Travel is my passion, but I’m not one of those souls who is constantly on the road. In fact, I’m home more often than I’m not. Luckily, I live in Denver, where’s there’s pretty much always something to do, especially in the summer. When the warm weather arrives, Denver comes to life with street fairs, festivals, and concerts. People head out to the patios and rooftops to soak in the sun and the views. Parks and trails are filled with active locals and visitors.
Most weekends, it’s hard to decide what to do. The suggestions could go on and on. Instead of list practically everything you can do here, I thought I’d narrow it down a bit with these eight things you can do in Denver in the summer.
Go for a Hike
Denver is blessed with its proximity to the mountains. And you don’t have to venture too far from downtown to reach some great hiking trails. One of my favorite spots to go is Red Rocks. Yes, it’s more than an amphitheater. The region boasts 738 acres of open land, made up of towering rock formations scattered amid prairies and valleys. There are two fairly short trails within the park, but you can access longer loops via the Red Rocks Trail.
You can also head to Golden to walk the North Table Mountain trail, which offers great views of Denver. There’s also the Clear Creek trail or the Cedar Gulch trail that give you a glimpse at Golden and the beautiful Golden Gate Canyon. Boulder’s Flatirons can be enjoyed on the Chautauqua Trail, one of my favorite hikes and it’s only a short 45 minute drive from Denver.
Visit the History Museum
I know what you’re thinking. A museum in the summer? Well, as you may or may not know, Denver is known for having some pretty intense thunderstorms in June and July. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor attractions to keep you occupied when the clouds come rolling in over the mountains.
If you’re a history buff, and want to learn more about Colorado and Denver, then you have to check out are History Colorado Center. Every time I go, I learn something new about my home town. Here you’ll find permanent exhibits like Colorado Stories and Living West, which highlight the people and the nature that make up this great state. The latest exhibit to join the collection is Denver A to Z, Adrenaline to Zombies and (almost) everything in between. This is all about what makes Denver, Denver. If the name isn’t enough to intrigue you, here are some tidbits to chew on: digital throwdown matches between Denver icons, a barrel man, and a wall of beer bottles.
Bonus, you can take a group photo or selfie in front of the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign that welcomes drivers entering the state. The museum has a replica on the ground floor, right next to the huge map of Colorado built into the marble floor.
Check out a Rockies Game
America’s favorite pastime is also a favorite of Coloradans. The Colorado Rockies have been part of the Denver sports scene since 1993, and Coors Field has been their home for over 20 years. I always try to make it to at least one Rockies game each summer, not because I’m a huge fan, but because I love the ballpark and the atmosphere.
When Coors Field opened in 1995, it became a staple of the community, and I can’t imagine lower downtown (or LoDo as we Denverites call it) without it. The old fashioned brick facade blends perfectly into the surrounding neighborhood, giving us a true urban ballpark that many other metropolitan cities lack. It’s always buzzing with excitement, especially on game days when Blake Street shuts down and people gather outside to take photos in front of the iconic clock located at Gate D, home plate.
If you want tickets in the lower sections, they can be pretty pricey. It’s possible to get Rockpile (bleachers) tickets for as cheap at $5, but be warned, that’s where the rowdy crowd hangs out. Rooftop tickets cost $15, but it’s standing room only. If you don’t really care about watching the game, these might be the tickets for you.
Head to a Brewery (or Three)
Colorado ranks second in the country for number of craft breweries. That’s right. Our little (in terms of overall population) is a big player in the beer game. There are 334 craft breweries in the state, according to the Brewers Association. The city of Denver has roughly 148 breweries, and the number of breweries per capita in the state is around 8.4. That means you’re never too far from a delicious saison, IPA or stout.
I’ve been to many Denver breweries, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. However, if you’re in the market for specific kinds of beers, I have some recommendations:
- All about sours? Check out Crooked Stave. It focuses on Belgian sour beers, and has a number of barrel-aged, wine-incorporated beers. I personally liked the Petite Sour Rose and the Vieille Reserva Prunus Armeniaca (that’s a mouthful).
- IPA fan? There are a lot of options, but Fiction Beer Company has one of my favorites. The Logic Is Relative is a New England-style IPA with lovely tropical hops, and hints of orange and guava. You’ll also find great IPAs at Spangalang, Cerebral Brewing, Comrade Brewing and Black Shirt Brewing, among others.
- Love German-style beers? Head to the River North neighborhood for Bierstadt Lagerhaus. This is the place to get a crisp, clean pilsner; a light, malty helles; and a chocolatey dunkel.
If you want to experience a variety of breweries, it’s easy to hop (pun intended) around to a few in an afternoon. There’s usually a brewery or two within a couple blocks of each other. I recommend signing up for a guided brewery tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the beer scene in Colorado. I recently went on the Denver Microbrew Tour and I highly recommend it.
Take a Yoga Class
But not just any yoga class. Denver has a range of places you can practice – both inside and outdoors – that offer you a different perspective on the city…and yourself (now we’re getting deep).
I take part in a monthly yoga and fitness class called Fit & Fold. It’s a 75 minute class that incorporates high-intensity fitness moves, followed by muscle-shaking yoga positions. But what makes this class different is the setting and the equipment. It takes place in McNichols Civic Center Building, built back in 1909. The classic building is a hub for arts, culture and creativity. Upon arrival to the class, everyone is given a set of Sound Off noise isolating LED headphones, which is the only way to hear the instructor. Everyone hears the same music and fitness instructions, but it still feels like you’re in your own bubble. Dates for Fit & Fold vary, so if you live in Denver, keep an eye out on Eventbrite for details. If you’re visiting Denver at the beginning of August, check out Fit Fest for even more fitness fun.
Soak in the sun on the patio of the Art Hotel with their Vinyasa & Mimosa summer series. You’ll enjoy an hour-long yoga session followed by a brunch recovery…the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. Another great option is Yoga on the Rocks at Red Rocks amphitheater. These sell out quickly, so if this is something you want to experience when in town, get tickets early! You can also find other yoga options by searching on Visit Denver’s calendar of events.
See a Concert at Red Rocks
There are many outdoor concert venues out there, but none quite like Red Rocks. It’s the only “naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world.” The seats and stage are squeezed between two monoliths – Ship Rock and Creation Rock – which create a perfect acoustic sound. Legendary bands like the Beatles and U2 have performed here, and every summer, a lineup of incredible artists showcase their talents in this natural stage.
It’s a special place, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced a concert at Red Rocks to buy a ticket right away. There’s some amazing talent still on the calendar for this summer, and tickets are still available.
Explore the Art Scene
In Denver, art is found in museums as well as on the streets. Take a free walking tour of some of Denver’s most iconic art pieces, from wall murals to massive sculptures. One of the most famous is “I See What You Mean,” or more informally known as the Blue Bear. The 40-foot bear, created by Colorado-based artist Lawrence Argent, peers into the Convention Center, curious about the goings on inside. If you walk underneath, it’s the perfect spot for a selfie.
A short distance away you’ll find Jonathan Borofsky’s fiberglass Dancers, located on the lawn outside the Denver Performing Arts Complex. As you approach the sculpture, music can be heard all around. You’re not imagining it, it’s literally being piped in 24 hours a day, giving the two 50-foot beings a perpetual melody to dance to.
Over at the Art Museum, you’ll discover amazing art pieces just outside the doors. Snap a photo of Coosje Van Brugen and Claes Oldenberg’s giant broom and dustpan, The Big Sweep, or Dan Ostermiller’s large Scottish Angus Cow and Calf.
The River North neighborhood has become a hub for local artists and creatives, and the result is numerous wall paintings throughout the streets. Art walks take place here on the first Friday of every month, and galleries open their doors to patrons to take a glimpse at the beautiful pieces on display.
Grab a Bite at Union Station
One of the most popular places to go in Denver is Union Station, but it’s not new to the city. In fact, it’s one of the oldest buildings in lower downtown. The central portion of the building was erected in 1914 as the main train station serving Denver. In it’s prime, some 80 trains ran through the station daily. As transportation trends shifted away from rail, activity at the station became sluggish. People rarely went there, except if they happened to be riding an Amtrak to one of the two destinations it served or were taking the ski train to Winter Park, which eventually stopped operating.
But in 2010, construction began on a new train terminal, and the interior of the building was completely renovated. Today, it’s home to hip restaurants and bars, a hotel, boutique shops, and serves as a main hub for the city’s light rail transportation system. On the outside, the “Union Station: Travel by Train” signs, installed in the 1950s, still shine bright and have become an icon of the city. While the inside looks completely different from the Union Station I grew up with, there are historic elements giving a nod to the old days. The tall arched windows and long wooden benches are reminiscent of traditional train stations. The old ticket counter has been converted into the Terminal Bar, but there’s still evidence of it’s previous tenant. It’s a testament to the city’s history, and a move towards it’s future.
This just scratches the surface of all the things to do in Denver in the summer. But hopefully it gives you a good starting point, especially if you’re visiting for the first time or you’re just moving here.
Do you have a favorite must-do in Denver? I’d love to hear about it.
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