Colorado and California are both states that feature vast wildernesses and incredible landscapes.
They also bear some of the most famous cities in the country.
Whether you’re looking to move to Colorado or California, considering vacationing in one of these states, or just curious about them, you may wonder how they differ.
From population to crime rates to other features, here are some differences between Colorado and California.
Colorado Vs. California (What’s The Difference?)
1. Different Outdoor Focuses
Both California and Colorado have a reputation for having incredible outdoor attractions.
However, they both differ in what those outdoor activities are.
California, for example, is best known for its beaches.
Its entire western border is the ocean, after all.
You have miles of beaches that you can enjoy.
Some are private beaches, some are party beaches, and some are standard public beaches.
California also has its share of mountains.
However, its mountains tend to be quite steep.
While hikers certainly receive a lot of joy out of hiking through them, the main draw to California is its beaches.
On the other hand, Colorado’s main draw is its mountains.
A large portion of Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountains.
These mountains are famous for their hiking trails.
While California has built up most of its outdoor attractions along beaches, Colorado has built up most of its outdoor attractions in and around its mountains.
If you were to narrow down the main outdoor activity for each state, California’s would be surfing and beachgoing while Colorado’s would be skiing and hiking.
Colorado is best known for Aspen and the luxury ski resorts that dot the state.
Celebrities flock to Colorado each winter to enjoy the snow and do a bit of skiing.
The weather certainly plays a factor in outdoor activities for each state, too.
California tends to stay on the warm side throughout the year.
This enables its residents and visitors to enjoy the beach almost every month.
Colorado, on the other hand, experiences both warm summers and cold winters.
As such, it can offer different outdoor activities based on the season.
Depending on your interests, you might find that Colorado has more to offer than California because of this.
That said, if you just prefer beaches, California is your go-to destination.
Another big difference between California and Colorado is its attractions.
California is best known for its nightlife and celebrity culture.
It’s the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles, and almost anything related to entertainment.
Colorado, on the other hand, focuses its attractions on the outdoors.
While there are certainly places to go in Colorado, it emphasizes time spent in its natural outdoor beauty rather than certain types of entertainment.
As such, the attractions that both states tend to offer are quite different.
In particular, California has Disneyland.
While it isn’t the only state to house Mickey Mouse, it was the first.
Disneyland also has certain rides and attractions that don’t exist at its counterpart, Disney World in Florida.
That said, the theme park is a huge hit with families and adults.
Another big attraction in California is the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It’s a stretch of sidewalk where celebrities have put their handprints and signatures in cement for decades.
You can walk along the sidewalk and spot your favorite celebrity’s particular cement slab and take a picture with it.
There are always new celebrities adding to the Walk of Fame each year, so if you time your visit right, you might be able to witness a ceremony.
Finally, California is also home to the famous San Diego Zoo.
The San Diego Zoo is easily one of the largest and most well-respected zoos in the country.
It features tons of different animals, activities, and educational opportunities.
You could spend quite a few days in the zoo and always have something new to experience.
While California has a lot of indoor or celebrity-focused entertainment, Colorado focuses on outdoor activities.
The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of its biggest attractions.
Hikers, tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts frequently visit the park to admire its beauty.
Colorado isn’t without its own manufactured entertainment either.
It has the Red Rocks Amphitheater which is a large outdoor concert venue.
You can catch some unique performances there.
California and Colorado are different because they each focus on offering different types of attractions.
3. Transportation And Cost
One of the aspects of California you’ll hear about the most is its problem with traffic.
In particular, its Los Angeles traffic tends to be a nightmare.
People spend over 100 hours each year in LA traffic.
That’s a considerable chunk of time that they’re just spending sitting in their car and waiting for the traffic to ease.
While the problem is primarily in Los Angeles, a lot of tourists tend to go to Los Angeles since that’s where a lot of the state’s attractions reside.
Unless you’re there to visit San Francisco, San Diego, one of the other big cities, or its beaches, you’re probably going to find yourself in Los Angeles.
The city is also home to one of the most popular airports.
If you’re flying into the state, there’s a good chance you’re landing at LAX.
Although California has its share of public transportation options, the bulk of its residents still drive.
Due to the high cost of living in some of California’s cities, many have to find an apartment or home outside the city.
That requires them to drive in and out of the city for work each day.
Parking in California is also quite expensive.
When you need to park your car in the city, for example, you can expect high parking fees.
That’s because there are a lot of cars in the city and not enough parking spaces.
Colorado, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same problems with traffic as California.
While Denver can certainly become crowded and congested, it’s nothing compared to Los Angeles.
The parking fees in the state also tend to be on the cheaper side.
When it comes to traveling, California is a bit of a nightmare—at least for its larger cities—compared to Colorado.
4. Cost Of Living
The cost of living in both states is also quite different.
In California, the average cost of living is $46,636 per person.
Essentially, a person needs to make at least $46,636 each year just to pay their bills, rent, and other expenses to live in the state.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for people to use their expenses in other ways like investing or saving up for retirement.
However, like in other states, where you live in California can have an impact on your cost of living.
If you live in Los Angeles or one of the big cities, your cost of living is going to be high.
If you live out in the country, your cost of living might be lower.
It also largely depends on where you’re living in the country.
Celebrities, for example, often have mansions outside the city.
Anywhere they live is going to be quite expensive.
Colorado’s average cost of living is $46,642.
Clearly, Colorado has a cost of living that’s close to that of California.
In some places, it might even be higher.
Denver, for example, is going to have a higher cost of living than a smaller mountain town.
It may be easier to find a town in Colorado than in California that offers a smaller cost of living.
California has several large cities and celebrity culture influencing its cost of living.
Colorado, on the other hand, has a multitude of smaller towns and doesn’t have quite as many celebrities calling it home.
When deciding which to move to, you might need to do a bit more research into the different towns in both California and Colorado to determine which one has the lowest cost of living that suits your budget.
5. Average Weather
Another big difference between California and Colorado is their average weather.
California has a reputation for warm weather.
Sometimes, the warm weather can be a problem.
It can lead to drought which can impact local agricultural pursuits.
It can also increase the chances of wildfires.
California has a reputation for wildfires, after all.
If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, you’re at risk of losing your home, your life, or even having your health impacted.
Outside of the danger area, however, sometimes California receives too much rain.
Flooding can sometimes be a problem.
Mudslides due to flooding are another problem.
That said, the weather in California can be quite pleasant.
It tends to trend warm except in higher altitudes.
For example, if you plan on hiking through California’s mountains, you can expect colder temperatures the higher you climb.
If you’re hiking in winter, you may even experience temperatures below freezing.
Otherwise, you can typically expect a hot, dry summer and a wet and lukewarm winter in California.
In Colorado, the weather is quite different.
It tends to trend towards colder temperatures, although you can certainly experience hot temperatures in the summer in the plains area.
Because Colorado has a rocky landscape, those areas that are at higher altitudes tend to be a bit chillier.
Snow is common in Colorado and is one of the draws of the state.
You won’t experience much snow in California, but in Colorado, snow can sometimes be quite difficult.
As such, if you prefer warmer temperatures and a climate that generally says the same, California is the state for you.
If you prefer a climate that differentiates between the summer and winter seasons, Colorado is a perfect choice.
If you’re planning to move to either California or Colorado, knowing what their average salaries are can help.
The last thing you want to do is move to a city that can’t offer you the salary you need to survive.
The average salary is also different between California and Colorado.
In California, for example, the median salary is $78,672.
The mean is $111,622.
The median is important to consider because it demonstrates the midpoint between all the salaries in California.
The mean calculation, on the other hand, is sometimes influenced by high salaries.
Considering that celebrities who make millions of dollars live in California, the mean average can be a bit skewed.
A more accurate representation, in this case, might be the median average salary.
As such, the median salary in California is $78,672.
Considering the cost of living, that leaves Californian residents with around $30,000 extra each year.
The average salary in Colorado is $81,910.
The lower end of average salary in Colorado is $71,074.
The higher end of average salary in Colorado is $94,419.
Clearly, at least regarding the median average salary, Colorado residents tend to have higher salaries than those in California.
Depending on where you live in Colorado, your salary might be enough to cover your cost of living and give you a good amount to invest or put away for retirement as well.
The average salary is a big difference between California and Colorado with Colorado having a higher average salary than California.
7. Job Market And Growth
Another important feature to consider when deciding where to move is the state’s job market and potential growth.
A state that has a stagnant job market and little growth doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
It means it could be difficult to find a job there.
When you have bills to pay, the last thing you need is to be between jobs.
California and Colorado have quite a difference when it comes to their job markets and their outlooks.
California has a lot of agricultural jobs.
Due to its warm climate, it’s an ideal place to grow crops that typically can’t grow in other parts of the country.
However, as farms become more automated, workers are losing their jobs.
That said, tourism remains high in California.
As such, jobs associated with hospitality and tourism are high.
Some of the job offerings that are in high demand in the state include the following:
- Retail workers
- Registered nurses
- General laborers
That said, with more and more businesses looking to automate their workforce, it’s likely only a matter of time before those openings dry up as well.
In Colorado, however, finding a job is a different story.
There are tons of job openings for Colorado residents.
Colorado has a strong tech job market.
As such, it’s constantly in need of new software engineers and other workers related to tech.
With more people showing an interest in living in Colorado, that’s also opened up more business opportunities.
The demand for workers is so high that some companies are even offering sign-on bonuses.
The job market doesn’t seem to be slowing down in Colorado either.
As such, if you’re looking for a new job, Colorado tends to have a more active job market than California.
You have your pick of the job in Colorado as opposed to California where some markets are starting to dry up.
8. Population And Demographics
The population between California and Colorado is also very different.
California has an estimated population of 39,029,342.
Colorado has an estimated population of 5,839,926.
Clearly, California is far more populated than Colorado.
Part of that is due to size.
California is larger in land area than Colorado.
It has more room to house residents.
A large part of Colorado is also mountainous.
This makes it difficult to build towns and homes there.
If living in a state with a big population is something that you like, you might prefer to live in California.
If you prefer to live in a state that has a smaller population, Colorado is ideal for you.
The demographics in both states are also slightly different.
The majority in both states are people who identify as white.
However, the minorities are different between the two.
In California, the next biggest majority is people who identify as Hispanic or Latino.
In Colorado, it’s people who identify as white but who also have some other background in their family history that isn’t Hispanic or Latino.
California also has a larger Asian population.
The estimated number of Asian people living in California is 15.9% of the total population.
In Colorado, it’s only 3.6%.
The education levels in the states are also different.
Colorado tends to have a higher population of educated people.
For example, the percentage of those who received their high school diploma or a higher form of education is 92.4%.
In California, it’s 84.2%.
Those who received a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in Colorado are 42.8% of the population.
In California, it’s 35.3%.
Clearly, Colorado has a slightly more educated population than California.
9. Crime Rates
One of the most important statistics to consider about a state is its crime rate.
It can indicate how safe the state is to live in or visit.
California has a violent crime rate of 4.40 per 1,000 people.
Colorado has a violent crime rate of 4.81 per 1,000 people.
California has a property crime rate of 23.47 per 1,000 people.
Colorado has a property crime rate of 31.35 per 1,000 people.
Clearly, Colorado has more crime than California.
Population differences may be at play here, but overall, Colorado is a bit more dangerous than California.
In California, the most common violent crime is robbery.
It’s the same in Colorado, but Colorado’s robbery rate is also close to its rate of sexual assault crimes.
If crime rates are important to you, California has a lower crime rate compared to Colorado.
10. Location To Other States
A final distinction between California and Colorado is its proximity to other states and its location in the country.
California is on the far western side of the United States.
It sits right against the Pacific Ocean.
As such, it’s really only close to other western states.
Traveling from California to other states can be quite lengthy.
That said, it’s also close to Alaska and Hawaii.
Colorado, on the other hand, is a bit more centrally located in the country than California.
It’s close to most of the midwestern states.
Its unique location makes traveling to other states a bit easier than from California.
It will take less time to travel from Colorado to other states than it would if you were starting in California.
That might play an important role if you’re someone who likes to travel.
You’ll spend less time at your vacation destination and more time traveling if you’re starting from California than Colorado.
Colorado is also a landlocked state.
You’ll have to travel a bit if you want to get to any sort of major body of water.
California is right off the ocean.
That makes travel by sea a lot easier.
Both states are quite different from one another due to their locations in the United States.