What's it like to live in Denver, CO?


Katie Hearsum

Profile written by local expert:

Katie Hearsum

Founded in the mid-1800s as a mining hub during the gold rush, Denver has come a long way since its Wild West days. Over time, its residents have evolved from gun-slinging gamblers into an easygoing crowd of ambitious, progressive-minded fitness fanatics and nature lovers who are eager to push the envelope on everything from civil rights to drug laws. Nicknamed the Mile High City for its 5,280-foot elevation (although officially reported as 5,279 feet), Denver's location at the base of the Rocky Mountains provides a gateway to a slew of outdoor pursuits, although it is probably best known for its devout ski and snowboard enthusiasts.

To clarify a common misconception, Denver is not a mountain town. It actually takes at least an hour to drive to the Rockies. But there are some great places for recreating within a 30-minute drive of downtown, such as Red Rocks Park and Cherry Creek State Park.

Some might say that Denver is experiencing a gold rush of a different color: green. After Colorado residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, Denver has seen a surge in cannabis-related commerce, from dispensaries to magazines to high-tech paraphernalia like vaporizers, rolling papers, lotions and storage containers – and the industry is just gaining speed. 

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Denver, Colorado is ranked:

#3 in Best Places to Live

#37 in Best Places to Retire

7.5

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    8.4
  • Value
    7.2
  • Job Market
    8.1
  • Quality of Life
    6.7
  • Net Migration
    7.9

Read how we rank places

Denver, CO Quick Stats

  • 2,752,056

    Metro Population

  • $55,910

    Average Annual Salary

  • 64.6° / 36.2°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 36.2

    Median Age

  • $362,492

    Median Home Price

  • 14.3 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 2.6%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,119

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 27.3 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Denver, CO?

Over the last few years, Denver has experienced a population boom, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. As a result, the cost of living has dramatically increased, with housing costs seeing one of the biggest hikes. The average home sale price in Denver is now significantly higher than the national average.

Value Index

Index Score: 7.2 /10

How we calculate this.


Denver offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


Denver
$362,492

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Denver, CO.

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What's the weather like in Denver, CO?

Although the weather in Denver is generally sunny and dry, it can be subject to quick bursts of rain, snow, hail and lightning thanks to its geographical relation to the foothills of the mountains. The local rule of thumb is that if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes for it to change again. Those unfamiliar with the Mile High City may think that winters are bad, but Denver usually experiences bright blue skies and powdery snow that melts by noon. 

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

31.1°F


Winter

48.3°F


Spring

71.4°F


Summer

50.9°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

0.4 in


Winter

2.1 in


Spring

2.2 in


Summer

1.0 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Denver, CO?

Despite being a very eco-friendly community, many people in Denver have cars. The highways are becoming more crowded during rush hour as commuters make their way between downtown Denver and its outlying commercial areas like the Denver Tech Center to the south and Broomfield to the north.

Some Denver neighborhoods are walkable; however, most of the metro area is too spread out for much more than strolling. Many people prefer to use bikes instead, and there are more than 85 miles of paved trails throughout the metro area for cyclists. The Denver-based bike sharing company, B-cycle, provides access to roughly 700 bikes at 88 stations across the metro area.

The RTD light rail – an above-ground tramway – is another popular mode of transportation, especially for commuters. The latest expansion of the light rail provides service to Boulder and the Denver International Airport, the sixth busiest airport in the country. RTD also provides commuter bus service throughout the area, while Amtrak and Greyhound offer ground transportation to nearby metro areas.

Commuting in Denver, CO

Means of Transportation
Driving
85%
Equal to national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
2%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
4%
Equal to national average
Average Commute Time

27.3 minutes

1.2 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Denver, CO?

Many Denverites are out-of-state transplants. Between 2010 and 2014, the metro area experienced one of the largest influxes of domestic migrants in the country. Due to the mix of people, the majority of Denver's residents are open-minded and have led the metro area to many progressive milestones, including the legalization of same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use. 

Denver's population is fairly young, with millennials making up about 22 percent of the population. The Mile High City is also known as a good area for singles since the male-to-female ratio is 50/50.

Less than 40 percent of the Denver population identifies as religious, with the majority of them practicing Catholicism. Other religions represented in the community include other forms of Christianity, Judaism and several Eastern religions.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Denver as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Denver, CO?

Denver offers more than 5,000 acres of parks, trails, golf courses and playgrounds. In fact, many of Denver's most prominent neighborhoods are built around and named after such beloved green spaces like Washington Park, City Park, Cheesman Park and Sloan's Lake. The metro area's proximity to the Rocky Mountains also creates numerous opportunities for residents to ski and snowboard in the winter.

Denver is also home to a flourishing arts scene, and music is a big part of life here. Numerous famous acts originated here at high altitude, including The Fray and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

There are also nearly 100 breweries in metro Denver, and the sudsy area is host to the annual Great American Beer Festival that showcases more than 3,800 beers from 800 breweries around the country.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in Denver, CO