Are you tired of urban life in Chicago? Want to hike or ski in the Rockies during the day and enjoy a lively social scene at night? Moving from Denver to Chicago might just be the perfect solution! Colorado’s capital gives you the best of both worlds: all the convenience & amenities of a big metro area, plus a laidback lifestyle surrounded by awe-inspiring nature. Trading in the Windy City for the Mile-High City is a super appealing move. But before you head out of Illinois for the Centennial State, check out this guide on how to make your cross-country relocation a seamless and pleasant one.

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What to Know About Moving from Chicago to Denver

Moving to Denver from Chicago? To ensure a smooth relocation to the Mile-High City, be sure to check out the following points, from taxes to food, to get a better feel for everything Denver has to offer!

Taxes

Let’s take a look at taxation first. Denver has a state sales tax of 2.9% + local sales tax of 5.41%, which comes out to a total sales tax rate of 8.31%. State top income tax rate comes out to 4.63%. Chicago currently has a higher total sales tax of 10.25% (6.25% state + 4% local) and lower total top income tax (4.95%). As you can see, both sales tax and income tax are lower in Denver. Double win! As for property taxes, the City of Denver has an average rate of 0.515% or $2,060 per year (based on an assessed home value of $400,000). Chicago, on the other hand, is quite steep at an average property tax rate of 2.117% (Cook County), or a whopping $8,468 annually on a home of the same value.

Economy and Job Growth

Boasting a thriving economy, the City of Denver has seen significant growth in recent years. And according to US News, the state of Colorado comes in first place among the top state economies! If you’re in the aerospace, education, tech, or cannabis industry, you’ll find phenomenal opportunities here. And with 17 million visitors per year, tourism is another huge driver of job growth & economic prosperity.

At the beginning of 2020, Denver had an unemployment rate of only 3% – the national average was 3.9% – and a future job growth rate of an impressive 45% over the next decade. By comparison, Chicago had an unemployment rate of 4.4% and a projected job growth rate of only 25.7%.

Are you looking for helpful job resources? Take a look at the Denver Public Library Guide for Jobseekers and the Denver Human Services’ Find Work page.

Weather and Climate

Looking for more sunshine and more snowy, mountainous adventures? On average, Denver sees 56 more sunny days than Chicago (245 as opposed to only 189 in Chi-Town). The Mile-High City also gets 17 inches of rain (compared to 38 inches in CHI) and 60 inches of snowfall (versus 35 inches in CHI). Colorado’s capital city also sees a summer high of 89°F and winter low of 18°F, which is pretty comparable to Chicago’s summer high of 84°F and winter low of 19°F. For some people, winter temps might be a bit frigid. But if you’re headed south from Illinois, you’ll be right at home.

Geography

The capital of Colorado (located in the Rocky Mountain/southwestern region) is known as the Mile-High City, and for a good reason. Unlike Chicago, which sits on a flat glacial plain, Denver is literally a mile up and surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. Local foothills rise up to 11,000 feet, while the Rockies reach peaks of up to 14,000 feet. Simply put, this is a nature enthusiast’s paradise! Just be prepared for a significant elevation adjustment.

Housing and Cost of Living

Okay, so a great mix of urban amenities + gorgeous natural wonders – how much does this all cost in the Mile-High City? Let’s first take a look at the cost of living in Denver. The current cost of living index is 128.7 (higher than the US average of 100). In Chicago, the cost of living index is lower at about 107. Denver’s housing prices are the primary driver of higher living costs. The median home list price in Denver is currently $464,900 (with a median rent price of $2,150). Chi-Town is much cheaper, with a median list price of $329,000 (along with a more reasonable median rent price of $1,761). Yes, Denver is more expensive. But if you factor in all the benefits, it’s worth the price!

Things to Do

The great outdoors, gastronomical delights for avid foodies, professional sports, arts galore… Denver is certainly not lacking in the activities & destinations department! With over 17 million people visiting this amazing city annually, there’s something fun to do for everyone. Love beer? Check out the many craft breweries and beer tours in the area. Museum lover? Not only a day excursion, but many museums also offer intriguing after-hours events. Also, sports enthusiasts can enjoy the Denver Broncos (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Rockies (MLB), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), and Colorado Rapids (MLS).

Educational Opportunities

Home to nearly 160 public schools and 220 private schools, the City of Denver scores high in education. According to the College Readiness Index by US News, the city scores an 8.2 out of 10. No less than 23 high schools also rank among the best in the United States. 

When researching the most educated cities in America, Denver lands in the Top 20 at #14 overall. It scores #14 in educational attainment, while it sits at #76 in quality of education & attainment gap. You can find Chicago several spots down the list at #30. Are you interested in post-secondary educational options? Top colleges & universities in the Denver metro area include the University of Denver (#97 in the nation), Regis University (#202), and University of Colorado – Denver (#254).

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

Considering cultural diversity? According to WalletHub, Denver comes in at #88 in the United States. For comparison, Chicago ranks #40. This ranking is based on ethnoracial diversity (#125 in Denver vs. #11 in Chicago), linguistic diversity (#113 vs. #58), and birthplace diversity (#38 in Denver vs. #302 in Chicago). Let’s now take a peek at race & ethnic demographics. Denver is nearly 65% White, 22.5% Hispanic & Latino, 5.6% Black, 3.9% Asian, and 3% mixed & other. Chicago, by comparison, 53.7% White, 21.3% Hispanic & Latino, 16.9% Black, 6.2% Asian, 1.9% mixed & other. If cultural diversity is a top concern, you’ll want to consider the fact that Denver is currently not as varied as the City of Chicago.

Transportation and Traffic

Denver, ranked among the greenest cities in the nation, prides itself on convenient & affordable public transportation. Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) offers a convenient mix of bus lines (primary mode of travel), light rail, and commuter rail to get around the city. There are also hundreds of miles of bike paths! Despite inexpensive & accessible public transport, most residents still own vehicles. Car ownership can be chalked up to the many incredible outdoor adventures found in the surrounding region. Popular driving routes include I-25 (north-south), I-225, and I-70 (east-west). 

Are you wondering about walkability in Denver? The city currently receives a 61 for walking, 47 for transit, and 73 for biking. Many neighborhoods, however, easily score in the 90s for walkability. A prime example is Downtown Denver: 93 (walk score), 89 (transit), and 94 (bike score). As for commute times, the City of Denver has an average time of just 25 minutes, while Chicago ranks as the fourth slowest city in the US with an average commute time of 35 minutes.

Crime Rates

Coming from Chicago, public safety rates might be a big concern for you. When looking at crime rates in Denver, the capital city has a violent crime index of 30.7 (compared to the US average of 22.7) and a property crime index of 50.8 (compared to the national average of 35.4). Chicago has a much higher violent crime rate of 49.9 and a slightly lower property crime rate of 46.3. Of course, both cities are quite large, so one would expect higher crime rates. Wondering about crime in specific neighborhoods in Denver? Crime Map for Denver, CO, by SpotCrime offers up-to-date alerts.

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Best Neighborhoods in Denver

Here are some of the top areas to call home in the Mile High City.

Country Club

Affluent and well-healed, the neighborhood of Country Club certainly lives up to its name. If you’re in the market for a more luxurious community, filled with mansions, immaculate landscaping, pristine parks, and access to high-end shopping, this neighborhood should be at the top of your list. Discover more about Country Club here.

Capitol Hill

Are you looking for a hip and artsy neighborhood with a splash of history? Don’t like driving? Capitol Hill is a diverse, dynamic, and highly walkable neighborhood, which is also known for being very LGBTQ+ friendly. Filled with fantastic concert venues, coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, and more, Capitol Hill is definitely a vibe. Check out more information on this hip neighborhood here.

Cherry Creek

Enjoy walking, jogging, or cycling? How about 42 miles of paved trails? Yes, that’s here in Cherry Creek! Along with access to convenient outdoor exercise, the neighborhood also offers fine dining and spectacular shopping options. Cherry Creek appeals to a wide range of residents: young professionals, families, retirees, and everyone in between. Here’s more info on Cherry Creek.

LoDo (Lower Downtown)

LoDo is the premier historic district in the Denver metro area. But don’t let that fool you. Home to Coors Field, the beloved neighborhood has a famous reputation for its vibrant nightlife and food scene. Whether you’re a sports fan, party animal, or dedicated foodie, Lower Downtown doesn’t disappoint! Find out more about LoDo here.

Uptown (North Capitol Hill)

Filled with lovely Victorian homes and tree-lined streets, Uptown is another excellent pick for those looking for a charming, historic feel. Many younger professionals call the neighborhood home. It also offers super easy access to many top destinations & attractions: Denver Zoo, City Park, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, along with a host of boutiques and cafes. Learn more here.

Chessman Park

Home of the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is next to the 80-acre park found in the middle of the neighborhood, Chessman Park serves as a beautiful escape from more congested areas. Family-friendly, affordable (particularly for renters), and safe, this neighborhood of 9,000 offers plenty of amenities and relaxing activities. Discover more about this green neighborhood here.


Cost of Moving from Chicago to Denver

On average, it costs about $2,500-$3,000 to move from Chicago to Denver. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 1000 miles across the country. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination cities, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best Chicago to Denver movers now!

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Devin Barroga

Ever been bitten by the wanderlust bug? It's a powerful force, one which has captivated Devin for his entire life.... Read More