43 Denver

PopulationMetro: 2,755,000
Light rail, legal pot and buzzing ‘hoods put Denver on the fast track.

Tucked at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, young, good-looking and outdoorsy Denver is a wealthy, healthy Millennial-magnet of a city that’s showing other urban centers the way to the 21st century.

Denver ranks #30 globally for Prosperity, with an impressive GDP per capita (#22) and Unemployment (#29) subcategory finishes. There’s also new companies setting up shop and legacy enterprises hungry for new talent.

But the real game-changer, according to many, has been the completion of a regional light rail network that’s transformed city neighborhoods and seeded others. A new spur to the airport has put an end to jokes about the middle-of-nowhere terminal, and will quickly improve an already impressive #22 ranking for direct Airport Connectivity. Best of all, the train takes travelers to Union Station, a gloriously renovated 1914 Beaux-Arts train terminal that’s now home to 10 chef-owned restaurants and bars, boutique shops and the 112-room Crawford Hotel.

Denver International Airport

The city’s not exactly known for its Neighborhoods & Landmarks (a subcategory that the city ranked out of the Top 100 for), but that’ll change when visitors spend some quality time in LoDo, Five Points, and take in the RiNo (River North Art District), which Lonely Planet calls one of the Top 10 neighborhoods to visit in the U.S., lauding its ability to “cling to its punk-rock roots as the Mile High City expands.” Denver’s #45 ranking for global Nightlife is no surprise; it’s both home to Coors Brewing and is a craft beer town par excellence.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 37
Product
Product 28
Programming
Programming 8
People
People 67
Prosperity
Prosperity 50
Promotion
Promotion 12

And did we mention legalized pot, a new twist on the old Mile High moniker? Outfits like 420 Tours take you through the maze of dispensaries and growers, and have put together imaginative tours like Budz and Sudz, Kush and Kanvases and… you get the drift.

For culture of another kind, Santa Fe Arts District hosts an exuberantly festive art walk that brings locals and visitors alike to studios, galleries and antiques shops. Denver’s future rankings across all six of our categories? Definitely going higher.