Portland vs Denver – a Living or Travel Comparison

Maybe you’re someone who longs for beautiful weather, several choices for outdoor fun, food and drink, nightlife, a competitive living cost, and an innovative economy. After narrowing your list of places to visit or probably potential cities to move to, you are down to two – Portland and Denver. How are you going to choose? What will be the things you need to consider?

Here is a comparison rundown based on the significant aspects you might need to know before moving or traveling to Portland, Oregon, or Denver, Colorado…

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Friendliness and Culture

Portland Night Market - Portland

Denver Colorado friendliness

Portland and Denver are two iconic cities in their own rights. The former is the cool, quirky city that gave birth to thousands of hipsters, including the Portlandia TV show. At the same time, the latter is known for its incredible entertainment, upscale attractions, and the cannabis industry.

Both cities have quirks that make them significantly known among several groups. Denver exudes that Western feel and vibe that people adore the most. The town loves its diversity and art. People here love the outdoors, enjoy things such as horseback riding, and are sporty.

Meanwhile, the people in Portland tend to pay more attention to the hipstery things in life. Craft beers, gourmet food, and going to shopping districts are some of the everyday things you can expect from this city in the Pacific Northwest. They’re also a friendly city where residents are naturally nice to strangers.

Demographics and Diversity

Portland Diversity Oregon

Denver Diversity

The two cities are relatively young. Their populations are close enough, with Denver housing over 700 000 people while Portland is home to more than 645 000 residents. However, in terms of other aspects of demographics, the two cities are significantly different. Denver is a considerably diverse city.

This city in Colorado has a higher diversity rate, having 53% of its total population being white. Besides its diversity, Denver is also known to be a city with several cultures and has been a venue for gathering people. The city’s metro population of more than two million celebrates its diversity with many ethnic events, festivals, and other celebrations.

On the other hand, Portland remains majority-white, having a 72% population rate. The city may be one of the least diverse metropolitan areas in the United States, but Portland’s metro is one of the most varied regions in Oregon. In 2018, 27% of the metro’s population were identified as people of color.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Weather

Weather and Climate in Portland - what to expect

Denver Colorado Weather

It rains a lot in Portland, with an average annual rainfall of 42.8 inches. If you are from a city with more sun, it might be a big adjustment. The Northwest is famous for its drizzle or a mist that typically lasts the whole day. If it’s not precipitating, one can expect overcast skies for most times of the year.

Contrary to Portland’s 144 sunny days, Denver has more with approximately 300 days. Summers are usually hot, and winters are very snowy and cold. It’s also interesting to note that the air is thinner in Denver. The lower oxygen levels can take a toll on one’s body, especially those not used to higher altitudes or with ongoing medical conditions.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Budget and Living Costs

Portland cost of living

Cost of living in Denver Colorado

Portland and Denver are far higher than the national average in living costs. Portland’s living cost index is around 130.8, while Denver’s lies at approximately 128.7. In context, a typical American pays an average of $100 for their necessities. People in Denver pay $128.70 for similar things, while those in Portland need to pay around $130.80 for their necessities.

Denver’s median housing rent is $1 451 per month, and if you wish to buy a house in the city, it will cost you approximately $463 245. Housing and rent matters are relatively more expensive in Portland. The city’s median rent might cost you $1 945 a month, and buying a house can cost $620 783. Though they are both above the country’s average living costs, Denver is cheaper than Portland.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Lifestyle

Portland Lifestyle Oregon

Denver Colorado Lifestyle

If you are into the arts, you will adore Portland and Denver. These two cities are famous for their excellent street art and heavily-endowed galleries and museums. They also put a massive emphasis on various outdoor activities like hiking and biking. You will not run out of outdoor places to go to as both are homes to beautiful parks.

The presence of parks and other natural landmarks make Portland one of the cities that promotes eco-friendliness. Recycling and reusing have been the norm here for decades now. If you wander off the city streets, remember to bring eco bags and keep your trash with you, as carrying groceries with plastic containers and littering are frowned upon. In terms of drinking and eating, one can describe Portland as a quality. If you decide to live in Portland, besides craft beers, you will be used to saying words like locally-grown, heirloom, organic, and artisanal, among others. Because that’s how it is in the city, most people look for organic and locally-grown products.

You can also say that Denver is another city for craft brew enthusiasts. It is even the home to the second-most number of microbreweries, next to Oregon’s Portland. Besides being a beer destination, the city is also on its way to being a food hub.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Transportation and Traffic

Traffic in Portland Oregon

Denver Traffic

Bicycles are pretty popular in Portland. The city is regarded as the “Bike City USA” as seven percent of its residents commute to work or school by bike. The bicycling community makes up the highest percentage of bike commuters in the United States. Big companies even acknowledge employees who maximize the 315-mile bikeways across Portland. You can also take TriMet, the city’s accessible and comprehensive public transportation. It usually runs every twenty minutes during rush hours.

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is the most used option for public transport in Denver. It comprises trains and buses which offer several fare choices such as day passes, one-way passes, monthly passes, and ten-ride ticket books. RTD’s bus routes usually thin out as distances get farther away from Denver’s downtown and eventually cannot cover the city’s nook and cranny. Like Portland, Denver is also bike-friendly, with various bike rentals.

As with any other booming city, Portland and Denver experience heavy traffic, too, especially in the metro during rush hour. Both cities average about 25 to 26 minutes in terms of commute time.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Crime

Crime statistics in Portland Oregon

Crime in Denver Colorado

Both cities have crime problems that are worth noting. Portland faces a drug problem, especially in areas near homeless encampments in some places in town. This addiction relatively causes higher property crime rates. The city’s violent crime is currently below average.

Denver has the exact opposite position. It has higher rates of violent crimes while property rates are declining. Some of the dominant violent crimes in Denver include murder and assault charges.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Things To do and other attractions

Powell's Books - largest bookstore in the world

Denver Art Museum

When in Portland, there’s always beer. But the city is more than just beers. Powell’s City of Books is considered the world’s biggest used and new bookstore located at an entire block and is home to about one million books. Regardless of whether you are into books, this place is a must-visit.

The Pioneer Courthouse Square, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Portland Children’s Museum are notable places you might want to check when in the city. For some sugar rush, visit the famous Voodoo Doughnut. They have a reputation for iconic pink boxes, eclectic decor, and unusual doughnuts.

While others may be tempted to see the Rocky Mountains immediately, several notable things to do in Denver warrant some sticking around for a little bit. Museums never get old when strolling around Denver. The Denver Art Museum, just a few walks away from the State Capitol, is full of 70,000 various Native American arts.

Spend some leisurely hours at the 16th Street Mall and explore the different cafes, shops, bars, and restaurants. The city’s downtown houses the games of four major sports, including football, basketball, hockey, and baseball.

Nature Attractions and Outdoors

Washington Park Portland Oregon

Rocky Mountains Colorado

Portland is famous for its thousands of acres of parks, including Forest Park, the county’s most extensive urban forest at 5 157 acres. The park is a haven for mountain bikes, hikers, and runners. Cool off during the summer days at the Willamette River, enjoy the splash pads and various fountains.

If you opt for more adventure, head to Columbia River Gorge, where countless hiking trails and 77 waterfalls await you to explore. Plus, it offers panoramic and breathtaking views.

Denver is another ideal city for the great outdoors. Suppose you find fun in exploring exciting mountain peaks and valleys. There’s also something in Denver for those who love the calm and beauty of the outdoors. The Washington Park, Confluence Park, and Cherry Creek Bike Path are ideal green spaces in the metro.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Music, Arts, and Neighborhoods

Portland Rose Festival - Oregon

Arts, music and culture in Denver

The people of Portland love art. The city allows street arts and murals, even issuing Original Art Mural permits to nurture original art murals based on content-neutral processes on specific terms and conditions. These original art murals are composed of a distinct medium of expression which can serve the public interest. Also, the city is a haven for music with live music venues, annual music festivals, and comprehensive music stores.

Meanwhile, Denver’s creative scene is also through the city’s nightlife. You will see local and national artists playing various genres in various clubs throughout the metropolitan area. Denver and Portland are no different in terms of street arts and murals. As you stroll along with Denver’s metro, you will see thought-provoking graffiti, street art, and murals. Santa Fe’s Art District is the Denver art scene with thirty galleries, artists’ hubs, and restaurants.

Notable Neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon

Pearl District Portland

Portland’s Pearl District puts visitors in the city’s heart with easy access to dining, shopping, and cultural offerings. You can even do neighborhood hopping here as the Pearl District sits close to the Old Town Chinatown, downtown, and Northwest Portland. This neighborhood was once called the art mecca of the city, with some of the excellent galleries in town.

Another notable neighborhood in Portland is the Northwest or Nob Hill. It boasts sophisticated dining, shopping, and excellent city views. Old Portland still lives on in this neighborhood through the Victorian homes, transformed into restaurants and boutiques.

Notable Neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado

Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Capitol Hill is one of the favorites for locals and first-timers alike. It is the city’s most densely populated neighborhood, so you can expect more people around and several restaurants and bars to enjoy. The diverse mix of people here keeps the days and nights exciting.

If you are looking for a sweet spot to live in, the Highlands might fit you. It exudes a more suburb and residential feel but still includes vibrant nightlife, and the dining options are spread throughout the neighborhood.

Portland, Oregon vs. Denver, Colorado: Social Issues

Social Issues in Portland Oregon

The increased homelessness rate in Portland has affected the residents’ quality of life. A decade ago, it was about homeless people wrapped in their blankets sleeping in the streets of downtown. Now the homeless can buy inexpensive tents for $25. While the initiatives to cope with homelessness are ideal, it can also take several million to build houses for them.

Denver also has to deal with homelessness. However, another significant social issue the city faces is public safety. The Common Sense Institute’s recent study revealed that the city’s crime rate is 28% higher than in 2011. Auto thefts and property crime rates are two of the highest in the US. Meanwhile, violent crime sits at a 25-year high.

Final Thoughts

Weighing your options based on the facts above might result in a tie. Portland and Denver have excellent amenities and lifestyles that most Americans consider enviable. However, it will still boil down to your preferences and minor details. Either way, you will likely enjoy your life in Portland or Denver.


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