Moving to Colorado? 33 Tips & Things to Know (By a Local)
If you’re considering moving to Colorado, you’ve come to the right place! I relocated to Denver more than 15 years ago, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Of course, as with any new place, I had to adjust to lots of things, which I share with you below. You’ll also get expert advice from Travel Lemming Editor Abigail Bliss, who also moved to Colorado several years ago!
When you’re done, see our guide to the best places to live in Colorado.
Table of Contents
- 33 Tips for Moving to Colorado
- Denver Is Just One of Many Great Options
- Yes, Colorado Gets Lots of Snow — But It’s Manageable!
- Coloradans Don’t Stop in Winter
- An All-Wheel Drive Vehicle Is A Worthwhile Investment
- Colorado Has A Low Property Tax Rate…But You May Still Pay A Hefty Amount
- You Can Pay A Lot For Outdoor Gear…But You Don’t Have To
- Some Gear Is Worth Splurging On, However
- Yes, 420 Is Legal, But There are Rules
- Sometimes, We Get Statewide Tax Refunds
- Breathing Is A Serious Thing Here
- Coloradans Lead An Active Lifestyle
- Produce Is Governed By The Seasons
- The Colorado Housing Market Can Be Intense
- Keep Your Commute In Mind
- We Love The Broncos
- Altitude Sickness Is A Real, Serious Thing
- There’s Lots of Free, Fun Stuff To Do Around Colorado
- We Love Our Dogs
- We Also Love Our Craft Beer
- Take Advantage of Ski Passes
- Not Everyone in Colorado Skis
- Check Out Colorado’s National Parks
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
- Always Travel With Layers
- DIA Isn’t Actually That Close to Denver
- Colorado Sales Tax Can Be Low … Or Not
- Wear A Life Jacket
- There Are Some Good College Options
- Also, Grab That College Money!
- You Can Do Rocky Mountain National Park In A Day
- Colorado Springs Has Lots of Military Citizens
- Gardening Can Be Maddening
- Hike a 14er…But Take It Seriously
- FAQs About Moving to Colorado
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33 Tips for Moving to Colorado
Denver Is Just One of Many Great Options
Denver is our biggest city, and there are wonderful neighborhoods to explore, restaurants to try, and other things to do. However, if you don’t want to be in the bustling downtown area, there are plenty of nearby suburbs like Highlands Ranch, Littleton, and Castle Rock.
Places like Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction are less expensive urban options that also feature lots of outdoor activities.
Yes, Colorado Gets Lots of Snow — But It’s Manageable!
When it comes to Colorado, one of the first things many people think of is all our snow. We do get plenty! But as someone who never lived in snow before moving here, I can promise you, it’s manageable.
Along the Front Range, you’re not socked in for an entire winter…or usually even an entire 24 hours. In fact, even when we have snow days, often the roads are passable by the next morning.
Coloradans Don’t Stop in Winter
Because of the above, Coloradans tend to get outdoors in the winter as much as in the summer! Obviously, Colorado’s world-class ski resorts are a major draw. But even if you’re not a skier, it’s easy to get outside for a run or walk, for snowshoeing, or for winter hiking in Colorado.
An All-Wheel Drive Vehicle Is A Worthwhile Investment
I’d recommend an all-wheel drive vehicle at a minimum, and a four-wheel drive if you have aspirations to explore the backcountry. These vehicles are so much safer in the winter and allow you to take advantage of activities that make Colorado so special. Without one, it’s trickier to access ski resorts, fourteener trails, hot springs, and other unique sites.
– Abigail, Travel Lemming Editor
Colorado Has A Low Property Tax Rate…But You May Still Pay A Hefty Amount
Colorado’s residential property taxes are some of the lowest in the United States. However, because homes can be expensive, your actual property tax bill may still be high since it’s based on the assessed value of your home.
You Can Pay A Lot For Outdoor Gear…But You Don’t Have To
If you’re planning to visit Colorado mountain towns for hiking, biking, and skiing…or just want to stay warm in winter, you can spend a good amount on gear.
Fortunately, you can often find premium gear at thrift stores, second-hand shops, and outlet malls in Colorado. Take advantage of end-of-season sales to get ready for next year.
Also, if you have kids, check with friends to swap snow clothes and jackets. Kids grow so fast that it’s rare that those kinds of clothing will wear out before they need new ones!
Some Gear Is Worth Splurging On, However
If I could go back and redo one thing after I moved, I’d have bought Sorel boots (or something of equal quality) ten years ago. Instead, I spent several years in cheap snow boots, jumping up and down to keep my toes warm and doubling up on socks.
Yes, 420 Is Legal, But There are Rules
If you’ve announced your move, chances are someone has already made a pot joke around you. One of the more well-known facts about Colorado is that it was the first state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Maybe there used to be stereotypes about who smokes weed, but you’ll find that people from all walks of life use it here for a variety of reasons. Everyone I know has a “do what works for you” attitude about it.
We do have laws surrounding the use of marijuana, though, and you can’t just toke up wherever you want. Be familiar with Colorado’s consumption laws to make sure you smoke safely and legally.
Sometimes, We Get Statewide Tax Refunds
The Colorado voters approved the TABOR Amendment in the 1990s, which requires that the state refund any extra revenue to taxpayers. So in years when Colorado has a surplus, you may get some money back from the state.
Breathing Is A Serious Thing Here
It really is harder to breathe at a mile above sea level…and even harder if you go higher. The colder, thinner air can also trigger asthma. Most people find they adjust after a time, but it’s something to be aware of.
Getting your pulse ox taken (which shows the amount of oxygen in your blood) at checkups is fairly routine, and you’ll definitely get it done if you’re having respiratory problems.
Coloradans Lead An Active Lifestyle
Coloradans tend to get outside a lot. Well, with the views we have here, wouldn’t you? Your group of Colorado friends is probably just as likely to suggest a hike or a paddle on a lake as they are a night on the town.
If you’re not sure where to start exploring, check out these 12 Colorado national parks & monuments. Also, if there’s a new outdoor activity you want to try, there are lots of outfitters that lead rock climbing, rafting, and other outdoor excursions.
Produce Is Governed By The Seasons
Moving from warmer California, I took year-round produce for granted. Here, you may be able to find fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season, but you also may not…and if you do, they won’t taste great.
The good news is that when you get local produce in season, it’s extraordinary! We’re known for our Olathe corn, Palisade peaches, and Rocky Ford cantaloupe.
The Colorado Housing Market Can Be Intense
Denver’s housing market has been out of control for several years, although there are signs that perhaps it’s cooling a little. Some neighborhoods of Denver have seen properties values increase several fold in recent years.
However, the fact is that in 2020, only 51% of homes were affordable to households making their county’s median income. If you’re considering moving to Colorado, look ahead of time at what you can afford to buy or rent.
Keep Your Commute In Mind
When I moved here, I wanted to be in the mountains…or at least the foothills. If you’re moving somewhere like Colorado Springs, it’s also tempting to want to live in Woodland Park or farther up the mountain.
We ended up closer to the city to make sure commutes could still happen in winter. Although roads are often passable in the cities after a snowstorm, mountain roads are trickier. If you have a job that requires you to be in the office, you may want to look at populated areas that are more likely to be plowed and are closer to your job.
We Love The Broncos
Of course, you’ll find exceptions — and this has been a tough year so far — but Colorado is unsurprisingly, solidly Broncos Country. Locals would agree that seeing a game at Empower Field is one of the best things to do in Denver.
If you want to jump on the bandwagon affordably, look for Denver Broncos football team merch at thrift stores. We even sell apparel at our local grocery stores!
Altitude Sickness Is A Real, Serious Thing
Even when you live in the Mile High City, you can be affected by altitude sickness as you travel higher into the mountains. If you feel nauseous and light-headed, drink plenty of water and head back to a lower elevation. You’ll also want to keep an eye on kids as you travel higher, and on any guests who may come to visit.
There’s Lots of Free, Fun Stuff To Do Around Colorado
In seven Front Range counties, a small part of sales tax funds an amazing number of cultural institutions in the area. These include museums, performing arts programs, zoos, public gardens, and more. Thanks to this money, many of those places offer several free days throughout the year, and others are free all the time.
Colorado also has many free hiking and biking trails, lakes, and other outdoor areas to explore.
To get inspired, see my guide to the top things to do in Colorado.
We Love Our Dogs
Dogs are allowed plenty of places with their humans, including many hiking trails and the patios of breweries and restaurants. Your pup is going to be welcomed here — maybe even more enthusiastically than you are! Just be sure you have a plan for your pooch on cold weather days when it’s not safe for them to be outside for long.
We Also Love Our Craft Beer
Craft breweries in Colorado are a family affair. Most have long picnic table seating, perfect for a group. Oftentimes, we’ll bring card games, snacks, and the kids along, all welcome at Denver breweries and beyond!
Ask for a beer sample if you want a small taste before ordering up your pint. Several breweries also serve sodas and kombuchas for those who aren’t drinking.
Take Advantage of Ski Passes
I joke that I officially became a Coloradoan after I got two dogs, a Subaru, and a ski pass. My go-to recommendation for new Denverites is the Loveland class pass. It comes with three classes and once you complete the course, you get handed a season pass. That experience made me the skier I am today!
– Abigail, Travel Lemming Editor
👉 Colorado Mom Tip: There is also an Epic SchoolKids pass for kids in grades K-5. This allows them four days of skiing or snowboarding at some of Colorado’s top ski resorts — for free!
Not Everyone in Colorado Skis
Although skiing is a multi-billion dollar industry here, many of those skiers are from out-of-state. Many Coloradans don’t ski, and if it’s not something you’re interested in, fear not! You’re in good company (although maybe try it just once? It’s so much fun!)
Check Out Colorado’s National Parks
Colorado has four national parks and they’re each memorable in their own way! Rocky Mountain National Park has quintessential Colorado views, plus elk, moose, bears, and other wildlife. Mesa Verde National Park celebrates the ingenuity of the ancient Pueblo people and you can see the cave dwellings they constructed.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of the best things to do in the USA, features striking sand dunes jutting up in front of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. Lastly, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison has rafting, hiking, stargazing, and some of the best camping in Colorado.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Colorado is very, very dry. We keep water glasses by everyone’s beds, lotion by every sink in the house, and carry water bottles everywhere we go. Nose bleeds can also be a problem, especially in winter. Saline solutions can help, but of course, consult your doctor.
Always Travel With Layers
Colorado weather changes quickly, and you’ll want to be able to add and remove layers as it does. I always bring a sweatshirt when we hike in summer, and even my winter coat during the early season. In fact, it might be easiest to keep a box in your car with hats and mittens — you’ll need them more than you think!
DIA Isn’t Actually That Close to Denver
Denver International Airport is about a half-hour drive from downtown Denver, and even farther if you live in the southern or western suburbs of Denver.
However, its location in the middle of the country makes it a major transportation hub. Of all the airports in Colorado, DIA is the only international airport — and impressively, the largest in the US.
Colorado Sales Tax Can Be Low … Or Not
Colorado’s state sales tax is just 2.9%, the lowest in the country (besides those states that don’t have one).
However, the state allows local governments to set their city sales tax rates up to 8% on top of that. Depending on which city you shop in, you may pay a much higher sales tax in Colorado!
The State of Colorado has a tool where you can look up sales tax using an address.
Wear A Life Jacket
I’m a former lifeguard and swim team kid, but I won’t go on a kayak or paddleboard without my life jacket on. It doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are, if the wind picks up or you hurt yourself falling out of your boat, you need that floatation device.
Plus, Colorado lakes can be very cold, especially in the mountains. Hypothermia can set in in mere minutes, so always put safety first!
There Are Some Good College Options
Colorado has some great universities and colleges. There are two state university systems in Colorado — the Colorado State University system and the University of Colorado schools.
Colorado State University Fort Collins and the University of Colorado Boulder (called CU Boulder by locals) are the flagship schools for each system. The School of Mines and Denver University are two more excellent colleges here.
Also, Grab That College Money!
Colorado students are eligible for a variety of scholarships and other programs, but one program that’s available to everyone in Colorado is The College Opportunity Fund. The fund provides a stipend based on the number of credits a student is taking. It’s not a ton of money…but every bit helps!
You Can Do Rocky Mountain National Park In A Day
You could spend several days exploring the park, but the reality of life is that sometimes, you only have one day free. If you’re in the Front Range, you can get to Rocky Mountain National Park, see some amazing sights, go for a hike, and be back home in bed that evening. You’ll be tired, but it will be worth it!
Colorado Springs Has Lots of Military Citizens
It may be no surprise that the home of the Air Force Academy has lots of military people living in town. Lots of Colorado Springs businesses offer military discounts, and patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the Fourth of July are a big deal.
Even if you live in Denver, you may see evidence of the Colorado Springs military. We’ve been lucky enough to catch several flyovers and practice sessions as pilots fly around during their Air Force training.
Gardening Can Be Maddening
There are many challenges to gardening in Colorado! For starters, much of the state has a thick clay to work with, so you’ll either have to add things to it or set up raised beds. Then there are the animals who love to nibble tasty plants. And the summer hailstorms that rip apart the leaves.
And every year, you’ll get a gorgeous day in April and be tricked into planting some flowers before Mother’s Day. Trust me — don’t do it.
Hike a 14er…But Take It Seriously
Lots of people (me!) make it a goal to hike one…or several…or all of Colorado’s 14ers. This is a noble goal. However, there are people who get injured on these hikes because they set off to do one without much research or prep.
Hiking a 14er is a reasonable goal for a lot of people, but it helps to team up with someone who’s done one before or to do some trial trails first. Also, make sure you have the gear to safely hike.
FAQs About Moving to Colorado
What are the perks of living in Colorado?
There are many perks of living in Colorado, which I cover extensively in this guide. In my opinion, the greatest benefit is that you’ll get to experience all four seasons with a community that prioritizes being outside and staying healthy.
In Denver, you can enjoy the perks of a big city without the traffic or prices of areas like California and New York. There is something for everyone — outdoor recreation, nightlife, kids’ activities, arts programs, and much more.
What are the cons of moving to Colorado?
The cons of moving to Colorado largely surround housing. Inventory is limited and it is getting harder to find affordable places to live in Colorado, especially near Denver. Colorado also has weather events including tornadoes, snowstorms, and hailstorms that can damage roofs and vehicles.
Colorado’s property and violent crime rates are above the national average, and it is the worst state for vehicle theft.
Hopefully, you find these tips on moving to Colorado helpful! I haven’t once regretted our decision to move here, and I can see myself living here for a long time to come. If you’re looking for more Colorado info, be sure to check out my list of the best places to live in Colorado.
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