Why Fort Collins is still one of the best places to live in America

Three years ago New York Times, Gallup, and National Geographic best-selling author Dan Buettner ranked the happiest cities in the United States. His research took into account no less than 15 metrics such as financial security, eating healthy, dental health, civic engagement, and more.

And here is the good news: Fort Collins was rated as the fourth happiest city in the US. Why is this city so popular? What makes it such a great place to live in?

Fort Collins undeniably has a lot of charm. The presence of Colorado State University helps to set the cultural and economic tone. Attractions include unique shops, a thriving arts scene, many independent restaurants, and a plethora of outdoor amenities.

The city has highly regarded private and public secondary schools, and the Old Town downtown district is really quaint. Combine that with a fast-growing craft beer culture with at least 15 microbreweries and you have a winning recipe.

Of course, money is always important – and you might be delighted to know that, according to livability.com, the median family income here exceeds $100,000 per year.

The weather

During the average year, Fort Collins enjoys no less than 237 sunny days. To see this in perspective: the US average is only 205. With all that sunshine one would expect it to rain less than in many other cities, and you would be right: Fort Collins only gets 16 inches of rain per year, compared to the US average of 38 inches. Furthermore, the winters are described by locals as “sunny and mild”, although during winter snow is a fairly common occurrence.

Employment options

A thriving job market is another reason why Fort Collins has more than once been named as one of the best places in the US to live. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, it’s the business hub of Northern Colorado, and also the region’s center for retail trade, government, healthcare, the arts, and education. No wonder it boasts the best-educated (and largest) workforce in this part of Colorado. And the city’s rapid growth is ensuring a steady stream of new job opportunities.

A few of the biggest employers include:

  • The University of Colorado, which currently employs around 6,000 people
  • OtterBox has two large distribution centers and various sister companies in town
  • Woodward is an independent service provider, manufacturer, and designer of control instruments for the industrial and aerospace markets.
  • The beer industry plays a major role in Fort Collins’ employment market. From major national names to small local craft breweries offer a wide variety of job opportunities.
  • UC Health is Poudre Valley Hospital’s parent company in Fort Collins and runs various laboratories, clinics, and support services. It employs around 20,000 people and provides a wide range of employment opportunities.

Schools and universities

Fort Collins has numerous high-quality schools. Fort Collins High School e.g. had 1,796 students enrolled in 2016. Another high school, Liberty Common Charter, was recently ranked among the top 10 schools in Colorado by U.S. News and World report.

As far as universities go, Colorado State University in Fort Collins had around 33,400 students in 2017. It is widely regarded as a research powerhouse and is consistently rated as one of the nation’s best performing research universities.

Within a 40-mile radius there are also 4 other universities/colleges:

  • Aims Community College
  • Naropa University
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Colorado-Boulder

Food and markets

Fort Collins is home to no less than 400 restaurants. There is something for everyone: from family restaurants to doughnut shops, and from venues where you can get healthy smoothies and pressed juices to vegan and vegetarian-friendly eateries.

The city is also home to the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative. The team behind Happy Heart Farm also helped launch Fort Collins’ first-ever farmers’ market. Presently there are numerous markets throughout the year, including the very popular Northern Colorado Food Cluster Winter Farmers Market.

Outdoor activities

Just outside of Fort Collins you will find Horsetooth Reservoir, a lovely scenic setting for boating, hiking, fishing, water skiing, swimming, camping, horseback riding, stand up paddle-boarding, and more.

A few of the top outdoor activities in Fort Collins include white water rafting, hiking along the Poudre river trail, or in the Cathy Fromme Prairie natural area – one of the truly unique hiking trails in Fort Collins which is renowned for the variety of birds, plants and raptors along the way.

And one should not forget mountain biking, beer & bike day tours, the Orange Skies free-fall center, enjoying the beauty of Reservoir Ridge Natural Area, playing golf at Southridge Golf Club, the Collindale Golf Course or Mountain Vista Golf Course, going scuba diving, enjoying water sports at the Inlet Bay Marina, soaking in hot springs, or simply enjoying the day at the Rocky Ridge Recreational Facility.

Nightlife in Fort Collins

Whether you like dancing, loud music, and excitement or a quiet night out with your partner at a stylish restaurant serving good food in a romantic atmosphere, Fort Collins will not disappoint you. Being a college town, there are obviously many bars and pubs, but there’s much more. You can go see a show at the Cupcake cabaret, enjoy a couple of old-school arcade games at Pinball Jones, check out the city’s drag scene, or spend the night at Chipper’s Lanes where the list of attractions include bowling, volleyball and live music.

Cost of living

Fort Collins is a relatively small college town with a large student population. The demand for real estate is always high, and this translates into fairly high real estate prices.

If one looks at cost of living, however, it is always necessary to also look at earnings. According to livability.com, the average Fort Collins family earns more than $100 000 a year.

The average home in the city costs $389 700, compared to the average of $384 000 for Colorado as a whole. Rental costs for both large and small apartments are on average also close to 30 percent higher than the US median.

Most consumer items are also relatively expensive* in here. A typical lunch is 3 percent more expensive than the US average, and a beer will cost you 17 percent more.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though: Some things in Fort Collins are actually cheaper than in most other places in the nation. Public transport, for example, costs 57 percent less than the average for other US cities. A 5 km taxi ride is 9 percent cheaper, and the membership fees at one of the local fitness clubs will most likely work out about 10 percent less than the average cost in other cities.

Should you ever hit really hard times, you won’t have to worry too much either: Fort Collins has you covered, with the bread price being 4 percent lower than in most other US cities!

A healthy lifestyle

Fort Collins is renowned for being health-conscious. This city makes a real effort to keep the focus on fitness, health, and wellness. Whether you like Cross Fit, weightlifting, Orangetheory, CycleBar, or Zumba, you are bound to find a wide selection of options here. And if you are into healthy eating, you will find lots of fresh local produce at the Winter’s Farmer Market as well as the the Fort Collins Farmers Market.

Having fun with the family

Apart from the numerous options for outdoor activities, Fort Collins also boasts more than 50 parks, swimming pools, playgrounds, and sports fields within its boundaries. There is also a long list of family-friendly activities and attractions for those days when it’s just too warm or too cold to be outside, including the Museum of Discovery.

Fort Collins is a wonderful place to raise a family

Two years ago Livability rated Fort Collins as their top choice for the Best City for Families. There are many reasons why this city is such a great place to raise a family, including the following:

  • Excellent schools, from private to charter and public
  • Some of the best libraries out there
  • A wide choice of after-school programs
  • Top-quality support in terms of wellness, health and childcare

A social scene to die for

Apart from catering to the needs and interests of your kids, Fort Collins also has the unmistakable buzz of a college town. Combine that with an eclectic mix of a bohemian spirit, vibrant culture, farmhouse charm, refined tastes, and relaxed attitudes and you have a true winner.

Whether you are enjoying a beer at one of the many breweries, exploring the streets of Old Town, or enjoying a fine dinner at one of the numerous bars or specialty restaurants across town, Fort Collins has many options for a night on the town with your friends or your partner.

The city is also home to a thriving arts and music scene with a variety of concerts, music festivals and theater productions throughout the year.


Should you find it’s the right time to consider a move to Fort Collins, Colorado, why not browse the current availability of homes? You can use our property search to look for properties that meet your needs. You can also get an instant home valuation report should you be wanting to sell your existing home, no matter where it is located around the country. We are property experts in Northern Colorado, and in particular Fort Collins, Colorado. We have decades of experience buying and selling property in the area, and can help you find your dream home. Should you wish to speak to someone about your situation, feel free to contact us.