Moving to Denver? Here’s Pretty Much Everything You Need to Know

Moving to Denver, CO? We’ve got you covered.

Catch up with the do’s and don’ts of Mile High with our comprehensive city guide. You need to know the best neighborhood for your family, what kind of culture surrounds great barbecue and beer, how people exercise, connect, and live their lives. This guide is the ultimate resource for the Denver transplant.

We researched weather and climate data and used Google to plot out neighborhoods you’ll love. We mapped out possible commutes. We found top bloggers, analyzed crime data and walkability, even interviewed Denver residents who also recently moved to the Mile High City.

Located in the South Platte River Valley, Denver is the 19th most populated city in the US. Denver sits 1 mile above sea level, giving it its iconic and well known nickname: the “Mile High City.” This active and outdoor centric place looks up to the towering Rockies. With four distinct seasons you can hike, rock climb, ski, kayak, white water raft, swim, and camp to your heart’s content.

Life in Denver is an experience unlike any other. The city and the surrounding areas are colorful, crisp, wild, and adventurous. The urban center is full of art, food, and beer, and the people have a passion for the mountains at their core. If you love to lace up the hiking boots, sample great beers, and walk in the shadows of mountains, you’re going to love living in Denver.

Prepare for Your Move, Check Out:

Denver locals love their hiking trails
Image via apasciuto

What It’s Going to Be Like to Live in Denver, CO

People live outside in Denver.

On weekends locals hike or take day trips to Summit County, where the mountains stretch out over mirror-still lakes and under cobalt sky. Go explore the town of Frisco on the clear blue water of Frisco Bay. Experience Breckenridge, a town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains complete with a ski resort and colorful historic streets. Athletic outdoor activities are the norm: everyone here has been bitten by the nature bug.

The Rockies create a beautiful backdrop that natives feel a sense of pride and ownership of. As a transplant you’ll quickly adopt the same gratitude for the mountains that characterize Denver’s unique heartbeat.

The craft beer movement is a huge part of Denver’s food and beverage culture. Breweries like Great Divide Brewing Co. serve up tours and flights of incredible beer with quirky names like the Yeti Imperial Stout and Hades Belgian-Style Ale.

Denver’s Cost of Living

According to Payscale, The cost of living in Denver is 6% over the national average overall. Smart Asset also studied the cost of living in Denver. In terms of food, Denver ranked slightly higher than the national average for grocery store items, and significantly higher for restaurant dining. To compare, Numbeo ranks the cost of living in Denver as being 21.67% cheaper than the cost of living in NYC, New York.

What do all of those numbers mean for you?

Expect to pay a little more than others for your groceries, but you won’t be huddled in a tiny studio with one window eating uncooked pasta on the floor (we hope). A night out on the town costs more than in other cities, so you might limit your dinner trips to trendy restaurants and cook from home more often. A beer on tap at the local brew pub will be around $4-6 but your mortgage will be far cheaper than New York or San Francisco. Overall, expect to pay slightly more in Denver than you would in most US cities, but not so much more that your wallet will sigh every time you open it.

Denver’s Booming Job Market

Forbes ranked Denver as the number one city in Best Places for Business and Careers in 2015. Forbes also ranked Denver as #116 in Cost of Doing Business and #16 in Job Growth for 2015. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment rates in Denver have decreased since 2015, and are below the national rate. Wallethub ranked Denver as the 12th best city in the US to find a job in 2016. So, you’re in pretty excellent shape in terms of your career.

If you’re still looking for a job in Denver the data shows that your chances have improved over last year. Once you’ve found your dream job? Imagine an environment where creativity and collaboration thrive over the perfect frothy iced coffee and a Glazed & Confuzed doughnut.

Forbes ranked Denver as the number one city to work because of its quality of life. Denver is also one of the top ten cities with the highest influx of residents–people want to be there. Denver is unique in that outdoor exercise is a core piece of the local lifestyle. Picture a tough meeting with a client or a problem you can’t solve. Take a run, breathe in the crisp, clean mountain air, and get the clarity you need. Denver’s universities breed educated people and cutting edge research. Expect to work with talented individuals who care about their contribution to the company and to the Denver ecosystem as a whole.

Denver weather explained
Image via David Herrera

Weather in Denver: Sunny Skies and Snow

In his classic “Rocky Mountain High,” John Denver sings, “And the Colorado rocky mountain high/I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky/I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly/Rocky mountain high.”

Denver experiences four distinct seasons. Denver’s chilliest months are December, January and February with a range from 17˚F to 46˚F on average. The warmest temperatures come in June, July, and August, ranging from 53˚F to 86˚F on average. If you’re moving to Denver, pack warm. You can expect snow in the winter that will make for some awesome skiing and fun days for building snowmen!

US Climate data for Denver
Image via US Climate Data
US Climate data for Denver
Image via US Climate Data
US Climate Data for Denver
Image via US Climate Data

Denver’s Foodie Culture: Beer, Beer, and more Beer

Chow down on a legendary burger at the Cherry Cricket, stop at Lulu’s Barbecue in Louisville on the way back from hiking in the foothills. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Little Man Ice Cream, grab some Latin American fusion at Work & Class, munch on Indian food at Biju’s Little Curry Shop, sip a cocktail at Union Lodge No. 1, have breakfast at Jelly Cafe, or experience Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox.

There are so many delicious eats to choose from in the Denver area, you really can’t go wrong.

We could go on and on about the legendary selection of breweries in Denver. 5280, The Denver Magazine put together a guide for beer lovers to get the most out of the Denver craft brew scene. You’ll have to sip a pint at Great Divide Brewing Co. and Denver Beer Co., and take a drive up to the New Belgium Brewing Company.

Take the kiddos for a popsicle at AikoPops (grapefruit rosemary, kiwi pomegranate, apricot vanilla, yes please!) or for a Nutella sandwich at BluNozer Cafe. Looking for more suggestions? Zagat rated the top new hot restaurants in Denver. Give them a try, then send us a line with your favorite!

Denver Beer Co.
Image via Adam Bruderer

Denver’s Patchwork Quilt of Neighborhoods

Denver’s neighborhoods are as similar as an Imperial Stout is to an IPA. They exist in the same ecosystem but the texture and tone of life differs drastically from area to area. Here’s a snapshot of some of our favorite neighborhoods in Denver so that you can find your perfect match.

Union Station LoDo Denver
Image via Denver Darling

LoDo

Lower Downtown, or “LoDo,” is a popular neighborhood characterized by large stone buildings. You’ll find the forever photogenic Union Street Station in this happening spot. Important spaces like Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, the Colorado Convention Center, and the University of Colorado Denver are all close by. Pick LoDo and you’ll have easy access to Larimer Square. Picture old, stately brick buildings with lights strung across the street. Stroll into boutiques, do a boozy brunch with friends at your favorite restaurant, enjoy the sunset views of office buildings towering in the background.

The oldest neighborhood in Denver, LoDo’s architecture tells the history of the city. Nightlife spills out of taverns on the weekends–you won’t want for a good time. Most houses don’t have green space here, but you will have close proximity to office buildings, shops, restaurants, bars, and the sports stadiums.

Hilltop

Neatly manicured lawns, tall houses mixed with squat ranch styles, and a higher elevation than the rest of the Mile High City create this gorgeous neighborhood. Homes for rent can get expensive here at just under one million. The mountain views from Crestmoor Park, quiet treelined streets, and access to top schools make it worth paying the extra cash. The neighborhood has three green grassy parks: Cranmer Park (complete with a huge sundial), Robinson Park, and Crestmoor Park.

Hilltop is a neighborhood in Denver
Image via Jeffrey Beall

Hilltop is a neighborhood for buyers who want space to grow their family, walk their chocolate lab, play cornhole on their front lawn, or walk their kids to school. Steck Elementary School and Carson Elementary School are listed as a top public schools by the Denver Public Schools School Performance Framework.  Both are a short walk for anyone living in the Hilltop neighborhood. Hilltop is a safe residential area in Southeast Denver.

RiNo

The River North Arts District, or RiNo, showcases the street art of Denver at its best. Filled with life, color, and personality, RiNo owns gems like The Source, a food hall that’s taken up residence in a historical brick building from the 1880s. Come to RiNo for the city art experience. Buildings brim with design from the whimsical to the abstract to the political to the provocative.

To live in RiNo means to reside among art happenings in the everyday: spontaneous moments of cohesion between static and moving pieces of the city. RiNo is the neighborhood for the emerging artist, the creative type who wants a bit of color and grit that together push the boundary of living beside art and living within it.

River North Arts District, Denver
Image via Paul Sableman

Wash Park

Short for Washington Park, the Wash Park neighborhood includes, you guessed it, Washington Park. Smith Lake and Grasmere Lake add reflective water to the area. Buildings and trees sprinkle around the perimeter, and the Washington Park Boathouse, a historical landmark, sits on the banks of Smith Lake. The neighborhood itself is characterized by beautiful stately houses from craftsmen to tudors.

Small grassy lawns and tall branchy trees dot the streets. Wash Park is your place if you want to take your morning walk through the park and sip your first latte of the day on the sunlit banks of Smith Lake. University of Denver is a ten minute drive, so this area is ideal for the student who likes a quiet neighborhood where she can study outside. If you’re into unique homes and want to be close to the University then Wash Park is your place.

Washington Park, Denver
Image via Jeffrey Beall

Regis

The Regis neighborhood encompasses Regis University, Willis Case Golf Course, and Inspiration Point Park. It’s located on the Northwest side of Denver. The center of the city is less than 15 minutes by car without traffic, and Regis University is within walking distance if you’re a student. Regis is a prime location for students of the university who want to walk to campus and be a short drive from trendy areas like RiNo and LoDo.

Cherry Creek

The Cherry Creek neighborhood lies in a great location and has a low crime rate. It’s ideal for families who want their children to be safe and want resources right at their fingertips. Cherry Creek runs through the neighborhood, and the kiddos can munch on a Cherry Cricket cheeseburger after a walk on Cherry Creek Trail. Cherry Creek is southeast of Downtown: the city center is 15 minutes by car, and areas like Five Points (where you can get some delicious grub) are also close by.

The Cherry Creek Shopping Center is walkable even from the farthest point of the neighborhood, so errands don’t involve sitting in traffic. If you want all of this and a cute brick house with white wooden balconies then buy a house in Cherry Creek.

Cherry Creek, Denver
Image via Rennett Stowe

Uptown (North Cap Hill)

Uptown is also known as North Capitol Hill and finds its home in East Denver, right above E. Colfax Avenue. Downtown, the Denver Zoo, 16th Street Mall, and Steuben’s diner are all close by. Industrial skyscrapers frame the stone 19th Century Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This is a busy area with businesses that are sprinkled throughout; you won’t find any purely residential areas here.

Apartment buildings are more prevalent than houses, so if you’re looking for an apartment or condo this is a good place to search. Get your fill of restaurants on 17th ave, and if you’re still hungry, LoDo’s businesses are all right next door. This neighborhood suits someone who doesn’t mind living among bustling businesses along busy streets.

Cap Hill

Capitol Hill is a neighborhood of juxtapositions. Where RiNo is about art, Cap Hill is all about culture. Lace up your Docs and trudge into Wax Trax Records and browse classic vinyl. Streets filled with murals and graffiti share the neighborhood with historical landmarks like the intricate architecture of the Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion. Institutions have quirky names like “The Fainting Goat.” The Colorado State Capital sits just below Colfax Ave, the “Wickedest Street in America.” Cap Hill isn’t a safe neighborhood but it’s rich in an original hipster vibe that proves inspirational to those looking for the ultimate creative experience.

Safe Areas and Crime

5280 ranks Indian Creek as Denver’s safest spot. A residential neighborhood, you’ll find midsize homes along quiet streets here. Walk Score showed the Cherry Creek, Hilltop, and Congress Park areas as also having a low crime rate. Take a look at Walk Score’s crime map below, or visit the site to view crime breakdowns by neighborhood.

Colfax Avenue is a 29 mile stretch that has notoriously been called the “Wickedest Street in America.”

Do: proceed with caution here and in the neighboring streets.

Don’t: walk alone, or at night, or during the day. Yeah, maybe just don’t walk around Colfax Ave at all.

Schools

Niche ranked the Boulder Valley School District as the top Denver area school district for 2016. Littleton Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District came in second and third, respectively.

In the Denver Public Schools School Performance Framework, Slavens K-8 School, Stapleton High School, Steck Elementary, and Carson Elementary ranked as high Public Schools. Great Schools also ranked Steck Elementary as a top public school. Challenge School, Steele Elementary School, and Cory Elementary School were given a ten out of ten on the Great Schools list5280 ranked Denver Academy, Colorado Academy, and Aspen Academy as top Private Elementary Schools.

Denver's public school districts
Niche ranked the Boulder Valley School District, Littleton Public Schools, and the Cherry Creek School District as the top public school districts for 2016. Image via Kristal Sells Denver

If your child is in elementary school, it would be helpful to live near…

  • Wellshire
  • Hilltop
  • University Hills
  • Bear Valley
  • Greenwood Village
  • Broomfield
  • Cherry Creek

If your child is in middle school, it would be helpful to live near…

  • Wellshire
  • University Hills
  • Bear Valley
  • Greenwood Village
  • Broomfield
  • Cherry Creek

If your child is in high school, it would be helpful to live near…

  • Wellshire
  • University Hills
  • Bear Valley
  • Cherry Creek

Denver’s Transit: Resources You Need

Get ready to sit in traffic.

Traffic in Denver is notoriously bad but (unfortunately) you’ll need a car to get around. At least you’ll get to take some fabulous outdoorsy trips on the weekends?

Most people drive SUVs that can handle the snowfall in the Winter. Walk Score rated Denver with pretty low walk and transit scores at 60 and 47, respectively. That means that public transit and walking are an option in the city, but you may not be able to accomplish all of your day to day tasks easily (or at all) by solely relying on walking or hopping on the bus or light rail.

If public transit is your jam, you can now use your Apple Maps to help guide you through the city. The buses and light rail are often unreliable and slow. Your best bet is to put a down payment on that Jeep Wrangler you’ve always wanted. If you’re interested in biking through Denver, look into B-Cycle, a bicycle sharing program where it’s easy to grab a bike on the go.

You can look to Denver’s DMV page for information on how to register a vehicle. The cost of registration depends on how old your car is, its weight, month of registration, and taxable value. The DMV website gives an explanation of how much it costs to register your vehicle are calculated but you’ll need to visit the DMV with the documents you’ll need to successfully register your car. Gas in Denver is approximately $2/gallon, and you can take a look at this gas prices map for the cost of gas by area right now.

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What’s Going on with Denver’s Real Estate Scene?

According to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors, May saw a new record for homes on the market. A new record low, that is. With just over 5K homes for sale on the market, it’s possible that there will be no peak (as there usually is) in inventory this summer.

If you see a home you love, jump on it, because it’s a seller’s market right now. According to The Denver Post, 50% of homes listed sell within one week, with a lack of inventory available for buyers. According to the DMA, the average price you should expect to pay for your home is $412,433.

It’s a great time to sell a home because the average price homes are listing for has increased, days on the market has decreased, and on average sellers are getting 3.43% more cash in their pockets. It’s not a terrible time to buy, either. Even though inventory is low it’s still in the green as of May 2016.

Everything you need to know about real estate in Denver
Image via Boston Public Library

Top Real Estate Agents in Denver to Connect With:

Doreen Stene

Doreen is in the top 2% of Denver seller’s agents. She is an expert on selling single family homes, having sold 140 in her 18 years of experience. Doreen sells homes for $18,000 higher than the average.

Leanne Walker

Looking to buy or sell a condo? Leanne is a condo expert! She ranks in the top 2% of agents selling condos in Denver. Need a single family home instead? Leanne is an expert in that, too!

Erica Chouinard

With 15 years of experience under her belt, Erica has sold a whopping 640 single family homes. Erica is a top seller’s agent but has also represented buyers in their search for their perfect Denver home.

Ken Greenfield

Ken is in Denver’s top 1% of Real Estate agents. His expertise spans over 16 years of being one of Denver’s best. Ken’s homes don’t stay on the market long–they are on the market 31 days less than average.

Top rated brokerages in the area right now include:

360Dwellings Real Estate (Jonathan Benecke and Mandi Benecke are great agents), One Realty Denver (Lydia Lin ranks in the top 1% of seller’s agents in Denver), and The David Schlichter Team are all top brokerages in Denver right now.

Practical Moving Resources

Good places to go for furniture:

Picker’s Paradise

Though it’s technically in Aurora, Picker’s Paradise has a ton of great testimonials from its patrons. It’s stocked with unique vintage goods, and you can search among the inventory for that yellow bookcase you’ve always wanted. Don’t worry that Aurora address makes this place a trek–it’s only a 20 minute drive from Denver’s downtown. If you’re making the drive, leave your credit card at home. Ruben, the owner, only takes cash or check!

Room & Board

Room & Board has a great selection of furniture in styles across the board. An added bonus if you live in or near the Cherry Creek neighborhood: Room & Board is located across the street from the Cherry Creek shopping center.

For Your Hardware, Repair, and Remodeling Needs:

Need nails to hang your photos of the murals in RiNo?

-The Ace Hardware closest to you is a good place to start

If you need handyman work stat, call:

Urban Handyman

Expertise ranked urban Handyman as one of the top handymen in Denver for 2016. Urban Handyman also has a five star Yelp review with many positive testimonials.

A Frank of All Trades

A Frank of All Trades was also ranked high on Expertise’s list for top handymen in Denver. Bonus: if you love the service, you can also hire Frank to remodel your home. Frank specializes in HVAC.

For Remodeling Work, Look At:

The Wall Rebuilder

The Wall Rebuilder can help you out with all of your drywall needs. The business gets great reviews on both Yelp and Angie’s List. You’ll want their number if you ever need to repair a plaster wall!

Formula Roofing and Remodeling

Formula Roofing and Remodeling is a great go-to if you ever need work done on your roof. With positive testimonials from clients that site the business as being “quick, friendly, and clean.”

If you need help moving, unpacking, or both:

Fischer Van Lines Moving & Storage

Fischer Van Lines Moving & Storage is top rated across the board on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and more. If you need movers you can count on to get the job done and do it well, give this business a call.

Local Moving

Local Moving also has five star reviews across the board. Local Moving does both residential and commercial moves, so if you are a business owner moving to Denver, look into booking both your home and business move with this company.

Denver's skyline all lit up
Image via Larry Johnson

Denver Lingo, Denver Apps, and All About Denver on Instagram

Try Zagat for further restaurant recommendations, and Thrillist for fun and informative Denver centric lists. The Broncos reign supreme here, so don your navy and orange (or just paint yourself orange, really) and watch your new team with the pride of a native from Mile High Stadium. Be on the lookout for amazing murals throughout the city, especially in RiNo, the River North Arts District, and be sure to take a snap with your favorite ones.

Some words you should adopt when moving to Denver…

  • Fourteeners: mountains that exceed 14,000 feet
  • RiNo, LoDo, Cap Hill, Wash Park: Are all Denver neighborhoods that stand for, River North Arts District, Lower Downtown, Capitol Hill, Washington Park
  • Wads: Wadsworth Boulevard

If you’re curious how to pronounce words like a Colorado native, check out this article on how Coloradans speak from the Denver Post.

These apps are fun and helpful for getting around the city, especially when you’re a newbie!

  • B-Cycle Now: Where is the nearest B-Cycle station, and how do I get there?
  • Go Denver: Where do I want to go, and how do I want to get there?
  • Roaming Hunger: Food trucks? I want food trucks. Get me food trucks NOW.
  • TapHunter: So you never have to ask what’s on tap again.
  • The Denver Post
Bike through Denver!
Image via Julian Fernandes

For funky outfits, trending brunch spots, and a pop of Denver lifestyle, check out these Instagram pages to get some fresh ideas from Denver locals on where to go in Denver and what to see.

Fashion and Lifestyle Bloggers for Outfit Inspiration:

Denver at its Finest:

The sun came out to play today! My heart was so happy. ??? http://liketk.it/2opPV @liketoknow.it #liketkit

A photo posted by ALENA GIDENKO (@modaprints) on

Denver is, in its heart, a mountain town filled with local color that changes from vibrant to tranquil to bold to subtle with every neighborhood on the map. Your perfect home and your new favorite cappuccino shop is waiting for you, and we can’t wait to hear all about it!

Tag us on Instagram, give us a shoutout on Twitter, and let us know on Facebook that you’re loving your new home.

Still need to buy your new Denver pad? We can help you with that too!

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