Denver—the Gateway to the West. Sure, it’s great fun to pack up and head to the mountains, but what about all the fantastic activities you leave behind in the city? It’s true, Denver residents; there are more than enough unearthed opportunities for fun and adventure right here in our own backyard. I give you twenty activities to take part in this summer in Denver, and in our little sister, Boulder.
1. Confluence Kayaks
Take a full day lesson right on the Platte River and then have a well-deserved lunch at Confluence Park and watch the professionals take a turn.
2. DU Climbing Wall
Climb a mountain without leaving the city. All the necessary gear is provided; all you need to bring is your strength.
3. Rocky Mountain Roller Girls
These gals perform their estrogen-fueled bouts all over the city, from Denver Coliseum, off I-70 to the Bladium. Did you know that there are six different teams in the Rocky Mountain League? Me neither until I saw them defeat a team from San Diego. These girls don’t play nice and that’s the only way they win.
4. El Chapultepec
This great spot has been hosting jazz and spicy Mexican food since 1951. It opens at 7:00 a.m., just in case a musician is inspired first thing in the morning. At night is when the joint gets jumpin’. I always feel like I’ve been transported back to the age of jazz and that I’m witnessing history being made in the underbelly of Denver.
Dazzle is a more refined, classic jazz club and some of the best Denver jazz musicians have played here. Dress yourself in your best duds, join the intimate setting while sipping a cocktail, and feast your ears on riffs that rival any jazz club in the world.
6. City Park
Everyone knows City Park is a 320-acre sanctuary in the city. But did you know it plays host to Sunday Jazz from 6–8:00 p.m. every week from June to October? Pack a picnic (or plan ahead and have it catered by Three Tomatoes), bring some chairs and your ears, and see that Denver is hiding great musicians all over the place.
8. The Lab at Belmar
The lab is open every day except Monday and always has exhibits that challenge the definition of art. In the summer of 2008, they have a series called “Mixed Taste” that pairs things that share almost nothing in common—Roller Derby and Verismo Opera, for instance.
It’s as easy to admire everything at this tres chic locally-owned store as it is to buy it. Don’t be surprised if you find something that inspires a complete redecoration of your home.
10. MCA Denver
As the newest and greatest space for contemporary art in Colorado, this museum merits an entire day. Start from the bottom floor and end up at the rooftop café, drinking in cocktails and 360-degree views of the city and the mountains.
11. Denver Art Museum
Have you been here since it was overhauled and redesigned? It’s awesome. Let yourself be drawn in to every nook and cranny of each gallery or plan a guided tour—one of the better guided museum tours I’ve ever experienced.
12. Platte Forum
It connects youth, art, and education—and, there’s even more. They always host an artist in residence, where you can witness first-hand the creative process. Check out their Web site for opening parties, lectures, and performances.
13. Santa Fe Art District
There are over forty galleries of varied interests located just south of downtown. Take part in their First Friday Art Walk and meet artists, gallery owners, and other art lovers.
14. Classic Cruiser Bike Rentals
They will set you up with a cruiser for $25 a day. Could it be any easier?
15. Denver Cruisers
On Wednesdays, the cruisers meet up at the Ginn Mill (21st & Larimer) on their beach cruisers dressed in themes and ready take to the streets. Get that rusty two-wheeler out of the garage or make this your reason to buy a cruiser.
16. Riverfront Park
Ride a bike from the park to Cherry Creek. This path parallels the Cherry Creek for fifteen miles to the Cherry Creek Reservoir. You don’t have to go that far, but a nice cruise from downtown to Cherry Creek ending with dinner makes for a delightful day.
17. Bovine Metropolis Theater
An improv and sketch comedy theater that will have you wetting your pants with laughter, enjoy performance five nights a week for $5 or take an improv class and do it yourself.
18. Whitewater Tube Co.
Lucky for Denver, Boulder is a mere twenty-five miles away, though it feels as you’ve escaped into a pretty, peaceful foothills haven. Most Denverites forget about Boulder because it’s a college town, but there’s so much more to be done here. For instance, during the summer heat, locals rent inner tubes and take them down the Boulder Creek. It’s possibly the best way to spend a hot summer day. Rent tubes at Whitewater Tube Co. and drop in above Ebin G. Fine Park.
19. Dushanbe Teahouse
This teahouse is steeped, almost literally, in history and authenticity. Any of the servers will happily give you the history of the teahouse while you leisurely sip on one of the hundreds of teas offered. Sit inside the ornately decorated house or out on the patio, which is nestled alongside the Boulder Creek. They offer delicious international fare for breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
20. Chautauqua Park
Once home to Colorado’s Chautauqua movement of cultural learning and performance, this national landmark has a dining hall, plenty of trails, and expansive lawn space to keep you occupied all day.
Carpe Denver while it’s yours for the taking. While hordes of people are flocking to the mountains, you can have the city all to yourself.