Denver is a vibrant city, welcoming to entrepreneurs and startups, supporting new bars and restaurants, attracting many companies from out of state and convincing existing businesses that it’s safe to invest in growth.
Many thank the Colorado Rockies for Denver’s fast-paced, dynamic life today. The Rockies’ arrival in 1993 was the catalyst for a massive change in downtown Denver, with much of the area surrounding Coors Field going from downtrodden to gentrified -– and it’s still going on. Bars and restaurants opened to accommodate baseball fans, and that led to other growth that continues to explode to this day.
Cost of Living in Denver
Now Denver is totally transformed, and has become one of the most moved to cities in the country, growing more than 6 percent from 2012 to 2016. All that growth has bumped up the cost of living, which is now 12 percent above the national average according to Payscale.com. While still cheaper than Los Angeles by 28 percent, and New York by a whopping 105 percent, the increase is noticeable–especially for long-term residents.
Housing costs has been the biggest contributor to rising cost of living, which is currently 33 percent higher than the national average. That seems high, but it is still lower than other popular destination cities like trendy Portland, which has housing costs 78 percent higher than the national average.
Where to Live in Denver
Denver’s explosive growth over the last couple of decades has created many more desirable neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character.
If you are thinking about moving to Denver, here’s a quick overview of the top ‘hoods to consider:
- Cherry Creek: One of the most desirable, and therefore expensive, places to live in Denver. The average home sells for more than a $1 million. The popular Cherry Creek Bike Path runs straight through the heart of this upscale neighborhood.
- Stapleton: This neighborhood northwest of downtown is relatively new: it was developed on the site of the former Stapleton International Airport which closed in 1995. It contains a wide variety of different housing types, as well as office and commercial development. Best of all it has recently been connected to the city’s light rail system.
- Washington Park: Washington Park is named after the beautiful historic park that it surrounds. The neighborhood features classic historic homes and is ideal for people who need to be close to nature.
- East Colfax: The area along Colfax Avenue might have a seedy reputation, but it has changed dramatically over the last several years while keeping a certain edginess to it. Home to ethnic restaurants, killer music venues, and yes, lots and lots of hipsters.
- Capitol Hill: If you need to be in the center of all the action, Capitol Hill is the place to be. Located just southeast of the central business district, its in close proximity to museums, shops, food trucks and the Colorado State Capitol.
- Lower Highlands: Offering a laid back, family friendly vibe, this bike friendly neighborhood offers a striking combo of modern architecture and Victorian homes.
Ready to ascend to our magnificent city? Still not convinced? Here are 20 more things you need to know before moving to Mile High City:
1. The real estate market is cooling off.
For the last several years, Denver homes were among the fastest-selling in the nation. For example in July 2015, a house lasted just 20 days on the market on average. That hot streak has recently cooled somewhat, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.
The number of houses on the market in December of 2018 was up more than 46 percent compared to the previous year, and sales were down by more than 23 percent. Still the median sales price in December was $395,000, a slight uptick of over 5 percent year over year.
So as housing in Denver metro area shifts from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, you probably couldn’t have picked another time to think about moving here.
2. Feel that Rocky Mountain High.
Now that several states have followed Colorado’s lead and legalized recreational marijuana, Denver isn’t the only place for pot tourists to visit. But it still is the best. Whether you toke up or pass on grass, marijuana is a big business here that you really can’t avoid. The industry’s hunger for space for grow operations consumes more than one-third of all commercial warehouse space in Colorado.
3. We’re sexy and we know it.
The September 2015 issue of Playboy ranked Denver as the 15th nationally for sexiness, based on two customized polls plus other measurements, such as “hot locals, cool nightlife, a great setting and an undercurrent of desire.”
4. We’re the best in the west.
In August, Money magazine named Denver the best city in the West, calling it a “Mecca for millennials.” Money credited Denver for having affordable real estate (but many residents would disagree, especially after getting their property taxes) and for its access to recreation, like Rocky Mountain National Park.
5. Eat like a cannibal, sort of.
The University of Colorado named the Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill for a famed cannibal. He admitted to committing cannibalism in the winter of 1874 near Lake City. Judge M.B. Gerry ripped Packer at his trial, saying, “When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah ate five of ’em.”
Maybe the high altitude got to his head.
6. Consider yourself one of us.
Civic pride compels us to point out that Denverites -– many of whom moved here from out of state — are friendly, warm and welcoming; less judgmental than those who live on the East and West Coasts; and more likely to cut you a break.
7. Fly with a smile.
Denver International Airport was ranked No. 8 among large airports -– those with more than 50 million passengers per year -– in the annual Skytrax global airport customer satisfaction survey. It drew about 13 million voters from more than 160 countries.
8. You already love our food.
Denver and Colorado are the home base for many popular fast-casual restaurant chains, starting with the stunningly successful Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has more than 1,700 stores nationwide and in Europe. Other Colorado-based fast-casual chains include Noodles & Company, Larkburger, Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Smashburger, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Qdoba, Boston Market, Quiznos, Mad Greens, Suki Thai Noodle House and Bombay Bowl.
9. It’s always sunny in Denver.
Colorado is a Southwestern state –- not Midwestern, as many believe. It boasts about having 300 days of sunshine each year because it’s true. Make sunscreen your good friend.
10. Meet Blucifer.
Heard about the scary blue horse at Denver International Airport? It’s Blucifer, the Demon Horse of Denver, aka the Steed of Satan. The fiberglass horse stands 32 feet high on the main road to the terminal. At night, Blucifer shoots red LED beams from his eyes.
Frightening? Great public art? Ponder this: Its creator, Luis Jimenez, was killed when a piece of the torso fell on him; his two sons finished the $650,000 project.
11. Help wanted.
Longtime residents remember when Denver and Colorado depended too much on periodic energy booms to guide the economy. Those days are gone, replaced by major economic drivers: agriculture, aerospace, financial services, health care, construction, high tech and more. And if you’re open to anything, Denver’s restaurants are experiencing a worker shortage.
12. Give it a try, hot shot.
Denver is startup heaven, offering numerous educational, networking and financial opportunities for entrepreneurs. Ever hear of Galvanize? The organization’s goal is to help small tech businesses to grow and to encourage startups to succeed. It offers several educational programs plus co-working space in several locations. Beyond Galvanize, you’ll find many other co-working organizations and economic incubators.
13. John Elway is Da Man.
The Denver Broncos command fierce loyalty, and fans consider the two-time Super Bowl-winning QB to be a deity. And that’s not just for his on-field play. He’s turned out to be a bold front-office guy as executive vice president and general manager, signing Peyton Manning to a five-year deal, and fearlessly remaking the roster and coaching staff.
14. Hit the slopes.
World-class skiing is everywhere in Colorado, and the closest ski areas are just one hour from Denver. Want the fancy? There’s Vail, Aspen and Winter Park, to name just a few ski resorts. Want the down-to-earth areas that haven’t given in to real estate development? Then Loveland and Ski Cooper are for you.
15. Red Rocks Amphitheatre does indeed rock.
Many consider this Denver-owned facility, located 10 miles west of the city in Morrison, to be one of the greatest outdoor concert venues in the world, and it’s breathtaking. The summer concert schedule is packed with big names.
16. Before all the weed, there was all this beer.
Pot not your thing? Denver’s craft beer brewing industry quickly has grown to more than 160 breweries and brewpubs. Tickets sell out in minutes for Denver’s annual Great American Beer Fest. Visit a happy hour at any brewery to try many, many cheap samples.
17. We are sports professionals.
Denver is one of the smallest markets in the country to support so many professional teams. The Broncos are revered; the rest are a distant second. The Colorado Rockies lack direction and may lose 100 games this year. The Denver Nuggets became a reclamation project when they fired Coach George Karl. The Colorado Rapids are one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer. At least the Colorado Avalanche has an improvement plan.
18. The play’s the thing.
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is a huge cultural draw, offering Broadway musicals, world-class plays and educational opportunities. The nation’s biggest nonprofit theater organization, it houses numerous venues, such as the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, Buell Theatre, Garner Galleria Theatre and Ellie Caulkins Opera House, plus a homegrown theatre company.
19. Don’t get malled in.
The 16th Street Mall, complete with a shuttle bus along its 1.25-mile route, opened in 1982 in the heart of downtown Denver. It remains a work in progress. Pluses: many restaurants and retail outlets. Minuses: People are fed up with panhandlers and transients. There’s a lack of public bathrooms. And the retail lineup could use an upgrade.
20. Let it snow.
The tourism and hospitality pros, and the state’s Rocky Mountain ski areas, LOVE it when snow falls at Sports Authority Field at Mile High when the Broncos host a Monday night game. The phones ring incessantly as out-of-state residents rush to make reservations.
Blucifer photo by Mike Sinko Photography