When it comes to states, there are those that are packed with things to do and places to go. They’re veritable amusement parks defined by borders. Then there are those that are… less entertaining. Colorado is not one of these boring states.
The only (slight) drawback in a state this chock-full of things to do is actually discovering which places are the most exciting. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what the Movoto Real Estate blog has done in this post. Now, before you get too excited guessing who won, here are the 10:
1. City of Boulder
2. City of Denver
2. City of Fort Collins
2. City of Englewood
5. City of Grand Junction
6. City of Littleton
7. City of Wheat Ridge
8. City of Colorado Springs
9. City of Greeley
10. City of Lafayette
Denver residents, we know Boulder beat you to the top, but we promise it was for some good reasons. To learn why each of these places are more exciting than the rest and the method behind our analysis, keep reading.
How We Created This Ranking
We started with a list of all of the places in Colorado with populations of 20,000 people or more, which turned out to be a total of 26. Then, we used the 2010 U.S. Census, Areavibes, Yelp, and Sperling’s Best Places to gather up the relevant data for eight different criteria:
- Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
- Live music venues per capita
- Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
- Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
- Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
- Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
- Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
From there, we ranked each place from 1 to 26 in each category, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the rankings for each place into one Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner.
If you can handle the excitement, keep reading to take a closer look at each place in our top 10; otherwise, feel free to head to the bottom of the post for a table of with the complete rankings.
Is anyone really surprised here? Boulder residents certainly shouldn’t be. After all, Boulder is one of the most sought-after places to live in the country, let alone the state. It’s home to Chautauqua Park, more outdoor activities than you could possibly do in a year and more restaurants than you could visit in 10.
In our analysis, Boulder ranked particularly well for its young population, with 45 percent of its residents being between the ages of 18 and 34. It also came in No. 1 for its number of music venues, arts and entertainment, and active life options per capita. Boulder also came in second best for its number of music venues and non-fast food restaurants (like Black Cat Bistro). In fact, the only category Boulder didn’t rank within the top two was its lack of fast food restaurants, and hey, we get it—college students have to eat too.
Denver, we’d love to tell you that Boulder just beat you by a hair, but the truth is Boulder won first place by almost four points, where the rest of our top 10 were only separated by two points at most.
Why the big gap? After all, Denver is home to museums, the Denver Zoo, theaters, botanical gardens, outdoor activities, and even an Alamo Drafthouse nearby. The major difference between first and second place was in the active life rank and the number of fast food restaurants, where Denver placed ninth and 17th, respectively.
Denver did rank well for its high percentage of population between 18 and 34 (32 percent); for its arts and entertainment and music venues per capita; and for its No. 1 ranking for nightlife. In the end, Denver just wasn’t quite active or young enough to beat Boulder.
2. Fort Collins
Apart from the steak skewers at Restaurant 415 (which, let’s be honest, are pretty amazing), Fort Collins has plenty of other highly rated restaurants—and a serious lack of fast food restaurants to offer its residents, ranking it No. 3 in both of these categories.
This lack of fast food might seem a bit surprising when you consider that Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University and 38 percent of this city’s residents are between the ages of 18 and 34; but perhaps they just have more sophisticated palates than those in, say, Denver. As far as nightlife goes, Fort Collins has it all. Okay, maybe it doesn’t offer as much as Denver in this arena, but at least there’s Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon.
Part of the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area, Englewood has all of the benefits of being near Denver, but clearly holds up just fine on its own (seeing as though it tied with Denver in our analysis).
Although Englewood has a slightly lower percentage of young folks than its neighbor and fellow second place city, it did rank better than 19 of the other places in our analysis, with a 27 percent of its population being between the ages of 18 and 34.
Where Englewood really stood out, though, was for in number of music venues and nightlife per capita, and for its active life ranking. Not only did this include outdoor activities, but tons of gyms, fitness centers, and something called the XTreme Challenge Gladiator Arena—which looks pretty awesome.
Grand Junction is well known as a hub of entertainment, restaurants, and things to do in the area. Specifically, it ranked well for its nightlife and music venues per capita; places like the Ale House Brewery, Mesa Theater and Club, and, of course, the Country Jam Ranch.
Grand Junction is also home to Colorado Mesa University, which explains the relatively high percentage of residents between the ages of 18 to 34 (26 percent). Unfortunately, this probably explains the relatively poor rank it received for its high number of fast food restaurants as well.
Of course, Grand Junction also has a lot of non-fast food joints, like 626 on Rood, Bin 707 Foodbar, and even some good Mexican food at El Tapatio, so, in the end, it all balanced out and stole our No. 5 spot.
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Whoever said that suburbs are boring clearly hasn’t been to Littleton. Just outside of Denver, this city has the benefits of being close to the capital city, but with a distinctive charm that is purely its own.
This came through in our analysis, particularly in terms of arts and entertainment per capita and the active lifestyle here. There’s the Town Hall Arts Center, the Willow-An Artisan’s Market, plus both Roxborough and Chatfield State Park.
Even though Littleton’s population isn’t quite as young as nearby Denver’s (only 21 percent of people are between 18 and 34 in Littleton), it still ranked well for venues like the Toad Tavern and Q’s Pub and Grille. Plus, Littleton has an Alamo Drafthouse, which is reason enough alone to live there in our opinion.
7. Wheat Ridge
Just like Littleton before it, Wheat Ridge didn’t exactly make it into our top 10 for its high number of young people. Even so, residents here enjoy one of the healthiest lifestyles in our analysis, with a high number of active lifestyle amenities and activities and a relatively low number of fast food restaurants per capita.
Wheat Ridge also came in fifth for its number of nightlife options per capita, with places like Clancy’s Irish Pub, Long Shots, Colorado Plus Brew Pub, and more. Sure, maybe only 22 percent of the population is between 18 and 34 here, but that certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. In fact, it may just mean a lack of people shouting “spring break!” before vomiting on the sidewalk. In our book, that’s always a good thing.
If you want a quick glimpse at what makes Colorado Springs so exciting, just Google “Colorado Springs.” Your screen will quickly fill with a list of things to do there, from having your mind blown by the sheer beauty of Garden of the Gods, to hiking in Red Rock Canyon, to shooting your friend—with a laser gun, of course, at Battlefield Colorado.
There will be pictures of the area’s natural beauty, reviews of some of the delicious food the city has to offer (like the banana pudding at Springs Orleans), and that’s just if you Google the place. Our analysis showed that Colorado Springs had some of the best nightlife and the most music venues per capita all along Tejon Street, plus a good number of theaters, galleries, museums, and other arts and entertainment.
Greeley may have been described as the town that is “The Exact Opposite of Hawaii” in a “South Park” episode (that one where Cartman and Kenny are placed in a foster home), but as our analysis shows, Greeley is way more exciting than that.
For starters, 30 percent of the population in this city is between the ages of 18 and 34, because of Aims Community College and the University of Northern Colorado, just to name two. Plus, Greeley had one of the best scores for its lack of fast food and for its number of actual restaurants (non-fast food), like Greeley Chophouse, Lucky Fins, and more. So, “South Park”, you can just go… try some of the local cuisine and formulate a more informed opinion of what is truly a fine city, of course.
Lafayette, is like the older, more mature, and yet still fun sibling to Boulder. Where Boulder is young and pretty much has a bar on every corner of Pearl Street, Lafayette is a little more low key, but still exciting in its own way.
This city has an older population; only 21 percent of residents are between 18 and 34. It ranked well in our analysis in the arts and entertainment category, but also for its active lifestyle options and number of music venues per capita. Sure, Boulder may have it going on when it comes to a young party scene; but if you’re looking for some excitement with a splash of sophistication, Lafayette may just be the place for you.
Mile High Fives
As we mentioned at the outset, there are definitely some states that are just more exciting than others, and Colorado is definitely one of the former. Not only were these 10 cities the most exciting in the state, they were the most exciting in one of the more exciting states in the country. So go ahead, Coloradans, pat yourselves on the back.
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