Why Arvada, Colorado Is One of the Coolest Suburbs in America

published May 22, 2019
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Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Arvada was chosen as one of Apartment Therapy’s Coolest Suburbs in America 2019. We showcased the burbs nationwide that offer the most when it comes to cultural activities, a sense of community, and simply a good quality of life. For more on how we define “cool” and what exactly counts as a suburb, check out our methodology here. To view Apartment Therapy’s other Coolest Suburbs in America 2019, head here.

Situated about 12 miles northwest of Denver, the history of Arvada dates back to the gold rush in the mid-1800s. That history is woven throughout the streets and establishments in Olde Town—which was once the city center and is now a bustling downtown.

In Olde Town, a variety of modern eats, drinks, and specialty shops abut historical treasures, such as the Arvada Flour Mill, which was built in 1925. The area is home to events throughout the year, a farmers market, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, and First Friday Art Walks. On warm summer days, a splash pad in the square fills with laughing kids, escaping the heat.

Residents don’t have to travel far to enjoy the arts. The Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities, which opened in the 1970s, has grown into one of the largest arts venues in the state, outside of Denver. In addition to year-round visual arts displays, the theater stage bursts with talent from award-winning actors, singers, and dancers, performing both locally written acts, as well as critically-acclaimed pieces. The outdoor amphitheatre comes alive in the summer, with performances by rock legends, the symphony orchestra, and the Colorado Ballet.

The many parks, trails, and views of the Rocky Mountains, peppered throughout the suburb, offer a tranquil escape to residents.

Median rent price:

$2,145, according to Zillow.

Median house price:

$413,600, according to Zillow.

Price per square foot (compared to city):

$267 in Arvada vs. $265 in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metro area, according to Zillow.

Walkability score:

39, according to Walk Score, which also says the most walkable Arvada neighborhoods are Westdale, Olde Town, and Allendale.

Median household income:

$75,640, according to Census data.


118,807, according to Census data.

What the suburb is known for:

According Arvada history, on June 22, 1850, a wagon train bound for California crossed the Platte River, just north of the confluence with Clear Creek. The members of the wagon train rested, and Lewis Ralston dipped his gold pan in an unnamed mountain stream, where he found almost $5 worth of gold in that first pan. More than a century later, research by Lois Lindstrom, a local historian, proved that present-day Arvada was the site of this event—the first gold discovery in Colorado.

Hidden gem:

Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge provides 72 acres of uplands, wetlands, and small ponds, nestled in the middle of Arvada. Hiking trails allow visitors to observe 120 bird species, 22 which nest on the refuge. Coyote, red fox, muskrat, deer, and several species of small mammals can also be seen at this quiet wildlife oasis.  

Favorite activity for families:

Think archery meets dodgeball. That’s what you’ll find at Archery Games, an indoor arena with action-packed games in a family-friendly setting. Even though Archery Games is just a year old, it’s already a favorite with Yelp reviewers. No archery experience is needed to shoot, and the recommended age to participate is 10 and older.

Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Favorite hangout for young professionals:

Denver Beer Co.’s Olde Town Arvada taproom serves up classics, as well as rotating taps specific to the Arvada community—like the Water Tower Wit. It was voted Best Brewery in 2018 by the readers of the Arvada Press newspaper. The taproom, situated inside one of Arvada’s oldest buildings, is also home to The Mighty Colorado Burger—an artisan burger-and-fry restaurant in a vintage Airstream trailer. The $10 burger-and-beer lunch special, available Monday through Friday, can’t be beat. Don’t forget to try the tots and the cheese curds.

Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Favorite teen hangout:

The Arvada Skate Park is the third largest in the country. It was designed and built by Team Pain, a skater-owned skate park builder. The park includes a large multi level snake run, a large bowl, an intermediate bowl, beginner area, and street obstacle, among other features. On sunny days, kids and teens of all ages can be spotted perfecting their best skateboard, bike, and scooter tricks.

Favorite outdoor lounge spot:

The patio at the Bluegrass Coffee & Bourbon Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy warm weather, regardless of the time of the day. Swing by during the happy hour, which was voted the best by readers of the Arvada Press and features bourbon specials, and a 10-inch, two-topping pizza for $7.50.

Favorite date spot:

The Arvada Tavern. It dates back to Prohibition, when it became the first establishment to legally serve alcohol in Arvada in 1933. The swanky spot keeps vintage alive with hand-crafted cocktails and modern twists on a classic drinks, like the Olde Town Fashioned. The dinner menu doesn’t disappoint, serving American dishes, like locally-sourced short ribs, and mac and cheese with green chili sauce. Arvada Tavern’s cocktails have earned accolades at Taste of Arvada for the past several years.

Average commute/traffic report:

Getting to the city from Arvada is generally a quick hop onto Interstate 70 for a 20- to 30-minute drive. The G Line commuter rail connecting Arvada to downtown Denver opened for service April 26. The route from Olde Town Arvada to Union Station in Denver takes about 21 minutes and costs $3. There are two additional stops in Arvada. The line runs between 4 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., with trains every 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

Favorite local bookstore:

Yelp reviewers love Book Cranny in Olde Town. The shop, which specializes in trading, buying, and selling quality used books, also sells art postcards and Native-American jewelry.

Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Favorite place to get coffee:

Two Rivers Coffee serves coffee from locally-roasted, ethically-sourced beans. The cafe has an inviting, yet modern vibe with calming music and a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Treat yourself and try the flourless brownie while you’re there.

Favorite bar for when you want to be around people:

Kline’s Beer Hall offers 56 rotating taps from around the world—the largest selection in Olde Town Arvada. It also hosts free live music every weekend and trivia on Monday nights. Hungry? Kline’s serves eats inspired by traditional European beer halls, and is known for its hand-cranked, house-cured sausages.

Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Favorite alone spot:

Escape to the Majestic View Nature Center for mountain views, fresh air, wildlife.

Favorite free cultural activity to take part in:

The galleries at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities are free and open to the public year-round. The center hosts about 12 fine art exhibitions a year, pulling work from a variety of genres and artists, from all over the world.

Signature food:

The strudel at Rheinlander Bakery. The family-owned bakery has been serving traditional German baked goods in Arvada for more than 55 years, and routinely makes best-of lists in the metro area.

Favorite boutique:

Lovely Boutique. New clothing and accessories constantly rotate through this locally-owned shop.

Credit: Lauren DeFilippo/Apartment Therapy

Most walkable area:

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Olde Town Arvada is a historic gem and a vibrant, growing district.

Favorite bike trails/parks/outdoor activity:

The Ralston Creek Trail has been voted a favorite by the readers of the Arvada Press newspaper for hiking and biking. Spanning 12.5 miles, it follows the creek where the Colorado Gold Rush began, linking several parks and open areas. A highlight is the suspended cable pedestrian bridge on the trail’s eastern end.

Favorite spot for an Instagram:

The most Instagrammed spot is the Olde Town Arvada water tower. It’s been a landmark since 1910. Although it’s no longer operational, it stands as a symbol of history, with the views of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Favorite brunch:

The kitchen at Steubens serves some of the best comfort food in the metro area—everything from lox and latkes to chicken and waffles. It was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” last year, and was also named the Arvada Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Business of the Year.

Favorite free activity:

Ralston Central Park and splash pad is a favorite among families. The splash pad is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The park also features a sand volleyball court.

Favorite place for a workout:

Arvada is home to 149 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Embrace the Colorado lifestyle, and get outside for a free workout.

Favorite place to take an out-of-towner:

The Cereal Box. It’s a place to escape the complexities of adult life, watch old-school Saturday morning cartoons, and have a bowl of crazy cereal. Pop-Tarts, ice-cream sandwiches, milkshakes, and hot chocolate are also on the menu.

Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking:

With a limited number of street parking spots and parking lots, parking in Olde Town can be fairly difficult, especially during an event. A recently constructed parking garage on the east end of Old Town has added 600 parking spaces, shared between rail and bus passengers, and visitors to Olde Town. Now Olde Town is one of the easier places to park—if you don’t mind a bit of walking.

What the neighbors say:

“I like living in Arvada because of Olde Town. It’s like living near a downtown but a little more relaxed, less congested, and the people are nicer. I want to live closer to Olde Town because there are so many cute places and I like to support small businesses. Small businesses are my jam.” — Monica Matthews, resident for one year.

“The people. The community. All the volunteering that goes on. It’s a very caring community.” — Mary Jo Giddings resident for 50 years.

“The best thing about living in Arvada for someone like me, who came out of a city environment, is that I can go from having great craft cocktails in a great restaurant with great food in Olde Town Arvada and then go back to my home in the west end of Arvada. I have the Ralston Creek Trail right next door, and we can bike and my kids can play. I just feel like I get the best of both worlds—urban and suburban all in one location.” — Katie Winner, resident for six years.

“The variety. You have the busy places like Olde Town, but you can go west and find open space and room to breathe.” —Clark Reader, resident for 31 years.

“The vibrancy. This town is really unlike any other. Everyone knows everyone and we all work together. It’s a community.” —Jim Compoz, resident for 15 years.

Favorite annual event:

The Arvada Kite Festival each April is a celebration of spring, encouraging families to get outside, fly kites, picnic, and spend time together. The free event is held at the Stenger Soccer Complex, allowing people to spread out.

What I miss about the city living in a suburb:

Late-night food. Outside of Olde Town, there are only a handful of restaurants with kitchens open later than 10 p.m.

What I never miss about the city:

The congestion. While traffic can get backed up in Arvada, there are many places to escape the masses.

Favorite local garden store:

The long-standing, family-owned Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center is a favorite among online reviewers.

Favorite dog park:

The Arvada West Dog Park gets top votes from Google reviews, as well as the readers of the Arvada Press newspaper. The park is run by volunteers and subsists on donations.

Favorite resale and antique store:

Olde Town Exchange Consignment is a favorite among online reviewers for its rotating inventory.

Credit: Apartment Therapy