The home prices in Denver are as high as the altitude. Check out these less expensive cities nearby that are great places to live in their own right.
Denver is having a moment. In the span of seven years, the city has welcomed a whopping 100,000 new residents, pushing its population past 700,000.
The allure of Colorado’s capital city is certainly understandable: Denver is a great basecamp for skiers, the city is soaked in sunshine 300 days of the year and the craft beer scene is booming. Denver is also establishing itself as a culinary destination thanks, in part, to the most recent “Top Chefâ€ season being filmed here. On top of all that, the city embraces unique traditions to solidify its fun-loving sense of place. Take, for example, the costumed zombies who lumber down 16th Street Mall in October, or the cattle parade that shuts down downtown streets prior to the stock show in January, or the weekday food truck festivals across from the state capitol in warm months.
With the population surge, though, comes a chronic housing shortage. Yes, just like the altitude, home prices have also become elevated in the Mile High City. The median home value in Denver is currently $414,500.
But the good news? Several small cities and suburbs offer easy access to Denver, but with lower price tags – and less competition for housing. Also, many have zippy light rail stations with the trams delivering you to downtown quickly. Not only do these cities offer you a better chance of scoring a deal, they all have their own personalities and are great places to live in their own right:
1. Arvada, CO
Median household income: $69,938
Median home price: $401,600
Average commute: 25 minutes
Yes, Arvada is close to downtown Denver. But, come the weekend, it might be hard to peel yourself away from this city’s very own downtown, which offers all kinds of throwback fun. The Cereal Box is a breakfast spot that plays classic cartoons and serves 120 different cereals from all over the world. Or check out School House Kitchen and Libations, which was built in the shell of an 1882 schoolhouse and evokes the vibe with vintage school folders doubling as menus. Also, artists will feel right at home in Arvada with the high concentration of creative retailers in downtown – a gemstone shop, pottery studio, high-end guitar store and multiple galleries.
2. Longmont, CO
Median household income: $62,208
Median home price: $376,800
Average commute: 40 minutes
High-speed fiber internet available to everyone in the city, plus a craft beer scene, plenty of outdoor recreation and a walkable downtown are just a few reasons why Longmont is a great place to live.
North of Denver and nearby Boulder, Longmont is home to several tech companies and earned itself a spot on our list of great places for high-paying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs. Some fun facts: Longmont is home to astronaut Vance Brand, was the site of Colorado’s first public library and it was where JC Penney set up its first shop. Another delicious tidbit? Cheese Importers on Main Street dials up a European market vibe and sells 350 different types of cheeses.
3. Aurora, CO
Median household income: $53,011
Median home price: $315,900
Average commute: 30 minutes
For those who love to spend time outdoors, the city has plenty of options. Paddleboard, windsurf or swim at the Aurora Reservoir. Or check out the Aurora Sports Park, which boasts 23 soccer fields and a dozen baseball or softball fields. (Basketball players, don’t feel sidelined. There’s a park for you, too, named Hoops Park). But Aurora isn’t all brawn. It shows off its artistic side with a public art tour aboard a Light Rail line.
4. Westminster, CO
Median household income: $67,081
Median home price: $358,800
Average commute: 20 minutes
Westminster has a famous resident: Rosie, the tarantula. She resides at the Butterfly Pavilion (think: a tropical rainforest in the middle of a suburb) and, yes, you can hold her! Smack dab in between Boulder and Denver, residents of Westminster can sample the best of both Colorado cities. A couple of years ago, a Light Rail station was added in Westminster, which can zip you downtown in about 10 minutes. The transit line is helping spur retail development in the area. Westminster also landed on our list of most affordable cities in Colorado.
5. Lakewood, CO
Median household income: $56,954
Median home price: $396,500
Average commute: 15 minutes
Casa Bonita, one of Colorado’s most famed (and kitschy) landmarks, can be found in Lakewood. Take out-of-town visitors here to eat sopapillas while watching cliff divers jump from a waterfall inside the restaurant. (If this sounds familiar, you probably saw the “South Parkâ€ episode featuring the strip mall restaurant.)
Quirk aside, Lakewood has a “Front Porchâ€ concert series during summer months on the front porch of the library, an Italian festival every September and First Friday art celebrations at studios and galleries. The suburb also has great shopping that includes Colorado Mills, an indoor outlet mall, and Belmar, a revitalized shopping and dining district that hosts concerts in the summer and ice skating in the winter. Plus, living here puts you near Red Rocks Amphitheater, Colorado’s iconic outdoor concert venue that’s enveloped by crimson rocks.
6. Englewood, CO
Median household income: $47,406
Median home price: $368,300
Average commute: 20 minutes
Funky dive bars and antique shops dot Broadway, which cuts through Englewood. Concert-goers are in for a treat at the Gothic Theatre, an art-deco venue from the Jazz era that was recently restored. A vibrant city center with office spaces, a library, restaurants and residential units replaced a shuttered mall, making for an excellent comeback story (as well as a great place to hang out). The city also has fun amenities for families, including a Museum of Outdoor Arts where concerts are staged and public art is on display. Come summer, Pirates Cove is a fun and affordable waterpark to cool down at, with water slides and a lazy river.