2. Golden, CO
The folks behind an ad campaign for Golden, CO, call it the "home of the two-hour vacation." We think you'll want to stay longer, maybe even a lifetime.
Golden is a gateway to the Rocky Mountains, home of the Coors Brewery and one of the best small towns in the country. Home prices are high, but you get what you pay for – proximity to Denver, pristine parks, a laid-back lifestyle, small-town friendliness and more.
Outdoor adventurers can satisfy their appetites thanks to several nearby ski resorts, hiking and biking trails, rock climbing sites, fishing streams and a whitewater park. Residents enjoy more than 15 parks in the city including The Splash at Golden, a water park with slides, a sandy beach area, leisure pool and children's splash play area.
Restaurant options exceed 100 according to Yelp.com, and of course hundreds more await in Denver. Thousands of people come to Golden each summer for Buffalo Bill Days, a four-day event that celebrates the West. Golden's Fine Arts Festival is another event that helps bring residents together, providing the town with a boost in tourism.
While visitors play a big part in the local economy, most of the workforce is involved with management, business, science and art. The unemployment rate is 7.4 percent. Coors is a major employer, but it's not Golden's only brewery. Golden City Brewery also offers tours and a taproom.
Golden is home to the National Earthquake Center, the Colorado School of Mines and the American Mountaineering Center. The city promotes sustainability and environmental protection. Boston Market is based in Golden, and two other national food chains are located nearby.
Nearest Big City: Denver – 15 miles
What Else is Here: Farmers market, 10 museums, Alpine slide, Outward Bound, Foothills Art Center, paragliding, Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Heritage Square Amusement Park, bowling alley and Fossil Trace Golf Club