Newcomers are flocking to Colorado and they are talking about the differences between the Centennial state and other places they”ve lived. “It’s expensive!” some say (unless they are from California). “The yards are really small,” say others. Yet, people love it here, and they keep coming: For 2016, forbes.com ranked Denver (including the region from Aurora to Lakewood) as America’s 11th fastest growing city and Colorado as the nation’s 7th fastest growing state. And, with our state having the 4th fastest growing economy, according to the financial news resource 24/7 Wall St., this means more parents will be working here and raising kids here—and the kids will not be disappointed.
We asked parents, education experts, city leaders, urban professionals, mountain dwellers and other locals what they think is great about raising kids in Colorado, and here is what they said. Use it as a guide to seek out new opportunities with your family or as a tool to get your best friend to move here. Because, she probably will.
1. We Really Move
“The best thing about raising our daughter in Colorado is that it is an active culture that values wellness and physical fitness,” says Gerardo Muñoz, dad of one child and teacher in Denver Public Schools. “No matter where one goes, whether in the city or the mountains, people are out getting their bodies moving and taking advantage of the outdoors.”
You might say our active culture has put us on the map: Colorado consistently ranks in the top 10 of the nation’s fittest states from a variety of sources and maintains an obesity rate lower than most states at around 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Support for Work/Life Balance
“Colorado does a much better job than so many other places when it comes to work-life balance, which almost by definition makes for better parenting,” says Daniel Brogan, president and editor-in-chief of 5280 Publishing, Inc. which recently acquired Colorado Parent. “Not only do we have more time for our families, but we”re able to set far better examples for our kids about priorities and the importance of family life.”
3. This Weather
From Longmont to Parker and everywhere in between, parents agree that Colorado’s weather is a huge factor in why so many people love our state. With an average of 300 days where the sun pops out for at least an hour, more than 300 inches of snow per year at mountain resorts, low humidity (an average of 33 percent) and less chance that outdoor events will be rained out, it seems the climate creates a domino effect for the ability to do many outdoor activities, some of which you”ll find in this list.
4. An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Maybe it’s a holdover from our Old West roots, but Coloradans are doers. We see an opportunity and reach for it. Young Americans Center for Financial Education, offers kids the opportunity to develop business savvy at a young age. The center runs the world’s only FDIC-insured bank designed for people age 21 and younger (two Denver locations), at which kids can learn about money management and get a loan for a small business. In addition, through their YouthBiz program, young entrepreneurs get to sell their goods at the YouthBiz Marketplace twice per year and participate in a competition for young business owners.
5. Cultural and Arts Access for All
Support provided by the citizens through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) has a major impact on the arts programs accessible to Colorado kids. SCFD distributes funds from a one tenth of 1 percent sales and use tax to cultural facilities throughout the seven-county Denver metropolitan area, which allow it to provide free days for kids at many museums, low-cost theater experiences and more.
“Colorado offers its residents unique world-class opportunities to plant the seed for a lifetime of arts appreciation,” says John Lukavic, father of two and associate curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum. “The summer art classes and camps at the Denver Art Museum are one of the greatest art programs I have come across anywhere in the country.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s wife, Mary Louise Lee, is also passionate about arts accessibility. The First Lady of Denver developed the foundation, Bringing Back the Arts, as a way to help restore arts education programs in Denver schools, provide access to cultural institutions and to promote local artists. “(I believe in) art organizations that help introduce, cultivate and prepare our children for art careers or other entities that will help them think outside of the box,” says Lee, who is also an actress, vocalist and mother of three.
6. All the Helping Hands
“Colorado has great opportunities to volunteer in the community, even with young kids,” says Cheryl Brungardt, a mom of three who works in business-to-business sales for Thank Em Promotions. “Standing side-by-side as you do something for others sets a great example for Colorado kids to learn to reach out and help people as they grow into adults.”
7. Parks and Playgrounds
Colorado has tons of them, located inside almost every neighborhood, along creeks, above rolling hills and even in urban areas. “(In Arvada) there are wide open spaces for my kids to run free and the neighborhoods are more friendly,” says Dan Murphy, a dad of three who works as a feeder driver for UPS. “Where I grew up, there was just one playground for what at the time felt like a million kids.”
As a dad of two young children, Jeremy Padgett, Mix100.3 morning show personality, agrees that going to the park is a big part of what he loves about Colorado. “Our favorite little relaxation spot to take the kiddos is a park tucked into the Highlands Ranch area called Civic Green Park. It’s a great place for a family picnic on the lawn and the kids can run through the fountain and the lazy river.”