Best places to live in Colorado in 2020

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Fort Collins is the best place to live in Colorado in 2020, according to Bankrate’s ranking of cities throughout the state based on criteria we selected.

To earn first place, Fort Collins beat several other places in categories including cost of living, culture and job market.

In total, this list includes five of the most populous cities in Colorado, with the majority of them residing in the upper-central part of the state. Naturally, there are some differences between these areas, but all of them provide ample opportunity for outdoor recreation and maintain vibrant cultures with high well-being among residents.

If you’re interested in finding a city in Colorado to put down roots, use this list to help narrow your hunt.

What to consider in a best place to live

There are a lot of considerations to make when considering a new place to live. Personal factors like neighborhoods, schools and the type of leisure activities available can all weigh into your final decision. But there are also several objective factors that play a part.

In order to create our list of the best places to move to in Colorado, we looked at some of the most populous cities in the state and then ranked them by affordability, culture, job market, safety and educational attainment. We also considered the speed at which a city is growing (its net migration) and linked higher growth with more desirability.

Here’s how we ranked each factor based on a one to 10 scale, with 10 being the best:

Affordability: Not only did we consider overall housing expenses, but we also looked at the cost of living in each city compared with its median income.

Culture: We used Gallup’s research to rank the well-being of each city. Then we looked at how cities compared for events, activities, restaurants and nightlife.

Job market: Using data from the Census Bureau, we compared unemployment rates and average commute times.

Safety: Violent and property crime rates were measured and ranked using data from the FBI.

Educational attainment: Each city’s level of education was measured using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a comprehensive list. There may be smaller areas or neighborhoods in and around these larger cities that are more desirable places to live. Still, this list can serve as a good starting point.

Here are the top five places to live in Colorado in 2020:

1. Fort Collins

  • Affordability: 9 out of 10
  • Culture: 9 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job Market: 7 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability/Culture

Biggest limitation: Job market

Fort Collins is absolutely flourishing. When it comes to culture, it offers a slew of restaurants, pubs, boutiques and more. But it’s fair to say that a lot of common cultural activities in the area revolve around outdoor recreation. At any given time you can find locals kayaking at Cache la Poudre River Canyon, hiking Rocky Mountain National Park or skiing down one of several mountains. Educational attainment in the city is high as well, likely since it’s the location of Colorado State University. And even though the city is quickly growing, it still manages to maintain a relatively low cost of living and high safety. Besides the university, major employers in the area include Hewlett Packard, OtterBox and Wells Fargo.

2. Colorado Springs

  • Affordability: 10 out of 10
  • Culture: 6 out of 10
  • Safety: 7 out of 10
  • Job Market: 5 out of 10
  • Education: 6 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability

Biggest limitation: Job market

Colorado’s second most-populous city is attracting residents with a low cost of living, high safety and a strong community. Indeed, it’s one of the most affordable larger cities in the state, offering relatively inexpensive housing costs, a low overall cost of living and a high median salary. Its overall culture may not be as robust as Fort Collins or Boulder, but residents of the area rank still their overall well-being as very high compared to other cities throughout the U.S. Part of that may be due to the fact that there’s year-round outdoor recreation at Pikes Peak, Pike National Forest, Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon to keep residents busy and healthy. Job seekers can find several employers in the area, including Lockheed Martin Corporation and Progressive Insurance Company.

3. Denver

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 7 out of 10
  • Safety: 4 out of 10
  • Job Market: 9 out of 10
  • Education: 8 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market

Biggest limitation: Safety

Job seekers will find Denver a very attractive city. Not only does it boast a low unemployment rate and short commute times, it’s the location of major corporations spanning a number of industries. It’s also a well-educated city, which isn’t too surprising considering that it’s home to several universities and colleges, including the University of Colorado. Of course, culture is what really cements Denver’s spot as one of the best places to live in Colorado. Being a larger metro area, it naturally offers nightlife, attractions and arts and culture. In addition, residents are just a short drive from Rocky Mountain National Park. Notably, Mile High City isn’t just one of the best places to live in Colorado — it also made Bankrate’s broader list of America’s best places to live in 2020.

4. Greeley

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 8 out of 10
  • Safety: 8 out of 10
  • Job Market: 5 out of 10
  • Education: 4 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture/Affordability

Biggest limitation: Education

Vibrant culture, low crime and high affordability is a great combination, and Greeley ranks high on all three measures. That could be why it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. This college town is located in the high plains of Colorado with views of the Rocky Mountains. Like most cities in the state, there’s plenty of recreation available outside. But Greeley also plays host to events like the Colorado Farm Show and the Greeley Blues Jam. Agriculture and agritourism are big industries in the area, but there are also employers in the area focused on education, energy, manufacturing and tech.

5. Boulder

  • Affordability: 4 out of 10
  • Culture: 10 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job Market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture

Biggest limitation: Affordability

Boulder has excellent community well-being and a lot of things to do, making for a great culture. In fact, residents of Boulder have some of the highest self-reported well-being in the nation, claiming great satisfaction in areas like purpose, social relationships, financial security, community and health. The city offers an easily accessible downtown with popular restaurants, coffee shops and shopping on Pearl Street. And outdoor attractions like the Flatirons are close by. More than 35,000 students are enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder, so it’s a well-educated city. Plus, there are several big-name employers in the area, including Google, IBM and NOAA. The only drawback to Boulder is its affordability — you’ll have to use a larger portion of your paycheck for living costs than other cities on the list.

Next steps

Once you find your best place to live, you may want to buy a home there. Mortgage rates have seldom been lower and lenders have loosened their requirements for getting a home loan. What’s more, there are state and local programs to help first-time homebuyers get a place of their own with little or even no money down. Bankrate has resources to help with every step of the homebuying process.

See Bankrate’s list of best places to live in the U.S.