Fort Collins keeps popping up on CNN’s “Best Places to Live” list, earning the #1 spot on this prestigious report in 2006, the #2 spot in 2008, and the #6 spot in 2010. In addition to the benefits of a steady economy, small-town charm, excellent schools, and superb outdoor life, Fort Collins offers big city amenities.
A lively city that lies about an hour and a half north of Denver, Fort Collins is surrounded by quiet and less developed rural towns so you can choose to escape city life whenever you want a dose of nature. As the home of Colorado State University (CSU), Fort Collins bustles with college students, events, festivals, cafes, coffee houses, and boutique shopping while holding onto its rustic allure. You’ll hear the phrase “bikes, beers, and bands” when locals refer to the city.
If you’re moving to Fort Collins, you’ll probably become a passionate CSU Rams fan. You’ll enjoy joining Fort Collins residents out walking their dogs, running errands on their bikes, and enjoying a high-quality active Rocky Mountain lifestyle in every season.
Living in Fort Collins, CO: What to Know Before Moving to Fort Collins
Fort Collins is a picturesque Colorado city with 165,080 residents and abundant outdoor activities. The city, covering 47 square miles, is located 60 miles north of Denver between the Rocky Mountain Front Range to the west and the expansive Grand Prairie to the east. You’ll discover a thriving college scene and plenty of great friendly neighborhoods.
Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Collins
What are the great things about living in Fort Collins?
- A lower crime rate than other big cities in CO especially compared to Denver
- Lower cost of living than Denver, with some very affordable suburbs surrounding Fort Collins
- A renowned school system for all ages
- A steady growing economy with open fields for job seekers
- Impeccable views and mountains for adventure-lovers
- Higher education opportunities at Colorado State University
Some of the drawbacks for people who are considering moving to Fort Collins may be:
- The living costs are still higher than the rest of the nation and can be challenging for homeowning hopefuls
- The commute going in and out of the downtown area can be frustrating
- The area doesn’t have a lot of diversity among its residents
- CSU is a party school and can make the area a bit rowdy and loud at times
- The city is growing rapidly, and its bustling big city feel can be a turnoff for some people
- With an elevation of 4,982, you’ll need an altitude adjustment when you move so close to the Rocky Mountains (don’t forget to stay extra hydrated)
- Property Tax: The median home values are increasing in Fort Collins, meaning that residents are paying hundreds or even thousands more in property taxes than a year or two ago, according to the Coloradoan. Smart Asset reports that the average county property tax rate in Larimer County, based on a $250,000 home, is .65%. That comes to about $1,638 in property taxes per year. This total is higher than Colorado’s average but lower than the average national property tax of $3,028 on a $250,000 home.
- Sales Tax: Fort Collins’ sales tax is 7.55%, according to Avalara. This rate reflects a combined rate of Colorado’s 2.9% sales tax, Larimer County’s 0.8% sales tax, and the Fort Collins sales tax of 3.85%.
- Income Tax: The income tax in Colorado is a flat 4.63% according to bankrate.com. This rate stays stable regardless of your income level.
Fort Collins’ housing market mirrors the college’s population fluctuations, according to List with Clever’s blog. To determine if you should rent or buy, you have to consider your lifestyle and plans. Where do you plan on living in a few years, and how does the housing market look at the time of your move?
If you’re planning to rent, like about 47% of residents, it’s easier to find places in the late spring and early summer after students have vacated the town. The median rent is $1,850 per month. Far more rentals are available before fall arrives and students begin pouring back into town.
According to Trulia, the median home sales price is $398,500. Home values increased 5.2% over the past year and have doubled in value since 2010. The cheapest places to live in the area, according to Redefy, include:
- Golden Meadows
- Harvest Park
- English Ranch
Cost of Living
Compared to the US average index of 100, the Fort Collins overall cost of living index is 129.2, mainly due to a high housing cost index of 201.5. Colorado’s overall cost of living index is 131.5, with a housing cost index of 192.1.
You’ll pay less than the US average for certain basic expenses in Fort Collins. For example, the groceries index is 95.5, health 93.2, utilities 91.3, and transportation 98.1. It’s worthwhile to review the cost of living expenses at bestplaces.net to see more detailed information on what you can expect for Fort Collins expenses.
The median income in Fort Collins is $53,775. The average income is $28,921/year, which is just slightly above the US average of $28,555/year.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Fort Collins residents enjoy a four-season climate. Officially designated as a mid-latitude semi-arid cool steppe climate, this means that winters will be snowy and cold; summers will be hot and dry.
The hot season starts around the second week of June and continues through mid-September. July is the hottest month, where you can expect daytime highs of up to 87-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer days are typically clear and perfect for all the outdoor activities you love.
The cold season starts mid-November, continuing through the beginning of March. Daily highs average 49 with lows of 19. Plenty of snow falls in the winter and when it’s not snowing, expect partly cloudy, windy days. Fort Collins appeals to outdoor types who love to ski, snowboard, and suit up for other winter sports.
US Climate Data lists some of Fort Collins’ average weather statistics:
- Average annual precipitation: 16 inches
- Average annual snowfall: 57 inches
Check out Fort Collins Office of Emergency Management natural disaster plan on Facebook so you’ll be prepared for any natural threat. According to Our Community Now, Colorado is one of the safest states in the country from natural disasters, based on a World Atlas study. The threat of natural disasters, like flooding and earthquakes, is, on average, lower than the rest of the nation. But with climate change causing some atypical weather conditions, some of the natural disaster threats you could face include blizzards, hail storms, floods, fires, and tornadoes.
Economy & Job Market
City-data reports that Fort Collins has a well-balanced economy which tends to be somewhat insulated from the regular ups and downs of the national economy. The Fort Collins workforce is rooted in manufacturing, technology, and education. Some of the other major industries in the area include construction, trade, finance, and business services.
If you’re looking for a new job in Fort Collins, the Larimer County website recommends registering for one of their in-office workshops, where you can connect with other job seekers. You can even chat with a career consultant provided by the county.
Some of Fort Collins’ major employers include:
- Advanced Energy Industries Inc.
- Banner Health
- Colorado State University
- First National Bank
- The Group Inc.
- Xcel Energy Co
Traffic & Transportation
Fort Collins has several forms of efficient public transportation, including an excellent public bus system called Transfort, Zipcar, bicycle, and e-scooter rentals. Bike and e-scooter rental spots exist throughout this bike-friendly city that also has a bike co-op, bike share program, bike parking, dedicated bike lanes, and plenty of bike parking.
If you’re looking for something even more modern than a bicycle rental, try out an electric scooter. The city is ensuring efficient and safe scootering to help fill first and last mile gaps in the public transit system. Everywhere you look, you’ll see renters zipping their scooters around the city.
Some of the City’s Highways and Enhanced Travel Corridors (ETCs) connect major activity centers such as downtown with popular neighborhoods. They include I-25, US 287, SH 1, SH 14, Harmony Road, College Avenue, and Timberline Road, according to the City of Fort Collins site.
Unfortunately, as Fort Collins grows and develops, so does its traffic problems. But the city is planning road and traffic system upgrades. They’ve also promised to improve their already-excellent bike lanes, according to the Coloradoan.
Walkscore.com gives Fort Collins a 36 Walk Score, 77 Bike Score, and 29 Transit Score. The bike score is strong due to bike rentals, bike lanes, and overall respect for bikers. The most walkable Fort Collins neighborhoods include the downtown area, Old Town, and University Park.
What to Do
Here’s what you need to know about the range of activities around Fort Collins. We’ll start by revisiting the theme “beers, bikes, and bands.”
- Beers: Fort Collins is home to the most microbreweries in the state according to Visit Ft Collins. Each brewery has its unique style; many residents and visitors enjoy the brewery tours and taste tests.
- Bikes: This is one of the most bikeable big cities in the country, with wide bike lanes and scenic bike trails throughout the city. You can even borrow and rent bikes to enjoy the city like a local.
- Bands: From holes in the wall to citywide festivals and events, live music is an important part of Fort Collins’ culture. You can check out the community calendar on the Visit Ft Collins website.
Surrounded by National Forest and National Parks, Fort Collins is a great place for outdoor activities of all kinds, like fishing, hiking, golfing, horseback riding, birdwatching, skiing, and camping. Check out all the outdoor options in Cache la Poudre River, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
When you’re ready for some in-town adventure, explore the Museum of Art Fort Collins, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Aggie Theatre, Enigma Escape Room, cozy coffee houses, the over 20 restored historical buildings dotted through downtown, and numerous unique boutiques. Tide Car 21, a restored city streetcar, will take you through the heart of old town. Between your city adventures, you can cozy up to an artisanal latte or sit down to a Farm-to-Table meal in a restaurant that specializes in using locally sourced organic ingredients, like The Colorado Room or The Kitchen.
Schools and Universities
The Poudre School District manages Fort Collins public education. There are also private and charter school options, including Ridgeview Classical Schools and Saint Joseph Catholic School.
Fort Collins’ Chamber website states that Poudre School District students perform, on average, 9-19 points higher than other Colorado students in the Colorado Student Assessment Program.
Colorado State University (CSU) is the second largest university in the state and has been ranked consistently in the top tier of U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of “America’s Best Colleges and Universities.” In addition to CSU, other post-secondary opportunities include the for-profit IBMC College, offering vocational training in many fields, and Front Range Community College.
Busy cities tend to have high crime rates, and Fort Collins is safer than only 17% of US cities, according to Neighborhood Scout. However, Fort Collins looks significantly safer than Denver, which Neighborhood Scout says is safer than only 8% of US cities. There are pockets in the city and neighborhoods that are much safer than others, so be sure to check crime statistics when you’re researching where you may want to live.
If you’re getting ready to pack up and move, don’t forget to transfer your utilities or find new providers.
You can find Larimer County’s list of utility providers in detail here. If you’re ready to start setting up your utilities, contact your desired providers directly or start by setting up an account on the Fort Collins government site.
- Gas and Electricity: For Fort Collins gas and electricity, we recommend Xcel Energy. You can set up through their website or by calling them at (816) 385-2312.
- Water: For water services, you’ll want to set up an account on Fort Collins’ government website. Here is their page dedicated to water services. Once you set up an account and get your services rolling, you can trust your Water Department to process water at treatment facilities, distribute treated water to the service areas, and ensure high water quality every step of the way.
- Waste management: For trash pick-up services in Fort Collins, you can learn more on the Fort Collins government site. The city contracts with private trash haulers who collect waste:
- Internet and cable: For internet and cable, cabletv.com spells out some of the top providers for speed, service, and price. They recommend:
Best Neighborhoods in Fort Collins, CO
Ram’s Village is a CSU apartment complex rated the “Best Student Neighborhood in Fort Collins” by the Armstrong Hotel. This neighborhood, right next to CSU, is ideal for students who walk to classes and is teeming with sociable residents.
Not only does Ram’s Village provide social activities that students love, but it also offers affordable rates. These 2, 3, and 4-bedroom luxury apartment homes are furnished at reasonable costs to residents. Amenities include Wi-Fi, cable TV, A/C, and major appliances. The location is ideal with neighborhood cafes, coffee houses, and plentiful shopping.
Ram’s Village is all about CSU, but nearby are schools for elementary age students including Fort Collins Montessori Preschool and Polaris Expeditionary Learning School.
- Location: 900 Constitution Ave, Fort Collins CO 80521
- Population: 36,768 according to Point2Homes
- Rental price: $1,658/month as of June 2019, according to Rent Café
- Things to do: Check out one of the Prospective Students Tours, get a coffee at Alley Cat Coffeehouse, or grab a slice at Blackjack Pizza
Old Town is all about nightlife, art, and culture. If you’re looking for a neighborhood where you can bike, e-scoot, or walk to most of your errand hotspots, this is the neighborhood for you. Old Town is an energetic, ever-changing neighborhood with lots of young residents and college students. And, the name “Old Town” is fitting due to historical locations like Old Town Square and Downtown Artery.
The Armstrong Hotel names Old Town the “Best Place to Shop in Fort Collins.” The downtown shopping scene offers everything from sporting goods to thrift stores. You’ll find a combination of traditional architecture and big city apartments.
- Location: The central part of downtown Fort Collins, with proximity to CSU
- Population: 34,670 according to Point2Homes
- Home price: Realtor.com says there are only a few homes for sale, and they range in price from $398,000-$580,000
- Rental price: Trulia claims the rent ranges from $950 per month to $3,500 per month, depending on whether you desire an apartment or a home
- Schools: St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Laurel Elementary School
- Things to do: Explore the Museum of Art Fort Collins or get outdoors on a beautiful bike path
Bucking Horse is just south of midtown Fort Collins, at Drake and Timberline. These homes are beautiful 3-bedroom to 6-bedroom structures amid abundant amenities like parks, walking trails, open spaces, restaurants, and more; condos and townhomes are also available according to Allison Klein Homes.
This Fort Collins neighborhood is renowned for its family-centered clubhouse and Junior Olympic swimming pool. If you’re seeking the perfect place to start a family, consider Bucking Horse.
- Population: Nextdoor cites Bucking Horse population at 3081
- Rental price: Units start at $1350 and range from 756-1506 square feet based on data from apartments.com
- Home price: Redfin says Bucking Horse homes have a median listing price of $486,000
- Schools: Riffenburgh Elementary School, Lesher Middle School, Fort Collins High School
- Things to do: Lory State Park is right next door for a day of family-friendly hiking and outstanding scenery
Do you prefer living in a quieter, more rural area? Milliken is an incredibly affordable little town that offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Located about 30 miles southeast of Fort Collins via I-25 N, Milliken is a child and family-oriented community where kids can make friends and play outdoors.
Milliken has over 2,000 beautiful new construction single-family homes, and you can get much more bang for your buck here than in Fort Collins.
- Population: 7,281 according to Colorado Hometown Locator
- Home price: $308,600 according to Zillow
- Rental price: $1,571 according to Rent Café
- Schools: Weld County School District serves Milliken. District schools include Milliken Middle School, Knowledge Quest Academy, Milliken Elementary School, and Letford Elementary School
- Things to do: Some popular spots in Milliken include Alibi, Immortal Mansion, and Mile High Wakeboarding
About 7 miles south of downtown Fort Collins, Huntington Hills is one of the most family-friendly parts of the city, according to All Property Services. The Armstrong Hotel calls it the “Best Family Neighborhood in Fort Collins.”
Huntington Hills offers new-build homes with modern amenities, an easy commute to all of Fort Collins’ greatest shopping and businesses, and its conveniences within the community. Residents enjoy Fossil Creek Park, a community pool, and proximity to dining options and movie theaters.
According to Allison Klein Homes, this is a physically and socially active neighborhood and a great place to meet friends and neighbors.
- Location: South side of Fort Collins
- Population: 53,128
- Home price: Median listing price is $425,000 according to realtor.com
- Rental price: There are very few rentals available in the area at any given time, but when you find one, expect prices around $1700 according to Zumper
- Schools: The best schools in the area include Discovery Montessori, Werner Elementary, and Preston Middle School. Werner receives an 8/10 rating on Great Schools and is known for its advanced STEM coursework to set up your child for success.
The Armstrong Hotel calls City Park the “Best Place to Live in Fort Collins.” These historic homes offer old-timey charm and proximity to Old Town perks like cultural activities, bars, and historical sites.
The neighborhood is named after its beloved community green space, City Park, located at 1500 W Mulberry Street. You, friends, and family can enjoy barbeque grills, baseball fields, fitness stations, basketball courts, a pool, tennis courts, and more. Walkscore rates the area the 11th most walkable neighborhood in Fort Collins, so it’s a great neighborhood choice if you prefer to get around on foot.
- Population: 1,199 according to Weichert.com
- Home price: $528,600 on Zillow
- Rental price: Zumper estimates the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment at $1,395
- Schools: Putnam Elementary School serves the area.
- Things to do: Get dinner or dessert at City Park Gelato & Amore, or make a splash at City Park Pool
The Old Prospect neighborhood, completely surrounded by parks and open space, features well-maintained, established, mid-sized homes. This community is a high-demand neighborhood according to All Property Services because of its access to incredible parks, great schools, and amenities.
You can walk or bike to do your grocery shopping or get your kids to school. Old Prospect is ranked #5 on The Group Inc.’s article “The 10 Neighborhoods in Fort Collins with the Highest Bike Scores.”
- Population: 3,948 residents according to Nextdoor
- Location: Old Prospect lies south of East Prospect Road, east of Highway-287, and north of East Stuart Street
- Home price: $590,000 as of June 2019, on Trulia
- Rental price: Range from $995 to $1,800
- Schools: Rivendell School, PSD Global Academy, Lesher Middle School
- Things to do: Visit Totally 80s Pizza & Museum, a memoir to the 1980s with creative specialty pizzas
University Park is conveniently south of Old Town and east of CSU. University Park’s 75 Walk Score, 48 Transit Score, and 99 Bike score make it Fort Collins’ 3rd most walkable neighborhood. If you prefer walking and biking to driving, you should seriously consider this area.
What are some of the amenities here? You have lots of dining options as well as outdoor options like Springer and Williams Natural areas. Eastside Park is right across the street and includes a playground for the kids.
University Park homes represent a wide variety of styles based on a range of time periods and most sit on quarter-acre lots.
- Population: 1,892
- Median Home Price: $480,000 is the median sales price on Trulia, which comes to $448/square foot
- Median Rent: $1,800 per month
- Schools: Centennial High School, Laurel Elementary, Harris Bilingual Elementary
- Things to do: Enjoy excellent local dining and drinks at The Colorado Room or The R Bar and Lounge
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