Denver vs Chicago: Which major US city is right for you?

We’ve put together this cheat sheet to compare Denver vs Chicago!

Kevin Crain

By Kevin Crain

united states map showing denver and chicago

Denver vs Chicago: When two of the 20 largest cities in the US face-off, one will definitely speak to you more.

So, we’ve put together this detailed list of the similarities and differences between Denver and Chicago.

Whatever your decision in the end, Blueground makes it possible for you to show up and immediately start living in either city.

That’s because we offer fully equipped and beautifully furnished apartments under flexible leases, shaving weeks off of finding, furnishing, and setting up your next home.

Now, let’s figure out which of these two cities should be your next basecamp for living, working, and exploring.

How far is the airport away from both cities?

How far is Midway Airport from Downtown Chicago?

Only 11 miles!

With its conveniently central location, Chicago is ideally situated for fast flights around the country.

The city’s two main airports — O’Hare International and Midway — are easily accessible too, as both are an hour or less from downtown.

How far is Denver airport from downtown?

Approximately 23 miles.

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is Denver’s public transportation service.

For $10.50, you can ride the RTD’s A Line train from Denver International Airport (DEN) into the heart of the city in about 37 minutes.

Or you can rent a car and get there in about the same amount of time.

Chicago! The city is just a quick car, bus, or train ride away from the nearest major airport.
Is Chicago or Denver better for food?

Food in Denver

The food scene in Denver is eclectic to say the least. No matter what you’re craving — morning, noon, or night — there’s a dish you won’t forget.

Here are three go-tos when you’re eating in the Mile High City:

• Head to Snooze for fresh breakfast and brunch plates
• Get adventurous and try Rocky Mountain oysters at Buckhorn Exchange
• Treat your sweet tooth to delicious scoops at Little Man Ice Cream

Dining in Denver presents loads of possibilities, with flavors from across the globe as well as American classics.

Perfect for any taste!

Food in Chicago

You probably already know these Chicago staples:

• Hot dogs
• Deep-dish pizzas
• Doughnuts

But you’ll also discover everything from Michelin-starred fine dining to classic comfort foods to international cuisine.

Thanks to the diverse inhabitants of this city, there’s a wide variety of culinary treasures to discover:

• Polish pierogis
• Mexican dishes
• Authentic ramen
• And so much more!

Living in Chicago, you can eat at some of the most exciting and innovative culinary spots in the US.

Winner in the case of food?

Chicago. While Denver is known for its incredible brewery scene and the entertainment at Casa Bonita, Chicago gets the nod when it comes to food.

Is Chicago or Denver better for nightlife?

Nightlife in Chicago

Sure, Chicago night life includes its fair share of hip bars, house music, and the city’s own variation of jazz.

However, what really sets it apart are the best-in-class adventures you can’t do anywhere else:

• Laugh until it hurts at an improv comedy show at the Second City
• Gaze at the stars at the Adler Planetarium during a late-night show
• Sail on the Chicago River sunset or night cruise

Nightlife in Denver

Get ready for good times as you experience Denver night life, whether you’re in Larimer Square, LoDo, or anywhere in between.

From bars and cocktail lounges to music venues and dance clubs, Denver has a lot to offer after the sun goes down.

Here are three one-of-a-kind experiences:

• Sip drinks at Run for the Roses, an underground speakeasy in the Dairy Block area
• Pick up some Latin dance moves at La Rumba
• Relax with a cup of joe until midnight at The Bardo Coffee House

Winner in nightlife?

Denver! The variety of rooftop bars with mountain views, local and national musicians, and breweries galore make Denver our pick.
Is Chicago or Denver better for Families?

Family activities in Chicago

Yes, Chicago is one of the best bike-friendly cities, so your family can explore the city easily on two wheels.

It’s also home to these family favorites:

• Millennium Park
• Chicago Children’s Museum
• Lincoln Park Zoo

Family activities in Denver

If your family loves being outside, Denver can’t be beaten.

• Playgrounds
• Parks
• Patio restaurants

Fans of fresh air thrive in the Mile High City.


In the case of families, Denver is the winner.

In addition to all the indoor family fun available in Denver, the outdoor options push it over the top.

Is Chicago or Denver better for museums?

Museums in Chicago

Chicago has tons of cool museums, so it’s a fantastic place to live if you love learning.

Plus, the city has high-quality art galleries, aquariums, and planetariums.

Not sure where to start?

Here are four Chicago museum memberships that are actually worth it.

Museums in Denver

When it comes to museums in Denver, three must-visits are:

• Denver Museum of Science & Nature
• History Colorado Center
• Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

But don’t miss the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center, either.

Located where Colorado’s first Black female doctor once lived, this museum shows the role African Americans played in the settlement and growth of the American West.

So are museums better in Chicago vs Denver: The winner

Denver. The variety of Denver museums gives it the edge if you’re a history buff, art lover, and flight enthusiast.

Is public transportation better in Chicago or Denver?

Public transport is a big perk for people living in Chicago.

Since parking and traffic can be problematic here, it’s often easier to get around without a car.

It’s also walkable, and there are L trains, the Metra train, and CTA buses operating across the city. Many who aren’t traveling by car or public transport choose to bike since most streets have bike lanes and rental bike stations.
Public transport in Denver

The RTD (Regional Transportation District) rules the public transportation roost in Denver.

RTD buses offer local and regional transportation while the Light Rail helps people move throughout downtown and a few suburbs.

Why pay? You can enjoy free rides on the Free MetroRide and the 16th Street MallRide buses during certain hours and in specific locations.

Not sure how far you want to commute?

And remember that staying in a fully furnished apartment in Denver makes it simple to live and work where you want.

Winner in public transport

Chicago. The “L” rapid transit system really put Chi-Town on the map.

Which city has higher salaries?

Chicago offers an abundance of professional opportunities in areas such as:

• Finance
• Publishing
• Tech

With a strong economy and low unemployment rates, many early-stage tech companies and large, well-established companies are based here.

Salaries in Chicago generally provide a comfortable standard of living, with the average around $73,000 currently.

Business is booming in the Mile High City. With scenic mountain views and a thriving job market, it’s a great place to live and work. That’s why many business travelers chose this destination.

A few of Denver’s top industries include:

• Tech
• Aerospace
• Energy

The current average salary in Denver is about $66,000, but this varies based on the job, experience level, and other factors.

Which city has higher salaries: Chicago or Denver?

Chicago. Simply put, salaries average $7,000 more in the Windy City.

Which education system is better?

Education in Chicago

Getting an education in Chicago can lead to big successes later in life.

According to US News, in the Chicago public school system, there are a total of:

• Over 650 schools
• Nearly 342,000 students
• More than $16,000 spent on each student per year
• Over 86% of teachers have 3+ years of experience
• 78.4% graduation rate for high school students

Education in Denver

The public school system in Denver is much smaller than in Chicago.

According to US News, the Mile High City boasts:

• Over 200 schools
• Nearly 90,000 students
• More than $16,000 spent on each student per year
• The student-to-teacher ratio is 15:1
• 67.7% graduation rate for high school students

University campus square in Denver

So which city has a better education?

Denver. The smaller scale clearly has its benefits as Denver high school students have a much greater level of college readiness.

Which city has better gyms?

Gyms in Chicago

Ready to break a sweat in the Windy City?

There’s more than one way to exercise and way more than one place.

The best gyms in Chicago include:

• East Bank Club features a running track, swimming pools, and an indoor golf range
• Wicker Park Fitness has affordable prices and calorie-burning class options
• Midtown Athletic Club boasts yoga studios, a gorgeous spa and sauna, and 18 indoor tennis courts

Gyms in Denver

Staying healthy and fit in Denver is a breeze. That’s because there are many places to run, lift, and get in shape.

The best gyms in Denver include:

• Chuze Fitness offers weightlifting, cardio, and a high-intensity turf area as well
• Green Door Fitness is a friendly, locally owned spot with a variety of exercise equipment and classes
• Rocky Mountain Flex Fitness is one of Denver’s premier gyms and has everything from classic weights to kickboxing classes


Chicago. From swanky clubs to intense boxing classes, Chi-Town packs a real punch when it comes to fitness.

Want your gym as close as possible?

Keep in mind that many Blueground apartments are in buildings with state-of-the-art fitness centers as an amenity.

Where is the weather better?

What’s the weather like in Chicago?

Living in Chicago means living lakeside.

Being on Lake Michigan, however, also means that colder months can be frigid, snowy, and windy.

Meanwhile, the warmer months tend to get warm, wet, and humid.

More specifically, temperatures here average 22 degrees in the winter and 83 during the summer.

What’s the weather like in Denver?

Believe it or not, Denver gets over 300 days of sunshine on average per year — more than some of the most sought-after cities on the East and West Coast.

Thanks to the city’s altitude, the city also experiences fairly mild weather.

Summer temperatures are around 86 degrees Fahrenheit while winter averages 45 degrees.


Denver. A great mix of sunshine and snow ends the debate of Denver vs Chicago weather.
Which city has more interesting tours and activities?

Denver tours & activities

When thinking about what to do in Denver, Colorado, there’s something for outdoorsy types, social butterflies, and curious folks of all ages.

It’s essential to check out these top tours when living in Denver:

• Take a short, 30-minute drive to nearby Golden, Colorado to tour the Coors brewery
• Get drinks and scare on a Denver ghost tour pub crawl with Nightly Spirits
• Learn how America makes it coins during one of the free Denver Mint tours

Chicago tours & activities

As you consider what to do in Chicago, Illinois, keep in mind what you’re passionate about.

That being said, we suggest anyone who spends time in Chicago try these fun tours:

• Hop aboard one of the Chicago River boat tours that cater to photographers, those interested in local architecture, and more
• Take a guided restaurant tour of some of Chicago’s most delectable destinations
• Ride a bus that explores the dark history of the city’s underworld on a Chicago Crime Tour


Chicago. It’s close, but water-based tours and inside scoops on Al Capone get our vote.

Where is the more interesting weekend destination?

Weekend in Chicago

There are limitless options for spending a weekend in Chicago, including three things that everyone needs to do at some point:

• Snap a picture in front of Buckingham Fountain
• Go for a stroll at Navy Pier
• Catch a game at Wrigley Field — one of the most iconic sports venues in the world

Weekend in Denver

The Friday-Saturday-Sunday bucket list is long, but our ultimate weekend in Denver would consist of these activities:

• Take a brewery tour — there are dozens to choose from!
• Go for a hike at Rocky Mountain National Park
• See a show at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater

Need more ideas? Check out these tips for your first weekend in Denver.

Weekends in Chicago vs Denver: The winner

Denver. While Chicago’s attractions are timeless, Denver is a smidge more “interesting.”
Denver cost of living vs Chicago: Which one is cheaper?
What is the cost of living in Chicago?

The average cost of living in Chicago is slightly above the average in the United States.

According to, if the average cost of living in the US is 100, then Chicago is about a 107.

However, while transportation costs can be high, fees for health care and utilities are lower than you’ll typically find in America.

More good news?

The cost of food and groceries is reasonable as well.

What is the cost of living in Denver?

The cost of living in Denver is above the US average by about 14%.

Although food costs are 5% less expensive than the national average, most costs put the “high” in its Mile High City nickname.

That especially goes for housing, which is why a fully furnished apartment in Denver is so appealing.

If you’re moving from coastal cities, it may seem like a good deal, but often prices can be more than you’d expect.

So which city is cheaper, Denver or Chicago?

Is Denver cheap to live in?

Kind of.

The number of outdoor options helps provide budget-friendly opportunities, notably for entertainment.

Unfortunately, the rapid growth keeps costs above average due to high demand and a smaller supply of goods and services.

So, when comparing these two cities, Chicago is the less expensive option.

Lakeshore East, view from the sea, cloudy sky with some sunrays coming through

Is Chicago cheap to live in?

Certainly more so than Denver. Its public transportation and affordable costs for health care and utilities offer attractive price points.

Plus, as we looked at earlier, salaries are higher in Chicago.

In the end, both cities are great options, but Chi-Town narrowly defeats Denver in terms of affordability.

So, which city should you choose — Chicago or Denver?

There’s no easy answer for the Denver vs Chicago debate.

So, if you had to pick one to live in, where should you stay?

It just depends.

After all, both cities have their pros and cons that come with them.

Chicago pros

• Proximity to the airport
• The food scene
• Convenience and ease of public transportation
• Higher-than-average salaries
• Assortment of gyms
• Interesting tours

Chicago cons

• Brutal winters
• Not as many green spaces
• Size of public education system

Denver pros

• The nightlife
• Family-friendly opportunities
• A variety of top-tier museums
• First-class public education
• Sunny, mild weather
• Weekend destinations

Denver cons

• Housing costs
• Public transportation
• Below-average salaries

Homes beyond compare

If you’re deciding between living in Denver vs Chicago, fortunately, there’s no wrong answer.

Both cities are fantastic, but each has their own unique characteristics.

Hopefully, this comparison helped with your decision.

And don’t forget that both Chicago and Denver have move-in-ready Blueground apartments to provide the easiest relocation possible.

These turnkey spaces make you feel at home as soon as you arrive, whether you’re staying for a month, a year, or even longer.

Kevin Crain

Kevin Crain

Kevin Crain is a writer from Dallas, Texas. He’s dedicated to helping every Blueground guest live like a local and make their apartment feel like home. His favorite topics include active experiences, bucket list essentials, and hidden gems in cities around the world.