and trendy lofts, the neighborhood is buzzing with joggers, art-seekers and patio-loungers. Residents love Restaurant Row (17th Ave. from Broadway to City Park), a popular area of bistros, cafés and bars. Bobeda says, “Neighbors appreciate the proximity and diversity of City Park. It’s easy to eat, drink and unwind in the area or head downtown for a show or an event.”
Best For: Hip Urbanites, Foodies, Al Fresco-Addicts
Experience Uptown: Take in the titans at Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s “Mammoths and Mastodons” exhibit through May 27. Sample brews at Great Divide Brewing Company, then play ping pong at Ace Eat Serve. Or, cure your case of the Mondays at WaterCourse Foods; every Monday they donate 10-15 percent of sales to local charities.
Denver by Numbers
- The Denver housing market, as well as those in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose and Salt Lake City, is “booming” according to a report by Trulia in February 2013.
- In January 2013, the median price of closed properties was $250,000 for single-family homes, down from $255,000 in December, but well above the previous January’s $218,855.
- Median condo prices were $140,050, down from the previous month’s $142,000, but up from the $113,000 of January 2012.
- Sellers can expect an extremely quick sales cycle, because the average number of days on the market is 78, which is 25 percent lower than January 2012, according to Metrolist Inc.
- Kentwood Real Estate’s luxury report in December 2012 showed there were 40 sales of homes costing $1 million or more, up 2.6 percent from November 2012 and up 38 percent from December 2011. Average days on the market for luxury homes stood at 184 days, down 26 percent year-over-year but up slightly from the 160-day average posted in November 2012.