Denver is easily one of the most multipurpose cities in the United States to live and visit. This bustling metropolitan area with unique neighborhoods and suburbs has quickly become a favorite location for businesses and newcomers. Not only is the city a great place to live, but it also offers easy access to all of the recreational opportunities that the beautiful Rocky Mountains offer.
In this article, I will examine the pros and cons of living in Denver and the surrounding suburbs. If you are considering a move to the Denver area, you should know what you are getting into, how locals see the community in its best light, and the things that aren’t so great.
A Quick Overview & Comparison
|Pros of Living in Denver||Cons of Living in Denver|
|Tons of recreation||Traffic is tough|
|Great weather||Mediocre public transportation|
|Friendly people||High cost of living|
|Good food scene||Limited affordable housing|
|Great job market||Not as diverse|
|Great for sports lovers||Winter driving|
The Pros of Living in Denver
Now that I’ve laid out the pros of living in Denver, here is a little more about each, so you know why I think these are some of the best reasons to live in this city.
1. Tons of Recreation
Denver and really Colorado in general is all about being outdoors and great recreation. It is hard to escape the obsession that this metropolitan area has for being active. And, it isn’t hard to see why. Look to the west from any place in the city and you’ll see the Rocky Mountains towering over the city. The mountains, being so close, offer so many opportunities for being outdoors.
Denverites love camping, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and the list goes on. Being active and healthy is almost a religion in Denver. In town, you’ll see tons of people running, walking, biking, and playing golf, among other recreational activities.
2. Great Weather
If you have ever heard that Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year, and thought that was a farce, well, you would be mistaken. Three hundred days is a bit of a stretch, but most days in Colorado you’ll enjoy bluebird skies and sun. In fact, Colorado is in the top ten sunniest states in the US.
Sure we also have winter. From October to March, you can expect to see some snow. But the best thing about Denver snow – it doesn’t last long. Most snow lasts only a couple of days, and you are back to the sun.
- The summertime average temperature: 83 degrees
- The winter-time average temperature: 53 degrees
- Average snowfall: 57 inches
- Number of sunny days: 245
- Hottest month: July
- Coldest month: December
3. Friendly People
Once upon a time, Denver was a sleepy midwest city surrounded by farms and ranches. This small, farm town feeling carried through the city and it was hard to find a person that wasn’t quick to say ‘hello’. Though Denver has grown, almost exponentially in the last 20 years, it still has that laid-back, friendly feeling. Don’t be surprised if you pass people on the street or on the trail and they smile or say, ‘hi’. It is our way. If you want to fit in, return the greeting. That’s how you become a true Denverite.
4. Good Food Scene
Sure, it’s not New York, San Francisco, or Miami, but there is no shortage of great places to eat in Denver. More and more award-winning chefs are coming to the Denver area to open hip, innovative, new restaurants. Denver is also full of ethnic cuisine, so if you crave great Thai, Ethiopian, or Latin American foods, you will easily find a great spot.
Downtown Denver is the center of the city’s food scene. However, there are no shortages of great restaurants and food experiences in the surrounding suburbs. Check out Boulder, Centennial, and Highlands Ranch for great food, outside of the city.
5. Great Job Market
If you are looking for a good job, with a great salary, Denver will not disappoint. Colorado is home to some of the largest tech companies in the world. It also has a booming aerospace industry, a great financial market, and lots of jobs in academia, health care, and the service industry.
Because Colorado was one of the first states to up the minimum wage, the job market here is pretty competitive. Make sure that you polish your resume before applying for jobs in Denver.
6. Great for Sports Lovers
Besides the tons of recreational activities that you will encounter while living in Denver, this town is nuts for its sports teams. Denver is home to professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. And these teams are some of the best. In the last few years, Denver’s basketball, hockey and soccer have won their respective championships. Sports fans in Denver are unlike any other in the US.
Oh, and if you would rather check out college sports, there is no shortage of great opportunities in the Denver area. Hit the University of Denver for amazing college hockey and the University of Colorado in Boulder for Pac-12 football and basketball.
The Cons of Living in Denver
Now that you have the positive parts about living in Denver, I counter with some of the cons. Though a great city, Denver isn’t for everyone, and there are some things about living in Denver that aren’t great.
7. Traffic is Tough
Remember when I mentioned that Denver has grown, a lot, in the last 20 years? Well, that rapid growth has really made a mess of traffic. Denver and its surrounding suburbs have really struggled to keep up with the number of cars on the roads. Rush hour traffic in Denver can be a nightmare. On a good day, driving across town can take 45 minutes. On a bad day, expect to spend up to two hours getting across town.
As a matter of fact, in 2021, Denver ranked in the top 25 worst-traffic cities in the US. According to the Global Traffic Scorecard, Denver is the 17th worst city for traffic in the US, and the 69th worst for traffic globally. And, unfortunately, things aren’t getting better. The population in the Denver metro area continues to grow, making traffic more and more challenging every year.
8. Mediocre Public Transportation
Contributing to terrible traffic in Denver is the lack of decent public transportation. Until recently, the only way to get around Denver, using public transportation, was the bus system. The bus system in Denver is confusing, and not terribly affordable.
Since the early 2000s, the Regional Transportation District has been constructing light-rail train lines throughout the city. However, these lines have limited reach around town, and are even less affordable than riding the bus.
9. High Cost of Living
As the Denver area grows, it becomes more and more expensive. Unfortunately, the average yearly salary isn’t growing at the same rate as the cost of living. In Denver, the average salary is around $50,000 per year. In many parts of the country, this is a decent income.
However, in Denver, this is barely enough to squeak by. Combine the rising costs of food, utilities, transportation, and rent, Denver is quickly becoming a city that is unaffordable for many people.
10. Limited Affordable Housing
Contributing to the high cost of living in Denver is the lack of affordable housing. Over the last 10 years, as Denver has grown, the availability of affordable housing has dwindled. Even in the suburbs. In Denver proper, the average 1-bedroom rent is more than $1,700 per month, and you will have a hard time finding an average 3-bed, 2-bath home for less than $600,000. Many people look for affordable housing in neighboring suburbs, but even these communities, which are growing rapidly as well, are seeing a spike in rent and housing costs.
11. Not as Diverse
If living in a highly diverse community is something you value, you will be a bit disappointed in Denver. NerdWallet.com does an annual evaluation of the cost of living and other factors of major metropolitan cities in the US. According to their 2022 statistics, Denver received a diversity score of 61.
While this isn’t a terrible score, the glaring reality is that 52% of Denver residents are white. This can be a turn-off for those looking for a community that is more culturally and ethnically distinctive.
12. Winter Driving
If you have never driven your car on ice or multiple inches of snow, Denver can be a harrowing experience in the winter. Winter driving conditions, even for natives of Colorado, can be challenging at best, and terrifying at its worst. With so many people moving to Colorado from places where snow and ice are a rare occurrence, a snowy commute can feel like you are taking your life in your hands.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, in 2022, on snowy days, Denver reported almost 700 accidents. While most of these accidents were relatively minor, they do contribute to higher-than-average insurance rates for drivers in Denver, and Colorado.
FAQ’s About Living In Denver
What are the Benefits of Living in Denver?
There are lots of benefits to living in Denver. Most people come here to enjoy relatively good weather during most of the year, tons of outdoor recreation and a booming job market. Denver is also one of the most friendly metropolitan areas, so if you are looking to live in a place where people are pleasant, Denver is a great spot. Other things that attract people to Denver are the growing food scene and easy access to arts and cultural activities.
What are the Downsides of Living in Denver?
Denver is a great city, but there are some downsides to consider. I mentioned things like cost of living, bad traffic, and lack of good public transportation. But, other downsides include the high altitude of the city, frequent drought conditions, poor air quality, and crowded outdoor spaces.
How Many People Live in Denver?
The population of the city of Denver in 2021 was 711,463. This number is only the residents living in the city of Denver proper. However, Denver plus its surrounding suburbs has a population of just under 3 million people.
What are the Safest Areas in Denver?
If you are looking for safe neighborhoods in Denver, Washington Park is your best bet. In 2022 this neighborhood had less than 10 violent crimes reported to police and the FBI.
If you are looking to live in one of the Denver suburbs the safest community in the metro area is Cherry Hills Village.
What are the Unsafe Areas in Denver?
When it comes to places around Denver that you should avoid, the most unsafe neighborhood in Denver is Five Points. This neighborhood has a rich history and was once called the Harlem of the West. Today however, Five Points has a crime rate that is 173% higher than the rest of Denver. When considering Denver suburbs Aurora has one of the highest crime rates in the state. The high crime rate in Aurora is surprising considering that it is one of the fastest growing communities in the Denver metro area.
Where Do Most New Residents of Denver Come From?
Most of the people that are moving to Denver are coming from Texas and California. In 2021, almost a quarter of people that moved to Colorado from other states came from either Texas or California. The Denver area is also seeing a large number of people from Florida and New York.
Is Denver a Good Place to Start a Business?
Denver is one of the best places in the United States to start a business. With a thriving economy and a booming job market, it is easy to start a business, and hire employees in Denver. Denver also has some really good incentive programs for small businesses, making it even more attractive to start-ups.
What Salary Do You Need to Live in Denver?
If you are looking to live in the City of Denver, to survive comfortably, you will need to have an after tax salary of $70,892 per year. If you are planning to live in one of the Denver suburbs, depending on which suburb you move to, your after tax salary could be as low as $57,013 per year.
What Jobs Are in High Demand in Denver?
If you are looking for a job in Denver, you’ll find that the market is very fluid, and there are plenty of opportunities. However, the jobs that are in the highest demand in Denver are:
- Registered Nurse
- Account Executive
- Sales Associate
- Security Officer
- Sales Representative
- Senior Software Engineer
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- Customer Service Representative
- Project Manager
- Server (Restaurant)
What are Denver Taxes Like?
In Denver you will pay 8.81% in sales tax. This tax rate includes 2.9% state tax, 4.8099% city tax, and 1.1% special tax. Across the Denver metro area, this sales tax rate is considered average. You will find sales tax rates range between 6% and 18% depending on the suburb.
Is Denver a Good Place to Retire?
Denver can be a good place to retire for many people, in fact it is a frequent inclusion on many lists of the best places to retire. Features that make Denver a nice place for retirement include the availability of senior friendly communities, a moderate climate, and world class health care.
What’s the Median Home Price in Denver?
According to Relator.com, in June of 2023, median home price in Denver was $629,000. If you are looking for a lower median home price in the Denver metro area, suburbs to consider are Commerce City and Thornton. Both have median home prices that are less than $500,000.
Which Area of Denver Has the Best Schools?
If good schools are on the top of your list, then you will want to live in the Cherry Creek school district in Denver. This school district serves some of the most upscale neighborhoods in the Denver area. Cherry Creek Schools consistently have better academic performance, higher graduation rates, and more participation in extracurricular activities.
What is the Quality of Life in Denver?
The quality of life in Denver is considered to be moderately good. The city offers good quality housing, affordable health care, and a thriving job market. Denver is also considered to be fairly walkable offering an easy to navigate network of trails. Since Denver has some of the most active residents in the US, you will also find that this city is clean, has a good food scene, and plenty of arts and cultural events.
What is the Sports Culture Like in Denver?
Denver has one of the best sports cultures in the US. In fact it is one of the few major cities that has six professional sports teams. If you are coming to Denver, you will quickly realize that its residents are dedicated fans of the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Avalanche.
Sporting events in Denver draw crowds that are larger than in most cities, and with three championship teams in the past two years, tickets to sporting events in Denver have become hard to find, and expensive.
How is Public Transportation in Denver?
One of the least desirable features of life in Denver is public transportation. There is a bus system, operated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), but it can be complicated to navigate, and more expensive. Denver has a limited train system that takes passengers to neighboring communities, but like the bus system, it is not easy to use or affordable.
What is the Weather Like in Denver?
If you are looking to live in a place that has all four seasons, but isn’t overly hot, frigid, or horribly humid, Denver is a great spot. With an average summer temperature hovering around 85 degrees, and a winter average of 53 degrees, this temperate climate is one of the most mild in the country. The semi-arid, high desert offers moderate precipitation and a low humidity level. Denver can also boast more than 200 days of sunshine, which is more than you’ll find in most places across the US.