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Why Golden, CO, Is a Best Small Town

Golden is a picture of the best of the old and new West

By Stephanie Stewart-Howard on June 1, 2015

A buffalo statute and large arch over the street welcome people to Golden, CO.

Golden, Colo., is perhaps best known as the home of Miller Coors, and many guests come first to tour the well-known brewery, but the city has plenty more to offer. Set at the foot of the Rockies, with a gorgeous creek running through town, rich in vistas of western rock mesas, and possessed of friendly, outgoing residents, it’s easy to see why Golden ranked well on the Top 100 Best Small Towns 2015

Of course, as Major Marjorie Sloan points out, the city’s marvelous climate also keeps residents content and provides plenty of things to do in Golden. “The story goes that Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year, and that’s generally true in Golden; it’s sunny and temperate. We even have warm days in January; there’s no lingering cold or clouds.”

Located less than 40 minutes from Denver via light rail, the city provides an escape for those wishing to use it as a bedroom community and offers a small-town lifestyle for those looking for it, without losing the benefits of a nearby major city.

Business and Education

As mentioned, Miller Coors provides many of the city’s jobs as well as a major tourist draw, but Mayor Sloan says the tech industry and natural gas boom also provide plenty of employment. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has its base in Golden, developing everything from new, clean technologies to integrated energy systems. The National Earthquake Information Center makes its home here as well. Well-known cutlery and knife outlet SpyderCo began here in the 1970s.

The presence of the renowned Colorado School of Mines, regularly ranked among the best universities in the country, also draws a smart and focused group of students and teachers to the area.

“The students are great, and very hardworking,†Sloan says.

With just 19,000 residents, the education system is able to be close-knit. The town has just two elementary schools, with one middle school and a single high school, providing a “nice community atmosphere,†according to Sloan. It means kids get to grow up together and don’t risk losing peers to other districts as they reach higher grades.

Mayor Sloan underlines the welcoming, diverse nature of the city’s culture, as well as its western heritage.

“People have probably seen pictures of our iconic Washington Avenue arch that says ‘Welcome to Colorado, where the West lives.’ It’s photographed a lot … As a very purple community in a swing state, Golden and the arch are a favorite locale for TV channels during primary and election season for gauging public opinion.”


Golden is ideal for pedestrians and bicycle enthusiasts, not just for accessibility, but for relaxation and exercise, winning a “Walkable Neighborhoods†commendation from the International Making Cities Livable Conference. Neighborhoods in Golden connect with parks, commercial centers and schools. Some of that walking means enjoying the gorgeous Clear Creek Historic Park, celebrating the city’s frontier days. The beautiful creek running through the heart of the city is part of what makes it such a visually appealing locale. The city’s 24 miles of trails lead up beyond the residential area into the mountains for those looking for a challenge.

Washington Avenue, the main street in town, is home to a myriad of local restaurants, breweries, and the like, showcasing the burgeoning culinary scene. A recent nonsmoking ordinance, which includes the street proper, aims to make it more pleasant to allow tables to spill out into the outdoors.

Besides the iconic Coors, there are at least five small breweries and two craft distilleries located in town. Two large community gardens, one funded by Natural Grocer’s and focused on urban renewal efforts, reflect the city’s commitment to local food; the second at Clear Creek History Park focuses on heritage vegetables.

The arts scene in Golden thrives and includes many popular galleries, music venues and museums, including the nationally recognized Foothills Arts Center.

“We’re proud of our Western heritage here, but we’re also very forward thinking,†Sloan says. We try to have a responsive, approachable city government for everyone, to respond to change and to maintain the character of the city for the long term.”

“We’re proud of our Western heritage here, but we’re also very forward thinking. We try to have a responsive, approachable city government for everyone, to respond to change and to maintain the character of the city for the long term.”

Marjorie Sloan
Mayor of Golden
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