I moved from NYC to Denver 3 months ago. Here are 10 things that surprise me about my new home so far.

Side-by-side images of the author in NYC and Denver, Colorado.
Side-by-side images of the author in New York City and Denver, Colorado. Monica Humphries/Insider
  • I moved from New York City to Denver, Colorado, in June.
  • There are some major differences between the two places I’ve called home.
  • From a beloved state flag to a better work-life balance, here’s what has surprised me the most.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New York City always felt like a temporary home.
The author on the Brooklyn Bridge.
I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime but I knew New York City was never a permanent place to call home. Abby Narishkin
I spent three years in New York City and never once bought furniture. I collected nightstands tossed on the curb during trash day and happily accepted bits of decor from friends who had decided the city was no longer for them.

When I look back, my unwillingness to purchase real furniture stands as a reminder of my temporary plans to live in New York City. If I didn’t have furniture or items of value, it wouldn’t be hard to leave. 

While leaving the city was anything but easy, the pandemic had me reconsidering, reevaluating, and reprioritizing what I cared about in life. 

I cared about my career, which could now be remote.

I cared about community — something I was longing for but lacking in New York.

And I cared about nature. New York City’s green spaces like Domino Park, Central Park, and Prospect Park just weren’t cutting it for me.

So this summer, I moved to Denver, Colorado.
A selfie of the author and a screenshot of google maps from Brooklyn to Denver.
I moved out of my two-bedroom apartment, packed my car, and embarked on the 27-hour drive to Denver, Colorado. Monica Humphries/Google maps
This summer, I relocated to Denver, Colorado.

Ultimately, I decided it was the best place for me. I had friends thriving in the city, I’d be closer to subjects I cover as a reporter — from tiny living to ghost towns — and I’d be able to spend more time outdoors. 

In June, I arrived in my decades-old car, and, quite quickly, Denver welcomed me. 

In the three months since moving, a number of things that have surprised me.
The author at St. Mary's Glacier, a popular Colorado hike.
The author at St. Mary’s Glacier, a popular Colorado hike. Amanda Slater
I grew up in Orlando, Florida, so including New York City, Denver is the third place I’ve called home.

Just like any city, it has its quirks. 

Over the past three months, I’ve been exploring and discovering as much as I can in and around Denver.

Everywhere you go, athleisure is welcome – and expected.
I was surprised to see Tevas, rain jackets, and running shorts at my first red rocks concert.
I was surprised to see Tevas, water bottles, and running shorts at my first concert at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Monica Humphries/Insider
In New York City, I would rush home from a yoga class, shower, change, and meet friends for dinner.

The option to go straight from yoga to drinks wasn’t the social norm. You simply didn’t go out in athletic clothes in New York City.

In Denver, athletic clothes are welcome almost everywhere.

From bars to concerts, you’re bound to spot plenty of people in their outdoor gear no matter the atmosphere.

There’s a strong love for the Colorado flag.
Larimer Square in Denver, Colorado, is lined with the state flag.
Larimer Square in Denver, Colorado, is lined with the state flag. Arina P Habich/ShutterStock
It’s nearly impossible to walk anywhere without spotting a T-shirt, bumper sticker, or banner waving from a restaurant adorned with the Colorado flag design.

I mistakenly spent my first few days in Denver assuming that the flag belonged to one of Denver’s beloved sports teams. 

I quickly learned I was wrong. 

Each color on the blue, white, red, and golden flag represents a different part of Colorado’s natural landscape, according to ColoradoInfo: blue for the skies, gold for the sunshine, white for the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, and red for the state’s iconic red rocks. 

Compared to New York and Florida, Coloradans have a special affinity for their state flag. 

A magical green-chile sauce coats burritos, pizzas, and burgers.
A burrito and chilaquiles with green-chile sauce.
A burrito and chilaquiles with green-chile sauce. Monica Humphries/Insider
I’ve had my enchiladas drenched in mole sauce and burritos smothered in queso, but before landing in Denver I had never heard of green-chile sauce.

Often served with pork, the salsa-like sauce is derived from New Mexican chiles and traditionally found in Mexican food, according to Out There Colorado

But in Denver, it’s a popular topping for all types of food. I’ve had green chiles topped on pizza and heard about burgers heaping with the cherished chiles. 

Compared to New Yorkers, Coloradans have a better work-life balance.
Four-mile hikes after work are a normal part of my week now.
Four-mile hikes after work are a normal part of my week now. Emily Robb
In New York City, I noticed that the first question out of everyone’s mouth is, “What do you do for work?” It’s a natural conversation starter in a city that’s career-focused.

In Denver, questions about your career often come second to the more important question: “What do you do for fun?”

Maybe it’s because some remote workers work East Coast hours (making their workdays end at 3:30 p.m. local time), or perhaps it’s the huge focus on the outdoors — but the people I’ve met so far in Denver have a stronger work-life balance than my community back in New York City. 

I’m still digging into Denver’s thriving food scene.
Chinatown in NYC.
Chinatown in New York City. Monica Humphries/Insider
In New York City, I could aimlessly head to Chinatown, Little Italy, or Koreatown, where I was confident I’d find the delicious foods I was craving.

When I arrived in Denver, I didn’t expect to find the same myriad of cuisines, but so far, there hasn’t been a dish I can’t find. From tasty quinoa chorizo at Xicamiti La Taqueria to hand-roll sushi at Temaki Den, Denver’s food scene hasn’t let me down — it just takes a little more digging and research.

I’m still on the hunt for a decent everything bagel in Denver, but I might have to let New York City win the bagel competition.

Breweries are everywhere.
Bruz Beer in Denver, Colorado.
Bruz Beer in Denver, Colorado. John Leyba/Getty Images
I liked beer before moving to Denver, but I have no choice but to fully embrace it now.

I was shocked to learn just how many breweries there are in the city. For every 50,000 residents, there are six breweries, according to Food + Wine. The city’s abundance of craft beer earned Denver 18th place for cities with the most breweries in 2019, Food + Wine reported. According to Colorado Brewery List, there are more than 80 breweries in the city. 

My first apartment in Denver was about a 10-minute walk to four breweries, and Mockery Brewing and Great Divide Brewing Company quickly topped my favorites list.

In my new house in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, I’m within walking distance to more than a dozen local breweries that I look forward to visiting. 

Unlike New York City, it feels like Denver and its surrounding towns have two spring seasons: one in the lower altitudes, and one in the mountains.
A field of yellow wildflowers.
Even as late as September I’m still spotting wildflowers. Monica Humphries/Insider
I cherished the short window of spring in New York City when buds would pop up and flowers would bloom along the brownstone streets in Brooklyn, New York. 

But in Colorado, blooming wildflowers create a spring-like feel for much longer than a typical spring season.

That’s because snow doesn’t start melting in higher elevations until spring, so when summer comes around, flowers finally start popping up, animals start having babies, and many of the typical spring elements flourish, according to MyColoradoParks

Even now that it’s September I’m still spotting plenty of wildflowers on my hikes. 

People joked that it’s always sunny, and they’re not wrong.
Paddle boarding outside of Denver, Colorado.
Paddleboarding outside of Denver, Colorado. Katie Sproles
I grew up in the Sunshine State, but Colorado is a close competitor when it comes to the heat and sun.

There’s a common phrase that Colorado has “300 days of sunshine,” and although it’s a myth started by a publicist for one of the railroads in Colorado in 1870, according to The Denver Post, the state does experience a lot of sunny days. 

The sunshine works to our advantage since so much adventuring takes place outdoors. 

I knew fires and smoke were a consequence of living in Denver, but I hadn’t realized how it would impact my daily life.
Denver at the top of the list for worst air quality in the world.
Denver, at the top of the list for worst air quality in the world. AirVisual
Before moving to Denver, I hadn’t thought twice about New York City or Florida’s air quality (although I probably should’ve).

In Denver, air quality is on everybody’s mind.

I’ve had plans canceled because of smoke, and I spent a weekend indoors while Denver topped the list for the worst air quality in the world earlier this summer. 

I was surprised just how much air quality would impact my daily activities, partly because I’m used to hobbies and hangouts taking place indoors instead of outside. 

I have more bruises, scrapes, and bumps in three months than in my three years in New York City, and I couldn’t be happier.
A scrape from my latest rollerblading fall.
A scrape from my latest rollerblading fall. Danielle Flanagan
From toppling on my rollerblades to slipping on rocks while hiking, I’ve had cuts and bruises covering my arms and legs since I’ve arrived. 

The marks remind me that I’m getting to do what I love most in life: being outside.