Study: Best Cities to Live in Colorado

Whether you're just starting out in your career or heading toward retirement, Colorado may be the breath of fresh air you're looking for. Current residents already know what makes the state so livable. If you're planning a move but dread doing the necessary research, the CreditDonkey team has done the hard part for you and come up with the 10 best cities to live in Colorado.

John Denver famously immortalized Colorado's wild beauty in song but it's not the same as experiencing it for yourself. Officially nicknamed the Centennial State, "Colorful Colorado" is divided between the High Plains to the east and the Rocky Mountains in the west. The landscape shifts between rugged peaks, dense forests, expansive valleys and seemingly bottomless canyons in the blink of an eye.

It wasn't just the splendor of Colorado's natural surroundings that drew the first settlers here; the lure of gold and the profits generated by the coal mining industry also played a role. Today, education, manufacturing, technology, defense and tourism take center stage in Colorado's economy. As the state capital and largest city, Denver is a top destination for job seekers, but smaller cities like Fort Collins and Broomfield are full of possibilities.

10 Best Cities to Live in Colorado

Study Methodology

The cities in our study are ranked based on the following:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

If concerns about crime are holding up your moving efforts, our rankings may put your fears to rest. We looked at the odds of being the victim of a violent act for each city and only included those spots with crime rates that were well below the national average.

Tip: Worried about identity theft? Read our guide on identity theft statistics.

Colorado is known for its green efforts and in cities like Boulder, biking and walking to work are strongly encouraged. If you find yourself stuck behind the wheel, avoiding heavy traffic may be easier said than done. We ranked each city based on the average commute so you'll know where drive times are the shortest.

The odds of landing a great job that pays well are better when you have a college education. To see how each city measures up, we ranked them based on the median household income and the percentage of residents who earned at least a bachelor's degree.

Colorado is a foodie's paradise, with cuisine that blends the best of pioneer traditions and modern innovations. When deciding which cities to include in our study, we focused on the number of restaurants per capita to pinpoint those with the most eclectic tastes.

10. Lafayette

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 466.8
  • Commute Time: 25.3 minutes
  • Income: $69,759
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 53.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 460 inhabitants

Lafayette was founded as a boomtown during the westward expansion that brought thousands of homesteaders to the area in the mid-1800s. Although healthcare and manufacturing have replaced coal mining as the city's major industry, residents continue to honor the traditions on which the city was founded. Compared to nearby Boulder, homes here are a bargain and the median household income is roughly $13,000 higher.

Did You Know: The annual Lafayette Oatmeal Festival features fresh oatmeal, pancakes, muffins and the world's largest toppings bar.

9. Golden

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 622.5
  • Commute Time: 24.1 minutes
  • Income: $58,858
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 51.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 369 inhabitants

Golden outshines the competition when it comes to outdoor attractions and unique events. The city is ringed by six separate parks, with several additional recreation areas located nearby. Golden's economy is rock-solid, bolstered by major employers like the Coors Brewing Company and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Workers here take home a healthy median salary and the drive to work takes around 24 minutes.

Did You Know: Golden residents Bill and Dorothy Harmsen founded the Jolly Rancher company here in 1949.

8. Parker

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 796.7
  • Commute Time: 27.6 minutes
  • Income: $95,618
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 49.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 491 inhabitants

Parker, one of Denver's larger suburbs, is particularly popular among young professionals who want to stay close to the metro area. This affluent community of 47,000 residents has an excellent safety rating, although commute times are a bit longer compared to other cities in our study. Home prices tend to be higher than what you'd find in the capital city, but there's an upside since median incomes surpass $95,000 annually.

Did You Know: Erected in the 1860s, the Tallman-Newlin Cabin is one of Parker's oldest historic structures.

7. Fort Collins

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 380.5
  • Commute Time: 19.6 minutes
  • Income: $53,359
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 52.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 408 inhabitants

Whether you're a student, job seeker or outdoor enthusiast, it doesn't get any better than Fort Collins. Companies like Anheuser-Busch and Hewlett Packard provide employment for many of the city's nearly 150,000 residents, and Colorado State University enrolls close to 30,000 students each year. Horsetooth Mountain Park is one of the best places around for hiking and biking as well as being a great spot to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife.

Did You Know: Bird watchers flock to Fort Collins to observe the roughly 60,000 Canadian Geese that migrate through the area each year.

6. Centennial

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 662.6
  • Commute Time: 25.1 minutes
  • Income: $89,902
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 53.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 665 inhabitants

Centennial is another of Denver's suburban communities, located less than 15 miles southeast of the capital. Like neighboring Parker, Centennial is home to many of the metro area's working crowd, but lower home prices also attract a fair number of families. The Streets at SouthGlenn is a local shopping and dining hotspot, featuring upscale offerings like Ivy at the Glenn and Hodson's.

Did You Know: The award-winning Centennial Center Park is one of the city's most frequented attractions.

5. Erie

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,084.6
  • Commute Time: 27.2 minutes
  • Income: $107,246
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 55.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 1285 inhabitants

Erie earns the number five spot on our list because of its extremely low violent crime rate and the hefty paychecks its residents take home. Once a small coal mining town, Erie has become one of Boulder's most desirable suburbs, which accounts for the area's higher home prices. The average commute takes a little longer but there are plenty of high-profile employers nearby, including the University of Colorado at Boulder and IBM.

Did You Know: One of Erie's early settlers chose to name it after another coal town, Erie, Pennsylvania.

4. Broomfield

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,938.2
  • Commute Time: 25.8 minutes
  • Income: $80,483
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 47%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 438 inhabitants

If you want to stick close to Boulder but you're looking for an area that's slightly more affordable, look no further than Broomfield. Located just a few miles south of Erie, this city of nearly 60,000 people features a similar violent crime rate but homes sell for much less. Broomfield's economy is tech-friendly; companies like Level 3 Communications and Oracle employ several thousand residents alone.

Did You Know: Broomfield is close to several outdoor recreation areas, including the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and Standley Lake.

3. Durango

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 326.5
  • Commute Time: 14.7 minutes
  • Income: $53,173
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 50%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 141 inhabitants

Founded in 1880, Durango began as a mining camp for fortune hunters who flooded the area in the hopes of striking it rich. Although the gold rush eventually petered out, the city continued to grow and is currently home to more than 17,000 residents. Tourism is big business here, attracting visitors from all over who come to explore the Mesa Verde National Park and hitch a ride through the San Juan National Forest aboard the Durango Silverton Railroad.

Did You Know: Western novelist Louis L’Amour wrote his Sackett Series while staying at Durango's historic Strater Hotel.

2. Boulder

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 402.6
  • Commute Time: 19.2 minutes
  • Income: $56,206
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 71.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 275 inhabitants

We chose Boulder to fill our number two spot because of its relative safety and its education ranking. Nearly 30,000 students enroll at the University of Colorado's Boulder campus each year and more than 71% of residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Locally headquartered companies like Lockheed Martin provide plenty of job opportunities and a median income of $56,000 is nothing to sneeze at. If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Boulder Mountain Park, the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon are only minutes away.

Did You Know: Once a school and cultural retreat, Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium is one of just a few remaining Chautauquas in the U.S.

1. Windsor

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 9,665
  • Commute Time: 23.5 minutes
  • Income: $79,948
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 44.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 494 inhabitants

Windsor's outstanding violent crime rate contributed to its ranking as our number one pick overall, but that's not the only reason why life here is so great. Convenient to Greeley, Loveland and Fort Collins, this city of nearly 20,000 people offers superior schools, reasonably priced homes and all of the amenities you'd expect in a larger urban area. The Chimney Park Restaurant and Bar is one of Windsor's most popular fine dining locales but if you're looking for something more exotic, you can try the Hawaiian specialties served at Okole Maluna.

Did You Know: Windsor was one of Colorado's top producers of sugar beets in the 1800s.

There's a lot to be said for cities like Denver and Colorado Springs, which feature a combined population of more than 1 million people. In terms of job opportunities, nightlife and things to do, they're hard to beat but the cities we selected for our study hold their own when it comes to safety, incomes and cost. They represent the most well-rounded choices for newcomers and current residents in search of a new address.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

The Top 20 Cities to Live in Colorado

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Windsor1 in 9,665.023.5$79,94844.4%493.8
2Boulder1 in 402.619.2$56,20671.3%275.2
3Durango1 in 326.514.7$53,17350.0%141.1
4Broomfield1 in 1,938.225.8$80,48347.0%438.3
5Erie1 in 2,084.627.2$107,24655.6%1,284.8
6Centennial1 in 662.625.1$89,90253.4%665.0
7Fort Collins1 in 380.519.6$53,35952.3%408.3
8Parker1 in 796.727.6$95,61849.8%491.3
9Golden1 in 622.524.1$58,85851.9%369.0
10Lafayette1 in 466.825.3$69,75953.7%459.5
11Littleton1 in 771.924.8$57,23242.9%355.9
12Castle Rock1 in 1,112.028.7$84,78145.1%604.1
13Longmont1 in 473.023.2$57,14237.3%512.5
14Arvada1 in 690.125.6$68,01734.9%649.4
15Grand Junction1 in 236.217.2$47,59829.2%332.8
16Colorado Springs1 in 219.720.9$54,35136.3%475.1
17Loveland1 in 476.925.1$55,83832.4%415.5
18Westminster1 in 385.426.1$64,71234.7%498.5
19Montrose1 in 458.920.8$45,46124.5%327.3
20Denver1 in 162.424.8$49,09142.2%382.5

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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