Colorado offers endless outdoor adventures, a laid-back lifestyle, and excellent economic prospects.
With its world-class ski resorts, variety of national parks and forests, and stunning Rocky Mountain vistas, Colorado has always been a popular vacation and second home destination, but the Centennial State is also the perfect home base. Those who choose to live here can enjoy year-round outdoor activities, excellent job prospects, and a vibrant cultural and dining scene. Even its main hub, Denver, is notorious for being one of the most laid-back state capitals in the nation.
And while the state's cost of living is higher than the country's average, certain perks make up for it. Colorado, for example, has one of the lowest residential property taxes, with an average rate of 0.49%. At the same time, the per capita personal income was a little over $70,706 in 2021, compared to the country's average of $64,100.
From bustling urban areas to small mountain towns, here are nine of the best places to live in Colorado.
Colorado Springs may be the Centennial State's second biggest city, but it doesn't feel hectic. It's nestled at the eastern foot of the Rockies and has the mighty Pikes Peak in the background. Both its residents and visitors enjoy a plethora of activities year-round, along with an excellent hospitality and dining scene. Those who decide to make Colorado Springs their permanent home have access to its highly rated schools, excellent sports facilities such as the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, and good employment opportunities. In September 2022, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, slightly below the national average. Prospective homebuyers will also find the Colorado Springs market more affordable than in Denver. According to data by Realtor.com, the median listing price for a single-family home was $490,000.
"The Colorado Springs housing market has been buzzy over the last couple of years as out-of-state buyers have flocked to the scenic yet affordable town. The area offers a quick commute to local military bases and defense contractors. It's also well-known for its affordable homes, built in the 1970s and '80s," Hannah Jones, Realtor.com economic research analyst, told Travel + Leisure.
What Boulder lacks in affordable housing, it makes up for in ample employment opportunities (the unemployment rate here is only 2.5%), a lively social scene (the city is home to the University of Colorado), and an endless list of outdoor activities.
"Property values also tend to remain steadfast in up and down markets, [like] the city of Boulder, [which] is strategic and restrictive in terms of building planning, with a keen focus on preserving their parks and open space," Martin Mata, Redfin's Boulder principal agent, told T+L.
Denver may be Colorado's biggest city, but its residents still have access to one of the most affordable real estate markets in the Centennial State (the median listing price in September was $645,000). Add to that the excellent job prospects, an exciting cultural scene, great health care, breweries galore, and proximity to many winter resorts, and you get an idea of why the city is such a great place to live.
"The blend of outdoor activities, incredible restaurants, breweries, music and event venues, job opportunities, and beautiful weather are truly hard to find in other areas of the country," Ryan Retaleato, Redfin's Denver principal agent, told T+L.
If you prefer a more tranquil, laid-back lifestyle, consider scenic Durango. Located in southwest Colorado, this town of approximately 20,000 residents is a true gem, perfect for water sports, outdoor enthusiasts, and nature lovers. With miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, several golf courses, a bustling craft brewery scene, and proximity to several national parks and monuments, Durango caters to those seeking small-town living and epic mountain experiences.
With a median listing price of $596,500 in September, Fort Collins ranks among the top 10 most affordable communities in Colorado. A bustling economy paired with low unemployment, a high quality of life, a thriving craft brewery scene, many athletic events (the city is home to Colorado State University), miles of hiking trails, and green spaces make the town one of the most popular places to live in Colorado.
"Living in Fort Collins is pretty idyllic. It's the perfect blend of a small town and bigger city. You get a little bit of everything you've got: small, homegrown companies that have become national companies like New Belgium and Waterpik, oil production companies. I think that provides a nice support for the basis of our community where we have just such a nice mix of people from blue collar to white collar, old to young," Ben Emslie, a broker with RE/MAX Alliance, told Travel+Leisure.
Sitting amid Colorado's picturesque Western Slope, Grand Junction certainly doesn't lack character and Instagram-worthy vistas. Oenophiles know the town well as it's considered the center of Colorado's wine country and offers access to about 30 wineries. Art galleries, independent boutiques, and restaurants line its main street, much to the delight of residents and visitors.
But what makes it truly stand out in Colorado's pricy real estate market is its affordability for potential homeowners. According to data from both Redfin and Realtor.com for September 2022, the town has some of the most affordable single-family homes in the state.
Just 10 miles from downtown Denver, Aurora offers big city amenities at a great price — homes here list on average for $525,000, which is $100,000 lower than in the city. That, combined with the stable employment market, great medical care, mild weather, and a wealth of outdoor opportunities (the city is known as the Gateway to the Rockies), makes it an excellent place for families seeking fewer crowds and kid-friendly activities.
As one of Colorado's most diverse cities, Pueblo has a thriving cultural scene with plenty of music and arts events and festivals. The weather is another draw — it's one of Colorado's least snowy destinations, enjoying plenty of sunshine year-round. But if you're a winter sports enthusiast, don't get discouraged — the city is a three-hour drive from Breckenridge and 2.5 hours from Monarch.
On weekends, Lake Pueblo State Park is packed with kayakers, boaters, and fishermen, while families flock to Pueblo Zoo. The area also ranks as an affordable option for potential homebuyers — the typical home price in September was $460,000, according to Realtor.com, which is below the state's median.
With 26 parks, more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and 2,500 acres of undeveloped land waiting to be explored, this Denver suburb, the largest master-planned community in Colorado, has no shortage of outdoor recreational activities. Two skate parks, golf courses, pickleball courts, a swimmable beach in nearby Chatfield State Park, and several fishing ponds round out this community's excellent facilities.
Families with young children should also keep in mind that the destination has some of the best schools in the state. High-paying job opportunities (as well as in Denver and Colorado Springs, which are within commutable distance) are another reason many people choose to move here.
"This area is priced higher than Denver proper, with a median listing price of $697,000 in September. Despite the high price tag, home shoppers may be able to find a deal in Highlands Ranch as more than half of all listings here had their prices reduced in September," said Jones.
Editor's Note: Our methodology includes real estate data from Redfin and Realtor.com on median listing values for September 2022; economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; crime data from NeighborhoodScout; and school ratings from GreatSchools.org. We also took into consideration the number of entertainment and recreational activities in each area.
For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.