Denver often rises to the top of every best places to live, work, and play list, and not just because it’s the Mile-High City! With a good mix of business opportunities, family-friendly suburbs and entertainment, and beautiful natural landscapes, it’s no wonder the Queen City of the West attracts new residents each year. If you’re thinking about moving to the area, here are a few things to know about living in Denver, Colo.
1. PEOPLE ARE MOVING TO DENVER.
The Denver metro has nearly 3 million residents and is poised to draw in more. The city even made Forbes’ America’s Fastest-Growing Cities list at the beginning of 2014 after seeing significant population growth from 2013. With almost 300 days of sunshine each year, a clear view of the Rocky Mountains, and plenty of jobs, Denver is definitely a hot spot for students, young professionals, families, and entrepreneurs.
2. THE WALL STREET OF THE WEST
Employment opportunities and startup adventures are endless in Denver, which was named fourth in Forbes’ Best Places for Business list in early 2014. By the end of the year, the metro’s job growth outpaced the rest of the country. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education and health services saw the most growth in Denver’s economy, but there was also a significant increase in industries like leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and mining, logging, and construction.
3. 5,280 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
You didn’t think they called it “Mile-High City” without reason, did you? Denver is a mile above sea level. In fact, if you walk up the western stairs of the Colorado State Capitol, you’ll be “Mile High” on the 13th step. The high altitude will definitely improve your golf game, but for newcomers and visitors, it means drinking more water (and less alcohol), taking it easy on physical activity, and wearing lots of sunscreen.
4. GET TO KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOODS.
Denver has more than 70 neighborhoods, each with their own distinct flair. If you love jazz and African-American history, visit Five Points, one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, where jazz legends like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington performed at the Rossonian Hotel. Or check out the global cuisine and shopping in the three districts of Highlands—Lower Highlands, Highlands Square, and Tennyson Street. Or perhaps you want to hang out in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver), where the younger crowds like to hit the pubs, sports bars, and coffee shops (Just be mindful of parking when there’s a Rockies game).
5. THE GREAT OUTDOORS.
The excellent view of the Rocky Mountains just to the west of the metro isn’t the only reason people like living in Denver. Outdoor enthusiasts in particular love the area because they’re only a short drive from hiking and sightseeing adventures at Rocky Mountain National Park, camping in Chatfield State Park or Guanella Pass, and whitewater rafting down Clear Creek.
6. HOP ON THE LIGHT RAIL.
Similar to the concept of Chicago’s “L,” Denver has the RTD Light Rail that stops at 46 stations throughout the Denver metro. With stops all the way from Sports Authority Field at Mile High and Pepsi Center out to Littleton, Denver residents and visitors can get where they need to go without hitting tons of traffic. It’s also easy to transfer to city buses from the Light Rail, and there are Park-n-Ride lots for commuters.
7. TIME FOR EDUCATION.
Looking to attend college in Denver? University of Denver is the oldest private university in the area that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in business, law, social work, and more. On the public side, there’s University of Colorado-Denver, one of three schools within the University of Colorado system. This university has two campuses in the metro: Auraria Campus in Downtown Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Of course, there’s also The Art Institute of Colorado and Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design among several other schools with more specific fields of study and degrees.
8. EXCELLENT SHOPPING.
Denver’s Larimer Square has history that goes back to the 1860s, which includes housing the city’s first bank and dry goods store. Today, it has more than 40 unique retailers and restaurants. But if you’re looking for upscale designer brands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton, head to Cherry Creek Shopping Center in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. On the other hand, if you want more traditional shopping with department stores like JCPenney and Macy’s, Park Meadows Mall near Centennial should be right up your alley.
9. DINNER AND DESSERT.
Why dine at national chains when you can try Denver’s local favorites? One of the best places to check out is The Cherry Cricket. This “black sheep” restaurant has been around since the ’50s and serves American classics, like the half-pound Cricket Burger. Steuben’s is worth a visit as well. Building off a family history that goes back to Boston in the ’40s, you can get hearty classics like meatloaf and macaroni & cheese to more unique fare like chilaquiles and cayenne etouffee. Also, the inventive and vegan-friendly Sweet Action Ice Cream is one of the country’s best ice cream shops, according to U.S. News & World Report!
10. COORS, ANYONE?
Coors Brewery operates just outside of Denver in Golden, so it lives up to its phrase “as cold as the Rockies.” While it may be more of a tourist thing to do, you’re welcome to do a self-guided tour of the facility (which should take about half an hour) any day of the week. During the tour, you can learn all about the brewing and malting process and receive free samples, provided you’re of age, of course.
11. RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE.
Just outside of Denver is a natural rock structure with enough space to make a truly unique open-air concert venue—Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Artists from all genres of music have been performing there since 1906, from Pietro Satriano and his 25-piece brass band to the Beatles in the ’60s and more modern artists like singer-songwriter Idina Menzel. But music isn’t the only thing you can do at Red Rocks. The park also offers a variety of events, including an Easter Sunrise Service and the Red Rocks Fitness Challenge.
12. TAKE A TWO-WHEEL TOUR OF DENVER.
Enjoy biking? Hit the trails of Denver’s Cherry Creek Bike Path! This 50-mile route starts in Downtown Denver and makes its way through the Parker, Centennial, and Aurora suburbs. Don’t have a bike? Denver is also home to a city-wide bike-sharing system, Denver B Cycle. You can get a pass for 24 hours up to a whole year, and stations are located throughout the city.
13. RECREATION? THERE’S A PARK FOR THAT.
With nearly 200 parks in Denver, you’re bound to find the right place for outdoor recreation. Locals love South Denver’s Washington Park—known as Wash Park—for running and biking. It has miles of wide, well-kept trails frequented by runners and cyclists of all levels. For those who aren’t into running and biking, the more modern Central Park in Stapleton is also a great place. In addition to lakes and paths, this 80-acre park includes a stage and playground area, as well as a massive hill perfect for sledding in the winter.
14. AMUSEMENT APLENTY.
Denver is home to both the historic Lakeside Amusement Park and Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park. Lakeside has been around since 1908, and for $3, you get access to classics like bumper cars, wooden rollercoasters, and the Ferris Wheel. The best part? Parking is free and picnics are always welcome. While it has no less history, Elitch Gardens is the place to get both wet and wild, as it’s an amusement and water park in one, which means you can hit the seven-story Brain Drain ride and Tube Top waterslide in one day!
15. PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ARE EVERYWHERE.
Denver is home to the Colorado Rockies (MLB), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), and Denver Broncos (NFL), giving residents several sports options to take in. Speaking of the Broncos, although the stadium is now Sports Authority Field at Mile High, call it Mile-High Stadium (or just Mile High) like the rest of the locals. You wouldn’t want to sound like a tourist, would you?
16. A HOME FOR PERFORMING ARTS.
If performing arts are your thing, be sure to catch a show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts—the second largest performing center in the U.S. “The Plex,” as it’s called, contains ten performance spaces and more than 10,000 seats and has hosted Broadway tours, contemporary dance, ballets, operas, and more.
17. COLORADO RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL.
Less than an hour south of Denver sits the Colorado Renaissance Festival, a literal village that opens each summer and is filled with hundreds of trained and experienced costumed merrymakers. Not only do these actors live and work in the village, but they also perform on each of the seven stages throughout the festival grounds. You can come in plain clothes or dress up—you can even buy a costume while you’re there! Also, try Steak on a Stake and cheer on your favorite jouster alongside the royal court in the jousting tournament.
Are we missing anything? What would you say is a great aspect of living in Denver?
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