Welcome to colorful Colorado, land of 14,000-foot peaks, world-class skiing, the Denver Broncos, legal weed and so much more. If you’re considering a move to the Centennial State, get ready to dust off your hiking boots and ski poles and learn to live life at a higher altitude. The western state, which is home to 5.696 of the coolest people in the US, has been growing by over 60,000 new residents per year. If you’d like to count yourself among them, here are a few things to know before you set your watch to Mountain Time:
1. Colorado Likes to Get High
Clearly, we’re talking about the altitude here (though more on legal marijuana in a minute). Denver isn’t called the Mile High City for no reason. If you go the state capitol building and make your way to the 13th step, you’ll actually be standing at 5,280 feet. Of course, compared to other parts of the state, a mile high is nothing. At 10,151 feet, Leadville, Colorado is the highest city in the country. The state also boasts 58 14,000-foot mountains, the highest continuous highway (Trail Ridge Road, which tops out at 12,183 feet) and the highest auto tunnel (the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel which sits at 11,000 feet and runs for 8,960 feet underground). If you’re moving to Colorado, give yourself time to acclimate. Drink plenty of water, rest, and don’t feel too bad if you get winded going up stairs.
Okay, so back to the other way that Colorado likes to get high. Yep, weed is legal in Colorado. In 2012, Amendment 64 made it a-okay for anyone to possess up to one ounce of cannabis. Just remember that you can’t smoke it in public.
2. It’s a National Park Lover’s Dream
When most people think of Colorado, they think of mountains, but the state’s diverse wilderness areas offer so much more than just sky-high peaks. Consider the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a deep canyon in Montrose that only gets 33 minutes of sunlight a day. And what about Great Sand Dunes National Park? These 750-foot dunes are the tallest in America. Another great national park is Mesa Verde, a must-see for history buffs. Here, you can tour ancient Pueblo dwellings. Don’t worry; if you’re jonesing for mountains, there’s always the iconic Rocky Mountain National Park, which is home to 300 miles of hiking trails, majestic bugling elk, glacial lakes and some of the best camping in the state.
3. Colorado Has One of the World’s Most Famous Music Venues
Visiting Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an experience every music lover should have at least once in a lifetime. As a Colorado local, you can have that experience whenever you want. The legendary music venue, located near Denver, is situated between two 300-foot sandstone formations. Opened in 1941, Red Rocks has been graced by the Beatles, U2, Sting and others. Today, you can see concerts, films and even attend outdoor yoga here.
4. It’s Okay to Be a Jackass
One uniquely Colorado event that takes place every summer is the annual Donkey Derby Days in Cripple Creek. It’s okay to make an ass of yourself at this free mining town festival, which celebrates the descendents of the area’s original herd of Gold Rush donkeys with a few days of donkey racing, live music, great food and up close encounters with baby donkeys.
5. Don’t Fear Blucifer
If you’re moving to Colorado by plane and you’re flying into Denver International Airport, be prepared to be greeted by a strange and spooky sight: a 32-foot tall blue horse with bulging veins and glowing red eyes. Locally known as Blucifer—but officially known simply as Blue Mustang—this sculpture has a macabre history. During its construction, a piece of the mighty beast detached and killed Luis Jimenez, the artist who made the horse. After this unfortunate incident, Jimenez’s sons finished the piece and it was installed outside of the airport in 2008.
Despite the ghastly story of the horse’s creation, it’s kind of nice to keep in mind the inspiration behind the sculpture. The mustang is actually a depiction of a mythological blue horse from the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado who could run so fast he could fly, allowing him to find food and water for all of his friends. See? He’s not Blucifer after all.
6. Oysters in Colorado Don’t Come From the Ocean
Seafood lover? Maybe don’t order the Rocky Mountain Oysters. We’ll just be honest with you here. They’re bull testicles. This Colorado delicacy came about as a result of settlers observing Native Americans using every part of the animal. Because the settlers were already castrating bulls, they decided to do something with the...er...byproduct. If you’d like to find out what this unique dish tastes like, you can do so at Coors Field while watching a game, at Timberline Steaks and Grill at the Denver airport, at Wapiti Colorado Pub in Estes Park after a day of hiking or at many other fine Colorado restaurants.
7. Coloradoans Count Down to Ski Season
If you’re not a skier, you will be after a winter season in Colorado. Thanks to mountainous terrain and dreamy knee-deep powder, this is the premiere western state for skiing and snowboarding (sorry, Utah). There are numerous ski resorts throughout the state, ranging from ultra-fancy options such as Aspen and Telluride to popular (and in some cases more affordable) destinations like Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park and Beaver Creek. Whether you’re a hardcore backcountry skiier looking to drop into untouched snow via helicopter (it can be arranged, trust us) or you’re all about the apres ski life involving martinis and chic fur-lined winter jackets, you’re sure to find a mountain that’s just your speed in Colorado.