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    « Saturday movie review: La La Land | Main | Funeral finery. Plus, GRAND Social No. 235 link party for grandparents »
    Thursday
    Dec152016

    5 reasons Parker is the place for festive holidays... and family everydays

    visit Parker Colorado

    I have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, more than thirty-five years. In all those years, I've driven to Denver — a smidgen over an hour or so to the north — a kazillion times. (Seriously... I've kept count.)

    On every one of those kazillion trips up Interstate 25, I drove past a directional sign just south of Denver proper noting the exit for RidgeGate Parkway. That exit, No. 125, leads within minutes to the Town of Parker, becomes, in fact, Parker's Mainstreet (yes, one word).

    In 35 years, never did I take that exit. Never did I visit Parker. Never did I consider Parker a destination or go out of my way to get up close and personal with a place that seemed little more to me than a suburb of Denver.

    Sheesh... What a dummy I've been.

    I recently had reason to visit Parker, to drive down Mainstreet and personally partake of the surprisingly charming community's festive happenings, tasty culinary offerings and more. All courtesy the Town of Parker, which had invited my husband and me to enjoy an evening of family friendly holiday events and activities.

    Here's what we learned about Parker, Colorado — a gem of a town we'd driven right by so darn many times:

    COMMUNITY IS KEY. The Town of Parker does an impressive job embracing and connecting its residents — and visitors. The place has a small-town, family focused feel about it, with friendly residents who greet one another as they pass on the street, folks who offer welcoming smiles and attitudes to strangers strolling their sidewalks and small businesses.

    Fika Coffee HouseMy husband and I first noticed the affable ambiance when we stopped into Fika Coffee House (19559 East Mainstreet, with a second location at 22040 East Idyllwilde Drive) for a mocha. Owner Joshua Rivero explained that "fika" is a Swedish verb meaning "converse over coffee," a Swedish tradition he hoped would take off in Parker when he bought the shop in 2008.

    Take off, it has. During our visit, Fika was packed, with a line for the specialty coffee drinks — made exclusively with Kaladi beans from Kaladi Coffee Roasters in Denver — out the door and tables throughout shop located in the historic 1906 Rhode Island House filled with groups, couples, and solo sippers focused on laptops and reading devices. Folks nodded hello to their fellow coffee lovers, kids enjoyed the children's space tucked into a corner.

    Fika Coffee House

    Rivero described his cozy coffee house as a "daytime Cheers," where everyone knows your name. Regulars run the gamut from teens and college kids to homemakers and entrepreneurs to business owners, office workers, and retired folks, he said. His goal — which he's clearly accomplished — is to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable.

    In true small-town fashion, Rivero also serves as a Town Councilmember. His philosophy of making citizens as well as visitors comfortable in his shop seemingly extends to the hospitality of the town he proudly helps govern and guide, as the many other shops and such up and down Mainstreet exuded a similarly welcoming warmth on the chilly night of our visit.

    MAINSTREET, THE MAIN STREET. Speaking of the retail hub of the town, Mainstreet boasts several blocks of small businesses offering goods and services of specialty sorts. From cupcakes to sporting good, realtors to fashion boutiques, gift shops and novelty stores, shoppers will find endless options. All are easily accessible from free (and paid) parking spots and pedestrian-friendly walkways lined with benches, historic markers, and intriguing art installations. Mainstreet proves particularly festive and bright when lit up for the holidays, as it was the night my husband and I walked and window shopped from one end to the other.

    Parker Colorado Mainstreet 

    O'BRIEN PARK. Mainstreet may be the hub of shopping but O'Brien Park (10795 Victorian Drive) serves as the place to be for family fun. Or quiet contemplation. Or seasonal celebrations and holiday activities — such as the (free!) carriage ride around the decorated downtown my husband and I climbed aboard for at O'Brien Park's Ride Station. The park provides the perfect spot for year 'round festivities.

    Parker Colorado Christmas Lights 

    Parker Carriage Rides

    FESTIVE FAMILY EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES. Parker offers far more than outdoor fun at O'Brien Park. Cultural activities of all sorts, for individuals and families as well as adults sans kiddos, fill the calendar from January through December each year. The primary venue for such is the PACE (Parker Arts, Culture & Events) Center (20000 Pikes Peak Ave.), such as the rousing A Classic Parker Holiday my husband and I were treated to. The annual holiday tradition featured performances by the Parker Chorale and Parker Symphony Orchestra. The ParkerArts.org calendar lists extensive opportunities to feast on the arts — fine and otherwise — in Parker.

    PACE Center 

    LAST BUT NOT LEAST: THE FOOD! Whatever residents and visitors — and passers through, too — might be hankering for, the eateries of the Town of Parker are sure to satisfy. My husband and enjoyed an Vines Wine Bar and Bistroamazing meal at Vines Wine Bar and Bistro (19501 Mainstreet): loaded baked potato soup, Greek meatballs appetizer, Wine Country Steak Salad (for me), and a hearty Freedman Ranch Burger (for my hubby). Vines owner Teresa Engel, a certified wine sommelier, graciously spent quite some time providing tips on wine tasting and choosing from her extensive wine list. Though the list includes selections from Oregon to Argentina and Australia, we went the ABC way ("Always Buy Colorado") and chose goodies from Colorado's Garrett Estate Cellars.

    Vines Wine Bar and Bistro 

    The food and wine satisfied our hunger pangs, the hospitality from Engel and her accomplished chef (whose name I egregiously failed to get) warmed our hearts — as did every aspect of our holiday evening in the Town of Parker.

    There's much, much more to Parker than the five things above, for folks who live there as well as those who drop by for a stay. A glimpse of the good you'll find in the small town just south of Denver:

     

    Find out more about the Town of Parker at ParkerOnline.org.

    If you ever find yourself exiting Colorado's Interstate 25 at Exit 125 and heading on into Parker, be sure to stop by Fika and say hello to Joshua. And if you spot me sipping a specialty drink of some scrumptious sort in a cozy corner in the back, I hope you'll toss a nod, smile, or hello my way as well. For I certainly plan to visit Fika and the rest of Parker again soon.

    Disclosure: I received free meals and more during my evening preview of Parker; that said, all opinions are 100-percent my own.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    It is easy to overlook nearby attractions. I am glad you made this discovery and shared with us.

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterOlga

    I agree! The little towns in Colorado are great holiday towns. I used to spend some Thanksgivings in Niwot and Loved that smalll town vibe at the holiday. But I have never been to Parker. Putting it on the list!

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Cassara

    Seriously! I wish there were one everywhere. This is straight out of GILMORE GIRLS!! So sad I live so far away, but you've inspired me to look for my own "Parker" that I must be missing! Thanks!

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Sikorski

    What an appealing destination--wish I were closer (I'm in Maine)! I so enjoy exploring small towns with their unique shops and flavors. And I love the concept of "fika" and that there's an actual word for it. Thanks for sharing your "tour."

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoxanne Jones

    Oh I love all the Christmas lights. Thanks for sharing Parker I've never been there.

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersue

    We have been thinking about a place in CO for many years...this sounds incredible, and please, keep it a secret!

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTam Warner Minton

    Wow, this looks like a very special place. Isn't it amazing how we tend to overlook the gems in our own area? We live in Southern California and rarely go to the beach!

    December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLois Alter Mark
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