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Best Places to Raise Kids: Castle Rock, Colorado

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Castle Rock, Colorado, was founded in 1874 as a quarry site when pioneers in search of gold discovered large deposits of rhyolite stone instead. Named for a nearby rock buttress that resembles a castle, this town between Denver and Colorado Springs has long left its quarry days behind to become one of the fastest growing municipalities in Colorado. With an influx of good jobs, an average of 243 days of sunshine each year, and some of the best schools in the state, it’s easy to see why Castle Rock is one of the best places to raise kids in the U.S.

Mountain Living at Its Finest

With access to 5,000 acres of open space, more than 70 miles of paved and soft surface trails, and Castlewood Canyon State Park within easy reach, hikers, bikers, climbers, and families wanting to spend time outdoors have no shortage of options. Living in the foothills of Denver also means families are only a couple hours away from skiing or camping sites in the Rocky Mountains.

For those looking for other types of athletic fun, Castle Rock recently opened the first phase of its Phillip S. Miller Park, which offers an indoor activity center with workout and swimming facilities as well as several miles of outdoor single-track trails. These trails lead to a 200-step staircase sure to please even the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts. The second phase of the park, to be completed by the end of 2015, will feature a splash pad and an amphitheater, among other amenities. Future plans include a zip line course and an adventure playground, ensuring plenty of fun for family members of all ages.

Schools Based on Choice

As part of the top-ranking Douglas County School District, Castle Rock students have access to traditional public schools, charter and magnet schools, and an alternative high school. Academy Charter School, consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the area, offers K–8 students courses in Spanish, technology, music, and art, along with rigorous academics. Castle View High School operates on an academy system that pairs students with curriculums designed to meet their personal interests, such as health sciences, global studies, or performing arts.

Plentiful Jobs and Affordable Housing

While many residents commute 19 miles to the Denver Tech Center for work, local job opportunities have increased in recent years, thanks to the opening of the Adventist Medical campus in 2011 and construction of a new promenade, begun in November 2014, that will contain one of the largest shopping centers in the United States.

Although Colorado does charge a flat tax rate of 4.63 percent on personal income, the Centennial State ranks 15th lowest among states that levy income tax. And at 2.90 percent, the state sales tax is lower than the national median of 5.95 percent. With Castle Rock’s median household income of $86,000 and median home values of around $280,000, affordable housing is an added bonus of living in the area.

Small-Town Feel

Although Castle Rock has been growing at a near lightning pace—including its population, which from 2010–2013 increased from about 48,200 to 53,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data—it keeps its appeal with a vibrant downtown area that’s home to many local businesses and restaurants. By hosting a car show, outdoor movies, farmers’ markets, family concerts, and other events downtown, Castle Rock works hard to promote a close-knit sense of community.

For parents in search of family-friendly activities, great schools, and affordable living, it’s easy to see why Castle Rock, Colorado, is one of the best places to raise kids in the U.S.

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist by day and financial writer/blogger by night. She lives in Southwest Colorado with her husband and daughter who all share a love of travel, the outdoors, and finding ways to earn passive income to retire early. Her writing has been featured on Business Insider, Life Hacker,  Mint, and Livestrong.com.