Your Colorado Survival Guide

You're gonna love it here!

So you’ve decided to make Colorado your new home.  Congratulations on making an excellent choice, and welcome to the Mile-High City!

Whether you’re brand-new to the Denver metro area, or have been here a little while and are still trying to get acclimated to your new environs, hopefully this short article will help you become more familiar with your new hometown!

POPULATION

Black people make up 4.4% of Colorado’s total population and approximately 11% of Denver, so at times you may feel like the “fly in the buttermilk,” as my Granny would say. So, if you’re getting anxious to be around people who look like you and you’re the religious kind, find a place of worship ASAP.  Even if you don’t settle on a particular place right away, the metro area has plenty of churches, mosques, and temples to try.

Besides church, the black sororities and fraternities are quite active here, so if you’re “Greek,” get involved with your local chapter.  If you’re more of a social or civic activist, check out our local NAACP and NCNW chapters.  More political? Denver also features the Colorado Black Women for Political Action, the Colorado Dems, etc. Black people here are generally welcoming and helpful.

At one time, Five Points, Park Hill, Montbello, and Green Valley Ranch were predominantly Black neighbourhoods. This has since changed due to gentrification and urban sprawl, but Denver granted Five Points landmark status in 2002, recognizing the neighbourhood’s history as “the Harlem of the West.”

Today most black people live in Aurora, Denver, and Colorado Springs, and you’ll be surprised to find quite a bit of African American culture in the “Big Three.” Keep reading for a list of key annual cultural activities and visit the DenverBlackPages.com for “Things to Do.”

CLIMATE

Most outsiders believe Colorado’s weather to be similar to the Arctic Tundra – always cold, always snowing. I used to think so, too, but the climate in Colorado is actually one of our best-kept secrets.

Generally, Colorado has moderate temperatures and abundant sunlight. We also have low humidity, which makes the air very dry. So when the temperature drops in the winter, it’s not that bone-chilling cold like Chicago, and similarly, when the temperature rises in the summer, it’s not like that smothering heat of the South.  In fact, Denver experiences roughly 300 days of sunlight, too, so we enjoy lots of sunny days even during the winter.

Colorado is 5,280 feet above sea level (hence the nickname “the Mile-High City”), so it is not uncommon for newcomers to experience altitude sickness, especially when visiting the mountains for the first time. The best defense against altitude sickness is to stay hydrated and don’t over-extend yourself. If you do experience symptoms such as a headache, loss of appetite, or difficulty sleeping, make sure that you take it easy for a few days. Drink lots of water and seek medical attention if these symptoms persist.

The snow may come as a beautiful surprise when you experience your first winter here, especially if you have relocated from warmer areas. We may get light snow as early as September and as late as May, but be of good cheer – despite an occasional snowstorm, winters here are quite bearable. Just make sure that you pay attention to weather forecasts and be prepared:  drive carefully and maintain your car, and keep a shovel, some sand, flashlight, flares, booster cables, bottled water, a blanket and a first-aid kit in your trunk during the winter just in case of emergencies.  In the twenty-plus years I’ve been here, I have never needed to use these things (knock on wood), but it never hurts to be prepared.

HAIR AND SKIN CARE

One of the first things every newcomer to Colorado notices is the dry climate. The lack of humidity wreaks havoc on skin and hair, especially for Us.  When I first came here, I experienced so much hair breakage that I had to go with a short cut until I found the right stylist and figured out how to care for my hair in this dry climate.  Drinking lots of water is a must, but you may need to change your hair and skin care regimen to adapt to Colorado’s dry climate.

Switching to a milder soap or Shea butter may do the trick for your skin.  However, you may also need to seek the advice a dermatologist if you can’t figure out what personally works for you.  Trust me – your skin and hair care routines from down South may not work for you here.

RECREATION

Colorado offers scenic landscapes that you can explore year-round.  From snowboarding, skiing, fishing, and camping to white-water rafting, horseback riding and water skiing – there’s something here for everyone! The prevalence of hiking and biking options probably helps contribute to the fact that Colorado is consistently ranked one of the fittest states in the country.

Not into physical activity so much? There’s still plenty of more leisurely recreational options open! Visit one of over thirty hot springs for a luxurious natural spa experience, or take a trip to Black Hawk and Central City to explore a historically-preserved slice of the Wild West and visit several world-famous casinos. Get your game on!

One thing that sold me on Colorado was seeing an Al Jarreau (RIP) concert in the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater. Being in the open air under the stars enjoying music that you love is an extraordinary experience you can’t get anywhere else the way you can at Red Rocks.  There are always several concerts and movie showings during the summer months.

If you love the performing arts, Denver also boasts the largest single-roof theatre in the U.S. with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC), which is also the second-largest building of its kind in the world. We’re also home to the world-renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company. The SOURCE Theatre Company preserves theatre for the multi-ethnic community of Denver through live performances and education, and the historical Denver Black Arts Company used to be a keystone of the community, as well.

Sports

Are you a sports enthusiast?  With the 3-time Super Bowl champions Denver Broncos (football), the Colorado Rockies (baseball), and the Colorado Avalanche (hockey), as well as lacrosse and soccer teams, Denver has all the major professional sports covered.

Nightlife

If you’re a beer drinker, you’ve just landed in Beer Heaven.  Colorado has the greatest number of microbreweries in the country and is home to two of the largest beer makers in the world.  As a matter of fact, take a trip to Golden and tour the MillerCoors plant.  They provide samples!

The metro area also boasts a pretty active and diverse nightlife.  From old-school jams to smooth jazz to Country & Western, there are many places to get your groove on.

Food

Denver has an amazing food scene, and people here know it! On any given day, and especially on weekends, casual restaurants are full to capacity with patrons enjoying everything from Sushi to Soul Food. While Denver has all the national chain restaurants, you’ll also find a diverse variety of good ethnic food here, too.  More eateries can be found here.

TAKE A GUIDED TOUR

A great way to learn about Colorado’s rich Black History is to spend the day taking a guided tour with A Private Guide, Inc. Their tours will take you through Five Points, home of the historic Rossonian where all the greats played – Louis Armstrong, Lena Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. You can also visit the Black America West Museum and the Blair Caldwell African American Library – yes, we have one of the few African American libraries in the country! Then, they’ll take you up to Lincoln Hills, a resort where black entertainers would stay because they weren’t allowed stay in the Denver hotels where they’d just performed.

BLACK MEDIA

There’s no excuse to be uninformed here.  There’s the Body of Christ News for local Christian news, DenverBlackPages.com (of course) for a black business directory and calendar of events, Denver Urban Spectrum, Denver Weekly New and 5 Points News. Bet you didn’t know that the Denver Metro has so many black media outlets!  There’s also Colorado Public Television 12 and radio stations Jammin’ 101.5, Flo 107.1 and KLDC Denver 95.3 Gospel Radio. You can also catch Dr. Daddio’s show on Denver Sports 760.

KEY ANNUAL EVENTS

Despite its relatively small black population, Colorado has lots of cultural activities.  Notable annual events include:

  • JANUARY EVENTS
    • MLK, Jr. Invitational Rodeo
    • MLK, Jr. Social Responsibility Awards
  • FEBRUARY EVENT
    • Black History Month activities
    • National Brotherhood of Skier Black Ski Summit
  • JUNE EVENTS
    • MRBES Success Summit
    • Juneteenth Music Festival
    • Denver Pride Fest
    • City Park Jazz
  • JULY EVENTS
    • Colorado Black Arts Festival
    • Winter Park Jazz Festival
    • City Park Jazz
  • AUGUST EVENTS
    • City Park Jazz
  • SEPTEMBER EVENTS
    • A Taste of Colorado

CONCLUSION

Whatever you do, take some time to get to know your new hometown.  You’ll be calling Colorado “home sweet home” in no time if you’re willing to get out there, explore, and meet people.  You’re going to love it here, trust me!

Even after having been here over 20 years, I’m still discovering new places to visit and things to do. If there’s something that MUST be included in the next revision of this article, please email me at cdladd@denverblackpages.com. In the meantime, check out our Denver Little Black Book the online version of our printed resource guide for only $1.99.

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