The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
OK, there’s just no way that we can bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about the Mile High City in one story. And learning about the place where you live is part of, well, just being a thoughtful resident of your new home.
But we polled our editors on the questions they hear most from people who’ve just arrived in our thin air. From pronunciations to marijuana to ski passes, we’re compiled a list of things that are likely to come up in conversation (you already know that 5280 stands for the city’s elevation, right?). It’s time to study up!
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
- You’re going to hear a lot of people say you live on the Front Range. Technically, that’s not true, as Denver is not on the mountain range that earns that moniker. However, people often refer to the cities that parallel that geological marvel—including Colorado Springs, Denver, and Fort Collins—as the Front Range. So, feel free to use the term for both the mountains and the metropolises, as long as you know the distinction.
- There is a whole lot of jargon you’ll need to know from fourteeners (the state has 53 peaks with an elevation above 14,000 feet that people like to climb in their spare time) to Xeriscape (a term for low-water gardens coined by Denver Water) and “send it” (we’ll just leave this here.) Oh, and Buena Vista is pronounced “BEW-na Vista;” you’ve been warned.
- It took just 10 days for Colorado’s legislature—led by state Rep. Leslie Herod—to pass a police reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter protests, making Colorado the first state to do so.
- If you’ve got a four-wheel or all-wheel drive car, you can ignore this. But, if you don’t, you’ll need snow chains from September to June if you’re driving I-70 in the mountains. When it starts snowing, you’ll understand why.
- While New Mexico’s hatch chile has more celebrity status, Coloradans know to load up on bushels of their home state’s Pueblo variety in the fall. Feel free to try both—the debate has caused billboard battles—just remember what state you call “home.”
- Yes, you can buy marijuana in Colorado. And, yes, that’s not as big of a deal now that much of the country is joining the buzz. If you’ve got questions, the state’s Leaf411 hotline has answers and local budtenders take their jobs seriously, so ask away (and, in general, Indica strains are more relaxing and Sativas are more energizing.)
- The air is thin, but it can be smelly, too. Depending on the way the wind is blowing (really; that’s not just a cliché) you’ll get hints of dog food (there’s a Nestle-Purina plant in east Denver alongside I-70) or manure (from feedlots north of Denver). The latter often precedes a snowstorm, so instead of complaining, get your ski gear ready.
- Speaking of skiing, people are obsessed, and discussions range from what pass to get (Ikon or Epic), how it will impact your dating life, and what mountain to visit. However, if schussing (there’s that lingo again; this means skiing straight downhill) isn’t your thing, don’t fret. There are plenty of other ways to play in the snow.
- No matter what you’ve heard, John Denver was not born in Colorado (and his name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.). But people love his “Rocky Mountain High” so much—the singer lived in Aspen for years—it is now one of Colorado’s state songs.
- No, you haven’t imbibed too many craft brews (by the way, Denver has a lot of breweries.) The city’s downtown actually is askew, following the curve of rivers rather than cardinal directions. The grid eventually corrects itself (see the confusing intersection at Broadway and 17th Street and 17th Avenue for an example.) If you’re confused, just remember: The mountains are always to the west.
- Yes, the 16th Street Free MallRide is free; just hop on and off. And, though the street is closed to other vehicles, you shouldn’t walk in front of the bus.
- We love our dogs, but the city has had a pitbull ban since the 1980s. The city council voted to amend that rule last year, but Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed it.
- If you’re hitting the trails around Denver or the state, make sure to check leash rules (many trails require dogs to be on a leash), don’t step off the trail (it damages the flora), yield to others based on a few rules, and get to the trailhead early (they are often crowded.)
- Since 1906, the National Western Stock Show has reminded Denver of its cowtown roots every year. We’re not joking: Each January, a parade of livestock shuts down streets.
- If you haven’t noticed, Denver’s walls are increasingly covered with vibrant murals. Artists like Thomas “Detour” Evans and Austin Zucchini-Fowler are making art accessible for all. And, the city’s annual ode to street art—CRUSH, a multi-day festival in the RiNo neighborhood—just might be the best way to see emerging trends in this evolving art form.