Lakewood

The fifth-largest city in the Denver metro area, this suburb to the west of the city has one of the best views of the Rocky Mountain foothills. Lakewood's relatively new downtown Belmar area, complete with shops, restaurants, a movie theater and pedestrian-friendly spots, is emerging on the site of a demolished shopping mall.

Lakewood also features extensive cultural programming and recreation areas. The 38,000-square-foot Lakewood Cultural Center boasts a 300-seat theater and gallery space, while the Lakewood Heritage Center includes 10 historic structures and 30,000 artifacts, plus a popular outdoor amphitheater.

With more than 80 maintained parks, Lakewood is also one of Denver's top places for outside activities. Bear Creek Lake Park is the city's most popular playground. Filled with a large fishing lake, paved and dirt biking and hiking trails, picnic areas and a summer water-skiing concessionaire, this 2,600-acre park has something for everyone. For mountain lovers, the steep terrain at Lakewood's Hayden Park on Green Mountain offers a great workout and scenic mountain views.

Shoppers and golfers will also find their passions addressed here. Lakewood's pleasant shopping centers include the mixed-use Belmar and Colorado Mills outlet mall; there are also two public golf courses. The outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge and the Bandimere Speedway drag strip are nearby.

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