Today US. News & World Report unveiled its annual Best Places to Live rankings for cities in the United States — and Denver is #1 for 2016. That the Mile High City rated the top spot isn't that surprising, though, considering that Denver has been one of the country's "cool cities" for years.
In fact, even before recreational marijuana was legalized here, people were high on the Mile High City. William Frey, senior fellow of the Metropolitan Policy program for the Brookings Institution, parsed the numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey and determined that from 2008 through 2010, more young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 moved here than any other city.
Here's the U.S. News & World description of winning Denver:
Founded in the mid-1800s as a mining hub during the gold rush, Denver has come a long way since its Wild West days. Over time, its citizens have evolved from gun-slinging gamblers into an easygoing crowd of ambitious, progressive-minded fitness fanatics and nature lovers who are eager to push the envelope on everything from civil rights to drug laws. Nicknamed the Mile High City for its 5,280-foot elevation (although officially reported as 5,279 feet), Denver's location at the base of the Rocky Mountains provides a gateway to a slew of outdoor pursuits, although it is probably best known for its devout ski and snowboard enthusiasts.
To clarify a common misconception, Denver is not a mountain town. It actually takes at least an hour to drive to the Rockies. But there are some great places for recreating within a 30-minute drive of downtown, such as Red Rocks Park and Cherry Creek State Park.
Some might say that the city is experiencing a gold rush of a different color: green. After Colorado residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, Denver has seen a surge in cannabis-related commerce, from dispensaries to magazines to high-tech paraphernalia like vaporizers, rolling papers, lotions and storage containers – and the industry is just gaining speed.
To come up with the rankings, the magazine studied 100 cities for their desirability, value, job market, quality of life, net migration and, apparently, access to marijuana; Denver ranked 7.8 on a scale of 10. (Desirability was an almost perfect 9.9, but Denver got dinged a bit for quality of life.)
We used a different scale when coming up with our own Twelve Reasons Why Denver Is the Best Place to Live:
12. You can wear flannel ironically or un-ironically.
11. Anyone can join the Mile High Club.
10. The cultural conglomeration in the Golden Triangle includes the Denver Public Library, with awesome views and the awe-inspiring free programs.
9. Downtown Denver doesn't shut down after 6 p.m., like the downtowns of so many other cities.
8. Trucks and vendors peddle their wares to the let-out crowd, while breakfast-burrito salesmen knock on just about every office door each morning.
7. Green chile might have gotten its start in New Mexico, but it reached its peak in Denver, where it's best enjoyed smothering a Mexican hamburger, which was definitely invented here (unlike the much-touted cheeseburger).
6. The independent arts and music scenes are vibrant...and if you can't earn a living here, at least you can enjoy the show!
5. Denver offers every kind of free public-park option: dog parks, skate parks, bike parks, walking parks, grassy parks, gay parks...and, above all, Red Rocks.
4. Matt Stone and Trey Parker proved you don't have to graduate from the University of Colorado to hit it big on the small screen...and then make fun of Mormons on Broadway.
3. Denver enjoys 300 days of sunshine — if you're fairly liberal with your definition of sunshine — which quickly melt the snow in the city while keeping the white stuff on the peaks.
2. The Front Range is on the front line of this country's beer production, frequently clocking in at number one for craft beer...
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1. And Colorado is certainly the only state whose governor got his start in the public eye as a bar owner.