Matt Inden/ Weaver Multimedia Group

Located at 5,280 above sea level, Denver is known as the Mile High City.  Offering an enviable quality of life that makes it one of the best places in the United States to live and work – and all you have to do is just step outside. With a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains, the nation’s largest public park system, and more than 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s no surprise that Denver consistently tops the lists of most livable cities.

Recreation and an active lifestyle beckon. Metro Denver’s young, active residents are among the nation’s healthiest. Area residents dabble in everything from skiing to hiking, mountain biking to river rafting. Perhaps that’s why the area is ranked as one of the fittest cities in the country! When they’re not enjoying the region’s great outdoors, citizens take advantage of championship sports teams and cultural attractions, such as events at the Denver Performing Arts Complex— the largest such facility outside of New York City.

An Ideal Climate

The metro Denver area is on the high plains at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Moderate temperatures, low levels of humidity and abundant sunshine offer an ideal climate for year-round activities. In fact, the Denver area has more days of sunshine per year than either San Diego or Miami Beach.

What about the snow? Metro Denver’s climate is best described as “semi-arid,” averaging a little less than 16 inches of precipitation annually. Winter storms here are usually short-lived, and the snow melts rapidly. However, the nearby mountains and ski resorts often get significant annual snowfall, allowing residents to enjoy the best of both worlds—a mild climate for hiking, biking and a variety of outdoor activities, and ideal weather for skiing, snowboarding, and other mountain activities.

Communities for All

Denver is the heart of an energetic metropolitan area that embraces both newcomers and visitors. The metro Denver area consists of seven counties, including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson.

This diverse region ranges from a dynamic central business district with a cosmopolitan urban atmosphere to small communities with a distinctly rural flavor and picturesque mountain towns nestled in the foothills of the Rockies. Denver is also home to an active and historic downtown area, with lofts and high-rise housing options, as well as tree-lined neighborhoods with historic roots.

Jefferson County is the area’s second-largest county and includes three cities: Arvada, Lakewood and Westminster that have populations greater than 100,000. In the county’s western section, residents can live in mountain communities, yet still work in a major metro area.

Located just east of Denver, Arapahoe County has experienced major residential growth. The county’s largest city is Aurora with a population of more than 290,000; Cherry Hills Village and Greenwood Village are known as more affluent neighborhoods.

Home to Denver International Airport, Adams County is a mix of established cities, new master-planned communities and rural farmsteads. Most of its cities offer a small-town atmosphere with easy access to businesses and attractions in nearby Denver.

Situated on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder County’s mountain communities, parks and trail systems offer a serene lifestyle and easy access to skiing, hiking, mountain biking and climbing.

Located just south of Denver, Douglas County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, but with large portions of the county designated for agricultural and open-space uses. Most residents commute to Denver or Colorado Springs.

Finally, just north of Denver is Broomfield County – known as a high-tech center and home to several major companies with housing development that continues to grow with the county and its successes.

Affordable Living

Denver is a certainly a city of distinctive neighborhoods, yet the cost of living here remains affordable. Living here is easier on your wallet than living in California or many east coast cities, as well as Chicago, Minneapolis, or Portland.

Colorado’s focus on low taxes, coupled with the region’s high household incomes, has kept the region’s cost of living at or near the national average. Denver ranks slightly above the national average for cost of living, but it is also well below many other major cities.

According to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, home prices in Denver have fared better than prices in many other metro areas. Metro Denver’s median home price is expected to increase modestly in the next few years.

Many communities, employers and organizations in the area also provide programs for down-payment assistance and other community advocacy programs to help residents purchase affordable homes.

Active Citizens

Metro Denver’s mild climate, low humidity, plentiful sunshine and “Mountain West” lifestyle all combine to create an ideal atmosphere for a year-round recreation. In fact, Denver has the largest public parks system of any U.S. city, with 205 parks within the city limits. The city also owns 14,000 acres of mountain parks and 2,500 acres of natural areas, as well as more than 60 miles of bicycle paths. In total, there are nearly 400 parks and pathways located throughout the metro area. There are also 40 state parks and three national parks in metro Denver’s backyard, with prime recreational opportunities for biking, hiking, camping, fishing and skiing.

Located within 100 miles of metro Denver, the Rocky Mountains are home to some 25 world-class ski resorts, offering downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, inner-tubing fun, and mountain climbing. No matter where you look, thousands of acres of open space dot the area, giving citizens a huge outdoor playground to hike, bike, ski, snowshoe and more just steps from their homes.

In the summer months, the resorts are a spectacular background for a variety of music and food festivals, as well as outdoor activities like river rafting and horseback riding. Denver also has an extensive trail system: One of the longest recreational trails in the metro Denver area, the High Line Canal, runs 60 miles and connects Douglas, Arapahoe and Denver counties.

But there are plans for more. One is a $200 million network of trails, greenbelts and open space areas in the cities of Denver, Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City and portions of Adams County—called the Northeast Greenway Corridor. The project will preserve farmland, wetlands and open space in growing population areas.

Other plans include creating a continuous trail linking Denver’s Front Range communities with a multi-use trail that runs from New Mexico to Wyoming. The Colorado Front Range Trail will link existing and planned trail systems with new trail corridors to create an extensive pathway system to connect Colorado’s major population centers.

That’s not all; there’s even more to do! With more than 75 public and private golf courses located throughout the region, the Denver area gives seasoned and novice golfers a host of choices. Other recreational activities in the area include hunting, boating, sailing, wind surfing, swimming and fishing in Colorado’s many streams, lakes and reservoirs.

Education and More

Did you know that Denver boasts the second-highest percentage of college graduates in the country – and that, of the adult population, 89.3 percent are high school graduates and 39.7 percent have college degrees?

Both public and private schools offer an array of educational options for primary and secondary students. All metro Denver schools offer open enrollment, which allows students living in one school district to attend a school in another district. Parents can select a school that matches a child’s individual needs, and accountability reports are available by area school districts.

The region also provides a wide range of higher educational resources, including world-class research institutions, graduate and professional schools, and a broad spectrum of undergraduate programs. Consider that Colorado universities receive more than $450 million in research grants annually. Many of metro Denver’s colleges and universities offer nontraditional or adult education programs, and distance learning programs are available for those seeking degrees or certifications. In fact, there are 10 four-year public and private colleges and universities in the metro area, with enrollments totaling more than 125,000. The region’s largest providers of workforce training and educational services are its five two-year public community colleges and 60 vocational/ technical schools.

Quality Health Care

Metro Denver is home to some of the finest hospitals and medical research facilities in the world. For example, the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver has been named the best respiratory hospital in the nation for multiple years in a row. Craig Hospital in Englewood has been named sixth in rehabilitation; Children’s Hospital in Denver was ranked seventh in pediatrics; and the University of Colorado Hospital ranked in the top 25 in six categories.

With a growing metro area, the number of new health care facilities continues to increase; Centura’s St. Anthony Central Hospital recently constructed a $440 million, 330-bed hospital in Lakewood, and the redevelopment at the former Fitzsimons military base has resulted in the 227-acre Anschutz Medical Campus, which includes education, research and hospital facilities.

Thriving Culture

Culture abounds and thrives in metro Denver—a place for energetic minds. The area’s diverse population supports culture through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique regional funding system for venues such as the Denver Performing Arts Complex and the Denver Art Museum. Each year, the SCFD distributes millions of dollars in tax funds to local arts and cultural organizations.

Metro Denver is also a sports city – and has the fans and facilities to prove it. More than six million fans attend sporting events in the area each year, with sports venues that include Coors Field and the Colorado Rockies baseball team; Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the Colorado Rapids professional soccer team; Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which is home to the two-time world champion Denver Broncos football team and the Denver Outlaws lacrosse team; Pepsi Center and the Denver Nuggets basketball team, the two-time Stanley Cup champions Colorado Avalanche hockey team, and the Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team.

All four sports venues are located near downtown Denver and have played a big part in the area’s revitalization. In fact, Denver was the first North American city to host the Global Sportaccord Conference in March 2009, and the Denver-based Colorado Rockies made their first World Series appearance in 2007.

Shopping and Dining

Denver features many shopping and dining options, including popular retail chains, trendy and unique specialty shops, and a variety of service establishments, as well as local flavors and a selection of national restaurant options.

For shopping, Cherry Creek Shopping Center in central Denver is one of the area’s top tourist destinations, offering 160 restaurants and stores – including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall is another popular tourist attraction. The 16-block pedestrian and transit-way is downtown Denver’s retail core and includes the Denver Pavilions. Belmar, the city of Lakewood’s downtown district, offers 22 blocks of stores, boutiques, restaurants, entertainment, parks, plazas, offices and residences.

Colorado Mills in Lakewood features outlet-style retail, entertainment and restaurants, and Southlands, a 1.5-million-square-foot shopping center in Aurora, includes 1,100 residential units and office space. Other malls include FlatIron Crossing in northern metro Denver, Park Meadows in Lone Tree, and Southwest Plaza in the southwest metro area.

Business Success

Denver is also home to a thriving business climate with companies both large and small representing a healthy cross-section of industries, including aerospace, biosciences, software development, financial services and energy.

The area’s economic engine attracts a young, diverse and talented workforce, including educated high-tech professionals. There are plenty of opportunities for employees to establish careers and keep skills fresh via a multitude of educational resources and professional associations, including 10 four-year public and private colleges and universities, five two-year community colleges, and 60 vocational/ technical schools.

Denver voters also approved the FasTracks $4.7 billion transportation initiative, which is shaping the way the metro area grows and will not only improve mobility, but will also provide alternative transportation for employees across the city. This plan calls for the expansion of the entire metro Denver light rail system – adding new lines, extending existing routes and expanding the regional bus network.

The Denver International Airport is also core to area businesses, as well as for the transportation needs of the region. Located 23 miles northeast of downtown Denver, the $4.2 billion airport celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2010. The airport is the fifth-busiest airport in North America and the 10th busiest in the world.

Welcome to the Mountain West

There’s no doubt that Denver residents come full circle with a “Mountain West” lifestyle that links them to the great outdoors, where they can enjoy the area’s numerous recreational opportunities, or just sit outside and enjoy spectacular Rocky Mountain views.

Mix in a sunny climate, affordable housing options, a moderate cost of living, plenty of education options, quality health care, a host of cultural venues, some of the nation’s greatest sports teams, exciting shopping and dining options, and a dynamic business community, and you have one of the country’s best places to live, work, learn and play. Welcome to Denver!