Between gold rushes and oil strikes, Denver has experienced its fair share of booms. But the 2010s might have been the most promising and transformative era in the history of the Mile High City. To bid adieu to the decade so many of us will be sad to see end this month, we looked back at 10 major trends that defined the period of prosperity.

A Decade In Denver: 2010–2019

Photo courtesy of Angela Auclair/Getty Images

Sunny With A Chance Of Apocalypse
Four of the six warmest years in Colorado history occurred between 2012 and 2017, and the state is in a near-constant state of drought. Add in a rash of Hollywood-type events—the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, the 2013 Front Range floods, the 2019 bomb cyclone—and it’s apparent weather in Colorado has gone from “unpredictable” to “un-f@*%ing-believable.”

Rags To Riches
Colorado limped into the 2010s with an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. Today, it’s down to 2.7 percent, and we’ve posted the best economy in the country the past three years, according to U.S. News & World Report. And while Colorado is producing more crude than ever, the state’s financial well-being is no longer reliant on just oil and gas; the tech sector recently attracted outposts from giants like Slack and Gusto, and the booming outdoor recreation economy generated $62 billion for the state in 2017.

Green Backed
In 2014, Colorado became the first state in the country to implement recreational marijuana sales. Since then, the Centennial State has made more than $1 billion in tax revenue and added around 44,000 cannabis-related jobs—proving that crime may not pay, but legal drugs certainly do.

Photo courtesy of Crisanta Duran

Welcome To a More Colorful Colorado
Crisanta Duran (first Latina speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives), Jared Polis (the state’s first openly gay governor), and Joe Neguse (the Centennial State’s first black congressman) made Colorado politics more vibrant. Plus, the most diverse Colorado General Assembly ever was sworn into office in 2019; it includes a record number of female, African American, Latino, and LGBTQ lawmakers.

We Are Often The Champions
The Colorado Rapids started the decade by claiming their first MLS Cup in 2010; the Denver Broncos added to the winning in 2016 with a Super Bowl 50 victory; and the University of Denver sprinkled in national championships for men’s lacrosse (2015) and men’s hockey (2017). But swimmer Missy Franklin’s four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and skiers Mikaela Shiffrin’s and Lindsey Vonn’s general badassery on the ski hill proved the journey to title town is quicker if you travel without baggage (i.e., teammates).

Photo by Sarah Boyum

Building Inside The Box
Denver added more than 100,000 people during the 2010s, sparking development that resulted in lauded revitalization projects like Union Station in 2014. Unfortunately, the building barrage also gave rise to slot homes and escalating rent and home prices that accelerated gentrification.

(Read more: Decade in Review: A Look Back at Colorado’s Biggest Stories from 2010 to 2019)

Culture Vultures
The opening of acclaimed venues such as the Clyfford Still Museum, the History Colorado Center, and the Mission Ballroom eviscerated any lingering perception of Denver as a hayseed cow town. The Denver Art Museum, meanwhile, only got better by hosting world-renowned exhibits, including blockbusters featuring Star Wars, Dior, and Monet.

Brew Boom
In 2011, Colorado was home to 136 craft breweries. By the end of 2018, we had a whopping 396 (producing everything from Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Apricot Blonde to Wynkoop Brewing Company’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout)—more than any state except California.

Cease Fire
Twelve people were killed and 70 more injured due to gun violence at an Aurora movie theater in 2012. The following year, Centennial State leaders passed five gun control measures. And in 2019, state Representative Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered during the Aurora shooting, successfully led an effort to make Colorado one of the first states to approve a red flag bill.

Photo by Marvin Anani

Home Solutions
In both 2016 and 2017, Denver’s homeless population grew by more than 10 percent. The mid-decade spike led to a debate about how to best handle homelessness, with the city enacting camping bans, funding tiny homes, and, in 2019, creating the Department of Housing and Homelessness.

This article was originally published in 5280 December 2019.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.