By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer – 

There’s a good chance that security at Target on Rocky Mountain Avenue knows my face. It’s so close to my home in Centerra, I’ve been known to stop in twice in one day. 

The proximity to Interstate 25 from this east Loveland area means it’s chain-store central with a lot of recognizable names, such as Sportsman’s Warehouse, Panera and Old Chicago. Chain or not, my husband, Ryan, and I have frequented that Old C’s, as we fondly refer to it, for almost two decades, especially during football season. It’s one of the best sports bars in Loveland, hands down. I have even Tebow-ed in the seats. I think Ryan was proud to see his wife unashamedly take a knee astride two bar stools.

I know this part of Northern Colorado well. After all, we bought a home in High Plains Village off County Road 9, also known as Boyd Lake Road, in 2003. I’ve seen a lot come and go, but mostly come. And because I know it so well, I can give you a good sampling of my favorite stops along the I-25 and U.S. 34 corridor. 

We will start with food. Cafe Athens, having been at The Promenade Shops at Centerra in East Loveland for as long as I can remember, is somewhere I like to stop for a pound of pre-cooked and seasoned gyro meat. With this assignment, we deliberately stopped in for lunch. It’s been a while and, it turns out, they have some of the best fries I’ve eaten (in fact, they won 2021 Best of NOCO).

This Greek cafe is also affordable, which was confirmed by the three tables of large families we saw at lunchtime. I am glad we reacquainted ourselves with this restaurant. We will be back.

Despite the prominence of chains, it is not impossible to find mom and pop stores around. In fact, another favorite restaurant is Kobe Sushi, one of my go-to spots, squeezed between a well-known burrito chain and a dental office. The fish here is always fresh, the crunchy spicy salmon roll is always on my plate, and service is always fast. I’ve been enjoying Kobe’s lunch special on sushi rolls since they opened in 2012. 

Locally owned Tacos al Cartel, tucked next to Target, serves up delicious, authentic tacos. They offer a convenient stop for tacos-to-go when we’re coming back to Loveland in the evening. Three delicious street tacos for $9.99 is a great deal. And, I’ve been going to Bentley’s Liquor, in business around the corner from Tacos al Cartel, since moving here. 

Turquoise and Tangerine. Photos by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer.

Dinner is easy to find with larger chains, such as Bonefish Grill, PF Chang’s and Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, serving up predictably decent fare and both PF Chang’s and Biaggi’s have patios that back up to Chapungu Sculpture Park, which is a nice bonus. 

Centerra is a planned development that encompasses the west side of Loveland to County Road 9, the Promenade Shops at Centerra outdoor mall area east of I-25 and the property east of that. A new neighborhood is in the works for the property, with Kinston Hub at the center, with plans to include a Mountain Cowboy Brewery location, a spinoff of the Frederick location.  

The Promenade Shops at Centerra is a dog-friendly mall that is home to the usual mall offerings of a theater (Metrolux 14) and large stores such as Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble. However, scattered amongst the known brands, are a few names that are local. 

Olive & Herb

I’m not a shopper. Honestly, I’d rather watch football than find a new pair of jeans. However, I do like to cook, and stores like Olive & Herb at Centerra will get me shopping because I have a weakness for spice and salt. 

The shop is locally owned, and not a franchise. They have all the things that excite me, including olive oil, vinegar, spices, salt, and items like tapenades, charcuterie board delights, mustards and soups. I have yet to try their pasta products from Italy, but it’s on my list. The store is a gourmand fantasyland. 

Turquoise and Tangerine is the place to shop for that perfect bracelet for a country-western lovin’ friend, or maybe a turquoise and silver belt for yourself. It’s a locally-owned clothing shop with a Western flair that Beth Dutton (think Yellowstone on Paramount) would love.

Cafe Athens

One major chain that attracts a lot of people to the area is Scheels, located in Johnstown city limits, just south of U.S. 34. Scheels is a sporting goods store so big that it can be seen from a mile away and has its own restaurant. The in-store Ferris wheel is a draw for families from as far as Nebraska. We might not have Disneyland, but Northern Colorado has Scheels. 

There are 11 miles of trails within the Centerra area, with plans for more. Occasional 5K races run around Hauts Reservoir and Equalizer Lake. The system connects to Loveland Recreation Trail, which is connected to a regional trail system that runs all the way to Fort Collins.

I’ve been walking daily here for years and like lots of neighborhoods on Colorado’s Front Range, I’ve watched as more and more housing pops up across the landscape. Despite the developments, hawks still hunt, geese raise families and rabbits and chipmunks drive my dog to madness. 

According to Centerra.com, more than 150 different kinds of birds, fish and mammals call this area home. And Fritzi, my German Shepherd, would like to chase all of them. Alas, she is always on a leash, per the trail rules.

When food and shopping have run their course, check out Chapungu Sculpture Park, located on the east side of Interstate 25. The 26-acre sculpture park is the diamond in Centerra’s crown. In the park, there are 80 sculptures made from Zimbabwe stone and comprising themes that touch us all—including nature, community, family and customs. 

Chapungu Sculpture Park

It’s dog-friendly and people come here pushing strollers or visit with friends as they stroll. It’s also the site of large-scale events during the holidays, weddings and a summer evening music series called “Sounds of Centerra.”

Just north of the Centerra development west of I-25 at Crossroads Boulevard is the Harley Davidson dealership. This area comes alive with the sound of revving engines and the smell of leather, especially during the annual Thunder in the Rockies bike rally, which attracts bikers from miles away. And the Thunder Mountain Amphitheater adjacent to the property hosts a great list of bands throughout the summer. COVID-19 caused a cancellation to both the bike rally and music line up last summer, but Thunder in the Rockies should be in full swing again this September. 

There is nothing quite like the charm of a downtown, but this area is home and it’s convenient to a lot of shopping, walking, music and even a Ferris wheel. And if I should have a hankering for a fast-food chain, that is certainly not a problem. 

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Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer from Loveland. She is the founder of HeidiTown.com and covers travel, festivals and The West.