Why you should care
Because you can say you liked this Colorado city before it was cool.
Picture life in Colorado: living in the shadow of the mountains with America’s peak outside your window, good food and music just a few feet from your doorstep and an affordable apartment to boot. Definitely you’d move to Denver, right? No, you want to be in Colorado Springs, an hour south.
Why? Because it’s thriving, and it’s cheaper. While metro Denver’s average home price teeters at nearly $500K, Colorado Springs is still at a relatively affordable $250K, which is why it’s been named the third-best large city in the U.S. for first-time home buyers, according to reports from WalletHub in July of this year. “The word I’ve been using to describe Colorado Springs: accessibility,” says Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer for the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
The backdrop certainly helps. With misty mountains eclipsing the area (they’re a 10-minute bike ride away), Pikes Peak in the distance and the red-rocked Garden of the Gods even closer, nature awaits.
And the drinking is close, too. Ivywild School, an ex-public school turned concert venue, houses a trendy cocktail bar, the Principal’s Office. If you’re feeling like the teacher’s pet, order up the Hall Pass, the Band Camp or the Golden Girl — the Catholic School Girl, Daddy Issues and the Fresh Paddle are some naughtier options. Of course, if it’s not quite 5 o’clock somewhere, then you can stop at Story Coffee Co., a tiny home in a city that calls itself the capital of tiny homes (a dubious distinction — hello, Portland is calling). Chinese teas await at Yellow Mountain Tea House, and the Ohana Kava Bar serves up kava and kombucha (the internet tells me that the former is a Polynesian narcotic sedative drink with crushed pepper roots and the latter is a drink an NFL player recently tried to say got him drunk enough to fail his sobriety test).
Even with nearly half a million people, there’s a feeling of familiarity. “It’s a change in who we are as a nation. People value experience over many things — and the experience is a little bit richer than just being in a big-city rat race environment,” Parsons says.
With a median age of 34, Colorado Springs is just as young as Denver — despite its retirees-and-military-personnel reputation.
Of course, that small enough trait is also Colorado Springs’ weakness for those who really want to have their cake and eat it too. Take the food scene: As an online reviewer on the Forbes Travel Guide put it, “If you’re expecting to get your pick of sushi bars, falafel huts and dim sum joints, you’ll be sorely disappointed.” To that, Parsons admits, “We’re early in the life stage.”
Still, the city has lured the likes of chef Brother Luck, who won Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, reached the finals of Chopped and is opening a premier restaurant, IV by Brother Luck, that’s trying to turn this meat-and-potatoes town into a fine dining scene … with four-course dishes at just $45.
And the demographics are catching up. With a median age of 34, Colorado Springs is just as young as Denver — despite its retirees-and-military-personnel reputation. “It’s transitioning — there’s this craft movement,” Luck says. “It reminds me a lot of Portland or Austin.” And as for that other city up north? “When I’m in Denver I don’t feel like I’m in Colorado,” Luck quips.
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