I Heart Denver

union stationAfter 16 years of residence, I still have the biggest crush on Denver. I routinely walk around our city, our neighborhood, and giddily proclaim, “I LOVE where we live!” as if I am realizing it for the very first time. “Uh-huh, yeah, you’ve mentioned that,” my bemused husband says every time.

Seriously, Denver has this weird gravitational pull. We so frequently meet people from other parts of the country living here that, “Where are you from?” is a regular, and even expected, inquiry. (Full disclosure: I am a Michigan native; my husband is from Montana.) And I rarely hear of people moving away. In fact, more than once I’ve heard someone say a version of, “Well, I’ve thought about living elsewhere, but where do you go to top Denver?” The conclusion I’ve come to is…you just don’t.

Both my community development and sociology background reinforced what I’ve always felt: a sense of place has such a huge impact on an individual’s happiness. When I think about our family’s lifestyle, where we live–both our city and neighborhood–features so prominently in our quality of life. We have access to and experience so much in our city, even right here in our Berkeley neighborhood.

So much of Denver’s authentic character is tied into the local businesses, especially those historic institutions that populate the neighborhoods…I mean, what would Northwest Denver be without the Italian classics of Gaetano’s, Parisi and Lechuga’s? Or Park Hill without Spinellis Market? Uptown without Marczyk?

Even the newer businesses have defined the neighborhoods…it’s hard to imagine LoHi would be such a draw without Root Down, Linger and Little Man Ice Cream. It’s certainly a much more sought-after location than it was when I lived there 15 years ago (two doors down from the neighborhood garage that would eventually house Root Down!).

And so each year I grow more and more enamored of my adopted hometown, and I’m thrilled that this is where my husband and I have chosen to raise our two young sons. Here’s a few reasons why…

IMG_42861.    The food. Seriously, the food. Everyone knows that Denver’s culinary scene has gained national recognition in recent years. But it’s the sheer variety of independently owned restaurants that make our backyard a foodie’s dream. From fresh farm-to-table fare to authentic ethnic joints and all manner of food in between, you can never grow bored with the options. And it’s not just the type of food but also the unique dining experiences that have popped up: food trucks, summer farm dinners, and new collective dining concepts like The Source and Avanti. With so many options, even picky kids can discover something new to enjoy. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some incredible dining options open up just a few minutes’ walk from our house. (I’m looking at you, Denver Biscuit Company, Il Porcellino, and Brazen).

2.    Walkability. Yes, it’s become a real estate buzzword but there’s a reason for that…more people are realizing how much more enjoyable it is to have easy walking access rather than to have to drive. And running errands with kids is so much better on foot! My kids have both always hated the car, and I feel bad cooping them up in it. But in our neighborhood we have walkable access to three grocery stores (Three! Welcome to the hood, Natural Grocer!), the library, the post office, liquor store, and a multitude of small shops. Our stroller and wagon regularly do double duty carrying kids and other cargo—yes, that’s my preschooler you see straddling a 6-pack and a couple bottles of wine—which makes errands more fun for the kids and Mom.

3.    Transportation options. I firmly believe a city should be multi-modal to enable all residents to easily navigate it, and it is exciting to see the transportation expansion that has been happening in Denver. I have always been such a romantic about train travel, and I am absolutely enamored of the new Union Station and the thought of departing (or arriving) by train here. And, I have been counting down to the opening of the light rail to DIA ever since I knew it was a possibility. But it’s not just trains…Denver is also a pro-biking city with protected bike lanes, and B-cycles all over town. I love that my boys will not need a driver’s license to access all the city has to offer.

4.    Mountain access. Obvious, right? Yet it would be weird not to mention it. I am not even a skier but it’s hard to deny how spoiled we are with so many incredible outdoor recreational options. This winter we hope to get the 3-year-old on skis for the first time.

5.    Family-friendly activities: Denver is such a great city for families: more than 200 city parks, easy access to outdoor recreation even for non-skiers, and oh-so-many free festivals year-round.

6.    Berkeley neighborhood: Our little corner of Denver is situated in a fantasticIMG_6547 neighborhood called Berkeley. Our walkable neighborhood gives us access to so much…fantastic restaurants and shops plus the essentials…groceries, parks, libraries, recreation center. We love that we are able to “live local” by patronizing these indie businesses.

What do you love most about Denver?  Where are your favorite places to hang out? When given the time, here’s where you will find me…

BookBar: Just a few minutes from my front door where I can simultaneously indulge in a book and glass of wine. Perfection.
Berkeley’s Tennyson Street: People watching, window shopping, exploring our neighborhood on foot.

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