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A Day in the Park

City Park is enjoying a renaissance.


When it was created in the 1880s, City Park was a mile away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Over the past century, Denver has crept outward to surround the 450-acre playground of rolling lawns, ancient trees, duck-strewn lakes, and gardens. Today, the park is enjoying a renaissance, thanks in part to a new 3.1-mile gravel running path and painstaking restorations. We suggest grabbing a bike and spending a Sunday exploring the park’s highlights. Choose a few from the route below.

1. The City Park Esplanade Fresh Market sets up shop in front of the Sullivan Gateway off Colfax, summer Sundays at 9 a.m. Grab a couple of Colorado peaches and farm-fresh veggie tamales to go.


2. Dedicated in 2002, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial includes quotes and reliefs of important figures in African-American history.

3. At night, the newly restored Electric Fountain transforms into an LED light show every 10 minutes for bystanders around Ferril Lake. During the day, rent a paddleboat at the landing near the Pavilion.

4. The whimsical, nine-foot Children’s Fountain, sculpted by Max Blondt for Mayor Robert Speer’s “City Beautiful” campaign in 1912, depicts three white-marble kids peering down at a huddled trio of bronze frogs.

5. Grab some shade under the Shakespeare Elm near the corner of 17th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The behemoth tree was grown from a scion—part of a branch—from an elm at the Bard’s grave at Stratford-upon-Avon.

6. The exhibit halls at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science are a cool respite for warm days, and the rose garden is a sweet stopping-point for an afternoon snack.


7. The 76-acre Denver Zoo took shape following a special gift to the city in 1896: an orphaned black bear. Today, the zoo is home to more than 600 species.

8. Rent a set of clubs from the City Park Golf Course and practice your long balls on the driving range.

9. Let barbecue stalwart M&D’s Café pack you a picnic of pulled pork, cornbread, and potato salad. 2000 E. 28th Ave., 303-296-1760

10. Spread a blanket on the east side of Ferril Lake for postcard vistas of the city skyline and Front Range.

11. Stash your ride at BikeDenver’s free docking area and stake out a spot near the Pavilion for a free City Park Jazz concert, Sundays at 6 p.m. starting June 7.


This article appeared in the May 2009 issue of 5280.

Natasha Gardner, Articles Editor

Natasha Gardner writes and edits longform journalism and multimedia projects for 5280 and is a regular columnist for 5280.com.

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