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Posts Tagged ‘Douglas County’

Fall. It’s more than pumpkin spice lattes.

by | October 8th, 2015

Finally, the days are cooler, the leaves are changing, and so are the coffee flavors at Starbucks. Life is good. But if all that is not enough for you, here are other ways to enjoy the month, including Halloween fun that goes beyond answering the door with a bowl of Skittles. So get out there and revel in one of the months Colorado (and BackCountry) does best.

BackCountry Colorado Halloween pumpkins

Honey From a Hive-Oct. 13, 2-3:30pm
Ok, so the bad news is that all your tasty homegrown tomatoes are gone. But the good news is that it’s now time to harvest honey. (Fun fact: It takes two million flowers to make one pound of honey.) Join Highlands Ranch’s resident beekeeper for an engaging program about honeybees, how they make honey, and how they do their crucial job of pollinating flowers. You’ll taste honey from different areas and meet some of these hardworking bees. For all ages. Residents $10, nonresidents $12. Group rates of $6-7 for three or more. Held at Metro District Parks, Recreation & Open Space Service Center, 3280 Redstone Park Circle. Register here

Denver Zombie Crawl 2015-Oct. 17, starts at 9am
Zombies on a screen just can’t compare with those in the flesh—or perhaps, remnants of flesh. Just in time for Halloween, the “largest zombie gathering in history” will get your heart racing one way or another as zombie hordes run, walk, or crawl around downtown Denver solving clues and reaching checkpoints along the Organ (yes, Organ) Trail for cash prizes.  Part Amazing Race, Fear Factor, and haunted house, the event also includes music, games, a parade, and after parties. Free and open to all ages, but do bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Food Bank of the Rockies. Please register so organizers can get an accurate count and set the world record. Held at Skyline Park. Learn more.

Denver Zombie Crawl Organ Trail

BackCountry Haunted House-Oct. 22, 5pm-9pm
Everyone’s favorite place to hang out will take a turn for the terrifying when the Sundial House transforms into BackCountry’s first-ever haunted house, complete with ghosts, witches, werewolves, prizes, games, fortunetelling, and more. From 5pm to 7pm, the haunted house will be designed to accommodate kids ages 3-9, but from 7pm to 9pm, it will become a scare-zone fit for tweens, teens, and adults. Please RSVP at by October 16.

Trick or Treat Train-Oct. 31, 10am-4pm
Not only is the Colorado Railroad Museum a safe place to take the kids trick-or-treating, it’s a wonderful spot to while away a morning or an afternoon. Catch a ride behind a historic locomotive in vintage passenger cars hosted by costumed conductors. At special stops you can fill your treat bags, visit a not-so-spooky haunted railcar, the Olde Railroaders “graveyard,” and a pumpkin patch for a cute photo op. Museum members and children under two are free, $5 for ages 2-15, $15 for adult, and $10 for seniors over 60. Learn more.

trick or treat train

BackCountry Halloween Hot Spot Houses-Oct. 31, dusk-7:30pm
BackCountry is known for its friendly ways, and here’s one more example: neighborhood “hot spots” for trick-or-treaters and their parents to enjoy a hot drink and/or snack, plus a little chitchat along the way. The HOA is looking for one volunteer on each block to open their garage and provide light refreshments. It’s a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors and see all the spooktacular costumes. If you’re interested in hosting, please contact John Lyon at by Friday, October 23.

Cherokee Castle & Ranch: A castle for us commoners

by | June 9th, 2015

No trip over the pond planned this summer? That’s okay. Now you can skip the jet lag and still feed your obsession for all things British with a mere 25-minute drive down to your local 15th century Scottish-style castle. Yes, BackCountry residents can easily access this truly stunning blend of European elegance and Western charm—and sample fun and educational events.

This 3,400-acre sanctuary in Sedalia is home to secluded open spaces, wildlife, and 22 historic structures, including the iconic stone castle, a 1920s landmark with echoes of 1450s Scotland. The 24-room castle features towers, turrets, gargoyles, eight fireplaces, soaring wooden arches, and intricate cut-stone walls. Historical paintings, furniture, and other accessories are on display, along with drawings by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. An expansive terrace offers breathtaking views of the Front Range, stretching from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak and beyond.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In addition to ogling all the fine art, architecture, and views, plan to take in some of the castle’s countless events. From June to December, a performing arts series features the work of Colorado Symphony Chamber Music, Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver Brass, and the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. Other performances showcase local and regional talent, while additional events include castle tours, fancy afternoon teas, and educational programs that focus on culture and the arts, environmental science, Colorado and Western history and heritage, wildlife, and ranching. Possibilities abound with onsite resources like 13th century Indian caves, an 1840s mountain man trail used by trappers and traders, mid-1860s homesteads, and more. See the event calendar here.

On a castle tour, you can learn about the history of the property, which stretches back to the late 1890s, when it was divided between the Flower and Blunt Homesteads. The land was put to agricultural use then, growing potatoes, wheat, and sorghum, and grazing cattle. In 1924, the castle was built by the Johnson family, who sold the property to Tennessean Mildred “Tweet” Kimball in 1954. (Just one of the place’s many interesting stories…Tweet took ownership of the castle after her ex-husband told her he’d buy her anything as long as she stayed west of the Mississippi.) Tweet lived at Cherokee Ranch until her death in 1999, and thanks to her vision and generosity, the property is now under the watchful care of the Douglas County Open Lands Coalition. Very good news for all of us living south of Denver…and far west of the Old World.  Learn more here.

Long days, light hearts: June in Colorado

by | June 4th, 2015

The summer solstice is coming up on June 21, a happy reminder to squeeze in more hours of fun on our long, gorgeous Colorado days. So now’s the time to let your inner kid out for good behavior and take advantage of these events—several of which will keep you nice and close to your BackCountry neighborhood.

Sundial House View

Senior Adult Fun at the Park-June 9, 9am-noon
Parks aren’t just for kids anymore. Seniors, try something new or revisit a favorite activity, such as Zumba, gentle yoga, bocce ball or cornhole, and stop by educational booths, all at nearby Redstone Park.
This event is hosted by the Highlands Ranch Metro District, Highlands Ranch Community Association, and 50 & Better Together. For more information, contact Jodie McCann at 720-240-4922 or

Colorado Renaissance Festival-Opens June 13
Entering its 39th season, the Colorado Renaissance Festival offers eight weekends of engaging time travel to the rowdy festival days of 16th century England, full of authentically costumed (and interactive) jousters and jugglers, hearty fare, and seven stages of performances. Pick up BOGO tickets for the opening weekend at Wendy’s, or hit the Royal Ale & Art Festival (with free ale samples) on June 20-21, or check out the Celtic Festival (with men’s kilt contest and hard lemonade samples) on June 27-28. Held at Perry Park in Larkspur. Learn more.

Colorado Renaissance Festival

Empty Nesters Summer Potluck-June 25, 6-8:30pm
For BackCountry residents only, this summer potluck offers a sweet opportunity to hang out with your neighbors while enjoying a delicious meal. Bring a dish to share that will serve eight, as well as your own beverages. Log into and RSVP by Friday, June 19.

Denver Museum of Natural Science Free Day -June 29
If you haven’t visited lately, it’s time—especially on one of the museum’s free days, which give you license to stay just as long as you’d like. You’ll have plenty of reasons to linger, of course, between all the permanent exhibits and the current Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids. You’ll explore stories and uncover the truths behind the myths of the aforementioned beings, along with kraken, giant squids, flying horses, and the ever-popular Nessie and Big Foot. Learn more.

mythic-dragon-Denver Museum of Nature and Science

BackCountry, then and now.

by | April 14th, 2015

Hard to believe, but it’s already been eight years since BackCountry’s grand opening. Back in 2007, Shea’s master plan was inspired by the magnificent views and commitment to conservation of the adjacent wilderness area. The concept was to build a community that preserved thousands of acres of natural beauty, encouraged an active lifestyle, and nurtured a deep sense of community. As residents eagerly tell anyone who will listen, mission accomplished.

Enjoy these photos, which show how our community has grown over the years and promise a natural beauty that only increases over time.

Sundial House

Sundial House Bird's-eye view

Sundial House Progress


Images of the Sundial House, built in 2009. From an idea taking shape out of bare dirt to an elegant and award-winning heart of the community.

Flying kites in Reflection Park

Fun in the pool

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

A few intrepid kite flyers in Spring 2009. The Kite Festival was the predecessor to BackCountry’s highly attended events of today: pool parties, movie nights, concerts, egg hunts and so much more.

Reflection park early days

Reflection Park 2015

Reflection Park, opened in 2008. These pint-sized trees have grown into shade-giving beauties. (Come on summer!)

Discovery Park BackCountry

BackCountry Discovery Park

Discovery Park has come a long way since 2009, and it’s a beautiful barometer of the changing seasons.

BackCountry Spirit Trail home

Somerset model home BackCountry

A model home from the early Spirit Trail Collection. Good design is timeless, but compare with today’s Somerset model, sporting a cooler palette and cleaner lines.

Beautiful BackCountry Open Space

BackCountry Open Space overlook

View of the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area just behind us. Hasn’t changed a bit. And best of all, it never will.

Ghosts? Maybe. Energy? Definitely, at the Highlands Ranch Mansion.

by | February 20th, 2015

Feel like dancing? Then boogie on down at our town’s historic, 1891 mansion on Feb. 26 for a Mansion Dancin’ Night. And be sure to keep your eyes on the mansion’s calendar year-round for events like Mother’s Day Brunches and Moonlight Movies. You can always find something going on, from free bi-weekly tours to grand weddings and holiday, graduation, birthday, and retirement parties. And maybe, just maybe, even a little spectral activity, too.

So how did Highlands Ranch come to have this 22,000-square-foot attraction? For nearly a century, the historic Mansion was home to some of Denver’s more notable families: Long, Springer, Hughes, Phillips, Kistler, and Phipps—cattle barons, oil tycoons, socialites, and other political and business bigwigs. During the Phillips years, the estate became the Phillips Highland Ranch, named for the Highland Hereford cattle raised there. And this name would later extend to the entire Highlands Ranch community, which came into being in the late 1970s under the ownership of Mission Viejo Corporation, later bought by Shea Homes. In 2010, Shea gave the mansion to the Highlands Ranch Metro District, along with $6 million for renovation and a $4 million endowment for future needs and programming.

Susie Appleby, a Highlands Ranch historian (and now on the Shea team) who is writing a book about the mansion, has been a docent there for 19 years.

“Shea is a hero to me,” she says. “Before the renovation, touring the mansion made me sad. Walls were falling in. Parts of it had to be closed and locked off for safety.” Now the mansion is a beautiful community centerpiece that residents can enjoy without paying a penny of taxation for its upkeep.

With its 121-year history, the mansion inevitably comes along with a ghost story or two. In the 1970s, estate landscapers were said to have seen a little girl in a white dress walking the upstairs hallway and looking outside the west bedroom. The story went that it was Julia, daughter of Frank Kistler, neglected after her father remarried and adopted two stepsons. Julia would wistfully watch him ride off from her bedroom window. Another theory is that the specter might be a child of a servant, or a little girl who did actually die in the house while her family visited.

More recently, a docent was standing by herself in the solarium and was hit by a strong smell of perfume. Several paranormal groups have visited, recording voices and a random door banging in the night. That said, in all her years wandering alone through the mansion, Susie hasn’t seen anything spooky herself.

“I’m a buzzkill,” she laughs. “I’ve been looking, but I’ve never had anything happen to me.”

Spirits or not, the Highlands Ranch Mansion is arguably the soul of the Highlands Ranch community—beautiful, historic, and full of life. If you’d like to take a tour (and keep an eye out for things supernatural), the Mansion is open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 9am-2pm.

Image courtesy Highlands Ranch Mansion Facebook page.

Image courtesy Highlands Ranch Mansion Facebook page.

So much to love in February.

by | February 3rd, 2015

There’s a lot more to February than Valentine’s Day. And we’re not just talking about Groundhog Day. Thankfully, we found plenty of delightful diversions to get you through this hunkered-down, not-yet-spring stretch, especially if you live in BackCountry. Here are our sweetest suggestions for all: singles, couples, families.

Highlands Ranch Mansion Valentines Day
Father & Daughter Sweetheart Ball
-Feb. 6, 6:30-8:30pm; Feb. 7, 1:30-3:30 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Daddies, you may think this ball is all for your girl, but you’ll actually be making some of your favorite, heart-tugging memories. (Sadly, dancing with Dad seems to lose its luster during the teen years.) Choose from two nights of dancing and dining at the elegant Highlands Ranch Mansion, where each girl will receive a corsage, a father-daughter photo, refreshments and a special gift. $25 per person; $33 per person at the door, if not sold out. Learn more about 2/6.
Learn more about 2/7.

BackCountry Sundae Lovin Party
Sundae Lovin’ Ice Cream Bar
-Feb. 9
Hey BackCountry tweens, this one’s for you—and your sweet tooth. Head over to the Sundial House and concoct your tastiest-ever ice cream sundae. We’ll provide the goodies; you provide the creativity. Kids ages 9-13 are welcome from 5:15-6:15pm. Open to the first 40 kids. In order to have enough ice cream, residents please register at by Friday, February 6.

Denver Restaurant Week 2015
Denver Restaurant Week
-Feb. 20-March 1
Why fight the perennial Valentine’s Day crowd? If you just wait a week, you’ll have a whole city of restaurants to explore for the tasty price of $30 per person. Make your reservations now for the 11th annual Denver Restaurant Week, when local (and traveling) foodies enjoy multi-course dinners at a pain-free price. It’s a fabulous way to explore some of Denver’s top restaurants or revisit your favorites. Hundreds of restaurants participate each year. Learn more.

Highlands Ranch Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
-Feb. 21, 12pm-5pm
Happy New Year—again! This celebration may be even more memorable, thanks to dazzling stage performances that include lion dances, folk dances, traditional music, martial arts, and a children’s chorus. An all-afternoon cultural fair will showcase traditional Chinese folk art displays, costumes, crafts, calligraphy and brush paintings, shops and refreshments including dumplings, noodles, and more. Cultural fair 12-5pm and stage performances 1-2pm and 4-5pm. Tickets $7 in advance and $10 day of event, if not sold out. Children ages 0-2 are free on parent’s lap. Held at the Recreation Center at Southridge, Debus Wildcat Mountain Auditorium (map) Learn more.

Why BackCountry is so much fun.

by | January 28th, 2015

Kids Dancing BackCountry Highlands Ranch July 4
And who’s behind it all.

Bored while living at BackCountry? Not a chance on Britany Chambers’ watch. Britany is BackCountry’s full-time Lifestyle Director, and she’s always stocking the community calendar with special events.

“Right now I’m securing bands for summer events and bar nights,” Britany reveals. That kind of long-range planning makes for smoothly run, well-attended events, as do generous doses of creativity and community input. Once a month, Britany meets with BackCountry’s Lifestyle Committee of nine volunteer residents to share ideas and firm up details for the next few months’ events.

Fan favorites revealed

So, what are the most popular events in BackCountry? Depends on whom you ask. Families with small children favor the two events with, not surprisingly, the largest attendance: Visits with Santa (the traditional lap chat, cookies and milk) and a similar meet-up with the Easter Bunny, complete with fast-paced egg hunt. Up to 250 kids can show up for these events!

On the other hand, young couples and empty nesters favor all the date night options—happy hours, live music, and comedy nights, as well as cooking classes and special events like the upcoming Valentine’s Day Chocolate and Wine Pairing. The monthly Drive-By Dinners are a big hit, too, in which residents pre-order restaurant-prepared dinners and conveniently pick them up at the Sundial House.

Santa at BackCountry Highlands Ranch Colorado
“People work hard all week long,” says Britany. “So by the time the weekend comes, they can be really ready for down time, a date night, or just spending time with their kids.” Which is why she strikes a healthy balance between creating kid- and adult-oriented events.

Families, couples, and singles alike enjoy all-age events like the Fourth of July, with country music, dancing, food trucks, and Uncle Sam on stilts, and last summer’s Drive-In Movie Night, which featured live music, root beer floats, hand-jive lessons, and Back to the Future playing on a 20-foot blowup screen.

Perks of an active community

Compared to most other communities, BackCountry is exceptionally active. Having a full-time Lifestyle Director, outdoor amphitheater, pool, and the 12,000-square-foot Sundial House with pub, demonstration kitchen, terraces, and meeting and fitness rooms, promotes community cohesiveness.

“All these ways to gather creates a strong sense of connection,” explains Britany. “Which is especially helpful when you’re a new resident. In other neighborhoods, you might just meet the people on your block. But because of all the community events, here you meet people who live all around you. It’s much easier to connect with other families or empty nesters, and people who share your interests.”

All those connections make for a rewarding job for Britany. Before coming to BackCountry, she helped plan huge public events at Flatiron Crossing Mall in Broomfield. But the smaller scale at BackCountry means she gets to know “all the great people here.” And, she says, “When I see people asking for an encore or not wanting to leave an event because they’re having so much fun, it feels great knowing I’ve done my job.”

Four Seasons at Discovery Park

by | January 7th, 2015

Unlike other Colorado neighborhoods, BackCountry offers its residents an awe-inspiring natural backdrop for enjoying the beauty of all four seasons. Panoramic mountain views let you marvel at each year’s dramatic snow buildup and melt-off, as well as the greening up and autumn vibrancy of the 467-acre South Rim area and 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area that surround BackCountry.

Even closer are BackCountry’s trails and six parks. One of them, Discovery Park, features a meandering waterway that makes its way into a pond along the Discovery Center’s edge. On BackCountry’s Facebook and Pinterest pages, a months-long series of photos taken in 2014 shows the year-round beauty of this one small area, a perfect hideaway for quiet reflection or reading. This year, BackCountry will take another yearlong series of photos, but in another neighborhood setting. Keep an eye on it here and here.

#1: Springtime in Colorado is always a back-and-forth dialog between snowing and growing.
May BackCountry Highlands Ranch Colorado

#6: Blooming lily pads in June.
June BackCountry Highlands Ranch Colorado

#12: A welcome afternoon rainstorm in July, part of Colorado’s monsoon pattern.
July Rainstorm BackCountry Highlands Ranch Colorado

#22: October means golden leaves and grasses around the pond.
October BackCountry Highlands Ranch

#28: November brought light, quickly melting snow.
November BackCountry Higlands Ranch Colorado

#33: By the final day of the year, winter had truly found us here at BackCountry.
December 31 2014 BackCountry Highlands Ranch Colorado

Best resolution ever? More fun.

by | December 30th, 2014

While there’s nothing wrong with losing weight, saving money, and writing the Great American Novel in 2015, be sure to add some entertainment to your resolution list. A little balance just might make those other goals easier to reach. Kick off the brainstorming with these ideas. Happy New Year!

Stock Show Facebook Page
National Western Stock Show
– Jan. 8-25
If you’ve never been, it’s high time to enjoy the abundant western charms of this iconic show. New events this year include a BBQ Throwdown competition and the CINCH® Super Shootout Rodeo—a battle of the world’s most elite rodeos. Perennial favorites include the lavish Mexican Rodeo, mutton bustin’ competitions (there’s nothing quite like seeing a five-year-old riding a panicked sheep), horse shows, exhibitions of award-winning chickens and steers, children’s activities, and much more. Ticket prices vary. Learn more.

BackCountry Comedy Night with John Crist
– Jan. 17, 7 pm
Coming to BackCountry’s own Sundial House, award-winning stand-up comedian John Crist has appeared on Live at Gotham and has opened on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers. Crist’s interactive and improvisational skills ensure that no two shows are exactly alike. His edgy-yet-clean comedy has made him popular among fans of all ages. Space is limited to the first 65 residents. $20 per person. Register online through ActiveNet or at the Sundial House by Monday, January 12.

Five Points: The Cradle of Jazz in the Rockies
– Jan. 20, 7-8:30pm
Denver’s Five Points neighborhood has deep connections to the city’s early black history and culture. Through story and song, this special event at the History Colorado Center shares tales from the “Harlem of the West,” which attracted such jazz legends as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. Led by jazz musician and historian Purnell Steen and his group Le Jazz Machine. Tickets from $6.50-8.50 for museum members; $10-$14 for non-members. Learn more.

BackCountry Highlands Ranch Superhero Party
Superhero & Princess Party
– Jan. 21, 4pm-5pm
BackCountry kids, grab your tiaras and capes. It’s time for some after-school magic at the Sundial House. Come in your best superhero or princess outfit and enjoy a snack and special appearance by Rapunzel and Spiderman. In order to have enough snacks for all, please register via ActiveNet by Friday, January 16. Open to the first 50 kids.

Glow-in-the-Dark Yoga
– Jan. 24, 5:30pm-7:30pm
It’s like yoga in a parallel universe, where the mellow, vinyasa flow includes upbeat music, black lights, a disco ball, and best of all, cocktails. Bring your own yoga mat, wear white or neon yoga clothing, and don glow-in-the-dark accessories (if you have them) to make the room glow. Ticket price also includes a glow necklace, one glass of wine or beer, and appetizers. Cash bar available. 75-minute, all-levels class. Ages 21+ only. Recreation Center at Southridge (map). Tickets $25 in advance, $30 day of event if not sold out. Learn more.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore
– Jan. 24 at 7:30pm and Jan. 25 at 1pm
Subtitled The Lass Who Loved a Sailor, this classic comic opera opened in 1878 and was Gilbert and Sullivan’s first international sensation. This lighthearted story of love between the captain’s daughter and a lower-class sailor skewers the British class system, politics, and other timeless topics. Tickets $22-84. Learn more.

Zip up your parka and go!

by | December 22nd, 2014

Macaroni Kid Family Skiing
There really is more to winter than hot cocoa and movies. Yes, non-winter-sporty types, we’re talking to you. When it comes to enjoying winter instead of just enduring it, knowledge is power.

To tempt you out of your bunny slippers and into the chill, let’s start easy, with snowshoeing right here in the BackCountry neighborhood. Did you know that residents can borrow snowshoes whenever there’s 12” or more of snow on the ground? Pick them up at the Sundial House, no charge. All you need is good hiking or waterproof boots. Strap the snowshoes on and walk around the wilderness trails in the snow—and check out all the different animal tracks.

How about sledding? You can barrel down fun hills in the BackCountry neighborhood and at nearby ThunderRidge High School, but be sure to explore this exhaustive list of Douglas County sledding hills and ice rinks.

Southwest Rink Denver
Outdoor skating is (temperatures permitting) just up the road on C-470 at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, at the Streets of SouthGlenn, and, a bit farther afield, in downtown Denver, or at Evergreen Lake, with its beautiful mountain views and free hot chocolate at the lake house.

When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, start with a visit to Colorado Ski and Get Out Skiing for an overview of your options. Many feel that Breckenridge and Copper Mountain offer the best beginner terrain, while others prefer the small size and unintimidating vibe of Granby Ranch and Loveland.

First-time skiers will be wise to take a lesson. Sure, you can save money by letting a knowledgeable friend or family member teach you, but your experience may go a lot more smoothly with an expert. Be sure to dress warmly—which may seem obvious, but there really is strategy involved in staying warm (not overheated) and dry. A cold, wet day can send any newbie running from the sport, so learn more about smart alpine dressing here, and pick up lots of other good tips for novice skiers and snowboarders here.
Skiing Colorado

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