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—Photograph by Madison Carroll

Summer in the City

53 cool things to do when Denver heats up.

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As the mercury soars, so does the fun. With new festivals and farmers’ markets, backyard barbecues, and perfect patios, there’s always something going down in Denver when things turn hot.


A PLACE IN THE SUN

Your hour-by-hour guide to patios for catching rays—or avoiding them.

LATE MORNING

Ease into your day at Platt Park’s Steam Espresso Bar, where a sunny patio and grassy shaded plot could be your own backyard—except for the outdoor bar, expertly made coffee from Boulder’s Boxcar Coffee Roasters, and live music from 9 a.m. till noon on Sundays.

EARLY AFTERNOON

When the Colorado sun starts to make your skin sizzle, take refuge at Lola Mexican Fish House in LoHi. The covered patio is open enough for you to enjoy the heat, the bustle of one of Denver’s coolest ’hoods, and a Michelada Pop (a michelada, sangria, and lime juice Popsicle) without getting torched.

MID-AFTERNOON

A peaceful respite in Tennyson, Local 46’s backyard patio makes a great midday meeting point for you and some friends with its leafy shade, bocce court, pingpong table, and relaxed atmosphere (things typically don’t get too rowdy because of the bar’s “good-neighbor” agreement).

LATE AFTERNOON

Agave Taco Bar’s patio feels a little cramped…until the two-year-old Wash Park taquería rolls up its garage doors, turning the entire place into an airy cabana complete with a rustic wooden bar, 50 tequilas, and respite from the summer sun. All you’re missing is the beach.

EARLY EVENING

Like rays? Soak up all you can handle from the uncovered portion of the Irish Rover Pub’s rooftop deck on South Broadway. Done with the sun? Move a few feet east and post up at its covered bar. Want a drink? How about two? Happy hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) boasts two-for-one drafts.

DINNER

Hidden behind a wooden fence, Domo’s Japanese garden (picture two serene koi ponds, a bucolic bridge, and a stone walkway aglow under lanterns) is an ideal setting for a spiritual awakening—or the savory-sweet chicken teriyaki prepared just as it would be in the Japanese countryside.

AFTER DARK

String lights and sleek wooden furniture set a casual yet modish mood atop the new Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Match that ambience with about 100 whiskeys and cocktails like the Toddfather (Irish whiskey, lime juice, grapefruit soda, a rum-based liqueur, and cucumbers), and you get a prime nighttime watering hole in Ballpark.


OUR THREE FAVORITE BARBECUE SAUCES

To be a true grill master, toss the Stubb’s and crack open one
of these local barbecue sauces
.
—Amanda M. Faison

CARNIVORES

Leadville, $9.35
Perfect for: Beginning grillers chasing that shiny, lacquered crust
Spirit sauce: Don’t be scared off by an ingredient list that includes ghost peppers (not too long ago considered the hottest chiles on Earth). Dried apricots, clover honey, and tangy mustard mellow the fire to a slow burn.

CAVEMANCHEF’S PALEO CHIPOTLE BARBECUE

Denver, $5.99
Perfect for: Fans of sweet and heat—but not sugar overload
Sugarless spice: This smoky, chipotle-spiked sauce gets its flavor from fire-roasted tomatoes and a hint of molasses. The texture is more like salsa, but that just invites further R&D.

YAI’S THAI SALSA

Golden, $18 for three jars
Perfect for: Seafood-loving environmentalists
Mistaken identity: OK, Yai’s is a salsa, but ginger, lime, and hot chiles make it a match for seafood. Plus, the owners use veggies deemed too ugly for the produce aisle (and that would otherwise be trash) to reduce local food waste.


A LOCAVORE’S SHOPPING GUIDE

We plot out the best bazaars for whatever your locavore heart desires.
—Mary Clare Fischer

BEST FOR: Grub on the go

Buy La Chiva’s Colombian empanadas and other treats from food trucks at the Big Wonderful. The year-old market turned an empty space in Five Points into a food park–like spot and expanded into crafts and bands.
26th and Lawrence streets, Saturday noon to 7:30 p.m., May 2 to October 24

BEST FOR: High-end eats

Launched just last year, Le Jardin Secret, a French-inspired gem in Larimer Square, offers an elevated take on the traditional farmers’ market with artisanal foodstuffs such as Grateful Bread’s crusty country batard loaves.
The courtyard of Bistro Vendôme, 1420 Larimer St., Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., June 6 to September 26

BEST FOR: Piles of Colorado-grown produce

Over 14 years, the South Pearl Street Farmers Market has blossomed into one of the largest farmers’ markets in Denver, assembling a huge sampling of fruits and veggies (peaches and apples from Ela Family Farms on the Western Slope, for example) from nearly 90 vendors.
1500 S. Pearl St., Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 17 to November 15

BEST FOR—Nonfood stuff

At Horseshoe Market, you’ll find indie, artisan, and vintage merchandise, such as handmade cravats from Knotty Tie and naturally made Olde Crone’s Bewitching Bath Soap—and, well,  whatever else directors Amy and Doug Yetman deem “lucky finds.”
46th Avenue and Tennyson Street, Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 11


BONUS

AN ICE CREAM RECIPE (ALMOST) AS TASTY AS LITTLE MAN’S

Little Man Ice Cream’s Jordan Stearns teaches you how to make salted maple pecan that’s (almost) as good as hers. 
—Lindsey R. McKissick

Step 1
Whisk 2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup whole milk, ¾ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt (plus 2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk if you plan to store the ice cream for more than a day) in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture begins to thicken and the sugar and salt dissolve.

Step 2
Mix in maple syrup (3 tablespoons to ¼ cup) to taste.

Step 3
Chill the mixture over an ice bath (a large bowl of ice water) for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add pecans before freezing in an airtight container for 4 to 5 hours.


PLAY


RECESS BELL

Play like a kid with these adult spins on favorite childhood games.

Even if you’re no David Beckham (or Pablo Mastroeni), you’ll still enjoy Play Mile High’s summer kickball league (pictured); win or lose, you play the opposing team in flip-cup afterward. A win in the fine-motor-control department nets you one point in the standings (kickball wins are worth two points).

The Denver County Fair, founded in 2011, isn’t exactly a longtime local tradition, but your inner child doesn’t care—not with 16 indoor pavilions to explore, including a freak show, adult big wheels, carnival rides, and (new this year) a kitten pavilion. July 31 to August 2, National Western Complex, denvercountyfair.org

Remember the Slip’N Slide–based transit system you designed as a kid? It’s a thing now. Sort of. Slide The City roves the country with padded vinyl and on July 18 will unleash its more-than-three-football-fields-long waterslide in Boulder, along with live music, food, and drinks.

Give old-school cops and robbers an adrenaline boost at American Paintball Coliseum’s indoor field. Extend the summer by signing up for the coliseum’s 12th Red Dawn event in September, a day of missions based on the beloved 1980s movie—not, we hope, the terrible Chris Hemsworth remake.

Soothe your commute-inspired rage by tearing around the hairpin turns at Unser Karting, where gas-powered karts top out at 50 mph. (Tip: You can race for longer intervals from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.) Afterward, hit the Trackside Tavern for minibowling, pool, and one of 12 beers on tap.

Make New Friends

Sometimes the only thing missing from play is a mate. Twonoo.com, a new Denver-based site, connects people looking to experience one-off adventures—from tennis to brewery tours to Steely Dan and Elvis Costello at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 6 (if anyone’s interested). Unlike meetup.com, twonoo.com focuses on individuals, not communities; unlike Tinder, most of the propositioning is platonic.


PICK YOUR PARK

The right open space for whatever your summer weekend requires.
—Jessica LaRusso


AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING WATER WORLD

We tapped a longtime lifeguard for this insider’s guide to Water World. Pull on your swimsuit, slap on sunscreen, and prepare for the time of your life at the 70-acre behemoth. 

Water World claims its day starts at 10 a.m., but strictly speaking, that’s not true. The gates swing open at 9:50 a.m., and if you’re smart, you’ll be there. Instead of following the horde to the wave pools, sprint to the Mile High Flyer, a three-year-old slide that uses hydromagnetic technology to mimic a roller coaster’s slow ascent and sudden plunge. It’s one of Water World’s most popular rides, so beat the lines by getting there early. Speaking of: Once you’ve had your Flyer fix, head to the Revolution, which swirls you around a large bowl, and the halfpipe-esque Zoomerang.

After a morning of adrenaline rushes, it’s time to refuel. You can bypass food lines by bringing your own grub—no alcohol, no glass, no grills—and storing it in a day locker ($8 to $12). But if you aren’t organized enough to pack your lunch, avoid the lines at Thunder Bay Food & Drink and Pier One Pizza (admission tickets bought at places like King Soopers often come with meal vouchers to these food stands) by trying the Boardwalk Burrito. Most of the ingredients come from Colorado, and the chicken burrito is a delicious combo of potatoes, sweet-heat corn, pico de gallo, and guacamole.

By 2 p.m., it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the crowds, so watch where you’re swinging your limbs. Bloody noses are the most common injuries at the park, but more than 100 lifeguards are on duty every day to keep an eye on your offspring. You can help them do their jobs by A) being incredibly attractive or B) donning a hideous swimsuit so that guards can use you as a landmark during surveillance. (This is, believe it or not, an actual surveillance technique.) But don’t get too crazy with your choice of swimwear: If your suit is too “cheeky,” you’re likely to get booted. After all, Water World may be wild, but it’s not that wild.


CHILL OUT OR HEAT UP AT THESE DENVER WATERING HOLES

Come on in, the water is…

50 to 55 degrees

Cold tubs constrict blood capillaries to reduce pain. And, man, triple-digit temps hurt. The cold tubs at Denver Sports Recovery are always walk-in ready; feel free to self-medicate ($25 for a day pass).

70 degrees

Mild temps, a boatload of activities (swimming, fishing, and, well, boating), and specialized attractions such as a model plane airfield make Cherry Creek Reservoir a jack-of-all-summer-attractions.

70 to 75 degrees

It’s not the fountain of youth, but splashing about in the fountain on the south plaza of Union Station will make you feel like a kid again. Just don’t knock over the actual children, please.

84 degrees

Need a reason to play hooky? During the workweek, patrons of the spa at Four Seasons Hotel Denver get access to its rooftop saltwater pool—as well as the 104-degree hot tub and eucalyptus steam room.

90 degrees

You don’t have to weather Water World (see page 55) to appease the kiddos. The indoor pool at Lakewood Link Recreation Center has a pirate ship with slides and cannons. Don’t let the warm water gross you out; it’s supposed to be balmy.

104 to 110 degrees

When Jesse James and Billy the Kid needed to unwind, they sank their weary trigger fingers into the relaxing natural mineral water at Indian Hot Springs, which also happens to be the closest hot springs to Denver.


FOUR UNDER-THE-RADAR FESTIVALS

Four super-fun festivals to try this summer. 
—Daliah Singer

IF YOU LIKE

The Denver 48 Hour Film Project 
August 9

TRY

SeriesFest (pictured)
June 18–21, multiple venues

BECAUSE

It’s a TV addict’s dream weekend of pilot screenings, two series premieres, industry panels, parties, and more.


IF YOU LIKE

Denver Burger Battle
August 6

TRY

Denver Taco Festival 
June 27–28, 3600 Wynkoop St., $12–$89

BECAUSE

In its second year, the fest will have more tastings from local restaurants (like Comida) and food trucks.


IF YOU LIKE

Great American Beer Festival
September 24–26

TRY

Sesh Fest 
August 1, Sculpture Park, $20–$30

BECAUSE

A ticket gets you samplings of about 30 session-style beers (read: under five percent ABV—so you can try a few).


IF YOU LIKE

Underground Music Showcase
July 23–26

TRY

Higher Ground Music Festival
August 21–22, RiNo, $20–$35

BECAUSE

You’ll have easy access to more than 50 indie-rock acts, many (such as Chemistry Club) from Colorado.


STYLE


WHAT DO YOUR SUNGLASSES SAY ABOUT YOU?

The 5280 guide to Colorado-brand sunglasses. 

Zeal Optics‘ sunglasses are made out of plant-based or biodegradable materials.

“The whole package: looks and a conscience.”

Optic Nerve’s frames adjust at the temple and nose for better grip during fast-paced sports.

“I’m not an adrenaline addict—why, do you know where I can get some?”

EQO Optics recycles skateboards into shades.

“My other facial accessory is a handlebar mustache.” 


STYLES OUT OF SEASON: HOW TO DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Stay fresh and fashionable this summer by matching the right Colorado gear to the appropriate Denver occasion.  

» Five-Points 5-Panel Hat, Icelantic Skis

Pay tribute to Five Points by donning this lid (five pieces of chambray stitched together for a sleeker fit on your noggin) while hanging out in one of Denver’s most happening neighborhoods. $19.99
Wear while Getting down at the Juneteenth Music Festival (June 20)

» Sunscreen, Goddess Garden

Traditional sunscreens take 15 to 20 minutes to up their guards. That’s an eternity when a sunny Denver day is begging you to come outside and play. Goddess Garden’s organic goop, though, works immediately, so you never have to fear the sun’s rays. $21.99
Wear while Conquering Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park’s new six-story Slidezilla

» Short-sleeve button-down, Jiberish

You’ve got to keep cool without sacrificing style at the umpteen outdoor (read: thermometer-shattering) events this summer. These short-sleeve tops with patterns that pop will help. $56
Wear while Gawking at watercolors at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival (July 3 through July 5)

» Petal collection legging, Gaiam

This flower-inspired line of performance wear—including capris made of soft, breathable, quick-drying fabric—will help you stay comfortably cool in the summer heat. $70 
Wear while Finding Zen among the calla lilies at Denver Botanic Gardens’ sunrise yoga (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.)

» Continental divide trail light crew sock, point6

The many mountainous hikes just a short drive from downtown Denver will have you sweating through your socks—unless they’re Steamboat Springs–based Point6’s socks, which feature ventilation panels as well asnylon-reinforced toe and heel areas so they last longer. $21.95
Wear while Striding up the steep five-mile hiking loop at Mount Galbraith Park

» Gravity IV, Newton Running

Newton claims its patented technology uses your own energy to propel you forward. Bonus: The 2015 Gravity IV has a re-engineered upper for increased comfort and breathability. $175
Wear while Sprinting through Capitol Hill during the Irish Snug Running Club’s Thursday evening 5Ks

» Hobo FX, Mountainsmith

Although it’s designed for protecting cameras, the Hobo FX is versatile enough to organize essentials (keys, phone, wallet) in crowded venues like, say, the Pepsi Center. We can’t bring ourselves to endorse “fanny packs” yet, but this cross-body bag should be just as handy. $89.95 
Wear while Singing along with Kelly Clarkson on August 6 at the Pepsi Center


LEARN


SUMMER SCHOOL: BECOME A BETTER YOU THIS SUMMER
We cut through the clutter so you can pick a path to self-improvement.

—Inset images courtesy of Madison Carroll, Jeff Nelson, Sarah Boyum, Play Mile High, Jake Truax, Justin Levitt, Taylor Richards/SkeyeviewMedia, Unser Karting, Barrett Doherty, Julianne Kueffer, Red Bull

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