Destination Guides Travel & Leisure

Small Town Charm: Introducing Littleton, Colorado

Stunning surroundings, cycling trails, foodie stops, art, and world-class ski slopes nearby—start planning your visit to Littleton, Colorado, and the surrounding areas

Founded in 1890 and named after successful gold rush participant Richard Sullivan Little, today Littleton in Colorado has a charm all of its own—and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, too. It’s perfectly placed for working in Denver during the week and skiing at the weekends, just a 25-minute drive from the city, and around one-and-a-half hours from world-class slopes.

From cultural attractions to activities that guarantee a year-round outdoor lifestyle, the area has something that’ll appeal to everyone—whether you’re visiting or thinking of setting up home. Here you’ll find turn-of-the-century buildings and antique shops, as well as restaurants, bars, and independently owned shops and galleries.

Exterior of wood-clad Depot Art Gallery, Littleton
Littleton’s Depot Art Gallery is housed in a restored train station, which was retired in 1965, when it was relocated to 2069 Powers Avenue. The gallery’s first show was in May 1978. Courtesy: Depot Art Gallery.

A Lot to Love in Littleton

The town’s art scene is especially vibrant. Stanton Art Gallery shows the work of local artists and is located inside the Town Hall Arts Center, a much-loved local theater venue. There’s also the Depot Art Gallery, a successful historic gallery and arts center housed in a restored 1888 train station, which hosts exhibitions and workshops.

And Littleton’s restaurants are equally enticing. For excellent seafood, head to Smokin Fins, which promises the freshest ingredients and local fare. Regulars recommend the tuna and scallops. Or, for an authentic Southern cuisine experience, pop into NoNo’s Café with favorites such as gumbo and jambalaya on the menu. If you’ve got room left for dessert, The Chocolate Therapist—a unique chocolate, wine, and coffee shop with on-site chocolate production (made with no dyes, preservatives, or artificial ingredients)—offers an unmissable sweet experience. Plus it hosts weekly chocolate and wine-pairing classes.

Outdoor Attractions

There are more than 1,500 acres (607 ha) of parks and open space to explore in this part of Colorado, and more than 35 miles (56 km) of bikeways, including the Highline Canal, Columbine, and Lee Gulch trails, which are ideal for cyclists and hikers.

The nearby Chatfield Reservoir makes a perfect spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding, while the surrounding park offers 12,000 acres (4,856 ha) of hiking trails, with maps available at the park’s main entrances. Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, a 700 acre (283 ha) native plant refuge is also close by and known for exceptional bird watching.

Shrimp tacos displayed on a zig zag plate
The idea for Smokin Fins began with a dream to serve the best seafood you could find in a landlocked state. The company sources high-quality, traceable local fish. Courtesy: Smokin Fins.

Not far from Littleton, the skiing options are unsurpassed—although you may have trouble deciding which world-class slope to visit. Choose from Vail, the largest ski area in the Colorado region, offering 193 trails and 31 ski lifts, or Keystone, which covers three mountains and has 230 inches of annual snowfall. Nearby Copper Mountain and Breckenridge each offer a range of slope options, too.

Within Reach of Denver

Meanwhile, if you head in the other direction, you’ll soon arrive in Denver—a lively city, home to dozens of art galleries, museums, and restaurants. On the must-visit list is Denver Art Museum, featuring Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and Sandy Skoglund’s Fox Games installation. Also not to be missed is the Molly Brown House Museum, which houses stories from Brown’s life as a Titanic survivor, actor, and civil rights activist.

For foodies the choices are endless. Try fine dining at Mizuna, or Hop Alley for an unusual take on Chinese food. If it’s retail therapy you’re after, head to Cherry Creek—known for its Cherry Creek Mall, Cherry Creek North Boutiques, as well as great restaurants. And if you plan to stay over in the city, the Four Seasons Hotel is centrally located in the entertainment and theater districts.

A full crowd watch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, near Denver, Colorado
Designed by Mother Nature, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is made up of two huge monoliths, Ship Rock and Creation Rock, which are the backdrop for performances. They are also a history book for the animal and plant life of the area. Alamy.

Live Music

When you’re ready to leave the city, head to Red Rocks Park, where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The site, stretching across 738 acres (299 ha), includes the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, described as “a geological phenomenon—the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world.”

With a capacity of 9,525, the amphitheatre opened in 1941 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2015. The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and Jimi Hendrix all performed here in the 1960s. There’s also a visitor center, hiking trails to try, and the Ship Rock Grille restaurant.

Make the Lifestyle Your Own

Just 11.5 miles (18.5 km) west of Littleton or 27 miles (43.5 km) southwest of Denver, you’ll find White Deer Valley, an exclusive gated community nestled deep between the Rocky Mountains’ most easterly foothills. “You could call it a well-kept secret,” says Rollie Jordan of Christie’s International Real Estate in Denver. “Even people who live nearby hardly know about it.”

Exterior image of large property with backdrop of green hills
White Deer Valley Estate features a state-of-the-art home theater, a full wet bar, and an 800-plus-bottle wine cellar, which has oak barrels and library ladders. There are also four bedrooms, seven baths, and a full gym.

It’s here you’ll find the 27-acre (11 ha) White Deer Valley Estate, a contemporary residence created by renowned architect and designer Kathy Jones. With city, mountain, and valley views from every window, the home maximizes the breathtaking vistas that the area is known for.

“This home was thoughtfully designed to seamlessly bring the outdoors in,” Jordan explains. “Surrounding the estate are 13,000 acres (5,261 ha) of uninterrupted open space, with gorgeous trails and parks for hiking, biking, and even snowshoeing. For someone who appreciates exceptional design and quality materials, as well as privacy and a beautiful setting, White Deer Valley Estate is an unmissable opportunity.”

Banner image: Historic Downtown Littleton, Colorado. Alamy