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Stop by the historically charming Downtown Littleton for a day of shopping, bites and sips. All photos by Ali Longwell

5280 (Micro) Neighborhood Guide: Downtown Littleton

Looking for a new 'burb to explore? Look no further than the historic Downtown Littleton, just a few miles south of Denver.

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Littleton might be a mere 11 miles south of the bustling heart of Denver, but the vibrant suburb’s downtown center exhibits all the feels of a small town. As one of Denver’s largest and oldest suburbs, with a population reaching above 44,000 and a 127-year history, Littleton is home to many great attractions—Breckenridge Brewery’s Front Range location, Aspen Grove Shopping Center, and Hudson Gardens, to name a few—but the true heart of the city resides in its historic downtown center.

Downtown Littleton is a 10-block segment of the city that was once home to notorious Coloradans such as the Chatfield family, who owned the land that the Chatfield Dam/Reservoir now resides on, as well as Colorado’s infamous cannibal Alfred Packer in his final years. While the city has grown rapidly over the years, Downtown Littleton remains a cultural and community center for the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Today, around 220 businesses call the area home, many of which are locally owned—from boutiques to restaurants and watering holes. It’s easy to spend an entire day eating, shopping, exploring—and maybe even hunting for ghosts—in the charming micro-hood.

Main Drag: West Main Street, from Santa Fe Drive to Rio Grande Street.

Vibe: Quaint, quiet, and charming

Getting Around: It’s easy enough to navigate the few blocks that make up the walkable Downtown Littleton area, but you can’t always find a place to park. If you can’t find a spot on the street and you plan to stay awhile, pay to park at the Reinke Brothers costume shop (5663 S. Prince St.); the Colorado National Bank (free after 5 p.m.); or either of the RTD Lots or the Littleton Center on evenings and weekends. Or you can always take the C or D light rail lines to the Littleton-Downtown Station, about a six-minute walk from Main Street.


Your Itinerary 

Grub

Start your day with a hearty meal at Toast, which offers an extensive menu (seriously, there are nine egg Benedicts and eight flavorful pancake stacks, plus gluten-free options). For a more mellow joint, stop by Café Terracotta, an open-kitchen concept just off Main Street. This converted Victorian home serves up homestyle cooking for brunch (as well as dinner) that will not disappoint.

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For a cafe-style lunch that will leave you feeling both full and fulfilled, check out the nonprofit GraceFull Community Cafe, which opened last year. Built around the idea that food can bring communities together, the cafe, which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers features a healthy menu that rotates daily (in smaller portion sizes to help eliminate food waste), and it’s always $8 for lunch. Customers can either pay what they can afford or pay it forward to help fund the nonprofit’s efforts with Grace in Action meals.

For your final meal of the day, check out Smokin’ Fins, a local favorite. Serving up barbecue, seafood, and sushi, lobster-lovers won’t want to miss the lobster-stuffed avocado or lobster tater tots. For something more elegant, check out the classic fondue at Melting Pot. And if you’re looking for an easy meal and a low-key ambiance, try McKinners Pizza Bar. Specializing in thin-crust pizza, the locally owned joint is an easy place to pop in for a bite.

Sips

Coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Littleton has it all. For a glass of Colorado wine and a fun tasting room, head to Legacy Vineyards, where they serve their own wine, produced in Fort Lupton, as well as other local labels. They even have a wine slushy. If you’re looking for something more sudsy, head to the family-owned Jake’s Brew Bar for its rotating tap list of 36 craft beers and a number of spirits from local distilleries. One fun feature of this bar (other than the live music every Saturday and the beer garden open year-round), is that each tap is hand-welded by one of the owners.

For a well-crafted cappuccino and a look at Littleton’s history, stop into Romancing the Bean, which is located inside the 139-year-old train station. The eclectic atmosphere, paired with a cup of their Silver Canyon Coffee (iced in the summer), make this a great place to linger. If tea is more your thing, Littleton’s in-Tea has you covered. This Main Street shop is cozy and light, just like your favorite cup of Jasmine. Don’t leave without checking out their collection of loose-leaf tea, teapots, and other accessories.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

You can definitely swing by The Chocolate Therapist to pick up a delectable chocolate treat or gluten-free bakery item, but you may want to stay longer. This savory shop offers a number of classes, including chocolate and beer pairings, wine pairings, and even cheese pairings. For something a bit cooler, check out the Littleton branch of Inside Scoop for a waffle cone of your favorite homemade ice cream or sorbet.

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Shopping 

Home Goods 

Downtown Littleton offers a number of local stores to fill your home everything you didn’t even know you needed. If you’re looking for artisan art, jewelry, or clothing, Willow is for you. Featuring around 30 (primarily Colorado-based) artists and makers at any given time, this artisan market is a great spot to find unique gifts. At Colorado Frame Company & Savvy Stuff, you can not only create custom frames but also find rustic and eclectic home décor (quirky sayings and puns are on everything from the wall signs to salsa bowls), as well as clothing and jewelry collections. While the original Littleton General/Drug Store, Sell4Less Drugstore, closed in 1989, the three-year old General Store 45 is attempting to fill the void with its vintage-inspired, kitschy souvenirs and old-timey snacks. Stop into for a refreshing glass-bottled soda or gifts, such as postcards, magnets, t-shirts, beer coasters, and old-fashioned candy.

Stock Your Pantry 

The second location of the Denver-based EVOO,  a specialty olive oil and vinegar shop, sells inventory from all over the world (don’t skimp on the samples). You’ll find everything your spice rack needs at Savory Spice Shop, from salts to taco and chili seasonings and much more. Looking for a cheese to pair with your next wine night? Visit Curds Cheese for a varied selection to take home. While you’re there, you might as well pick up a sandwich—you won’t regret it.

Clothing

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Downtown Littleton is home to a number of boutiques and stores, no matter your style. First on our list is Details, owned and operated by a Littleton family that is both helpful and friendly. This unique boutique carries an array of clothing, from casual t-shirts to maxi dresses and jackets that would please both mom and daughter, as well as fun knick-knacks, gifts, and jewelry. Just one block away, Rooted Boutique is restocked weekly with an array of candles, jewelry, and clothing, including jeans, floral dresses, or workout clothes. Downtown Littleton is also home to Colorado jewelry label Original Hardware. Choose from designer Carrie Schafer’s boho collections, which range from Earth and Sky, a line featuring tassels, beads and crystals, to Wanderlust, featuring mixed metal medallions and etched floral patterns.

We can’t forget about the men: When it comes to formal wear, there are few places that can compete with the Austin/Hauck Company. Here, you’ll find high-quality, designer clothing, as well as hands-on customer service from the owners, Doug Hauck and Bill Austin.

Lastly, you can’t walk through town without visiting Downtown Littleton’s year-round costume shop, Reinke Brothers, which has been a staple since 1968. Stop into their fully-stocked store for Halloween costumes, wigs, props, magic tricks, or just for pure entertainment.

City-Hall-Arts
The Littleton Town Hall Arts Center is a great place to catch a show, concert or take an arts class.

Get Cultured

Downtown Littleton is home to a number of art galleries—enough that they can have their own First Friday Art Walk. While the nine galleries featured are open during normal business hours, the walk is a great way to sample the galleries, meet fellow art lovers, and stroll through the city. On these nights, you can also take a 30-minute historic walking tour of downtown led by Historic Littleton, Inc.. Tours leave from the Littleton Municipal Courthouse every 30 minutes and will take you to a number of historic downtown buildings, such as the Carnegie Library, the Columbine Mill, and more. Alternatively, you can lead your own tour using this online interactive map, which details the route and gives stories about each historic location. To enjoy theater, musical, and dance performances, visit the Town Hall Arts Center.

According to local lore, Historic Downtown Littleton is home to more than shops and restaurants. Yep—we’re talking about ghosts. While some say that the burial of Alfred Packer—Colorado’s infamous cannibal—in the Littleton cemetery is to blame, there are a number of buildings that are said to be haunted. Learn their stories, and maybe even experience their hauntings, each October when Littleton’s Boy Scout Troop 444 puts on a ghost tour of the town. While the walk pays tribute to many of the famous faces that once called Littleton home, including members of the Coors family and the Coleman Car Company, you’ll find out for yourself if you believe in ghosts. So don’t be alarmed if you something unusual while strolling through town—it’s probably just Alfred Packer saying hello.

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