My family and I have lived in Denver now for a little over two years. In October of 2018, we packed up our small, Upper West Side, one-bedroom apartment and headed West. We hopped to find more space to grow our family and my husband had been offered a job opportunity in Denver.
It was hard for me to leave NYC after 18 years, and I miss it all the time, but now I know it was a good decision. There are things Denver has that NYC simply does not, and we made some decisions that really helped us transition.
Note: I began writing this post in January of 2020, but soon after put it on hold. I have since updated it with new information, more places we have visited in Colorado, and a new perspective since the pandemic. I can’t imagine what it was like for all the residents of NYC during 2020. My heart is broken for all the lives lost, businesses closed, and people struggling to work and live in our new normal. I can’t wait until the day that it feels safe and easy to travel and I can go back and visit the city I love so much. One of my first plans after I get the vaccine will be to buy Broadway tickets!
I thought when I moved anywhere else I would be bored, but the truth is my day-to-day quality of life is so much better and we moved to a wonderful place with its own excitement. NYC is full of great things to see and do, but not having a car makes it difficult to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
The Rocky Mountains are spectacular. They offer a much different view than the sparkling city lights, and they are simply magnificent. I’m not even that outdoorsy (I own stickers that say “I love NOT camping”), but even the simplest of hikes at Red Rocks, Garden of the Gods, Lookout Mountain, and Estes Park make me feel like I’ve gone on an epic adventure.
A crisp autumn day in Central Park is the best (and probably my favorite place in the whole world), but the bitter cold, gray winters and the sweltering muggy summers are the worst. The weather in Colorado is hard to imagine until you’ve experienced it. It is sunny most of the time. The air is dry and comfortable all year. I do need to use a lot more lip balm, but the winter never feels as chilled because there is no damp air. The summer also never feels as hot, because the humidity is so low you hardly sweat. On the flip side, there were some surprises to the weather here including HAIL! Colorado gets more hail than any other state and it can be the size of golf balls. The weather is often described as a rollercoaster because you can go from a sunny high of 70 one day to a snowy high of 30 the next day. This can happen in October or in May! It is a running joke that in Colorado you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Even so, most of the time the weather is just so nice and the air is so fresh.
I think the biggest difference though is space. Space to live, space to play, even space in between the aisles at the grocery store! My Upper West Side apartment was 600 square feet. My home in Denver is over 2,000. My kids have their own room, we have a guest room, storage spaces, and a laundry room, my husband and I don’t fight over closet space, and we can have a regular-sized Christmas tree. There is space to dump out a carton of Lego, there is space to bake 200 cookies, and space to have a dance party in the kitchen. When you step outside, there is space to run and ride bikes without fear of being hit by a taxi or rogue delivery man on a bike. And if you go to one of the amazing nearby state or national parks you can really lose yourself in the space around you. So. much. space.
There is also space to drive! The traffic in NYC is no fun, but I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and I can tell you they have the worst traffic in the country for sure. If you have never experienced 66 or 495 at rush hour you are a very lucky person.
Locals complain about the traffic here because so many people have moved to Colorado over a short period of time, but it is a walk in the park compared to the traffic I’ve lived with in NYC and DC.
It’s true, so many people have moved to Colorado recently. Locals complain about it and sometimes I stop myself from talking about moving here because you can get a bit of backlash. Families that have lived here for generations are not happy about the smog, inflated real estate prices, and much more crowded parks. However, as a whole, people who live here are incredibly nice. People say hello as you pass them on the street, store clerks are friendly and chatty, and cars stop to let you cross the street even when they have the right-of-way.
One thing that will never be the same is the food. Not only did we have the most amazing food in NYC, but the options were endless and everywhere delivered until the wee hours of the morning. Now I complain about pizza every time I try some (although, I am a big fan of Rosenburg’s!), I miss my favorite restaurants like they are long-lost friends (Levain Bakery, Jacob’s Pickles, P.J Clarkes, just to name a few), and I never get food delivered. However, I save a lot of money, I’ve learned to do more cooking and eat healthier, and I love, love, love Costco. There are also some great restaurants I have come to love in Denver, including Little Man Ice Cream, Denver Biscuit Company, Sushi Den, Snooze, and Los Chingones.
This may seem like an odd point, but I cannot believe how many pools there are in Denver! We didn’t get to enjoy them this summer, due to COVID, but last year we went all the time. It’s not just my neighborhood outdoor pools, but also the rec centers are fantastic. In the super hot, muggy days of July in NYC I would feel like waiting for the subway was like going to the grossest spa imaginable. Stepping outside was like walking into a wall of heat and everything smelled like urine. I would spend hours online trying to find a nice pool that wasn’t insanely expensive or hours away. In Denver, I can walk to my rec center and enjoy a huge water-park style pool that is open year round and never smells disgusting. And it’s only $3 for a day pass and only $300 for yearly membership for a couple!
When we first considered moving, my husband’s job made him a really great offer and we knew we wanted a second child and needed more space. Still, making the decision to move was hard. I had never even visited Denver and all of my family lived along the East Coast. We decided we would try it and knew we could always move again. Some things that helped initially were already having trips planned to come back to visit and getting excited about a whole new home and new place. We planned lots of outings to get to know Colorado and see why so many people love living here. I still miss NYC all the time, but I love my new home.
If you are thinking about leaving NYC I highly recommend this book, Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.
Things you will not miss about NYC:
1. Rats (prairie dogs are a million times cuter).
3. The constant sound of sirens, cars honking, and people yelling.
4. The real possibility that someone could pee on you in Herald Square (this happened to me).
5. The real possibility that someone could spit on you on the subway (this happened to a friend of mine).
Before COVID, we were out and about and had a lot of fun—we were members at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which has a great dinosaur exhibit and children’s play area, and we love going to the Hammonds Candy Factory, Denver Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Butterfly Pavilion, the Denver Botanic Gardens, Stanley Market Place, and of course all the outdoor places I mentioned.
When we moved here I was newly pregnant and then I had a newborn, so I haven’t been able to do any skiing or too much travel throughout the mountains, but I am looking forward to it! I have been fortunate to have friends come visit and do some exploring with me. My friend, Jennie, adventured with us just before the pandemic to Breckenridge and to see the Ice Castles in Dillon.
It has been such a blessing to have so many amazing parks to visit and feel safe with my family during the pandemic. In 2020, in spring through fall we took day trips to Mt Falcon, Brainard Lake, Lookout Mountain, Roxborough Park (great with kids!), Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Kenosha Pass, Aspen, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and Evergreen Lakehouse.
Things you need to survive in Colorado:
2. Lip balm and moisturizer
3. Sun Screen
4. Travel water bottle
5. Snow boots
Something that really surprised me from my very first visit to Denver, and continues to surprise me, is how easily you can see the mountains. I can see them from my balcony and from my driveway. I can see them when I drive to the grocery store and as my kids’ play at the playground. I often look out the window of my car and think, it’s like a green screen! It is just so beautiful seeing how the clouds, sunlight, and snow change the way they look all the time and it is always amazing.
One thing that has been tricky for me is moving my business. It takes time to build up internet recognition, referrals, and a reputation in a whole new city. I still love traveling back east for weddings when I can, but I plan to continue to grow my business in Colorado. If you know of anyone getting married, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you!
Or please comment below and tell me some of your favorite things to do or hidden gems in Colorado. We are always looking for great recommendations.
Check out a few more fun photos of our adventures from my iPhone:
I met the Deschenes family at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge for a mini family photo session. It was a beautiful day! Their kids were full of sweet hugs and giggles.
Trish shares, “My husband Andrew and I met in Arizona almost 15 years ago! We decided to expand our family there with two Boston Terrier puppies. Lilly and Lucy were our first babies and instantly filled our souls with love. In 2009, we moved to Colorado to start a new adventure and immediately knew why people love it here so much. We quickly became acclimated, found jobs and wonderful friends. We had a destination wedding in San Diego in September of 2013–who doesn’t love the beach, right?! Fast forward…we now have two incredible children, Joey (5) and Addie (1.5). We are beyond blessed, they are truly wonderful kids. Our hearts and home are filled with love, two kids, two dogs, a lizard and a fish! We love to explore Colorado, visit mountain towns, ride our beach cruisers to nearby restaurants and play outside.
The holidays are a very special time for us as we spend time with those we love, and our kids especially love to be spoiled by their grandparents. Once we had a family of our own, we wanted to start our own holiday traditions and spend Christmas at our house in Colorado. We typically spend every holiday with Andrew’s parents… this year will be different because of the pandemic. This will be our first year without the grandparents, although we will continue our traditions, extending from mine and Andrew’s childhood. The kids will wake up to a cozy Christmas morning breakfast and presents under the tree. Their favorite part is when they hear the Christmas song by Nat King Cole which signifies that it’s time to open presents. We will spend the day playing with our gifts, cuddled up on the couch watching holiday movies and cooking a big Christmas dinner. We will miss having a big family celebration, but are excited to create new memories and special moments with the simplicity of just us.”
If you are interested in booking a family photo session please check out my website.
When I spoke to Michèle and Matt about a photo session to celebrate their marriage at the Highlands Ranch Mansion I was thrilled! The whole thing came together like something out of Cinderella! Congratulations, you two!
Matt shares, “Twelve years ago on a Sunday afternoon I walked into John Holly’s Asian Bistro ready for a closing shift and a long night. Never would I have imagined that I would be meeting my future wife, manning the host stand, with those captivating eyes and freckles that just melt me. Fate slated us to wait many more years for our relationship to begin, but a seed was planted in the form of a serious crush that (I have on good authority) we both shared.
Fast forward seven years and we’re out for drinks, watering that seed and discovering how life had changed us through college and beyond. Months later, after growing a beard and as some would say, “a pair,” I finally asked Michèle on our first date. Our relationship began at a sushi restaurant, so Sushi Den seemed the most fitting destination for our romantic journey to begin. Good wine, good food, and the best company sped up the hours until we were standing on the deck of her apartment locked in conversation as we watched the night sky go by. Motivated by the waning hours and my lack of suave, Michèle moved in for the kiss. I was smitten… and the evidence suggests that so was she. I’ll go to my grave testifying that the last first kiss is the by far the best first kiss. We haven’t left each other’s side ever since.”
Michèle shares, “Ever the planner, I am sure Matt was certain he would never be able to surprise me. Lo and behold, he did!
About a month prior to our engagement, Matt asked if I was available for an end of summer lobster dinner at his Uncle David and Aunt Stephanie’s home. Admittedly, so excited for a seafood feast, I asked Matt if I could wear sweatpants. His response was a gentle but adamant, “You may want to dress nicer than that… It’s a really nice house.” Fair point.
A month later, on September 22, 2018, we approached the house and were greeted by a sign, “Party in back.” As we turned the corner of the garden, we were greeted not by sounds of merriment but by strings of twinkling lights. The backyard had been decorated with string lights and gold and white balloons. A table was set with candles, Lamarca Prosecco (our favorite), sushi and wine. The same wine we had on our first date- which was at Sushi Den! He had recreated our first date!
My favorite part of the whole set up was the Polaroid pictures Matt strung up on a line. From the first picture we took together, our first 1:1 trip to Mexico, and Disney World, to the “fake” wedding shoot we did with Rocky Mountain Bride, he had captured so many of our most treasured moments.
Imagine my surprise when Matt said, “I’ll be right back” and left me standing there! When he returned, he had a present for me to open. The first thing I took out was a homemade coupon that I had made for HIM and given him our first Christmas together in 2014. Gee, thanks. The coupon was for “Any activity, anytime, anywhere.” However, when I turned the homemade coupon over, there was the world’s sweetest note. “From the moment you gave me this, I knew what I wanted to use it for.” That’s when the waterworks started. I barely noticed the photographer, our friend Lia, in the corner snapping away.
Matt got down on one knee and asked me to spend my life with him, which I very enthusiastically accepted!
Amore Fiori created a beautiful winter bouquet featuring roses and greenery.
Michèle shares trying to plan a wedding during the pandemic, “What a wild experience! I have always loved the idea of fairy tales, princesses and dreamy wedding days. I even worked in the wedding dress industry for a few years. However, the pandemic quickly turned what was 2 years of planning our wedding into a pipe dream and a prayer. With our original wedding date in September 2020, we decided to keep friends and family safe and postpone for 2021. We quickly realized that, as sad as we were to not share this special day with our loved ones, the real important part of a wedding is the marriage!
We decided to elope on the two-year anniversary of our engagement, just us two and our photographer. It was intimate and filled with laughter and a few happy tears. We know that the “makeup” wedding in 2021 will be just as special, surrounded by those we cherish most. We are so thankful and fortunate that we were still able to be married this year, just on different terms.”
I met Anna and Jim at Brainard Lake for their engagement session. We walked along the lake, played with their sweet pup, Abe, saw an eagle and moose and celebrated their relationship.
Anna shares, “I used to work at a local brewery as an events planner, marketing manager and occasional bartender. During my shifts behind the bar, I noticed a tall man with a charming southern accent who came in often. Most Boulderites who frequent breweries wear flat brim hats and Grateful Dead T-shirts, so I was intrigued by this very well-dressed unicorn of a man who worked in finance. It helped that this man, whose name I came to learn was Jim, was best friends with my friend Kris–a manager of mine from my first job in Boulder.
Jim and Kris came in regularly and sat at the bar. Despite many months of what I thought was extremely overt flirting, Jim somehow never got it. Eventually I just asked him out and he said yes.”
Anna continues, “Two weeks into us seeing each other, I had massive knee surgery and my parents came into town to help take care of me. Jim sweetly brought over a puzzle and was brave enough to come inside and meet my parents even though WE hardly knew each other. (Jim is unlikely to turn down a Gin & Tonic.) A few weeks later, we took an impromptu trip to San Francisco while I was still in an ankle to thigh leg brace. We had a blast eating, drinking and exploring California. From there, things progressed fairly quickly. Admittedly, I was ready to dive in headfirst. I was confident this was the guy I was going to end up with.
We got engaged May 1st of this year. PEAK quarantine. Earlier in the week, Jim suggested that we do something together “just us.” After weeks of being locked inside the house just us, I thought it was a hilarious suggestion. I enjoyed his company nonetheless and was up for more isolated plans.
That day, I got home from a Target run in what I later learned was Jim’s least favorite item of clothing I owned. Jim suggested I “changed for our walk,” because there “might be a photo op.” I was slightly offended and mildly suspicious. We ventured out with our dog for a stroll. I was irritated because Jim wasn’t listening to me and texting on his phone the entire walk. Once we emerged from the woods into the open space in our neighborhood, Jim bent his knee, said a bunch of sweet things I can’t remember because I was blubbering, and asked me to make an honest man out of him. We hugged and cried and then had a champagne picnic in the park. Every time we take that walk, we have an even more special connection to our home, neighborhood and the love that will continue to grow there.”
The happy couple is getting married next summer. Happy engagement Anna and Jim!
Finding a creative outlet has been so important to me this year.
Carley and Kristi are beautiful, professional dancers who have not been able to perform since the pandemic outbrake in March. Also, I have not been working in the same way I have in past years, as large events and gatherings have been postponed or greatly downsized. It was such a gift to collaborate with them on this photo session. The juxtaposition of their strength and grace against the massive rock formations feels like a metaphor for the year.
I love dance. I am primarily a wedding photographer, but when I have the chance to photograph some gorgeous dancers I get so excited! I took ballet, tap, jazz and musical theater classes growing up and theater is one of my great loves. During the pandemic, it has been heartbreaking (but so necessary) to see theaters close and so many performers feel uncertain about what comes next. If you are able, please consider donating to Dance NYC or helping to support the arts in any way you can.