Thinking of Moving to the Grand Valley? I left the hustle and bustle of Southern California and moved to Grand Junction 10 years ago. I love this place, but the truth is it isn’t for everyone. You have to be ready to ease into the pace and vibe of the Western Slope. It is a fabulous place to live with friendly people, affordable housing, no traffic, an abundance of outdoor recreation, sunshine year round, and there are stunning views all around of the Colorado National Monument, Grand Mesa and Bookcliffs. But what’s it really like to live here…
Cost of Living & Population
According to Forbes, the cost of living in Grand Junction is 4% below the national average. The median home price is $277,000 and the average income is $45,000 as of 2018. The Census Bureau estimates that the population of Mesa County in 2011 was 147,083. Living in the Grand Valley comes with a much more reasonable price tag than other emerging cities and it is a lot less crowded. But that also means if you get your heart broken here, or break a heart, or inadvertently make an enemy, the town can start to feel a little claustrophobic. You must be prepared to live in the same fishbowl with many of the same people, for a very long time. Which means you have to be nice, choose the people you associate with wisely and generally be accountable for your actions.
Where to Live
That’s totally different for everyone. The Grand is divided into 3 dominate cities plus a few outlaying towns.
- GRAND JUNCTION – The hub of Western Colorado
- FRUITA – Mountain Biking Capital of the USA
- PALISADE – Colorado’s wine country
If you’re buying a home, for a no-frills 2 – 3 bedroom starter home in Fruita, think around $200k. If you want a nicer neighborhood, Redlands properties start around $250k ($450k if you want square footage and a view or a really fancy neighborhood). If you want a home with history/character and don’t mind a little sweat equity you can get a single family home for around $150k in downtown Grand Junction. Inventory at this moment is pretty bleak.
The Grand Valley is not the kind of place where you just show up and find something, unless can live on $12 an hour. It is best to secure a job before arriving or bring your work with you (freelance, telecommuting, etc). Most available jobs are in the oil & gas industry, medical field, or teaching in School District 51. GJEP is working hard to bring in more manufacturing businesses to help increase available jobs. It should also be mentioned that there are major tax break opportunities for incoming businesses that meet certain criteria. There is also a small but growing tech industry that is based out of the FACTORY co-working space. The Grand Valley has a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and supportive business community.
Shopping & Dining
The Grand Valley has many amazing small business owners who have cute boutiques, delicious bakeries, and top-notch restaurants. You can find many of them on Main Street whether it be in Fruita, Palisade or Grand Junction. In the summers (June-September) you can find weekly farmer’s markets teeming with local produce. The Palisade peaches are heaven!
Unfortunately, we do lack some things… Whole Foods (Sprouts and Natural Grocers are your next best options), Costco (Sam’s Club will have to suffice), Panera (a better local option is Cafe Sol on Main Street in GJ), a legit homemade ice cream shop (Graff dairy has great soft serve!), and high-end shopping (if you want a D&B handbag or an Armani suit, you’ll have to drive to Silverthorne — not that you need either of those in the Grand Valley). It’s also a bummer that we don’t have an Apple Store (Denver is the nearest place to get your get your fried hard drive fixed under warranty).
What to Wear
Almost anything goes except high fashion, but if you want to fill your closet with Prada, Gucci, Armani, or Versace, then the Grand Valley is probably not for you. Jeans are universally accepted. Ladies, you can wear fleece and yoga pants to almost any restaurant in town. Men, if you have a mountain-man beard and are wearing work boots (or flip flops in spring/summer) and a plaid shirt then you will fit right in.
If the forecast says snow, don’t get too excited it will probably end up being a bright, sunny day. It is totally normal for it to be in the 80’s one day and in the 50’s the next day. The spring often sees many windy days. On the rare occasion that it does snow in the winter, it usually melts within a day or two. If you plan on building a snowman, do it first thing in the morning or head up to the Grand Mesa.
- You can and should buy a mountain bike to explore all our world renowned trails.
- People here are serious about proper roundabout etiquette. The Grand Valley has a lot of roundabouts and people have very strong opinions about how you should approach, enter and exit these bad boys.
- The Grand Junction airport has direct flights to 6 cities (Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas). That’s it.
- Be prepared that most restaurants close by 9pm.
- The average commute time is less than 15 minutes.
- The current hot topics that everyone is talking about: The Riverfront at Las Colonias business park, The Riverfront at Dos Rios, The Palisade Plunge Trail, and a community center for Grand Junction.
So, if you’re thinking about moving to the Grand Valley, just make sure you’re really ready for a slower pace of life and are squared away with the income necessary to actually relax and enjoy all the natural wonders of Colorado. Make sure to settle in close to amenities and other people. You’ll be glad you did. You think you’ll drive to hike, walk, bike, etc, but once the novelty wears off, you won’t. Oh and regarding driving, remember that right now, a 20 minute drive anywhere seems like no big deal. When you’ve lived here for a few months, a 20 minute drive seems like an eternity and you’ll do just about anything to avoid being in your car for that long.
The Grand Valley is a gorgeous place to live, people are friendly, and it’s more affordable. You can hike, camp, run, climb, and bike your brains out. It’s a relaxed life, totally free of traffic, smog and paparazzi. Life here is pretty amazing!