Things I Love In My Neighborhood

Some of the Great Things Southeast Centennial Has to Offer

Sure, anyone who lives in the Denver metro area loves Coors Field and Wash Park, but life in the ‘burbs still has lots to offer–especially if you have young kids. My family and I live on the southeast side of Denver (southeast Aurora, or Centennial, depending on your zip code). And I love it out here. Here are a few of my favorite things in my neighborhood (several of these are restaurants…what can I say? I love eating):

Carino Coffee – We’ve been regulars at Carino Coffee since they opened in 2007. I used to bring my laptop and work here often, too, but once I had my second kiddo it became a little too much effort to pack up my stuff and work offsite each day. Also not easy to have conference calls here for obvious reasons. Carinos has live music every Saturday morning, movie nights on Fridays in the summertime, and a lot of other family friendly events. The husband-and-wife owners and their two college-age kids are often your baristas. Their cinnamon pecan scone is something I literally dream about. And their Kaladi latte is delicious.

Doug’s Day Diner – My hubby and I are breakfast people. We enjoy eating out at breakfast almost as much as dinner. But if there’s one thing that the two-mile radius around our house lacks, it is breakfast restaurants. And nothing against Village Inn or IHOP (I like them both), but I always appreciate a local place. Enter Doug’s, which opened up in October 2010. We love it there and we go almost every weekend, unless we go to…

The Perfect Landing – This is another go-to breakfast place of ours, and we often drag family and friends here for a fun, unique dining experience. The restaurant is in the tiny Centennial Airport overlooking the runway, so our kids love it. We’ve also gone here for dinner and it has a surprisingly upscale menu (think filet mignon and pan-seared halibut) and an unbelievable piano bar happy hour.

Creekside Park We frequent this park. My kids (and a lot of people I know) call it Castle Park because of this castle-like structure that has a little flag on the top of it. It’s located just south of Orchard Road on Tower. “Castle” Park actually runs to the east and west of Tower, but we mostly frequent the east side, where there are large soccer fields. The park connects to the trails system in the area, so we often walk from home along the paved path to get to the park (and on nice days when I get a little “me” time and go for a jog, I like running on this path). You can take that trail all the way to Cherry Creek State Park if you like. Which leads me to…

Cherry Creek State Park OK, it’s not in the foothills, but Cherry Creek State Park is a great place to spend a nice day, watching boats, riding your bike through the extensive trail system, or having a picnic on the little beach right by the 880-acre reservoir. You can take boating lessons at the Cherry Creek Marina and pick up bait and snacks. A friend of mine recently rented a pontoon for the day for her husband’s birthday. Cool!

Southlands Fountain – Before my kids really liked the pool, in summertime, we used to hit the fountain at Southlands Mall a lot (summer 2011, it was all about the pool). It’s sort of a hotspot for toddlers, who come wearing their swimsuits while the parents wait on the sidelines with towels and sunscreen. This little fountain, which is the kind where the water shoots out of the cement, holds a lot of fun memories for me. In that same plaza in the summers, they host concerts on Friday nights. Even when it’s date night, my husband and I might stroll by here with a cup of hot chocolate from the nearby Caribou Coffee. In the winter, the same plaza where the fountain is becomes an ice-skating rink.

Mama Louise Italian RestaurantIn the land of southeast Aurora/Centennial, most people are big fans of Armando’s Restaurant, which has been around forever. Armando’s used to be in a shady-looking strip mall on Smoky Hill Road, but recently moved to Parker Road, just west of Orchard. I, too, really like Armando’s, but for some reason, we tend to frequent Mama Louise a lot more. It’s smaller and not as busy. I think the service is better, too. Ken, the owner, makes you feel like family and kids are always welcome. Their Chicken Franchaise is the best…dish…EVER. And the tiramisu…I don’t even know what to say. Just try it. If you’re a tiramisu person, you’ll thank me.

I could go on, but these are just a handful of my favorite things about living around here. But probably the number one thing I like about it here is that it’s just a great place to raise kids. I know some say suburbs lack culture and interesting things to do and the like, but I just disagree. Sure, there aren’t art galleries within walking distance of my house, but for the stage I’m at in life, I like what I am surrounded by–and that’s a diverse group of families with kids, kid-friendly hangouts like Little Monkey Bizness (and its big brother, Monkey Bizness), Lollipop Park, and Jumpstreet, great schools, parks, and trails, and much more.

If you’re a local with kiddos, what do you love about this area?

Michaele Charles is a freelance writer and a children’s writer living in Centennial, Colorado. She is the founder of Voice Communications, which serves colleges and universities, marketing and creative agencies, small businesses, and corporate clients around the country with their writing needs. She has an Inspiring Kids blog on her personal website,, and blogs for Front Range Community College. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her two kiddos and husband.