To some, downtown Denver looks like this map to the left. Lots of sturdy neighborhood names that can be chopped into quirky little nicknames, like “LoHi” (lower Highlands), “Cap Hill” (Capitol Hill), and “LoDo” (Lower Downtown).
It can get confusing, frustrating, and pretty depressing trying to figure out where to live in Denver proper. Not only that, with apartments and homes going faster than they’re being listed, “acting fast” a lot of times is too slow.
We’ve lived here for four years, and are hoping this guide will help you to narrow down where you should live in Denver. We hope it’ll allow you to make those quick decisions when scouring the city for apartments.
Sometimes, the map looks and feels more like this:
When we first moved to Denver from Grand Rapids, Michigan, we lived across the street from the South East Corner of City Park. After a full year, we moved west to Cap Hill. Both neighborhoods are great, just offer different amenities:
- City Park has awesome places to eat that are a short bike ride away. In Cap Hill, there are also great places to eat that are more central to where we live, requiring a short walk.
- Denver’s City Park offers many amenities – working out, walking, biking, running, Jazz in the Park, and other events; Civic Center offers many of Denver’s homeless as well as larger, downtown-scale events (Taste of Colorado, 420 Fest, the list goes on).
- Because we were near the corner of 17th & Colorado Blvd, our place in City Park was actually a lot noisier than here in Cap Hill. That area is in-between the Fire Department, Police Department, and a hospital, meaning lots of sirens. In Cap Hill, we deal with loud, drunk people at any point during the day or night: from Colfax and the neighboring *new to the block* EDM bar (The Black Box) to Wednesday night Wing Night at Pub on Pen. Hey, it keeps it interesting, that’s for sure!
- Because Cap Hill is so close to downtown, parking can be impossible. However, in either neighborhood, if you want to keep your car, it’s best to go with a designated spot. Carrying groceries a few blocks isn’t the most fun thing to do.
In short, we learned that both places have their ups and downs; understand that this will happen when comparing any of the neighborhoods to one another, and don’t freak out.
Take a deep breath, and try to map out where to live based on the thinking below:
- Do you have a car that needs to be parked? If so, make sure the apartment comes with a parking spot included, has a parking spot that you can rent for a *reasonable fee, or there is ample street parking at all hours of the day (rush hour, night time, day time, lunch time…).
*By reasonable fee, use your discretion. For example, Cap Hill parking (more than likely in a garage), is expensive, whereas City Park parking is usually pretty reasonable at around $25/space/month on top of rent. If you find this is not the case, see if they will reduce the monthly price if you pay a few months’ rent upfront, or offer some other counter.
- Consider public transportation. Denver’s bus system is pretty epic. It’s inexpensive and discounted according to length of time you buy a pass for (1 day versus 1 month, year, etc). Different passes are provided for different regions. If the bus isn’t your thing, or won’t work for you, check out the Light Rail, Uber, Lyft, Zip Car, Car2Go, walking, bike riding. Living in a city has its advantages: transportation options. Ask yourself: if you moved to a certain neighborhood, could you sell your car and operate with bike and bus pass only? TONS of Denverites have been able to do this. Compare the costs & see what works for you.
- Think about where the following are:
Just because the apartment you’re looking at is near a highway doesn’t mean it is the most effective route to get to your job. Shortest distance does not mean shortest time.
Can you walk to the grocery store, or will you always have to take some form of transportation? Would you be happy with going multiple times per week, picking up little at a time, and walking home? Could you pick up groceries on the way home from work with a car? Are you down with paying an approximate $7 fee to have your groceries shopped for & delivered to you (There are apps for that! – PrimeNow & Instacart are our faves)?
Living close to those you hang with on the reg makes things easier. If you move clear across town to save some cash, are you going to constantly be back-tracking to your friends’ neighborhoods to hang out? Will they come to you? Does this bother you either way? Think about it. It’s a thing.
Do you like to eat out a lot, or cook & prepare meals? GrubHub is useful for all of the neighborhoods, but if you want to walk a short distance and grab a drink or some food, neighborhoods like Cap Hill, West City Park, Uptown, LoHi, and RiNo have delicious eats all over the place (shameless plug: check out our FOOD tab on DenverSpeax!). This isn’t to say that other neighborhoods don’t have great food; we’re simply explaining that it may not be as accessible as a block walk, or as diverse as the neighborhoods listed.
- Gym Membership:
Probably sounds silly, but if you have a gym membership, you’re probably locked into some certain amount of time for a certain amount of money per month. You also probably chose said gym because it was convenient for you. If you move away, can you still attend this gym? Can you cancel your membership? Can you keep your membership and guarantee yourself you’ll actually go with the added distance? Make sure you’re not lighting your money on fire. You need that to pay for parking, remember?
- Think through the cost – don’t go with a lesser-expensive apartment just to be nickeled and dimed. For example, one apartment may be $1400 / month with great square footage, a parking spot included, washer & dryer in-unit, close to work (cutting down on driving), and other amenities, but seem expensive. Another less-expensive apartment may not have any of these things, but be a few hundred dollars less in your second-choice neighborhood. Consider whether or not this is worth it, and make sure you add up all of the additional expenses you will need to account for: off-site laundry, a paid/reserved parking spot, storage, gas for your car or added time on your bike ride, etc.
- Do you have an animal? Denver is the most pet-friendly city we’ve ever lived in. If you run into a place that has a hefty pet deposit, plus a hefty monthly fee, keep looking – there are tons of landlords and rental companies that will charge one or the other, or include a deposit in your overall apartment deposit. Also, this is often times negotiable (with smaller building owners), and it never hurts to ask.
Hopefully, these tips help you get started! Have more questions? Comment below so we can help you out! Ask around – people are beautiful resources.