Are you looking for the buzz or the ‘burbs?
It’s the age old question – to live in the city or the suburbs? Energy vs. calm? Urban vs. open? Quirky coffee shops and boutiques vs. strip malls?
For the last decade, Denver has witnessed a rebirth of its inner city. Crumbling neighborhoods have been renovated, high density housing has emerged and loft living is no longer peculiar. Millennials relish living close to work and taking advantage of the vibrancy of the city.
While the allure of city living appeals to many, the Denver suburbs continue to welcome former city dwellers typically as people marry and have children. The prospect of a larger home with a yard, better schools, and a sense of community draw many people outside the city limits, just like generations before.
And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is causing people to rethink the idea of city living. The urban lifestyle often means increased population density and lack of adequate outdoor living areas. Families who have been cooped up the last couple of months, combining remote working with child care/home schooling may be discovering they need more space. Often times, living in an urban area equates to limited access to open space, parks and areas for exercise and recreation. For families, living in a dense urban area during a pandemic can exacerbate already cramped living quarters.
Even before the pandemic hit, more and more millennials were finding suburban living increasingly attractive. Seeking a better quality of life, more space and less crowds are usually just a few reasons given for seeking housing outside the urban environs. And once the move is made, many people find they gain more living space (at least an extra 500 square feet), better access to parks, trails and nature, more house for less money, easier access to grocery stores and quieter surroundings.
The good news is that Denver's suburbs are easily accessible; yet close to the city's entertainment and attractions. On paper, Denver’s outlying communities extend from Castle Rock to Louisville. Any village or city within a 30 minute commute is considered fair game to be called a Denver suburb. Some people even toss Boulder and North Colorado Springs into that category! As Denver has grown, so has the appetite for affordable housing outside the city.
The good news is that Denver's suburbs are easily accessible; yet close to the city's entertainment and attractions!
So what are the most desirable suburbs in Denver and what criteria should one use? Obviously, it’s going to be a personal decision but some of the factors to consider when choosing to live outside Denver should include length of commute, housing costs, schools, access to recreational areas, crime rate and proximity to mass transportation.
Below are listed what we consider the top five suburbs in Denver using the above criteria. The most weight is given to the school districts which serve the respective communities since quality of schools is often given as the top reason people move outside the city. How does this list compare to your “best?”
This older established enclave 20 minutes south of Denver has experienced a rebirth over the last several decades with a bustling downtown, brewpubs, incredible access to open space and a top 10 school district. There is a wide selection of condos, town homes and single family homes with an equally vast range of prices.
The area was settled by Richard Sullivan Little, an engineer from New Hampshire, who founded Rough and Ready Flour Mill and provided a solid economic base for the community. Today, Main Street in Littleton is home to a wonderful array of boutiques, coffee and tea houses, exceptional restaurants and modern brewpubs. Having a true “downtown” draws people to Littleton.
The RTD established light rail service to Littleton in year 2000, providing long sought-after access to downtown Denver. That line, later named the D line, allows commuters access to downtown while the C lines drops people at various spots along the southwest Denver metro corridor including Auraria and Union Station.
Residents in Littleton enjoy rapid access to a variety of recreational opportunities. The Greenway Foundation trail along the South Platte River enables people to bike, run, roller blade and walk their dogs for miles along this scenic waterway. Additionally, Chatfield Reservoir is a short 10 minute drive away as is access to the foothills, hiking and skiing.
The Litteton School District is considered one of the best school district in Colorado. The district features the highly ranked Wilder Elementary (Columbine Valley), Powell Middle Schools (Littleton) and Arapahoe High School (Centennial).
Although randomly spread around the southern Denver metro area, Centennial is still one of the most popular suburbs as evidenced by its population of over 106,000. The city stretches from Broadway to E-470 and follows at irregular pattern including Orchard to the north and County Line to the south, before narrowing east of I-25 and exhibiting a patchwork pattern before stopping shy of Saddle Rock Golf Course. When it was incorporated in 2001, it was the largest of its kind in U.S. history and encompasses 28 square miles.
Centennial is ranked #6 by Niche.com in its latest findings of best suburbs in Denver. It scores high in its offering of public schools, available housing, family friendliness and nightlife.
Centennial is home to many large employers and enjoys prime access to RTD’s light rail along both Santa Fe and the I-25 corridor. Although it has no established downtown area, there are a myriad of retail businesses. The Shops at Southglenn, located at University and Arapahoe, is a popular outdoor mall with a combination of small boutiques and larger chain retailers. Additionally, Centennial is adjacent to Southlands Mall in the southeast area of the metro area and Park Meadows, off County Line and I-25.
Due to its sheer size, Centennial is served by both Littleton and the Cherry Creek School District. Cherry Creek boasts top rated Cottonwood Creek, Willow Creek and Homestead Elementary Schools, Campus Middle School and Cherry Creek High School.
Residents of Centennial enjoy unparalleled recreational opportunities with miles and miles of open space and trails. From the High Line Canal on the west side to Parker Jordan Centennial Open Space on the east, there are well over a 100 miles of trails. People enjoy easy access to the Family Sports Center, the award winning Centennial Center Park and Top Golf.
Highlands Ranch has emerged from its “sprawl” image to one of livability. As a planned community which welcomed its first homeowners in 1981, the area has exploded to include an area of over 24 square miles and a population of 97,000.
Located south of C-470, Highlands Ranch boasts a variety of home styles, a multitude of green belts that segue through neighborhoods, beautiful vistas of the Front Range and well-placed parks. It stretches from Santa Fe all the way to Quebec Street.
Although there are now many small and large businesses located in Highlands Ranch, it is still considered a bedroom community as the majority of residents commute to downtown Denver or nearby Lone Tree, Meridian Office Park and the Denver Tech Center. The RTD light rail serves the area with both the I-25 and Santa Fe corridor lines.
Despite its size, Highlands Ranch is still unincorporated and is governed by a three member board of commissioners. It is home to seven public and charter high schools, several which are highly ranked. Valor High School, a private school in Highlands Ranch, has been a National Blue Ribbon award winner.
From its roots as a rough and tumble mining community to a now respectable suburb, Louisville has emerged as a desirable city for individuals and families alike. Located in the rolling plateaus of southeastern Boulder County, the city has a historic downtown which includes the venerable 740 Front, the last remaining saloon of the original 13 that used to line Front Street.
With its lofty perch atop the Davidson Mesa, Louisville residents enjoy unmatched views up and down the Front Range. Despite its rapid growth, there are still over 1,000 acres of open space and countless ponds, lakes and streams to enjoy in Louisville.
Since the early 1980s, Louisville has seen tremendous growth, nearly quadrupling in size. The population estimate is now over 20,000 people and those residents enjoy 26 city parks, 26 miles of bike paths and trails, and an award winning library. Over the years, Money Magazine has consistently given Louisville high marks for its livability rankings.
There are six public schools, six private schools and it is home base to several high tech companies. Residents typically commute to Boulder, Broomfield and Denver, taking advantage of the RTD light rail (Westminster station) and express bus lines
Greenwood Village/Cherry Hills Village
There is no doubt the price of homes in these neighborhoods will keep the majority of the populace from ever living in the two communities but for those who do, the benefits are extraordinary. Although the two villages are very different, they both offer incredible benefits including access to great schools, an exceptional sense of community, entry to wonderful trails and open space, and easy access to RTD light rail. The trade off is having to pay high property taxes.
Greenwood Village was incorporated in 1950 and named after the historic Greenwood Ranch, which occupied a huge acreage including the present day Glenmoor development (Cherry Hills Village) and The Preserve (Greenwood Village). Encompassing a little over eight square miles, Greenwood Village has a population of over 14,000 and households show a median income of $116,000.
Niche.com ranks Greenwood Village #5 in the best Denver suburbs standings. It scores high for schools, families and nightlife.
Like most suburbs, it has an irregular map but spans from roughly University to Havana, and Belleview to Orchard. The community is quite diverse featuring stately homes, towering condominium buildings, older and brand new apartment buildings, and a range of commercial ventures in locations ranging from strip malls to the venerable Denver Tech Center. In fact, the DTC provides an enormous tax base for the community, and as a result you’ll find beautiful parks and landscaping, and plentiful jobs within a short commute.
From the High Line Canal to Cherry Creek State Park, the residents have a multitude of recreational opportunities including miles of trails for hiking and cycling, top notch parks and playing fields, and even a skateboarding park.
Top rated schools in Greenwood Village include Greenwood and Cottonwood Creek Elementary, Campus Middle and Cherry Creek High.
Cherry Hills Village has been the coveted suburban neighborhood since its origins in 1945. The community was established as a pure residential area with no commercial operations (the only exceptions being a miniscule strip mall, private country clubs, tennis and swim clubs and churches). The residents enjoy tree lined streets, horse pastures, bridle paths, the High Line Canal, and numerous creeks and open space. This idyllic neighborhood boasts massive new homes, ranch homes from the 50s, cottages and contemporary masterpieces, all unique and most pricey.
Bounded by Hampden to the north, Belleview on the south, Clarkson on the west and roughly Monaco to the east, Cherry Hills offers privacy, whether through gated communities or large acreage. Many homes sit on lots of at least an acre and numerous have beautiful views of the Front Range. People typically know their neighbors and many have lived in the area for decades. In Old Cherry Hills, there are yearly holiday get-togethers and each neighborhood typically looks out after their own.
The Village has an elected mayor and city council that serve the 6,300 people in the community. Like Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills is located within the Cherry Creek School District. Children may attend top rated Cherry Hills Village Elementary or a number of private schools that are within a five mile radius. Older kids attend West Middle School and Cherry Creek High School.
Posted by Pat O'Connor
Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys hanging out with her three kids and assortment of family pets, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. As a mother to two (at one time three) competitive swimmers, her favorite fragrance is eau de chlorine. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs on Saturdays and screaming when the Packers score on Sundays. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter