Most people immediately associate Colorado with winter sports, but summer is really the secret season in Denver. While you certainly can hightail it up to the mountains to bike, hike, hot springs hop, and raft to your heart’s content, Denver has plenty of city-centric activities to keep you entertained and help beat the heat. You can always find some type of festival or special events going on, but here are a few of the staple Mile High must-dos in the summer months.
Have Nostalgic Fun at the Fair
Running for over 100 years, the Arapahoe County Fair (July 25-28) is everything you’d want from a quintessential summer night. A carnival, rodeo, and beer fest all in one, there’s a petting zoo, live entertainment, classic Western homestead activities, and fair food (read: all the funnel cake and meat on a stick your little heart desires). Ride some rides under the starry sky, cheer on the cowboys, and tip back a cold one (including a homebrewers competition). For an extra unique event, you may also want to attend their “Boots Not Suits” kickoff dinner.
Explore on Two Wheels with Pedal Hopper Denver
Grab 10-16 of your closest friends for a DIY bike tour around the city. Known as a “bar cycle” this quirky contraption was invented in Europe and is entirely pedal-powered, making it one of the most fun ways to bar hop and burn some calories. There are three routes available around LoDo, South Broadway, and Uptown, but which bars you stop at is completely up to you (along with DJ capabilities).
Cozy Up at Jazz in the Park
A free concert series held in City Park every Sunday night of summer, Jazz in the Park is the best way to end the weekend in style. The food trucks are out in droves, but you can also pack a picnic potluck. Bring the whole crew and toast to Denver’s 300+ days of sun a year while enjoying good tunes and each other’s company.
Make it a Red Rocks Night
The most acoustically perfect outdoor amphitheater in the world, Red Rocks is one of Denver’s most celebrated treasures. Make a point of seeing at least one concert there, experience Yoga on the Rocks, or hike around during the day. Movie buffs should also attend Film on the Rocks, a series of weekly cult classics. Everyone goes all out dressing in theme and quoting along.
Kick it Old School at Lakeside
Sure you could go to Elitch Gardens or Water World for the typical amusement or water park experience, but Lakeside is simply iconic. The classic, old school theme park has been around since 1908 and is the perfect place to waste away the day with an ice cream cone and a roller coaster or two. It’s a super cheap date with admission costing just $4 and ride coupons just .50 each.
Attend a Sunset Paddle
Held regularly at Sloan’s Lake and Chatfield Reservoir, when the Denver Outdoor Adventure Company first started running these fun meet-ups they completely blew up on Facebook with thousands of people clamoring to claim a rental. They’ve since added monthly events so everyone gets a chance to get out on the water and take in a brilliant Broncos-colored sunset. If you’re really into SUPing, they also run the Denver Paddle Club to get together more frequently.
Root for the Home Team
There’s nothing that says summer in Denver like a day or night at Coors Field. Baseball is the classic American pastime. No matter if the Rockies are winning or losing (typically more of the later), a day at the ballpark is a day well spent. Grab a giant hot dog and a Rocky-rita and hightail it up to the newly remodeled rooftop party deck. They also hold theme nights throughout the summer and fireworks for the 4th of July. Fun fact: the row of purple seats (row 20 of the upper deck) mark the elevation exactly one mile (5280 ft.) above sea level.
Preview Denver’s Highly Anticipated Meow Wolf
Denver’s getting a Meow Wolf, the super trippy interactive art installation / murder mystery from Santa Fe and in anticipation, artists created a new kind of roller coaster called a “thrill ride for the mind” at Elitch Gardens to commemorate the occasion. Named Kaleidoscape, it’s supposedly a trip through a parallel dimension and total sensory overload. While you’re there, ride the other rides, get wet at the waterpark and don’t miss the free concerts, “Dive-In” movies and fireworks shows.
Tour the New Street Art
CRUSH Walls, Denver’s annual street art fest ensures there’s gorgeous new art every year just waiting to be admired and photographed. Head down Larimer Street in RiNo to see the bulk of it and make it a scavenger hunt to find your favorite mural. The chalk art fest is another highly anticipated summer event which quite literally paints the town not just red but a rainbow of hues. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even explore via electric scooter (which are scattered around basically every street corner and can be rented via an app).
Tip One Back to Patio Season
As the beer capital of the nation, patio drinking Denver’s unofficial sport and you can’t walk more than 100 feet without stumbling upon a brewery. First Draft is one of the best spots to try a bunch of native brews as you can pour your own beers by the ounce via a smart wristband on the tap wall. Voila, a DIY flight. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the many food halls (seriously there are 10+) for some tasty bites and treats from Denver’s top chefs.
And if you need to get out of town for a few days? Consider an epic Colorado road trip.
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