To give you a little background, we left our jobs and life in Southern California back in May 2014 to explore the country in an RV and find a new place to live. A few of the reasons we wanted to leave the Los Angeles area were the high costs of living and never-ending traffic congestion.
We made an interesting discovery after visiting some of the major U.S. cities though. Pretty much anywhere we would want to live was going to be costly and have quite a bit of traffic. So when considering each city as a potential new home, these were some of our main requirements:
- Landscape (mountains, greenery, water, etc.)
- Climate & Weather (we didn’t want to live in the dry desert, but we also didn’t want extreme rain or snow)
- Big City (or close to one)
We full-time RVed across the U.S. for more than a year in search of our next place to call home. It was quite the journey figuring out where we wanted to be long-term. After an extensive cross-country RV road trip through each of the Lower 48 United States, these former full-time RVers chose to settle down in Denver.
It was not easy narrowing down the list down to just 3 reasons to live in Denver though, let me tell you. I originally started with a list of 10 reasons we chose to live in Denver. But it was practically a novel, so I tried my best to condense all the things we love about our new home base.
So just how does Denver stack up, you ask? Denver was ranked #3 out of the 125 Best Places to Live in the USA by U.S. News & World Report.
And what about the state of Colorado in general? Colorado was ranked #3 of the Happiest States in the U.S. and also named 5th of the Most Beautiful States in America. According to 8 Reasons to Move to Colorado, “In Colorado you can be at one with nature one minute and experience big city living the next minute.” It’s so true! You get the best of both worlds! There’s so much to do in the Denver area at any given time!
When it comes down to it, the main reason we chose Denver is QUALITY OF LIFE. But you may be wondering what exactly that means. How do we measure “quality of life”? To explain why we chose to call Denver “home” over all the other cities we visited throughout our RV travels, here’s a more detailed breakdown of our top 3 reasons:
1) The Mountains (and Landscape in General)!!!
I’m sure as soon as you heard the word “Denver,” you thought of the amazing Rocky Mountains here in Colorado. So it’s probably no shocker that they factored into our decision. We had the ocean when we lived in Southern California, and we were ready to get back to the mountains. After RVing across America, we realized that we had taken for granted the western mountain ranges we were used to. We love being within driving distance to Rocky Mountain National Park. And there are so many other nearby mountainous areas to explore too!
We developed a new, profound appreciation for mountains as we RVed east, especially when we visited the Great Smoky Mountains. The highest mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingman’s Dome at 6,643 feet tall. And the tallest peak on the entire East Coast is Mount Mitchell at an elevation of just 6,684 feet.
To put these “mountains” (they seem more like hills to me) into perspective, both aren’t even half the height of the tallest mountain peaks on the West Coast. Did that just blow your mind? Because it blew ours when we actually looked at the numbers.
Colorado has a reputation for its natural beauty and stunning mountain ranges. The Rockies contain the highest peaks in central North America. In fact, the highest peak of the Rocky Mountain range is actually located in Colorado. It’s Mount Elbert at 14,440 feet.
Mountains with an elevation of 14,000 feet or higher are called “fourteeners” or “14ers.” And Colorado has 58 of them! See the full list HERE. Many people in Colorado make it their goal to hike the 14ers as a right of passage.
There are more than just dramatic mountains when it comes to Colorado though. The Centennial State actually has a very diverse landscape, ranging from soaring peaks and dense forests to barren plains and deserts. The tallest sand dunes in North America are at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
There are also vast canyons such as the Royal Gorge and fascinating rock formations like those at Garden of the Gods. Not to mention, there are also countless rivers and lakes! If you can’t tell, we have discovered a true love for Colorado in general. The natural beauty of this state never ceases to dazzle us!
2) Nice Weather for Year-Round Outdoor Activities
You just can’t beat Denver’s weather! You get all four seasons, but none of them are extreme, just long enough to enjoy before changing to the next season. Growing up in the desert, snow was a concern of mine when it came to living in Denver, but the winters are generally mild.
The snow typically melts off here within a few days, so I actually enjoy it rather than getting sick of it. Despite snow in the winter, Denver claims to have 300 days of sunshine per year with nearly 70% of all annual hours being sunny. This makes for a well-balanced, mild climate that allows for year-round outdoor activities!
Colorado was named one of the 15 Most ‘Outdoorsy’ U.S. States. And Denver was ranked #9 out of 25 beautiful US cities to live in if you love spending time outdoors, “With more than 4,000 acres of traditional parks and an additional 14,000 acres of mountain parks, there are endless options for exploration.” If you love the outdoors and being active, Denver is the place for you!
MetroDenver.org actually claims Denver has the “nation’s largest public park system.” In addition to all of Denver’s parks, the state of Colorado also has 4 National Parks and 42 State Parks. There’s even a State Park less than 15 miles from Downtown Denver! Did you catch that part about Colorado having 4 National Parks?! Let’s not gloss over that minor detail! Colorado’s unique National Parks include Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes!
303 Magazine nailed it when they said, “One of the best parts of living in Denver isn’t just about what you can find within the Mile High City. While there’s plenty to do in town, our close proximity to 42 state parks, world-class ski resorts, and 53 mountain summits topping out at 14,000 feet or more makes living in Denver just that much more enticing. While the city might have the culture, the mountains hold the adventure.”
It’s this accessibility to nature that creates the perfect balance by giving a big city like Denver so many options for outdoor activities. Pair that with the fabulous weather throughout the seasons, and you get year-round adventure opportunities! Here are just a few of the many outdoor activities you can choose from in Colorado:
It’s no wonder that with so much to see and explore, Colorado was ranked #2 of The Best U.S. States for Hiking! I like how Colorado.com sums up Colorado hiking: “The best way to define hiking in Colorado is through the numbers: 41 Colorado State Parks, 12 national parks and monuments, 13 national forests and grasslands and 58 14ers (peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level). All of these add up to thousands of miles of Colorado hiking trails waiting to be explored.”
Well said! And now Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a comprehensive online guide to over 39,000 miles of trails (including 5,683 miles of hiking trails) with the Colorado Trail Explorer map! Hiking in Colorado is a must, so get out there!
Denver was ranked #2 out of the Top 10 Most Bikeable U.S Cities of 2018. According to Denver.org, “The Mile High City boasts more than 85 miles of paved trails that connect to hundred of additional miles of dirt trails offering mountain bike adventures. These trails also connect riders to dozens of notable attractions, including Cherry Creek Shopping District and Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park.” Check out their guide to Denver Bike Trails and the Denver Bike Map.
Colorado was ranked #1 for The Best U.S. States for Camping. With gorgeous scenery, endless outdoor activities, and few bugs, it’s no surprise that Colorado is one of the most popular places to camp in the U.S. Good thing Colorado Parks & Wildlife manages more than 4,000 campsites throughout the state. Curious about some good camping spots? Take a look at 5280 Magazine’s comprehensive Guide to Camping in Colorado!
Colorado is also a fantastic RV travel destination! Since it’s such a popular place for RVers though, the RV parks tend to get booked up. Be sure to make your reservations in advance. Take our word for it… we learned that lesson the hard way (read about it HERE).
Let’s start with fishing. Colorado was ranked #8 of The Best US States for Fishing, but we think it should be higher up on the list! We had an absolute blast fly fishing in Estes Park! If you’re not an expert fisher, we highly recommend a fly fishing excursion. And if you are a pro fishing angler, Colorado is definitely where you want to be!
But if you’d rather be focused on the water itself rather than the fish in it, you’ve got plenty of choices. There’s boating, kayaking, world-class whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, and tubing/river floating. One of our favorite outdoor activities is taking our 2-person water tube for a leisurely float on the Platte River in Littleton. You can even take the river all the way up to Downtown Denver!
And what’s the perfect way to end your day of outdoor activities in Colorado? Our other favorite water option – soaking in one of the many Colorado hot springs! Luckily, Colorado has more than 30 hot springs to choose from after a full day of physical activity outside!
The fun doesn’t stop when the snow starts! I don’t have to tell you that Colorado is known for its skiing/snowboarding. If powder’s your thing, Colorado.com claims that with 28 ski areas and resorts, “Colorado is, after all, the number one destination for skiing in the country and home to America’s best ski resorts and ski vacations.” To top it off, most of them are within 100 miles of Denver Metro! You can also go the more economical/adventurous route by skipping the lift ticket and going backcountry or cross-country skiing!
Want to get out in the snow and do something other than ski or snowboard though? How about sledding, tubing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing? So many options for fun in the snow! Our new favorite winter activity is snowshoeing, which is basically just hiking in the snow. Why shouldn’t you hike just because there’s snow?! Get some snowshoes, and get out there! It’s a completely different (amazing) experience in Colorado’s winter wonderland! Here are some ideas for Winter Hikes in Colorado.
3) Big City with Great Downtown and Culture
Downtown Denver is full of character with all its colorful murals, artistic sculptures, enchanting brick buildings, and captivating lights strung up. Plus, there are countless trendy restaurants and a hip bar scene with plenty of brewpubs to try!
Lower Downtown (aka “LoDo”), Denver’s oldest neighborhood, has a balance of modern skyscrapers alongside historic architecture. And then there’s the charming and iconic Larimer Square, Denver’s first main street and one of our favorite spots in the city!
Denver also has an eclectic art scene, especially in the creative urban neighborhood of River North Art District (nicknamed “RiNo” for short). The gritty, industrial area consists of converted warehouses, bold street art with large-scale paintings covering the building’s walls, unique art galleries, and with a wide array of eateries and bars.
There’s also easy access to Downtown with the RTD Light Rail service, Denver’s public transit system. The best way to describe the Light Rail is an above-ground subway. Before buying our house, we lived an easy half-mile walk to the nearest station. Talk about convenient! We could be in Downtown Denver in less than 30 minutes and not have to worry about finding parking or paying for it.
And the Light Rail doesn’t just go to Downtown Denver! As of right now, there are 9 lines that stop at 53 stations (and counting) throughout the Metro Denver area. You can even take them from downtown out to Denver International Airport in just 37 minutes!
Plus, the Light Rail provides easy access to 3 stadiums located in Downtown Denver: Coors Field (Colorado Rockies baseball), Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos football), Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets basketball & Colorado Avalanche hockey), which brings up another reason for choosing to live in Denver…
Denver has ALL the top sports! When it comes to population size, Denver is the smallest city in the U.S. with all four major professional sports:
- The Denver Broncos – National Football League (NFL)
- The Denver Nuggets – National Basketball Association (NBA)
- The Colorado Rockies – Major League Baseball (MLB)
- The Colorado Avalanche – National Hockey League (NHL)
Plus, Mile High Stadium, Coors Field, and Pepsi Center are all located Downtown. Denver also has the Colorado Rapids (a Major League Soccer team) as well as the Denver Outlaws (a Major League Lacrosse team)!
Whew! That was a lot to cover and try to cram into just 3 reasons to live in Denver. To say we love Denver is an understatement. We’re passionate about the great state of Colorado. So much so in fact that we started businesses in real estate and mortgages to help other people make Denver their “home” too.
If you’re thinking about moving to the Denver area, we’d love to help you find a home here! Contact Briana for real estate, and contact Justin for home loans. We’ll share our love for living in Denver and Colorado life with you!