Whether you’re a longtime Denver resident who wants to play tourist in your own town or you’re visiting the Mile High City for the first time, here’s 18 quintessential ways to celebrate summer in the city.
- Chalk it up! Larimer Square is one of our favorite blocks in Denver, with a hammock of lights draped over the block, which is lined with local restaurants and boutiques. The pavement gets turned into an art museum of chalk art June 4-5 when more than 200 professional artists take to the streets for the Chalk Art Festival. Past years have shown there’s a little something for everybody, from surreal optical illusions to fine art to cartoon-like drawings. If you get there early in the festival, you’ll witness the artists at work.
- Scream for ice cream. Locals love Little Man Ice Cream, which is served from an iconic, 28-foot tall milk jug located at 2620 16th St. in Denver, in the Highlands neighborhood. On summer nights, the lines can get long -- but that's actually a good thing because there’s plenty of fun to be had while waiting. Kids can stay entertained on a nearby slide or at a park across the street. Plus, throughout the summer there’s live entertainment, including magic tricks on "Tricky Tuesdays," “Friday night flicks” screening outdoor movies and “Swingin’ Under the Stars” swing dancing on Saturday nights. Oh, and the ice cream? The Salted Oreo is a fave.
- B-Cycle around Denver. Ditch the car and explore Denver on two wheels instead. More than 700 B-Cycle bikes available for rent from 87 docking stations planted across the city. Try a progressive dinner by bike, starting with shareable "fishbowl" drinks at the Paramount Cafe on the 16th Street Mall, dine al Fresco Larimer Street then pedal over to the theater district for dessert at Crave, which dishes out sweets and craft cocktails.
- Attend a free jazz concert. Like a grand finale to a great weekend, Jazz in City Park is a series of free concerts offered throughout the summer. Pack a picnic and end the weekend on a hight note. See the full, 10-week concert schedule here.
- Enjoy a Sunday brunch at Snooze, an a.m. Eatery. If you love pancakes, point your GPS to one of the Snooze restaurants in Denver. We’re talking Pineapple Upside Down pancakes, Blueberry Danish pancakes and Sweet Potato pancakes. Or, try a pancake hat trick and order three different types in a “pancake flight.” While you wait, enjoy outdoor games like cornhole.
- Do yoga at Red Rocks. Sure, you may have been here for a concert. But the amphitheater also hosts some epic yoga classes. Be prepared to pant while you’re dropped in a downward dog pose. This amphitheater is perched at 6,400 feet -- 1,120 feet higher in altitude than the Mile High City of Denver itself. Denver-based CorePower Yoga, for the fourth year will hold its “Yoga on the Rocks” series in the park, with morning vinyasa classes that hone in on strength and balance. The practice is for yogis of all types — from new to seasoned, says Tess Roering, chief marketing officer for CorePower Yoga. The hour-long power vinyasa classes will happen this year at 7 a.m. on July 30, Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20. Classes are $12 each and attendance is capped at 2,000 people per class.
- Watch a movie at Red Rocks: Speaking of this epic Denver city park, it’s also the perfect state for outdoor movies. This year’s screenings include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Sandlot,” “Citizen Cane,” “Labryinth,” “Deadpool” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The previews are noteworthy, too! Bands and comedians perform before dusk. Check out the full 2016 schedule here.
- Slide into summer at Elitches: Spend a day at the amusement park that’s centrally located in downtown. Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park boasts 53 attractions. One you don’t want to miss, though: Slidezilla. Journey down the six-story water slide in a four-person raft. You’ll scream down a curved chute and into a swirling 24-foot bowl before making a 57-foot drop into a wall of water.
- Order lunch from a food truck: The food truck trend is showing no signs of slowing in Denver. Almost every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until the beginning of October, you can find food trucks lined up in Civic Center Park during lunch time (i.e. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Each day will feature 30-some trucks and there’s a wide culinary range with food genres including African, Asian, barbecue, burgers, cajun, European, Mediterranean, Italian, and Latin. Find the full Civic Center Eats lineup here.
- Watch a drive-in movie: Cue the nostalgia! Denver has a new drive-in movie theater dubbed the Denver Mart Drive-In. The urban drive-in shows double features on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights until Labor Day. (Plus, there’s a snack bar with cotton candy).
- Or, watch a dive-in movie: Float in the wave pool at Elitches or relax on land in a lounge chair. Either way, Friday nights from July 1 to August 5 at Elitches are “dive-in movie” nights. Movies on this summer’s line up include family-friendly flicks like “Hotel Transylvania,” “Minions,” “The Spongebob Movie,” “Star Wars,” “The Good Dinosaur” and “Inside Out.” Check out the full schedule here.
- Take a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens: Traipse through the downtown gardens and admire the sculptures that are on display as part of a "Stories in Sculpture" exhibit with pieces from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Thirteen masterworks are included in the exhibit.
- Kayak in Confluence Park: Kayak through the city? Absolutely! Confluence Park offers a kayak practice route in the Platte River. Or, go for a bike ride along the path. The park offers a free Thursday evening concert series in the summer, as well.
- Take a free walking tour in Denver: These “story treks” are choose-your-own adventures of sorts. Denver Story Trek is a self-guided tour that will give you the back story of the city’s most notable landmarks. You can download free audio recordings and go at your own pace. Among the popular treks? “Women of the West,” “Mile High Art & Culture” and “Settling the Frontier.” Navigate the treks by foot, by bike or by car.
- Enjoy a summer seasonal. Denver is known for its burgeoning craft beer scene. Say cheers to summer with a seasonal brew at one of the city's local breweries. Pair Great Divide's seasonal Hoss rye lager with barbecue chicken or veal bratwursts or give a Orchard Wheat a try at Wynkoop Brewery. The summer seasonal boasts woodsy citrus and ripe peach notes.
- Catch some live theater. Need to cool off? Spend a day in Denver's bustling theater district. The Denver Performing Arts Complex has a spectacular line-up this summer with shows including "Beauty and the Beast," "The Sound of Music," or "The Phantom of the Opera."
- Surf in the city. Colorado is of course landlocked, but you can still catch some waves. Try out the surf simulator at Water World. Surfing not in your skill set? Laze in the Lazy River or ride one of the 50-some attractions. The theme park has two wave pools.
- Get to the farmer's market. Denver loves its farmer's markets. Most of the urban farmer's markets are complemented by live music and you'll also find Colorado specialties, like tamales, peaches and sweet corn. A local favorite is the Cherry Creek farmer's market that happens on Saturdays and Wednesdays until October.
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