Hey there, Millennial. Tired of Nebraska? California? Texas? Eastern Colorado? We get it — you don’t love your hometown — and we don’t blame you for moving to good ole’ Denver. Every year we see you driving with your Alabama license plate going 50 down I-25 in the fast lane because the snow flurries started freaking you out, and sometimes we might honk at you, but it’s okay. We get it. We have legalized marijuana, hiking, great beer, mountains, skiing and the most chill atmosphere in any state in America. We were in your shoes once, believe it or not, and although we rag on you to our friends, the only reason we’re pissed at you is that you figured out our secret — Denver is awesome.
As one of the fastest growing cities, Denver is attracting 20-somethings in droves, and while this melting pot of transplants might feel a little overwhelming to locals, we know you’re not so bad. Welcome to the Mile High City. Here’s some advice on how to survive here (written by a real transplant). Just don’t tell your friends back home.
Things to Leave Behind in Your Hometown
Your sports team: We’re not saying that you have to denounce your diehard alumni pride for the Huskers or walk around in an Avalanche jersey when you don’t know a thing about hockey, but because you’re in Bronco country, you need to at least pretend to give 40 percent of a shit about the 2016 Super Bowl. If you don’t like the NFL, hockey, baseball or any sport really, at least make the effort to attend a sports bar and pretend wearing orange and blue is the coolest color combination ever. You might make some new friends and have fun enjoying your new city’s team spirit.
Your S.O: It’s no surprise that with the rising number of millennials, Denver has a strong dating pool. Nicknamed “Menver,” the Mile High City is home to all kinds of fellers — stoners, rugged mountain men, business bros, total hipsters and everything in between. And there are girls, too. The laid-back outdoorsy kind that can chug a beer, rock their best REI wear and probably out-hike you. According to a study by WalletHub, Colorado was rated the second best state for finding love, so if your sweetie’s not coming with you, you might want to rethink that long-distance relationship.
Your love for shitty beer: We know the Coors Brewery is nearby in Golden, but please expand your horizons by ordering something that’s not Coors Light. The ridiculous amount of craft beers at virtually any bar in Denver is enough to overwhelm anybody, but just ask your bartender for a sample first and try to be a cultured adult, dammit.
Your fear of heights: God, why’d you even move here? If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, that’s fine, but since we’re already at an elevation of 5,280 feet you better get used to winding mountain roads, hiking out of breath and altitude sickness. Take in the adrenaline rush that is Colorado and face your fears head-on. If it makes you nervous, you’re doing it right.
The Neighborhoods and Surrounding Areas: A Breakdown
If you’re unfamiliar with Denver geography, people casually using cavemen-sounding two syllable abbreviations for neighborhoods is confusing as hell. Frodo, Fomo, BroNo and Soho don’t exist actually, but here’s what does:
The Basic Neighborhoods of Denver
Baker: AKA South Broadway AKA SoBo (don’t call it that). The area where all the grungy former skaters hang-out. Great place for dive bars, live music and late-night eats.
Capitol Hill: The original part of Denver where some hipsters remain. Think eclectic coffee shops, old residential homes and hangouts for liberal-minded souls. There is no parking here.
Cherry Creek: Area filled with rich people, mansions, a giant country club and a mall that now charges you money just to park and not really buy anything.
LoHi: Cool kids, high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants that are simply too bougie to be found downtown.
LoDo: If you want to jump up and down at the club or be drunkenly herded around at night with a bunch of other 20-somethings, LoDo is the place to be. You’ll also find iconic tourist spots and overcrowded bars and restaurants.
RiNo: That artsy, grungy part of town that used to be a bunch of shipping containers lying around in the dirt. That is until someone got sick of looking at one day and thought, “Hey, maybe we could send our transplants here and convince them it’s cool?” P.S. It worked.
Wash Park: You might not be able to afford to live here at first, but you’ll definitely visit often. Close to the University of Denver, Wash Park is the sweet spot for millennials to hangout in the park or enjoy a good thumping house party. Just watch out for jogging moms with reinforced running strollers, because they will run you over.
Nearby Places and Phrases People Will Mention to You
I-25: The main highway that loops around Denver and connects the city to the surrounding area. Always under construction.
I-70: The highway that takes you to the mountains and where you’ll spend your entire winter if you’re dumb enough to drive before 9 a.m. or between 3 and 5 p.m. on the weekends.
US-36: Takes you to Boulder, terrible to drive at night and soon to become a toll road.
1-225: Takes you to Aurora. The worst traffic jam ever where this highway and I-25 meet.
Aurora: Denver’s half-sister that’s really jealous of Denver. Awesome international restaurants where all the real foodies eat.
Arvada: A hidden treasure of northern suburbia. Good eats.
A-Bay: (Arapahoe Basin). Skiing, especially late in the season.
Boulder: Hippie athletes and scientists. Super crunchy and white. CU.
Breckenridge: Where tourists ski.
Centennial: Suburbia in the south with shopping.
Commerce City: Factories and smokestacks. Smokestacks everywhere.
DIA: Nickname for the airport.
Estes Park: Stanley Hotel and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Fort Collins: CSU college town.
Golden: Wild West town with Coors Brewery.
Greeley: Cow manure and farms. You can smell it from Denver when it’s about to snow.
Highlands Ranch: Where rich people live. Ultimate suburbia.
Keystone/ Copper/ Winter Park: Where locals ski.
Lakewood: Suburbia in the southwest.
Littleton: Suburbia in the south.
Morrison: Where Red Rocks Amphitheater is.
Red Rocks: The best place on earth.
Stapleton: Suburbia for people who pretend they still live in Denver.
Thornton/Westminster: Suburbia in the north with businesses and shopping.
Vail / Beaver Creek: Where rich people ski.
The Fucking Weather
Although you’re potentially hundreds of miles away from home, this is by far the scariest thing you will experience after moving here. Mother Nature has no mercy.
Expect nothing: Did your weather app say it was going to be 85° and sunny? If so, prepare for a freaking spring snowstorm because you just never fucking know.
Wear sunblock: Doesn’t matter whether you’re hiking, skiing or just walking around outside, chances are, UV rays will find a way to your face due to the high elevation.
Invest in a humidifier: If you’re from the coast (especially the southeast), the one thing you’ll notice immediately is the lack of ALL MOISTURE IN THE AIR. For the first time ever, your hands will feel dry, your throat parched and your lips cracked more than a dried-up lake in Arizona. So get a humidifier. And chapstick. And a decent water bottle.
Always pack extra shit: Again, because you just never fucking know. Bring an extra coat, blanket, water bottle, charger, pair of gloves, socks, shoes, whatever — and just stuff it in your car for anyone who needs it. You will instantly become popular we promise.
How to Drive and Use Public Transportation
Get a car with 4-wheel drive or snow tires: You are moving to Denver, Colorado so you should own a car that’s made for mountain terrain. Certain passes and roads by law will actually require you to have tires or a car that’s prepared for snow-packed roads and icy conditions and you’ll be tear-stricken and dry-heaving when you learn what the fine amount is.
Pack the roadside emergency essentials: If you end up stranded, you want enough stuff to survive for a minimum of two days. Keep a blanket, jumper cables, canned food and other things you can think of in the trunk in case you ever get into a sticky situation.
Stay calm on Speer: This long snake of a road that navigates you downtown was designed to scare transplants into moving home. Some lanes end, some merge and some might not even exist. It’s just a slight trick of the eye, and there’s a random ass tunnel. Aggressive Denver drivers will be sure to honk at you. Just keep your cool.
Live close to the Light Rail if you can: Skip the traffic headache that is Denver and commute to the city or surrounding area by light rail. It’s much easier and you don’t have to worry about Ubering home late at night.
Get a bike: Another solution that will keep you in shape and let you enjoy the city at a slower pace. The Cherry Creek bike path is beautiful and can connect to go key parts of Denver.
How to Make Friends
Moving to Denver with zero friends or tired of hitting up of your friend’s second cousin who lives in Boulder? Never fear!
Use a dating app: Tinder, Bumble and other dating apps could potentially find you a fling or love interest, but you’d be surprised at how many friendships arise instead after you realize you’re not sexually attracted to each other. Apps like Bumble also allow you to choose a BFF option, so you can swipe for friends only, and LuvByrd and Gociety are for connecting people who love the outdoors (perfect in Colorado). It’s a great way to get know people you wouldn’t cross paths with usually and find a comrade who, like you, is also probably a recent transplant.
Go to meetups: Meetup.com might sound cheesy, but it actually has a fair amount of clubs and groups where strangers can get together and do things they like to do or simply just hangout.
Become outdoorsy: Denver is full of people who all want to be outside, so take up skiing, snowboarding or hiking in order to learn a new skill and find individuals who are excited to do the same.
Invite neighbors over for beer: Get to know the people in your building by offering them free booze. They will instantly be drawn to your social charm plus you will have friends nearby for convenience.
Drink booze: Nervous about approaching people? Drink some beer. We’re not saying you need to become an alcoholic, but breweries are a great gathering spot for young and hip Denverites, so go to one, order the coolest craft beer you can find and walk up to people that are having a good time and say, “Hi, I’m a transplant. Can we be friends?” and they will surely invite you to sit down.
Get a dog: You might laugh, but people love dogs and dogs love people. Visiting a dog park or going for a walk with your new lab husky retriever mix puppy will have people flocking to you by the masses.
How to Pretend You’re Athletic
You’ve chosen to live here, so now you have to learn how to smoke a bowl and then ski a bowl or hike a fourteener and still have enough stomach to go heavy on IPAs later in the day. But seriously, as the most active state in the country possibly, Colorado is home to some serious trailblazers and we want you to keep up.
Learn to pretend to like hiking: If you’ve never been hiking before, well, you’re gonna have to learn because this is Colorado. It’s pretty much walking up a hill forever and you’ll hate it 99 percent of the way. But once you get to the top you’ll get it (or not). Either way, everybody does it, so you should at least try it.
Learn to ski/snowboard: If you’ve never done it, you should bundle up at least once and go to any mountain to take a selfie. It’s worth the experience and maybe you’ll understand our favorite winter pastime.
Join a pickup game in Wash Park: There are tons of games going on — volleyball, Frisbee, soccer — you name it. So join a team or ask to play!
Buy athletic gear: Hang out in REI and buy some athletic gear so you fit in with us. The brighter your coat, the better.
Workout: Just workout, man. Denver is home to thousands of fit men and women, and the peer pressure will get to you. Take care of your body and join a gym. Here’s our tried and tested list of local gyms.
Where to Find Food
So you don’t starve.
Grocery shop the smart way: You won’t find Piggly Wiggly or whatever in Denver, but make sure you know the ins and outs of each grocery store:
- Safeway: Great deals on meat and cheese. Produce is expensive, but you can find sales on almost anything else. The “Unsafeway” off Park Avenue is a tad sketch but a lot of transplants shop here.
- King Soopers: Try to get over the spelling of this place, but it’s sometimes cheaper than Safeway with a bigger selection. King Soopers is Denver’s version of Kroger — if you know what that is.
- Trader Joe’s: Decently priced organic food and fantastic cheap wine. Millenials love it here.
- Sprouts: Cheap produce for days.
- Whole Foods: High-end and pricey, but it’s got the best-tasting food.
- Walmart: Buy your toiletries and packaged food here. Dairy products can also be cheaper.
Ask around: If you don’t know where to eat out, chances are your friends or coworkers do, or follow our Food + Booze Desk to learn about the hot spots or read our guides to transplant eating if you’re really feeling homesick.
Find a favorite bar/coffee shop: Everyone has one, so take the time to find yours. You will start to feel like a true Coloradan when you know where to take visitors from out of town. Check out our Coffee Section for the best sips or Bar and Brewery Section.
Eat like a local: People in Denver love their healthy, organic food, so even if you’re not vegan, gluten-free or whatever, some of the best bites might be found at restaurants with locally grown food.
Be adventurous: That neat sushi bar you pass everyday on your morning commute? Go! What are you waiting for? Living in Denver is all about exploring and experiencing new things.
Now you know the basics, go out and enjoy yourself. It’s what Coloradans do best. Just don’t be an asshole, learn how to drive in the snow and don’t tell any of your friends back at home how much you love it here.