Many of those living in the Parkwood Hills neighborhood on Madison's west side view it as the total package.
"It's very social and welcoming," said resident Peter Zarov. "I've been here for 14 years now and still love it."
Close to parks, a pool, community center and four schools, you'll often see families greet each other while walking along the quiet, tree-lined streets. And even though it's just around the corner from West Towne Mall and other stores and restaurants near Mineral Point and Gammon roads, it still has a small-town feel.
Kimberly Cowles, who has lived next to Everglade Park for the past six years, said her family is "very lucky" to have found a neighborhood that is "friendly and approachable."
"People will be walking their dogs or going for a bike ride and will stop and have a conversation," she said.
It didn't take her long to get to know the people on both sides of her home and down Acadia Street, especially after becoming a board member with the neighborhood association three years ago.
"It's very neighborly," Cowles added.
The Parkwood Hills Neighborhood Association is one of the most active in Madison, hosting several well-attended holiday and social gatherings, including an Easter egg hunt, garage sale, pool party, Halloween bonfire, Santa visit and ice skating and sledding party. Cowles also helps organize the Fourth of July celebration, which features a parade, games and food.
"People are very involved in making it a community," she said.
The group also sends out a quarterly newsletter packed with articles and photos from the people who contribute to making this place so special. In a recent issue of The ParkWord, 13-year-old Jack Bell wrote that the best part of living in Parkwood Hills is that "everyone is connected and knows each other."
"You don't really need a car," he said. "From Pre-K to high school and the pool ... it's all right there. For kids in the 5-15 year range, it's perfect."
Pool and parks
Zarov's youngest of three sons is 13 and often goes to the Parkcrest Swim and Tennis Club, which is in the midst of its 50th anniversary membership drive. The club becomes a hub of activity during the summer, featuring pools, tennis and basketball courts, fitness classes and trivia nights.
Right across the street is the John Muir Elementary School playground, which Cowles said is also a popular destination for neighbors to bring their grandkids or other relatives -- even if they don't attend school there.
Everglade Park also has a playground, shelter and soccer fields. During Easter, the park is dotted with over a thousand colorful, candy-filled eggs, and for Halloween people gather there for campfire stories.
On the eastern edge of the neighborhood is Owen Conservation Park, which features 3.4 miles of trails -- perfect for birdwatchers, hikers and skiers -- that loop through nearly 100 acres of prairies, woods and oak savannas. Donna Rifken, who has lived in Parkwood Hills for 25 years, wrote in a recent issue of The ParkWord that she walks in the park during all four seasons and "always come(s) out a little calmer and happier."
"I often see many of my neighbors sharing the space -- out for a run or walking with their children," she wrote. "How fortunate we are to live on the edge of this beautiful, wild park."
For green thumbs, the neighborhood also has a Parkwood Hills Garden Club, which was founded in 1969.
The Parkwood Hills neighborhood is north of Mineral Point Road, south of Old Sauk Road, east of Gammon Road/Acadia Drive and west of South Yellowstone/Grand Canyon Drive. All of the streets, like Yosemite Trail and Shiloh Drive, are named after U.S. national parks and battlefields, according to Historic Madison, Inc.
Many of the homes here were built in the 1960s-70s, featuring colonial, ranch and Cape Cod designs.
Zarov said there's an "interesting mix" of people -- from the older generation who bought into the neighborhood when it was being built to younger couples looking for a place to start a family -- who live in Parkwood Hills.
And the spacious houses in this sought-after subdivision typically don't stay on the market long.
For more on the neighborhood, click here to check out the Parkwood Hills real estate guide and homes for sale.