If you love the mountains, panoramic views, wildlife, and tons of outdoor recreation options, check out Denver for your next travel nursing assignment! I am here currently and love it! There is always something to do, the sun is shining constantly, and those mountain views never get old!
Where to Live- Best Neighborhoods
Located at the base of the Colorado Rockies, Denver has a dozens of neighborhoods packed into a relatively small area of land. Some areas offer mountain views, and some are for those who want to feel like they live in the center of a city. These are my favorites because of location, cost of living, and convenience of services nearby.
Cherry Creek: A wealthy residential neighborhood with plenty of amenities. Fancy shops line the streets and there a bike trail into downtown. You will also find chic cocktail lounges and small art galleries in the surrounding streets.
Capitol Hill: This area is best for those who want to feel like they are living in a city and for those without a car (parking here is VERY expensive). Close to the business district and state buildings. Also check out the Washington Park area for a bit more space and a slightly lower cost of living.
Five Points: The original commuter area for Denver, this spot is up and coming and is gentrifying at a rapid rate . Named for the five way intersection at the center of the community, Five Points is known for its live music scene, and local jazz tunes.
Lakewood/Belmar: This is a great choice for a more affordable option. For a bit higher living standard and safer neighborhoods aim to live in the Belmar area and avoid Westwood. There are tons of shops and this is a great commuter area- only 10-12 minutes to downtown. You can see the foothills perfectly, and on a clear day you can see the brilliant peaks of the mountains proclaiming their majesty in the distance.
LoDo: LoDo stands for “Lower Downtown” and this is where it’s all happening. Coors Field is nearby and the neighborhood always feels like it’s buzzing. Cost of living is a bit higher here, but you can’t beat the super quick commute to downtown.
Highlands Ranch\LoHi: Offering similar magnificent mountain views to Lakewood, but with a higher cost of living and more upscale shops. The Highlands are a planned suburb of Denver and is great for families and professionals.
Wheat Ridge/Arvada: These are technically 2 separate neighborhoods but tend to spill over into one another. They both have highly rated public school systems and are teeming with coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping options. Arvada has more single family homes and Wheat Ridge has more apartments.
Areas to Consider Living Outside of Denver: Littleton, Golden, Aurora: All 3 of these are just on the outskirts of Denver. Littleton is to the South, Golden to the West, and Aurora to the East. Littleton and Golden will have a higher cost and standard of living than Aurora. Littleton has a cute downtown and Golden is known for its open spaces. Aurora has some bad areas but you can find some cute neighborhood mixed in and some of the most affordable living near Denver.
Cost of Living in Denver
The cost of housing decreases as you move away from downtown. An apartment in the center of Denver can cost upwards of $1800 for a one bedroom flat plus any parking fees (which can get pretty outrageous). See Denver Rent Prices Guide
There is a massive influx of people moving to Denver (many from California due to that state’s high cost of living) and it’s driving up the prices of housing. Many neighborhoods are taking actions to limit the amount of new-build housing that is constructed each year.
You may find lower rent in places like Lakewood and Washington Park. Gas is cheaper in the areas of the city with lower income neighborhoods, and it’s worth the drive to find the most affordable fuel. Prices can vary up to $0.30-$0.40 a gallon. Check out gasbuddy.com for the best prices!
Travel Nursing Hospitals in Denver
Many travel nurses come to Denver and never leave! Find your next travel nursing job in Denver with NurseFly
HealthONE Hospitals: There are six HealthONE hospitals in the immediate Denver area- Swedish Medical Center, The Medical Center of Aurora, North Suburban Medical Center, Rose Medical Center, Sky Ridge Medical Center, and Presbyterian St. Luke’s. All of these hospitals are very heavy on agency nurses (both local and traveler). Many assignments are through HealthTrust, the managed service provider for HealthONE. There are single unit and market float contracts available. The market float contracts can be heavy- especially if you aren’t used to working outside your area of care. Be aware that this hospital system uses the Meditech EHR system.
Denver Health: Denver Health Medical Center is the large public hospital system for the greater metro area. They use local agency nurses, but often hire travelers into night shift positions. Fun Fact: They were the first nursing school to open west of the Mississippi!
UC Health: University of Colorado Health system hires their travelers directly without much agency involvement. This means you would apply with UC Health directly through their website. Travel nurse positions are listed under the “jobs” tab
Centura Health System: Rumor has it that pay is slightly better throughout the Centura Hospitals compared to other facilities in the region. They have regional float pool that would require you to travel between facilities, be flexible with your schedule, and be able to work in areas outside of your usual area of care.
Kindred: Kindred is a long term acute care (LTAC) facility that advertises to travel RNs as an ICU because they take vented patients. BEWARE. This is NOT a real ICU, but more of a nursing home with vented patients sort of needing acute care. It’s a change from the hospital bedside, but you may feel like you are working in a nursing home.
Travel Nurse Pay Rates in Denver
Denver is a very popular location for travel nurses. The highest paying specialty is Cath Lab at an average $2000 per week. Average travel nursing pay for most other specialties ranges from $1580- $1800 per week. ICU, PCU, and OR nurses tend to make closer to $1800 and tele/med-surg averages around $1650 per week. Pay rates rival those of other in-demand cities with similar costs of living. You will find higher pay in crisis areas (locations with an extremely high need for nurses) and in other cities that are less popular with the current travel nursing trends. Pueblo, Colorado has slightly higher rates but is more rural and far less populated.
In Town Attractions
City Park– 330 acres filled with picnic spots, playgrounds, and walking trails. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science and The Denver Zoo are both located in the park. The Denver Zoo has an awesome ‘lights at the zoo’ during the holiday season. The park is located just northeast of Capitol Hill
Denver Botanic Gardens– These gardens are located in Cheesman Park and house a conservatory and sunken amphitheater. There are 23 acres of gardens and various exhibits throughout the year.
Denver Art Museum (DAM)– This museum is located in the Civic Center and is one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the California coastline.
16th Street Mall/Union Station– These two sites are separated by a quick 10 minute walk. The 16th street mall is a pedestrian shopping street surrounded by hotels and restaurants. Union Station is a functioning train station, as well as a renowned historical site. Inside the 100 year old station is packed with restaurants and bars, and some beautiful architecture.
Coors Brewery– Coors beer is well known across the country. Take a tour of their vast property, taste some beer, and buy some souvenirs!
The Molly Brown House– Get in touch with your inner adventurer and visit the home located at 1340 Pennsylvania Avenue. Discover the story of “the unsinkable Molly Brown” (because she survived the sinking of The Titanic) as you read about her philanthropic and explorer spirit.
Empower Field at Mile High– Home to the Denver Broncos and the super enthusiastic Broncos fanbase! Catch a football game or see an arena event for the full experience,
BONUS: Escape city life in Denver and drive the Lariat Loop trail (a national scenic byway) just outside of Denver through Golden, Morrison, and Evergreen for a wild west adventure. Peep some epic views at the top of Lookout Mountain and see the grave of Buffalo Bill. Drive past Red Rocks Amphitheatre and take a detour to the top for some awesome views of the venue. Stop at Mac Nation Cafe (see below) for a tasty treat.
Union Station– This train station is one of the most iconic historical landmarks in Denver. There are 10 chef owned restaurants in the station including Mercantile, Terminal Bar, and Stoic and Genuine
Our Mutual Friend– This RiNo brewery has some great beers on tap. They are located next to a banging BBQ joint named Owlbear BBQ. You can order your BBQ food and eat it over at the brewery. Hazy beers and burnt ends- YUM
La Loma– Don’t miss out on some of the best Mexican food in the city of Denver. The ‘upscale rustic’ restaurant is family run. Known for their margaritas, and authentic food, but La Loma also has an amazing brunch.
Denver Biscuit Company– This tasty brekkie spot has multiple locations throughout Denver. The biscuit sandwiches, plates, and massive cinnamon rolls will have you wondering why they don’t expand their business to other stats. Locals also love Annette in Aurora for a tasty breakfast outside of the city proper.
BONUS: Mac Nation Cafe in Indian Hills- If you love macaroni and cheese, don’t miss this place. Located outside of Denver, this is a perfect spot to stop for a bite to eat while driving the Lariat Loop (see below). They offer the cheesiest of cheesy mac ‘n cheese and have state themed dishes that relfect different versions of the dish across the country.
Bars and Nightlife
RiNo– RiNo stands for “River North Arts District”. This hip, trendy area is packed with art galleries, concert venues, and a variety of bars and restaurants. A stroll down Larimer St offers plenty of options for a night out. Check out bar helix, Nocturne, and the elusive Millers & Rossi Speakeasy.
Soco Nightlife District– Multiple clubs with various themes line the streets of Broadway and Lincoln south of Colfax (SOCO). Milk- a self proclaimed underground club named after the famously featured milk bar in A Clockwork Orange. Dance the night away at Vinyl, The Church, or Bar Standard. If you are undecided you can purchase a ticket to one club and get into the others. Each of the venues named has a rooftop area.
The Grizzly Rose– Get your cowboy (girl) boots and head over to this bar for a beer, a mechanical bull, line dancing, and country music. Live music every night.
Retrograde– This hidden speakeasy is behind a freezer door in the back of an ice cream shop. Fantastic cocktails and a classy vibe draw people into this secret bar.
Corridor 44– A hip lounge with trendy decor located in Larimer Square in LoDo serving stellar bubbly and sparkling wine. Dine on cheese plates and chocolate while feeling ultrachic on their outdoor patio.
Day Trips and Exploring
RMNP/Estes Park- You can’t come to Colorado without an adventure in the Rockies. Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is teeming with gorgeous views and wildlife. Beware that many roads through the park (especially Trail Ridge Rd). RMNP is huge and at a high elevation so plan your visit accordingly. Estes Park is the RMNP ‘home base’. This quaint town sits at the entrance to the park and you can often spot wildlife strolling through the streets. Estes Park is also home to the Stanley Hotel, which was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Both locations are about 1.5 hours from Denver.
Boulder- Situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains this charming town is happening. The University of Colorado’s presence keeps Boulder feeling young and fresh. Check out the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall, climb the rock crags knowns as “the Flatirons” that surround the city, or spend your day in a cafe watching the hipsters that inhabit the town. Boulder is approximately 45 minutes from Denver.
Vail- An icon in the ski culture, this resort town is set in the White River National Forest. You can ski/snowboard during the winter, or golf/hike in the summer. Other great mountains to explore are Breckenridge, Aspen, and Copper Mountain. Vail is about 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Denver.
Steamboat Springs- Three hours northwest of Denver lies the beautiful little town of Steamboat Springs. Steamboat has a ski resort and is full of history and heritage. The geothermal hot springs, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, is located on the outskirts of town and 100% worth a visit. Steamboat is located 3-3.5 hours from Denver.
Colorado Springs- Just about an hour south of Denver, Colorado Springs is a great place to explore the eastern foot of the Rockies. Make sure to check out Garden of the Gods (FREE!) and drive up the Pike’s Peak Highway to experience what 14,000 feet feels like If you like wolves, head over to Divide and check out the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (book in advance for a special interactive experience!)
Denver has kind of dropped the ball on having enough public transportation to meet the needs of a rapidly growing city. Unfortunately, this has led to an exponential increase in traffic. Between the ever growing number of residents and seemingly constant construction, rush hour is just about grid-locked. It only lasts about 1-1.5 hours in the morning and evening, otherwise traffic is heavy, but moving.
Denver has a bus system and the light rail but the rail isn’t convenient for most commuters and is slower than driving. Many residents feel that the population has already exceeded the limits of the current construction projects and that Denver need something more innovative to keep up with its growing needs.
Weather and Best Time to Take a Travel Nurse Job in Denver
Denver supposedly has 300 days of sunshine each year. The summers are hot, often exceeding 90 degrees, but are ideal for hiking in the mountains and exploring the vast amount of outdoor space. Travel there in the spring (mid April through end of June) if hot temps aren’t your thing. If you like to ski or snowboard- the Rocky Mountain snow is unreal. Denver remains warmer than the mountains and certainly does not receive as much snow. When it does snow in Denver, it’s often melted by the sun within days. The cold is a ‘dry’ cold, unlike the humid, wet bone-chilling winters of the east coast.
Remember- Denver is located at an elevation of 5,280 feet. This means the sun is stronger and the air is thinner. Be prepared to adjust to the altitude. STAY HYDRATED and realize that if you are traveling into the mountains, you very well could be at 7000-10000 feet.
There is no perfect time to work as a travel nurse in Colorado. Your weather preferences will determine when is the best time for you. A lot of hospitals will hire extra RNs throughout flu season- which is coincides with ski season. Summer is trauma season, but also a very popular time of year for travel nursing in Denver. The hotter weather may bring competitive contracts and higher housing costs.