Although now considered a suburb of Denver, in the 1800s Arvada got its start as an agricultural community. Miners, fed up with low yields and cold hands, began farming the fertile soil near Clear Creek, and by 1870, six years before Colorado statehood, Arvada had a thriving crop exchange.
Today, a blend of historic and modern architecture make for a suburb mindful of its small-town roots. The Arvada Historical Society provides a tour of old downtown, including the 1926 Arvada Flour Mill, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Olde Town Arvada is emerging as a popular hangout that bustles with dozens of restaurants, bars, galleries, boutiques, summer concerts, festivals and more.
While in the area, visit the Arvada Center. Featuring a popular and high-quality annual theater series, a museum, two art galleries, classrooms for hundreds of art education programs, this complex is an exciting addition to the community. The center’s outdoor Summer Stage, with concerts, dance performances and theater productions, is a big draw.
Boulder’s first settlers came to hunt for gold, but today, it’s a casually sophisticated town looks and feels very little like a mining camp. Tucked into the foothills below a rock formation known as The Flatirons, it’s close to Denver geographically, but worlds apart in attitude.
Its feel-good Earth Mother reputation is well deserved. The Naropa University, the nation’s only Buddhist university, is located here, as is the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Complementing these schools is the flagship campus of the University of Colorado with approximately 30,000 students.
Shopping, they say, is the number one pursuit of travelers these days, and you’ll find plenty of it here. Shops with clever names and unusual wares will draw in passers-by on the Pearl Street Mall downtown and Twenty Ninth Street is another favorite spot.
But shopping isn’t the only way to get outdoors. The city was named the best place in the nation to indulge in outdoor sports by Outsidemagazine. Here, you’ll find 45,000 acres of designated space to hike or ride a bike, climb a mountain, kayak a river, walk along a stream or fish. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular in winter, as is skiing and snowboarding at nearby Eldora Mountain Resort. And National Historic Landmark Chautauqua Park is one of the easiest ways to get on a trail and get a up-close view of those famous Flatirons.
Elegant, historic hotels complement modern digs to provide a variety of overnight accommodations. Restaurants also abound, as you’d expect from a city named Bon Appétit‘s “Foodiest Town in North America,” and vegetarians are more than welcome. Don’t miss the city’s great craft breweries and exciting nightlife, thanks in part to the college-age crowd. The Boulder Farmers’ Market is one of the best places to get a taste of the local flavor.
Because Boulder is a university town, it offers rich cultural experiences such as the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Music Festival and has a reputation for hosting world-famous performers and guest speakers at events throughout the year, and many galleries, museums and theaters offer year-round ways to get your arts on.
The city has long been a forward-thinking community. That fact, combined with its high-altitude location, inspired the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to settle here — both of which offer tours to visitors.
Located along the technology corridor on U.S. 36, just 20 minutes from Denver and 10 minutes from Boulder, Broomfield is home to top technology companies, attracting savvy professionals looking for a quick office commute.
Three golf courses and expansive community open spaces and trails make for ample room to enjoy the area’s blue skies and celebrated sunrises and sunsets. FlatIron Crossing features an array of department, specialty and big-box stores, along with several restaurants and a theater for those looking for dinner and a movie. Meanwhile, Broomfield’s fabulous 1stBank Center hosts big concerts, circuses, rodeos, truck races, Ice Capades, conventions, trade shows and community events.
Hops devotees will find plenty of places in town to sample innovative craft crews, including Nighthawk Brewery, 4 Noses Brewing Company, Big Choice Brewing, Rails End Beer Company and Westminster Brewing Company.
For families with children, there is the Paul Derda Recreation Center with its climbing wall, indoor and outdoor play areas, an indoor aquatic park replete with slides, a lazy river and even a spa opportunity for mom and dad set within the community’s premier central park — the Broomfield County Commons.
Golden, a gateway to the Rocky Mountains on the west edge of Denver, offers a peek at Colorado’s mining history, beer and Buffalo Bill.
The grave of Buffalo Bill Cody, of legendary Wild West Show fame, is situated on Lookout Mountain above town. It’s a major attraction in the Denver area, and the quaint museum next to it is worth a stop; the drive to Cody’s resting place begins in historic downtown Golden on the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway. While you’re up there, stop by the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve and the 1917 Boettcher Mansion.
Down below, the smell of hops permeates the clean mountain air. The MillerCoors brewery was established here in 1873 by German immigrant Adolph Coors; take the factory tour to learn about the brewing process and sample some fresh suds. Golden also has a robust community of craft breweries — savor some new flavors at Golden City, the town’s second-largest brewery, Holidaily Brewing Co., an exclusively gluten-free beer maker, and Mountain Toad, a favorite gathering place for locals.
Golden was once such a boomtown, it was made Colorado’s territorial capital in 1862. Local museums, including the Golden Pioneers Museum, will flesh out the amazing local history for you. Don’t miss the Colorado Railroad Museum, where you can actually climb around on old trains. Visitors can view displays of rocks, gems and minerals and learn about how they’re important to modern civilization in the geology museum at Colorado School of Mines, which calls Golden home.
With incredible trails and camping, nearby Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers a taste of Colorado’s legendary great outdoors just a stone’s throw away from Denver. Be sure to take a look around and remind yourself what this part of Colorado looked like before settlers and miners made their mark.
If pedaling is your forte, be sure to stop at Golden Bike Library, a new program that allows users to borrow rides for different ages and abilities, including children’s bikes and mountain and road bikes. Open Thursday through Sunday during the warm-weather months, a key drop-box facilitates the return of bikes after hours.
Golden also has no shortage of fun events, particularly during the summer, including the Golden Games in May, Buffalo Bill Days in July and Golden Fine Arts Festival in August.
Almost 150 years ago, the first pioneers trickled into this region after a long journey across the Great Plains. Among them were newlyweds Lafayette and Mary E. Miller, who settled in 1862 on the present site of Lafayette and began farming. Mr. Miller’s sudden death in 1878 left Mary with six small children to raise. She did this and more: she built a town.
Noticing coalmines in nearby areas, Mary searched for coal on her land. In 1884, coal was in fact found on the Miller ranch and the resulting Cannon Mine would prove to be the richest vein of coal in the entire Boulder Valley. In 1889, Mary platted a 158-acre town site named after her late husband. Over the next 40 years, Lafayette generated tons of coal and much labor strife. Tensions stopped for good when the last mine closed in 1957.
Today this town of nearly 25,000 people, pronounced “law-fee-et” by the locals, boasts an exemplary parks system and an attractive downtown featuring coffee shops and boutiques. Lafayette has carefully set aside greenbelts, bikeways, parks and open lands to preserve the natural atmosphere. The city lies north of Denver, and east of Boulder and the Rocky Mountains.
This easy-going community is just 16 miles outside Boulder, but it has a character all its own. Featuring a lively and historic downtown, plenty of open space, bike paths, high-tech companies and lots of new housing developments, Longmont is a vibrant, diverse town.
Downtown is the city’s top spot, offering a range of restaurants, galleries and shops. Family events, a farmers’ market, a summer artwalk and live music are also a part of the urban atmosphere. The history of Longmont is very much alive at the Dougherty Museum and at several Victorian homes and old cabins and mills, all part of the nationally registered historic district.
Additionally, exhibit galleries, public art and an outdoor courtyard are yours to explore at the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center, south of town. Tower of Compassion is Longmont’s most unique cultural symbol. The Kanemoto families donated this pagoda, a symbol of compassion, to the city in 1972.
In addition to historic and cultural highlights, Longmont maintains more than 1,500 acres of parks and open space and is privy to Boulder County’s extensive hiking and biking trails. There are three spectacular public golf courses, and nearby Union Reservoir is popular for windsurfing, fishing and camping. Two popular Colorado craft breweries (Left Hand Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewery) hold fun events through out the year, and a couple more are set to open soon.
Pop over to Longmont’s innovative “urbanist” Prospect neighborhood, where local shops and offices mix with apartments, townhomes and live/work lofts anda community park in a walkable, friendly community. Visit on Monday nights from April to October for Prospect Eats, where food trucks gather for a community-wide food fest.
Located on the growing technology corridor between Denver and Boulder, Louisville is a modern community offset by a historic downtown that’s making a name for itself with several new restaurants and boutiques.
The community is a successful example of how Colorado is blending the old and the new. Old Town’s Main Street’s new shops and restaurants are housed in historic buildings, while McCaslin Boulevard has a mix of modern restaurants, hotels and stores. During the summer, Old Town hosts outdoor concerts and a lively farmers’ market, while quick access to U.S. 36 leads to the modern metropolises of Denver and Boulder, as well as the nearby Flatiron Crossing shopping area.
On the outskirts of town, the award-winning 18-hole Coal Creek Golf Course features a links-style front nine and a wide-open view of Boulder’s famed Flatiron peaks. Additionally, Louisville boasts 1,700 acres of open space, and rolling, country roads on the north side of town are popular for road cycling. Top community events include Taste of Louisville in mid-June and the annual Labor Day parade.
While new structures have made over Westminster, the town’s history is carefully preserved at the Bowles House Museum. Westminster’s Pillar of Fire building, a majestic neo-Romanesque-style building built in 1892, is another interesting tribute to the past. Numerous other structures are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
What’s most visible in Westminster, however, is a sea of new shopping districts. Visitors will find conveniences ranging from popular chain stores to family-style restaurants located immediately off of U.S. 36. In addition, the Westminster Promenade, an outdoor pedestrian village, contains restaurants and cafes, a movie theater, sculptures, hotel facilities, performance areas, interactive water features, walking trails and a three-rink ice arena.
The Butterfly Pavilion is a lush conservatory home to 1,200 free-flying butterflies, including the brilliant blue morpho and a giant endangered species from Australia. The pavilion is one of the area’s most popular family attractions.