We’re not lying when we say that in Denver, health and fitness are king. Don’t let anyone catch you smoking unless you spend most of your time on E. Colfax Ave., begging for change. Invest in an REI membership, secure a pair of skis or a snowboard, and exchange your loafers for a pair of Chacos (which you should expect to wear year-round).
Seriously, though: this town loves outdoor sports. Boulder’s Flatirons protest the plains a meager 30 miles away, and the Estes Park entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is only 50 miles further. If you’re not willing to get active, you’re going to miss out on a lot of social opportunities. This also means you’ll need a mode of transportation—or a roommate with one and one hell of a closet for all that gear. Let’s get you acquainted with your options for storage—er, accommodation!
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (John Denver to you noobs) didn’t err when he chained not only his name but also his decidedly smiley brand of folk music to this city and its nearby mountains. But you’ll likely be smiling only after you master these roads, which can feel a bit “country” even inside the city limits.
Like many cities in the western U.S., Denver evolved organically: planners only later imposing number schemes and cardinal directionality, bringing order to (beautiful) chaos. Thus the neighborhoods in Denver follow no pattern. Instead, they pop up like dandelions in springtime.
Great metaphor, huh? But if it’s true, it means you’re going to have a time and a half navigating this prairie. Here are some hints to aid you find your pick among the local flora.
Because there really are so many varieties, we’ve picked only the neighborhoods closest to the city center.
LoDo: Ah, the stately orchid. Lower Downtown (get it now, dontcha?) perches on the park-lined Platte River. Close to Union Station, Coors Field, MCAD (the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver), and the Auraria Campus (an educational facility housing three public universities), LoDo leaves little for want. Parking is crazy, and crazy expensive, so find a complex with a private garage if possible. Unsurprisingly, this zone has the highest rates in town. Don’t get your hopes up for anything less than $900/month for a studio, $1650/month for a two-bedroom unit. This is also a relatively pet-unfriendly area. Unless your beloved Fido is smaller than the average carry-on luggage item—and you don’t mind paying an extra fee—look elsewhere.
Uptown/Capitol Hill: Each portion of this neighborhood borders the central business district, making the iris a perfect example for it. Irises look a lot like orchids, but (due to being more common), they brag a slightly lower price tag. $800-$900/month for a spacious studio to enjoy the urban residential feel of Uptown. If you care to mix this sentiment with historic architecture; and higher population density, skip south to Capitol Hill. Cap Hill has a young, energetic, pedestrian-friendly feel—although if you’re not looking to extend your college years into professional adulthood, you may find the neighbors tiresome, despite their “eccentricity.” $700/month all-inclusive studio near Wax Trax Records is the low end. More pet friendly than LoDo.
Five Points: You’d do well to call this one the desert sage. Its close-in location makes this neighborhood prime fodder for urban renewal. Great access to downtown with a fraction of the action. (In other words: perfect for commuters!) Lots of stand-alone homes converted to duplexes and single-accommodation apartments, some of which go for as little as $825/month (for a whole house?!), but some as much as $1500/month (2nd floor converted executive condo). Expect the deposit to match the monthly rent.
East Denver: The multicolored gazania represents this strange conglomeration of communities. Park Hill is the first intentional interracial neighborhood, and Congress Park was gentrified long ago. The latter is jealously close to the Botanic Gardens and Cheesman Park. Both neighborhoods are vying to be considered part of the proper “midtown” section of Denver, and new apartment complexes will reflect this competitive stance in their rates. A two-bedroom townhouse in Park Hill ought to run you $1400-$1600/month, but that will likely include a pool and gym access. It’s easier to find single apartments in Congress Park, which should cost $600-$800/month and require a 12-month lease.
Washington Park and Baker: Washington Park is as all-American as the sunflower. Imagine “Life is Good”-clad parents training for marathons with their wee ones in the stroller, careening down a beautiful, tree-lined street. This perfect portrait is gonna cost, ya, though: expect around $800-1000/month for a single duplex apartment. The historic Baker neighborhood, on the other hand, sits west of Washington Park and boasts dive bars and dirty music venues. Here’s South Denver’s veritable cactus. It doesn’t get any edgier than setting off to thrift the S. Broadway strip. $650/month for a two-bedroom bungalow sets the bottom range; a single room in a renovated Victorian, however, can cost you that much alone.
Lincoln Park: The dahlia of Denver, Lincoln Park is predominantly Hispanic. Revitalization work is well underway which would turn this close-in neighborhood into a cultural hub. That said, it’s not there yet…So be wary and check the digs out thoroughly. Inexpensive rent here (some single units $500/month), but you’re usually looking at an older complex. Definitely pit-bull friendly.
Highlands: At long last! The coveted rose. The Highlands enclave has become incredibly popular in recent years, as it combines the amenities of the other close-in neighborhoods without the parking problem of LoDo.. Sitting just across I-25 from downtown, Highlands consists of pockets of boutiques and pubs, solid restaurants with local flavor and heaps of diverse housing. $800/month for a single luxury apartment; $1400/month for a three-bedroom ranch house. And everyone has a dog or baby, according to his or her preference!
The best way to find an apartment in Denver is simply to go meandering in this sunny wonderland yourself. Just don’t get distracted and try to bed down in one of the many glorious parks—that’s still illegal, even in Denver. Good luck, dear hopeful Coloradoan. Recall the words of our patron saint: “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…”
Now go getcha some!