In the late 20th century, many people settled in Denver primarily for what lay outside the city — specifically to the west, where the Rocky Mountains begin to rise up just outside the city limits. That's still a huge draw, of course: The Rockies around Denver harbor world class recreation opportunities. But increasingly Denver residents are also looking inward, where a thriving downtown supports a variety of cultural, culinary and entertainment gems.
At the core is the mile-long pedestrian mall on 16th Street, lined with shops, restaurants, historic buildings and modern offices. Locals flock here year round for people watching, free Wi-Fi throughout the mall area and the proximity to the Denver Performing Arts Complex, Coors Field and City Lights Pavilion.
In LoDo (Lower Downtown) the famed Tattered Cover bookstore is one reason Denver was ranked the country's 10th most-literate big city in 2011. Other popular neighborhoods include City Park, home to trendy restaurants along Colfax Avenue, the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science, along with an 18-hole golf course. Looking upscale? The Washington Park neighborhood fans out around a 165-acre park, replete with running and cycling trails, and is lined with beautiful homes just south of downtown.
See also: The best places to live the simple life.
The area's surge has pushed the metro area up and down the foot of the Rockies, where 90 miles of megalopolis is contributing to Denver's epic levels of sprawl, traffic and air pollution. If you move here consider settling in one of the many neighborhoods close to downtown and served by Denver's excellent public transportation system, or those that are designed for a pedestrian lifestyle.
Regardless of neighborhood, you'll find ample places to exercise: The city of Denver has more than 200 parks and 14,000 acres of parks in the foothills of the Rockies, including the famous Red Rocks outdoor concert venue. The city also has 90 golf courses and is within a couple hours' drive of some of the best skiing in the U.S.
The concentration of physicians and specialists is well above average. The number of hospital beds per capita is low, but National Jewish Health has a top-ranked respiratory division, and the University of Colorado Hospital is huge. Denver also has one of the nation's lowest rates of obesity and extremely low rates of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Few people smoke, and getting regular exercise is the rule. Denver has also been called the nation's best city for dogs and cats because of its high number of veterinarians per capita — and almost no fleas.
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