On the eastern cusp of the Rocky Mountains in the crisp, high desert air, Denver is a cosmopolitan capital in the heart of the Mountain West. Nearly 115,000 people have moved to the Mile High City since 2010, and more than 713,000 people now call themselves Denver residents. Some have moved for a career opportunity, some to be closer to family, and many have moved just for the laid-back Colorado lifestyle. The 3.2 million residents of the greater Denver metro area — the most populous in the region — can take full advantage of living at the doorstep of some of the country’s greatest treasures.
Rocky Mountain National Park is just 70 miles from the city, and the state’s top ski slopes can be reached within 2-4 hours, but Denver has plenty going on within its own bounds. This is a city built for Rocky Mountaineers, and the network of pedestrian and bike trails — along with some thrilling mountain bike courses — is built to inspire adventure. There are cultural beacons, like the Denver Museum of Art, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Aquarium, which provide plenty of inspiration of their own. And then there are the city’s beloved Broncos, who ignite Denver’s unbridled passion for sport.
This city at the foothills of the Rockies has often been at the forefront of innovation. Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana, and the state has long been a leader in aerospace — it’s now the second-largest market in the country. Prominent universities like CU Denver and CU Boulder attract bright minds and top researchers from around the globe, while major employers like Lockheed Martin and United Airlines provide a stable economic infrastructure to keep Denver’s talent in the region.
If you are looking for a near-mountain town with cultural heft, and you think living in Denver might be right for your family, learn more about the city below.
The weather in this often-sunny Western state ranges from mild to wild, sometimes over a month, other times over a single day. The high desert climate is to blame (or thank) for everything from the temperature fluctuations to the sudden storms that materialize as quickly as they move on. In January 2023, temperatures in the Mile-High city ranged from -9 F to 57 F, and summer temperatures were hardly any easier to follow. In August, the lowest low was a nippy 52 F, but the daily highs went as high as 95 F. You can reliably predict a temperature shift of 20-30 degrees between night and day in Denver, but don’t expect to ever wake up to the same weather you went to bed with.
For a city adjacent to the snowy Rockies, you might expect a heavy amount of annual snowfall, but the farther east you travel from the mountains, the drier and sunnier the climate becomes. The National Weather Service estimates that the city of Denver receives about 56″ of snow each year, with the western suburbs receiving about 65” and the airport, located 30 minutes east, seeing only around 47” per year. The snow can start as early as October and end as late as May. Most days of the year will have some sunshine, so you’ll never have to worry about extended periods of winter dreariness.
If you’re unaccustomed to high-altitude living, fear not — you will adjust. It may take your body a day or two to acclimate to mile-high living, where the air is less oxygenated. Most people benefit from drinking extra water during those first 48 hours and avoiding strenuous activities like hiking or moving boxes — let United Van Lines handle the heavy stuff for you! After you’ve acclimated to your new heights, you should be able to enjoy everything Denver has to offer.
Thriving Job Market and Economy
Denver’s remarkable growth over the past decade has been driven, in part, by the economy, and the nonfarm civilian labor force in the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield region now exceeds 1.7 million people. Professional and business services is the area’s single biggest sector, employing 313,000 individuals. Trade, transportation and utilities, which saw a slight bobble over the past year, employs 291,000, and Education & Health Services (193,000 employees) has dipped 2.4% since November of 2022. Leisure and hospitality — the area’s fourth-largest industry — saw modest gains between 2022 and 2023, but financial activities saw the greatest losses. Unemployment in Denver fell to 3.2% in November 2023 — below the national average.
Aerospace, bioscience and healthcare are all powerhouse industries in the Mile High City, and the Denver metro area job market ranks as one of the top 10 in the country. Major employers in the region include UC Health, Amazon, Lockheed Martin, United Airlines and Kaiser Permanente.
Denver residents are well-educated, providing a ready workforce for competitive industries. More than 90% of residents have graduated from high school and over 54% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. There are excellent academic institutions in the region, including the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver), the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), MSU Denver and the University of Denver.
High Cost of Living and Real Estate
Denver is no exception in the Centennial State when it comes to expenses. Colorado’s cost of living is 6.9 points higher than the national average, thanks largely to housing. Denver residents also spend more than the average American on transportation ($12,994/year), food ($9,876/year), healthcare ($6,458/year) and insurance ($10,885).
These prices are compounded by Denver’s high rates of inflation, which was 5.35% in September 2023 compared to the national average of 3.69%.
But the bright side is that Denver residents also earn more than their U.S. counterparts, bringing home an average of $85,853 compared to the national average of $75,149, which is only a hair below the household income in pricey New York City and Los Angeles.
Competitive Housing Market
The price of real estate in Denver continues to boggle the mind, and the ever-increasing popularity of the city has driven the cost of housing a mile high. It’s shocking to think that real estate prices in this non-coastal city of 713,252 (the metro area has 3.2 million) are beginning to approach the realm of coastal giants like Los Angeles and New York City, but it’s no longer a steep climb between their costs of living. The median home value in Denver has now reached $540,400 — nearly twice the national average — while NYC’s median is $732,100 and LA’s is $822,600. Rental prices are even closer together: the median gross rent in Denver is a $1,665, while New Yorkers pay $1,714 and Los Angelinos spend $1,791 a month. These rising costs continue to drive residents further outside the city of Denver in search of more affordable homes in the rapidly burgeoning suburbs.
Choosing Your Denver Neighborhood
Many cities struggle to keep their urban core lively after the workday, but not Downtown Denver. This buzzy district is hopping all year round with blowout events from the Denver Day of Rock to Denver PrideFest. But you need not wait for these annual festivities to have some fun. The streets of downtown Denver are lined with shops, restaurants and galleries, so whether you’re looking for a great exhibition (try the MCA Denver) or a great craft brewery (try the Puffy Coat Hazy IPA at Jagged Mountain), you’ll never have to roam far for fun.
In the LoDo (lower downtown) neighborhood, you can have a low-key evening with the fam, watching the Denver Rockies at Coors Field. Or plan an upscale experience in the Dairy Block, where you can indulge in the artful creations at the 15-seat, by-reservation-only Bruto, one of the most sought-after spots in the city. Or sample some Denver-brewed elixirs at Deviation Distilling, like the alluring Citrus Rosé Gin or the Americano Whiskey, a bourbon infused with Guatemalan coffee beans. In the summertime, Denver locals flock to the Union Station Farmers Market — one of about twenty markets in the area — to stock up on homegrown, handmade delights.
The Capitol Hill/Golden Triangle Creative District is a museum central in Denver, and you’ll find the heaviest hitters packed deep into this historic area. The Colorado State Capitol – ensconced by Civic Center Park — is the neighborhood’s natural focal point, and it’s an easy trek to the Denver Museum of Art, the Molly Brown House Museum and the History Colorado Center.
On the opposite side of the South Platte River, Highland (also known as LoHi or Highlands) is Denver’s favorite trendy, friendly hangout, and its laid-back vibe and green spaces are well complemented by its many boutique shops and restaurants. Confluence Park is the of the neighborhood’s best natural playgrounds, and you’ll find people of all ages (and from all over town) cruising down the bike trails or testing their paddle boards and kayaks on the waters of the South Platte. After you’ve worked up an appetite outside, treat yourself to one of the special Mexican dishes at Señor Bear, like the Brócoli Saltado with papas fritas and chive crepes or the Seafood Sancocho, a Caribbean stew with cod, mussels and clams.
The cultural forces that put Denver’s Five Points neighborhood on the map are legendary and diverse, and this pint-size area delivers some major artistic punch. Once the prime stop for jazz legends like Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday, Five Points’ annual Jazz Festival is now in its 20th year. But visual arts enthusiasts also have a home in Five Points, and to see some of the best work, head to the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. When it’s time to eat, do not pass up an opportunity to dine at the Curtis Park Delicatessen, which makes everything from scratch — even the mustard!
The center of Denver’s creative scene is in the area known as RiNo, the River North Arts District. Adjacent to Five Points, RiNo is awash in art, from dynamic public murals to artist’s studios and galleries. Original industrial buildings have been converted into hip bars, and it feels like someone is always at work creating something new here. Boutique hotels like Catbird are a beacon for the offbeat, offering stylish digs with quirky accoutrements (you can rent a ukulele for your loft-style room). First Fridays draws vibrant crowds to all the hotspots — the Dry Ice Factory, the Ironton Gallery and the Knew Conscious Collective. The Denver Central market is RiNo’s culinary pride, and you’ll find something to suit every palate, from the vegan chocolate ganache cake at Izzio to the Bucatini Diavolo at the beloved Neapolitan joint, Vero.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to Denver, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods or areas in the city where you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Embracing the Mile High Lifestyle
With great sports teams, great museums, and — of course — the great outdoors, Denver is a magnet for the urban adventurer. Whether your sights are set on rugged mountain trails or astonishing performances, Denver gives you an unparalleled view, outdoors and inside.
Great Outdoors in the Backyard
One of the biggest reasons people move to the Mile High City is the access to the outdoors. The winding South Platte River, the ski slopes in nearby Breckenridge and Vail, the incredible hiking and biking trails, and the proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park are just a few of the benefits of living in Denver. (Learn more about national parks near Denver.) But you don’t have to leave the city to take in the mountain vistas and experience the thrill of the terrain. The fun begins right outside your door in Denver’s state parks.
If your family enjoys ice skating, the rink at Skyline Park makes the cold weather fun and festive. In the summer months, Elitch Gardens makes it easy for kids to get their theme and water park fix without making you drive way out into the burbs. Our favorite slide is (embarrassingly) known as the Mega Wedgie: Colossal, a multi-colored corkscrew which sends you hurtling through space at speeds guaranteed to make your suit ride up. If you’re more into roller coasters, the Mind Eraser’s 50mph rollovers will certainly hit your reset button. Fans of old-timey rides will want to try the swings on the charming Turn of the Century or the classic tilt-a-whirl. The shredders in your crew will likely spend all their time at the free Denver Skatepark, while freewheeling cyclists will enjoy whipping down the trails at Ruby Hill Mountain Bike Park.
When your quads have quit on you but your thirst for fresh air remains, take a trip to the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater for an outdoor concert like no other. The natural acoustics of this sandstone musical mecca are otherworldly, and the 2024 lineup includes performances by Lord Huron, Trevor Noah and The Head and the Heart.
With all the major corporate headquarters in the city, it’s no surprise that there are also great golf courses in town. City Park Golf Course is a par-70, 18-hole public course with a terrific view of the skyline and the Rocky Mountains, and rates are very affordable. If you’re looking for a more lavish course, try the Arrowhead Golf Club, which was created in 1927 and has a spectacular design.
Denver isn’t only about outdoor fun, though, there are plenty of things to do in the great indoors. For starters, Denver now has its own Meow Wolf, which opened in 2021 and offers a mind-bending experience across four floors of artist-generated fun. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is equally eye-opening, but, here, it’s the mummies, minerals and metro-area dinosaurs that steal the show.
Theater lovers will be grateful for several venues in the area but none more so than the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway shows and local performances come to life on this grand stage, and this year’s lineup will bring favorites like Jesus Christ Superstar and Hairspray along with newer acts like Cebollas, which follows three sisters — and one dead body — on their way from Albuquerque to Denver. What could go wrong?
Little ones longing to take flight will love the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. You can see historic aircraft — like the Alexander Eaglerock plane that was originally fabricated in the 1920s in Englewood Colorado — and imaginary spacecraft, like the ¾-scale replica of the Star Wars™ Incom T-65 X-Wing Fighter. Who knows, maybe you’ll bump into Luke Skywalker.
Glorious Sports Culture and Options
As the gateway to the Rockies, Denver is a destination for all kinds of athletic prowess, from extreme sports like the X Games, which are held west of the city in Aspen each year, to amateur bicycling daredevilment on the jump courses. But when it comes to pro sports, Denver has a deep bench of fan favorites, from the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche to the MLS Rapids, the MLB Rockies and the Denver Nuggets.
No team ignites the city’s passion like the Denver Broncos, though. This three-time Super Bowl-winning team has brought home eight AFC championships, but the team has struggled since its star quarterback Peyton Manning retired in 2015.
Getting Around in Denver
Public transportation in Denver has come a long way, and to curb commute times and greenhouse gases, the city is making it easier than ever to go green. Lower pricing and a simplified fare structure went into effect on January 1, 2024, and a standard 3-hour pass now costs only $2.75, a day pass costs $5.50, and a monthly pass costs $88. Traveling to and from the airport is still more expensive — $10. Discounted fares are also available.
Ten light rail lines and more than 100 bus routes operated by the Regional Transportation District can get you pretty much wherever you need to go in the greater Denver-Boulder area. Free transportation is provided along the 16th Street Mall downtown on the RTD’s MallRide shuttle.
If you’ve never been to the city, it can be fun to do a pub crawl in one of the city’s electric tuk-tuks, a kind of oversize golf cart, or use them to hop between downtown destinations on in-office days when you want the convenience of door-to-door service on that precious lunch hour.
If you decide to get around Denver by car, the average commute time is — 25.3 minutes — a bit shorter than the average U.S. city, but you should definitely anticipate crowded highways during peak travel times.
Biking around Denver is enormously popular, both for recreation and for commuting. Check out the Denver city bike map to plan out your daily commute in the city or use this interactive regional bike map to plot out longer excursions. Cherry Creek Park is one of the top destinations for recreational cyclists because it connects a popular residential and commercial district with the beautiful Cherry Creek Reservoir.
Prepare for Your Move to Denver with America’s #1 Mover®
If you’re moving cross-country to Denver, United Van Lines’ professional movers can make your move a seamless experience. We provide full-service moving packages as well as custom moving solutions to handle all your moving needs, whether that’s packing and unpacking, storage, debris removal, shipping your car or other moving services. We’ll keep track of every detail in the MyUnited Move Portal.
If you’re handling your own move to Denver, United Van Lines’ moving resources can still help simplify your move. We provide pro tips for packing, moving punch lists and regional guides to help everyone streamline their move in Colorado.
Not sure where you’re moving in the Centennial State? United Van Lines’ Guide to Moving to Colorado has all the information and resources you need about the most popular cities in Colorado.