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20 Things to Know About Living in Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado

by Matt Lyons Posted on December 21, 2023

Fort Collins, a growing community in Colorado that maintains a small-town feel, is situated just about an hour away from both Denver and Boulder. Referred to as the “Napa Valley of Beer” because of the many big breweries in the area (like New Belgium Brewing Company), Fort Collins has a heavy young population, as the city is also home to Colorado State University. Think living in Fort Collins, Colorado, sounds right up your alley? Here are 20 considerations to help you decide.

 

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Living in Fort Collins, Colorado – At a Glance

  • Situated about an hour north of major Colorado cities Denver and Boulder, the city of Fort Collins is bordered by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the banks of the Cache la Poudre River.
  • Fort Collins was originally founded in 1864 as a military fort that was referred to as “Camp Collins.”
  • The city encompasses a total land area of 57.2 square miles.
  • The total population in Fort Collins is just over 169,200, according to 2022 Census data.
  • Because of the local university and various amenities that cater to the young population, the median age in Fort Collins of around 30 is lower than in other areas like Denver.

Living in Fort Collins, Colorado – At a Glance

Q: Is Fort Collins a good place to live in Colorado?
A:
With outdoor recreation opportunities, great restaurants, shopping, music, and plenty of arts and culture experiences, Fort Collins is easily one of the best places you can choose to live in Colorado. 

Q: Why is Fort Collins so popular?
A:
Home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins is popular among students and young professionals, but the city also has something special to offer for every walk of life. 

Q: Is it better to live in Fort Collins or Colorado Springs?
A:
Colorado Springs offers more features of a large city, while Fort Collins is a smaller, more laid back town. Ultimately, it just comes down to personal preference.

Q: Is Fort Collins expensive to live?
A:
While it’s more expensive to live in Fort Collins than many other hotspots across the U.S., it’s still cheaper to live in Fort Collins than other areas of Colorado, as the cost of living is lower than the state average. It is, however, above the national average.

1. Cost of Living in Fort Collins, CO 

While the state of Colorado has many desirable perks — from its natural beauty to its bustling entertainment scene — the cost of living can get quite expensive, as it’s higher than the national average. In fact, the cost of living index in Colorado is 120.5, while the U.S. has an average cost of living index of 100. 

Fortunately, basic cost of living amenities, like healthcare, housing, and utilities, are cheaper in Fort Collins than many other parts of the state, as the city has a lower cost of living index of 115.7. 

A family of four with two working adults should expect to bring in around $97,900 a year after taxes to live comfortably, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. On the other hand, a single young professional or retiree should be bringing in closer to $33,600 annually after taxes to lead a comfortable lifestyle.

Colorado State University graduates throw their caps in the air in celebration.

Colorado State University
(Source: Colorado State University)

2. Living in Fort Collins Pros and Cons 

Pro: Prime Access to Nature’s Best Offerings

If you're looking for a place to enjoy year-round adventure, then Fort Collins is definitely the place for you. The city has plenty of outdoor activities that you can take advantage of, such as hiking, biking, and skiing around the Rocky Mountains and local parks. You can also get active by going white-water rafting or kayaking on the Cache la Poudre River.

Pro: Strong Education System

Because the city of Fort Collins is known for its well-regarded public schools and is home to Colorado State University, education is a high priority in the area. This makes the city an ideal place to live for college students and families with children.

Pro: Phenomenal Craft Beer Scene

You'll be sure to find plenty of breweries within the "Napa Valley of Beer," including some of the most prominent names like Odell Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Company. Local tours also allow you to get a closer look at the process of brewing beer, which is an ideal activity for a relaxing weekend.

Pro: Underrated Music Scene

Although it's not traditionally known for its music scene, Fort Collins features a wide variety of genres, from bluegrass to indie rock. The city also hosts the yearly FoCoMX music festival, which showcases local talent.

Con: Traffic Due to Increasing Population 

The growth of Fort Collins and the nearby area has resulted in more traffic, which can be a challenge for people who previously lived in less-congested areas.

Con: Challenges With Winter Weather

The winter weather in Fort Collins can be great for various outdoor activities, but it can also make for challenging conditions on the roads. It's important to be prepared when driving in snowy conditions.

Con: Competitive Housing Market 

Fort Collins' housing market is typically expensive and competitive, making it hard for many people to find affordable homes. This can be especially problematic for young families and individuals who are planning on buying their first homes.

3. The Housing Market in Fort Collins

With an average home price of nearly $543,100, the housing market in Fort Collins can be difficult to navigate, as there are not as many affordable options.

There are a wide variety of housing types to choose from in Fort Collins, though, including single-family houses, townhomes, condominiums, and mobile homes. The city's central location and proximity to Colorado State University are some of the main factors for why the real estate market is so competitive. Vacant land in the outlying areas is also often used for agriculture and new construction.

4. Renting in Fort Collins 

If you’re on a tight housing budget, then you might want to consider renting initially to save up some money before you buy. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,900 in Fort Collins, and you can expect to get around 925 square feet of generous space at that price. Of course, studio apartments are usually the most affordable, while 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartments are a bit pricier. 

Old Town Square in Fort Collins, Colorado, is lit with Christmas lights. The hexagonal pavers are glistening in the rain, and a little bit of snow is still resting on some potted plants.

Old Town Square
(Source: Downtown Fort Collins via Facebook)

5. Best Places to Live in Fort Collins 

Old Town Fort Collins

Old Town Fort Collins is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods to settle down in the city, due to its unique, turn-of-the-century architecture. The wide streets that were once used for horse-drawn carriages are still there today, but they now allow plenty of room for cars to park, which makes it convenient for both locals and tourists. And if you're in the mood to grab a bite to eat or shop, you have plenty of options nearby, including the Foothills Mall

The breweries along the Poudre River, live music in Old Town Square, and all the activities going on around Colorado State University's campus are other major draws of this neighborhood — especially for young professionals, students, and recent graduates.

Huntington Hills 

Huntington Hills is a family-friendly neighborhood filled with fun activities to keep everyone active. Its various attractions and facilities, such as the local tennis courts and pool, are some of the major draws the area has to offer.

This Northern Colorado neighborhood has plenty of ways for residents to get outdoors and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty, as well. Its proximity to Portner Reservoir and the foothills provides optimal fishing access and plenty of hiking trails nearby. You can also enjoy a lovely picnic at Fossil Creek Park or check out a baseball game.

Brown Farm

In addition to easy access to Colorado State University and the downtown Fort Collins area, Brown Farm offers the ideal location for retirees, in particular, to enjoy more of a laid-back atmosphere. The community features Blevins Park, which is 6.6 acres and ideal for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the natural beauty — and maybe even bring a grandkid or two to play on the playgrounds! It’s also a convenient location to explore nearby areas such as Horsetooth Reservoir and other places along the Front Range.

Aerial view of a street in Fort Collins where both MAX Rapid Transit and Transfort bus services are stopped to pick up passengers.

MAX Rapid Transit and Transfort buses
(Source: Transfort via Facebook)

6. Public Transportation in Fort Collins

There are plenty of ways to get around when living in Fort Collins, Colorado. If you're looking to be more eco-friendly, Transfort runs 365 days a year, and its MAX Rapid Transit service is a stress-free way to get around town. If you're in need of paratransit services and are unable to use Transfort, Dial-A-Ride is a great alternative to check out. And if you need to travel frequently for work or any other reason, the Northern Colorado Regional Airport is in close proximity with regular flights to major regional hubs. 

7. Education Opportunities for Fort Collins Residents

Fort Collins is known for its academic excellence, as it has several private, public, and charter schools that are all highly regarded. Colorado State University is a great place for higher education and even hosts a wide range of events, lectures, and performances for the local community. Another local university about 45 minutes away is the University of Northern Colorado, a well-regarded public doctoral research university. 

8. CSU Sports

Rams fan? You’re certainly not the only one! People come from all around to support their CSU athletes. And the Rams actually compete against other institutions in the MWC, which is an NCAA football-supported conference. 

But it’s not all about football in Fort Collins. For those attending Colorado State University, intramural sports are a great way to get more involved in the school’s sports scene. The school’s intramural sports program features various competitions and leagues throughout the semester, which include sports like flag football, soccer, water polo, and kickball.

Dozens of locals are gathered around a community ice rink in Downtown Fort Collins, Colorado, on a sunny winter day.

(Source: Downtown Fort Collins via Facebook)

9. Weather in Fort Collins

Fort Collins' summers are mostly clear and warm, while the winters are typically windy and snowy, with a few cloudy days here and there. The temperature fluctuates from 19 degrees Fahrenheit to 87 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, and temperatures rarely ever get below 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
The hot season in Fort Collins starts in June and ends in September. And the hottest month in the city is in July, which has an average high temperature of 87 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
The cold season in Fort Collins usually lasts from November to March. The month with the lowest temperature in the city is December, which has an average low of around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

10. Fort Collins Crime Rates

Compared to some cities in the U.S., Fort Collins' crime rate is higher, but it isn't among the most violent or property-crime-ridden areas. In fact, an analysis of data by NeighborhoodScout revealed that this city has a lower crime rate than other similar-sized towns and cities all across America. For specifics, it’s safer than 15 percent of U.S. neighborhoods, and there’s a 1 in 39 chance that someone will be a victim of some type of crime within the city. It’s important to remember that some areas may be more prone than others to crime, and you should always be aware of your surroundings.

11. Job Opportunities in Fort Collins 

If you're planning on relocating to Fort Collins, then you'll be very happy to know that the city has a low unemployment rate. It's a great place to start or advance a career in healthcare or education, in particular, as there are plenty of opportunities in these sectors. The retail trade industry in the area also offers numerous opportunities. And because of the variety of delicious dining found in Fort Collins, there are always job opportunities available at local restaurants.

A fancy meal is set on a table at The Emporium in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Emporium
(Source: The Emporium: An American Brasserie via Facebook)

12. The Fort Collins Dining Scene 

Speaking of food, Fort Collins has plenty of restaurants that offer a wide variety of cuisines, no matter your taste palette. Some of these options include Japanese, Vietnamese, French, Italian, and Mexican cuisines. And if you’re craving more seasonal dishes, local restaurants serve harvest menus and farm-to-table dishes. Restaurants are found throughout the entire city, of course, but the heaviest concentration is in the historic downtown area. 

Some of the best restaurants local to Fort Collins include:

13. Arts and Culture in Fort Collins

Northern Colorado's Fort Collins is known as the cultural capital of the region. There are a variety of activities happening in the area, including theater, opera, ballet, and music. Residents living have access to the world-renowned CSU Center for the Arts. And there are also museums and galleries that exhibit different types of art, including the Blue Moose Art Gallery, the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, and 3 Square Art Center.

14. Parks and Open Spaces Throughout the City 

Lory State Park

Located west of Fort Collins, Lory State Park features over 26 miles of trails that lead to various scenic areas, including rolling valleys and tall ridges. This park is known for its variety of activities, such as long and short hikes, mountain bike trails, and trail runs.

Arthur’s Rock Trail

One of the most popular hikes in Lory State Park is Arthur's Rock Trail, which offers magnificent views of Fort Collins and Horsetooth Reservoir. 

Pawnee National Grasslands

One of the most unique features of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forest in Colorado is the Pawnee National Grassland east of Fort Collins, which is a region that used to be home to nomadic Native American tribes. About 193,000 acres of this land are available to explore and feature various recreational opportunities like camping. 

Two women walk down a quaint pedestrian street in Fort Collins, Colorado, after locking up their bicycles with a dozen others.

(Source: Downtown Fort Collins via Facebook)

15. Green Living

Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country that works closely with the Arbor Day Foundation. Trees are often available for local residents to plant in order to help lower energy costs, filter air, and reduce stormwater runoff. 

The city also has several safe signals for cyclists and pedestrians, which promotes bike and pedestrian travel throughout the area. And a local organization known as the Sustainable Living Association works to educate residents about making their lives more sustainable through daily activities. 

16. The Music Scene of Fort Collins 

Fort Collins has a vibrant music scene, with local and national acts playing regularly. You can find lots of events to attend, such as Bohemian Nights and Thursday Night Live's summer concerts.

One of the most prominent listening spaces in the state is the Fort Collins Armory, which has a capacity of 200 and features various acoustic acts. And Avogadro's Number is one of the best dining experiences in the city that also includes an indoor/outdoor music venue — perfect for hanging with friends and listening to live music!

17. Nightlife in Fort Collins

Similar to other bustling cities, Fort Collins has various nightlife spots to choose from. This is because of its college-town atmosphere and especially its vibrant beer scene. In fact, Fort Collins has over 20  breweries. One of the most prominent of these is Anheuser-Busch, a global giant in the brewing industry. The company provides tours that let visitors see how Budweiser is made. Another local brewery that's known for its innovation? The Odell Brewing Company, which offers different tasting-room experiences.

18. Local Business Support 

People of Fort Collins love to dine, drink, and shop at independently owned establishments, as they can pretty much find everything they need at the local places. Residents go to Old Town to find most of the popular attractions, such as boutiques, art-minded shops, and treasures for new residents and tourists visiting. But Fort Collins is full of mom-and-pop shops, overall, which contributes to its tight-knit sense of community. Fort Collins also boasts several year-round farmers’ markets, where you can purchase outstanding local goods. 

19. Things To Do in Fort Collins for History Buffs

Through a variety of Fort Collins historical tours, you'll get to know the history of the city and its surrounding areas. You can even choose between two different tours that focus on either military or early settlement periods. Regardless, the journey will take you to a remote outpost known as Camp Collins, where you'll learn about the people and culture of the area.

Up for a little scare? On the Fort Collins Ghost Tour, your guide will lead you through haunted areas in the city. You'll also learn about the local legends and strange happenings that have taken place in the area over the years.

A group of friends and their river guide laugh and smile in delight as they navigate rapids while whitewater rafting on Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River.

Rafting on the Poudre River
(Source: A Wanderlust Adventure via Facebook)

20. Fun Things To Do in Fort Collins

Explore Old Town

The city's main source of entertainment and art offerings are centered around Old Town, which is the downtown area that features several music venues, bars, and shopping options. Fun fact: It's believed that Disneyland's Main Street was modeled after this area! Even if you’re on a budget, just taking a trip to explore the Old Town area is one of the most fun, free things to do in Fort Collins. 

Catch a Show at Lincoln Center

The Lincoln Center, which is near Old Town, hosts touring Broadway shows and smaller performances geared toward families. The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is also located north of the town — another family-friendly attraction that’s completely free and features a museum and digital dome theater.

Take Advantage of Summer Festivities

The summer season in Fort Collins is the most ideal time to get out and explore the various local festivals, such as the fun-filled Taste of Fort Collins, where residents can enjoy a variety of musical acts and great food. Another popular event? The Tour de Fat bike festival, which takes place every year and features a huge bike parade through the city.

Raft Down the Poudre River

If you’re looking for a little adventure, then whitewater rafting down the Cache la Poudre River might just be the ticket.  A Wanderlust Adventure is located just outside Fort Collins in Laporte, Colorado, and its guides have been taking thrill-seekers on rafting trips down the Poudre River for over 40 seasons!  

PODS Can Help With Your Move to Fort Collins 

Deciding to move to Fort Collins is easy, but actually getting there is the most challenging part. That's why you should consider using a portable moving container from PODS. Not only will it be dropped off right in your driveway, but PODS can also connect you with local services to help you with the heavy lifting, if needed. And once you've finished loading everything, your container will either be picked up and taken to your new home or stored in a secure PODS Storage Center until you're ready for it. 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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