According to popular real estate sites, people are leaving Denver, Colorado, at record rates, according to the Colorado Department that charts and forecasts state demographics. Some are leaving the Mile High City and its thin air and moving to smaller cities within Colorado, such as Cherry Hills Village and Colorado Springs, leaving behind everything Denver offers.
But many are leaving the Centennial state altogether. Among the reasons for this exodus from Denver neighborhoods such as Washington Park, Park Hill, and Denver’s very walkable city center is the cost of living and housing prices. Denverites are on the move, but where are they going and why? What would make them leave these lovely Denver neighborhoods? Let’s explore the top destination states for those leaving Colorado.
Why People are Moving Out of the Mile High City
Recent demographics show that fewer people are moving into Colorado than they were in the last decade. In the past year, some have moved within Colorado and have left Denver and other Colorado metro areas for more rural and conservative cities and counties, but politics is only one reason people are leaving. As home prices in Denver neighborhoods have risen, some are moving to cities like Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they can get more house for their money.
Why People Are Leaving Downtown Denver (Capitol Hill)
The pandemic had an effect, too. Those who worked from home wanted more space and lower housing costs. Since they no longer had to commute to a downtown office, they could live anywhere. People left their downtown Denver neighborhood and the Cherry Creek Bike Path to head for less-congested cities such as Grand Junction, Colorado’s wine country, and Fort Collins.
Why leave Washington Park?
Washington Park (called Wash Park by locals) is one of the best neighborhoods in Colorado, with its ample green spaces and nearby hiking and biking trails.
The Allure of Rocky Mountain National Park
Fort Collins is especially appealing to those moving out of Denver because of its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, with its more than 300 miles of hiking trails. So where are people going when they have great neighborhoods like Plat Park, Cherry Creek, South Denver, Park Hill, and Sloan’s Lake, along with the Rocky Mountains?
Let’s Talk About Texas
This is the number one destination for those leaving Colorado. Colorado, while close by, has some things in common, but you may be in for a bit of culture shock. Let’s look at some reasons why, in the past decade, many from Colorado have chosen the Lone Star State for their new home and some things you should know before you make the leap yourself.
Coloradans and Texans both enjoy outdoor adventures, but you’ll find the climate is quite different. While Colorado has four seasons, Texas basically has two: hot, humid summers and warm, humid winters. For those who don’t like high altitudes, you’ll be happy to know that Houston is only 50 feet above sea level. But if you’re looking for snow, you’re more likely to find rain, and there are no ski resorts, which, I suppose, cuts down on the ski traffic.
There is no state income tax, but the property taxes and sales taxes are higher to make up for it.
Living in Colorado costs 21% more than the national average. When you move south, it is 6.1% lower than the national average and 27.1% lower than living in Colorado.
The average house in a Colorado town costs close to $700,000. Average home prices in Texas hover around $390,000. If you rent, you’ll spend 11% to 23% less.
Things to do
You’ll find the landscape to be mostly flat. One thing you don’t have to deal with when moving from Colorado to TX is high altitude. But it’s also home to great outdoor adventures in places like Big Bend National Park, Santa Elena Canyon, South Padre Island, and Garner State Park.
There are also plenty of indoor activities:
- Visit the NASA Space Center and become an astronaut for the day.
- How about an escape room? With seven different rooms for all skill levels, there’s something for everyone who wants a personal experience in an escape room.
- Remember the Alamo. The Alamo, located in San Antonio, is possibly one of the state’s biggest attractions. The site of a pivotal battle with Mexican forces, it’s now a museum. There, you can view the artifacts donated by musician and Texana collector Phil Collins.
- Tour breweries in Austin. Craft beer fans can visit and tour more than 50 breweries and find their favorite.
You’ll get to keep more of your paycheck with a higher average salary, a lower cost of living, and a great outlook for economic growth. You’ll find job opportunities abound in information technology, oil and natural gas, aerospace, defense, agriculture, manufacturing, and biomedical research.
Like Colorado, TX is filled with a lot of small cities and a few large ones. The Houston metro area is the largest, with almost seven million people. Owning a car is mandatory as public transit is very limited.
San Antonio is the second largest city and home to Confluence Park, where you can walk along the banks of the San Antonio River, which just might remind you of a walk around Sloan’s Lake.
Marijuana is illegal
Unlike Colorado, which voted to legalize recreational marijuana, marijuana sale and use are entirely prohibited in this Southern state. There are no provisions for medical marijuana, either, and if you’re caught with two ounces or less, you could get 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
Taking a look at California
California and Colorado have some things in common. Recreational cannabis is legal. And both are members of Mountain West. There are snow-covered peaks and plentiful year-round opportunities for outdoor activities. And major cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have zoos similar to the one in Denver City Park.
As you look closer, you’ll find there are some striking differences between your Denver, Colorado, and California lifestyle.
A variety of weather
In Colorado, the weather is pretty standard no matter where you go within the state, from Sloan’s Lake in Denver to Cherry Creek. However, California is so large it has different climates depending on where you are, from sunny beaches to snowy mountain peaks.
When it comes to taxes, the personal income tax rate is 13.3%–the highest in the nation.
Overall costs to live in CA
If you are leaving Denver due to the cost of living, California is not your best choice. Colorado might have a cost that’s 30% higher than the national average, but you’ll pay 40% more to live in California.
If you’re a renter, you’ll pay about 25% more in California than you were paying in Denver. Homebuyers are in for sticker shock as well. As expensive as Denver homes are, the median price for a three-bedroom, two-bath home is $614,000. That same home will cost you $1.5 million in San Francisco. There’s really no such thing as cheap real estate in California, but you can save some money by living outside city limits throughout the state.
Those who live in Denver and elsewhere in Colorado enjoy hiking, skiing, and camping, among other outdoor activities. Things are different in California. People spend a lot of time at the beach and enjoy the thriving nightlife and the numerous theme parks.
Skiing, however, is plentiful in the Sierras at resorts such as Big Bear and Mammoth. California is a big state, with many things to do in every city and small town.
- Disneyland. You can’t mention California without including Disneyland. It’s fun for adults and children alike, and because there’s no winter weather to deal with, it’s open year-round.
- Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree, a town with a population of under 8,000, is home to this park, which boasts two disparate deserts (the Mojave and Colorado) ecosystems. The geological features have been called surreal and add to the rather mystical atmosphere of this wilderness.
- Hearst Castle. Newspaper scion William Randolph Hearst built this historic estate between 1919 and 1947. Designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, the estate includes 127 acres of pools, terraced gardens, and impressive fountains. Tours of the home are available, and reservations are highly recommended.
- Alcatraz. Home of Al Capone and the Birdman, Alcatraz looms large in prison history. Take a ferry ride over for a guided tour of prison cells, the recreation yard, the warden’s abode, and the dining hall. You’ll hear stories about infamous prisoners such as Machine Gun Kelly and daily prison life.
The average annual salary in Colorado peaks at $82,000, while in California, it’s $111,000. Unfortunately, you’re still looking at that additional 40% of your salary it will cost you to live in the Golden State.
You’ll find that the largest industries are agriculture, entertainment, and services. But there are plenty of other opportunities in the fastest-growing sectors, which include healthcare, construction, and technology.
Los Angeles is the largest major city in California and is great for those who want easy access to the beach. The town of Venice Beach is a destination for those looking for a boho vibe similar to South Broadway in Denver, along with some fantastic street art. The city of Long Beach has Mother’s Beach in Marine Park, which is a great place for the entire family.
Miss Coors Field? Take in a game at Angels Stadium in the nearby city of Anaheim. And while it’s completely different from City Park in Denver, Griffith Park, among the largest city parks within city limits in the country, has over 4,000 acres of natural and landscaped terrain, along with picnic areas. It’s also home to the Griffith Observatory.
The city’s population is 50% LatinX and ranks high in educational, racial, and ethnic diversity. Top neighborhoods within the metro area of this sprawling city include the city of Santa Monica, central LA, known for its shopping and museums, and West Hollywood, home of some of the best restaurants the city has to offer.
San Francisco is the 4th largest city in California and a major cultural and economic hub. Its famous landmarks include the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s also an extremely liberal city politically and honors cultural diversity in neighborhoods such as Chinatown, the Mission District, and the Castro. The city is easy to navigate with plentiful public transit.
The city is also known for its food. Twenty-eight restaurants have received a total of 39 Michelin stars. You’ll also get direct access to Napa Valley, home to hundreds of wineries, so that you can get just the right bottle for your fabulous meal.
If a night on the town is your thing, Polk Street offers an experience similar to Denver’s famous Lower Downtown (LoDo) area. The most popular neighborhoods in the city include the Marina district, Cow Hollow, the Castro, and North Beach.
San Diego is known for its beautiful weather and sandy beaches that attract surfers, kayakers, and divers alike. It also provides easy access to Mexico. Families can visit LegoLand and the famous Scripps Aquarium.
One thing San Diego has in common with Denver is opportunities for outdoor recreation, with more than 40,000 acres of park and 70 miles of shoreline. Miss hiking in the mountains? This city offers mountain hiking in the Laguna and the Cuyamacas mountains.
For a glimpse into history (and maybe a few ghosts), check out Old Town, with the Whaley House Museum open for tours daily. If you like to bike, there are plenty of bike trails, including the Ocean Front Walk, a popular spot for birders, bikers, hikers, and runners alike. The most popular residential neighborhoods include Ocean Beach, Point Loma, South Park, and Golden Hill.
Recreational marijuana is legal
In line with Colorado, recreational cannabis is legal in California. Those under 18 have to get a medical card, but if you are over 21, you can buy cannabis in the state’s many dispensaries. The laws in California might be different from those in Colorado and Denver, so read up to be sure you’re in compliance. Keep in mind that it is against federal law to move cannabis across state lines, so leave your stash in Denver.
What’s Up in Arizona?
Denver residents are also gravitating to Arizona. There’s such a marked difference between these states, so let’s look at why so many are leaving Denver for the Grand Canyon State.
How’s the weather?
When you talk about Arizona, you have to talk about the heat. Temperatures were over 100 degrees on 145 days in 2020. July is the hottest month. There’s no snow, and only about half of the rain you get in Denver.
Arizona has a higher effective tax rate–9.39% versus 8.91% in Colorado.
Overall, the cost of living in AZ is 19.4% less than living in Colorado.
If you rent, you’ll pay around 20% less for an apartment in Arizona than you were paying in Denver. For those buying a home, the average home price in Arizona is less–$413,000–than the Colorado average.
Given the heat, some outdoor activities aren’t popular in Arizona, and there certainly isn’t any skiing. However, there are some adventures you can only have in Arizona.
- Look for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The truth about the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a mystery. The legend is that there’s a gold mine hidden somewhere in the Superstition Mountains. If hunting for gold isn’t your thing, you can always take a hike on the five-mile Peralta Trail.
- Explore the Red Rocks in Sedona. Take a walk or take a Jeep tour to explore the desert scenery around the cliffs. Or, you can interact with nature on the back of a horse. These trips last one to three hours, and sunrise and sunset options are available.
- Longboard down Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is a 9,000-foot-plus mountain and the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are more than 20 miles of paved highway that offer spectacular views along with a challenging ride.
- Hike the Grand Canyon. Begin your adventure on the North Kaibab Trail. On your way down to the Colorado River, you’ll traverse through every existing ecosystem between Canada and Mexico. Then cross the Colorado River and join the Bright Angel Trail. Return along the South Rim and observe the hundreds of millions of years of history in the surrounding rocks.
- Visit the Petrified Forest. This isn’t actually a forest. It’s part of an ancient riverbed filled with fallen, fossilized plants. To get the most out of your visit, get a permit from the National Park Service to wander off the beaten path. Only three of these permits are available each week; only those will get the information they need to embark on this journey.
Your income and job prospects
Colorado currently has a 2.9% unemployment rate, while Arizona’s sits at 3.7%. The lower cost of living means your salary goes further, and Arizona has a fast-growing economy with a strong foothold in computer and electronic components. Intel, Raytheon, and Honeywell are just a few of the companies with manufacturing facilities in the state.
The service economy is also big there, and the largest employer is the healthcare company Banner Health. Mining is also a major industry, and Arizona mines 65% of all copper in the country and is the sixth largest copper producer worldwide. But more than copper is mined in the state. They also mine gold, silver, molybdenum, gravel, uranium, zinc, and mercury.
Arizona has a total population of a bit over seven million.
Phoenix is the largest city, and North Mountain Village is one of the best neighborhoods, great for young professionals and families who have an outdoor lifestyle. It has beautiful parks, good schools, and shopping and restaurants. There’s something for everyone in Phoenix, with arts and culture, restaurants, sports events, and spas.
Tucson for Mexican food. This might surprise you, but Tucson was designated the first UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in America. It’s considered the premier destination for Mexican food, with an area called “The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food.”
If you’re looking for a place that’s close to where the action is but still want to be where the wild things are, Broadmoor-Broadway Village is your neighborhood. Because you’ll be close to the Arroyo Chico River, you’ll catch a glimpse of javelinas and roadrunners, along with other desert wildlife.
Mesa, home of Mesa Grande Cultural Park, boasts the Mesa Grande platform mound, built by the Hohokam people and used between 1100AD and 1450AD. You can also visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the i.d.e.a. museum, which offers kids a hands-on experience. The nearby Mesa Arts Center is the place to be for theater productions.
Most of the neighborhoods in Mesa consist of planned communities, but historic homes exist in the seven historic districts if that’s more to your liking. Downtown Mesa offers boutique shops and restaurants, and each year Mesa hosts a music festival.
Cannabis is legal for recreational use
Recreational cannabis was legalized by the people of Arizona in 2020, but the rules are strict. It is only legal for those 21 and over; you can only possess less than one ounce of flower and five grams or less of concentrates. It’s important to know the laws of the state if you’re planning a move, and it’s important to remember that you cannot move marijuana across state lines.
Leaving Denver? This is How to Get the Best Moving Experience Possible.
Moving across state lines is a bit more of a process than moving across town. Here are a few tips for a move with the least stress possible.
- Plan and prepare early. Make yourself a timeline and checklist, and stick to a schedule so you know you’ll have everything ready on time.
- Pack, toss out, or donate. Every box you move is going to cost you money, so you’ll want only to move things you need and use. Make piles of things to keep, throw away, or donate. Have a yard sale with others in the neighborhood, sell items online, and whatever doesn’t sell, donate.
- Make your own inventory list. Your moving company will compile and inventory, but it’s always a good idea to make one of your own so that you don’t leave anything behind you meant to take.
- Label your boxes properly. There’s nothing worse than an unmarked box or one marked “miscellaneous.” Label each box with the room it goes in and the contents. This will make it easier for your state to state movers and for you–everyone will know to which room each box belongs.
- Pack a box of essentials and take it with you rather than putting it on the truck. This box should have everything you’ll need right away in your new state, and it’s a good idea to include important documents as well.
- Hire the right long-distance movers for your move from the Centennial State. Do your research. Look at reviews. Don’t hire a mover who doesn’t do an in-person or video inspection before giving you a quote. Look for movers with experience.
Call Rocky Movers for Your Smoothest Move Yet!
With years of professional experience in the long-distance moving industry, Rocky Movers understands just how complex these moves can be.
As one of the best Denver movers, we have the trained crew and state-of-the-art equipment to move you from your old neighborhood to your new neighborhood efficiently and with as little stress as possible.
Our company offers a wide range of moving services to meet your needs, including packaging, services, and storage. We pride ourselves on our quality customer service, so if you need something, just ask.