While we love Colorado's ski slopes, we don't feel the same about how expensive our winter hobbies can be. Come summer, we're ready to get out of the house, but not destroy our bank account (or at least let it recover before we buy our 2014–15 passes). Here, we rounded up some of the best free things to do during the warmer months.
1. Spend a Day in the Park
Denver County alone boasts more than 5,000 acres of land, spread across some 200 city parks, which means there is space for everyone to spread out a blanket and have a picnic. Join the masses at Wash Park (and bring a sixer while you’re at it), or head to quieter spots like Cheesman Park and Stapleton's Central Park. BONUS: Check 5280.com/summerguide soon for a three-part series on the perfect $25 picnic for two from Spinelli's Market, Marczyk Fine Foods, and Trader Joe's.
2. Catch an Outdoor Movie
On hot days, we adore the air conditioning at an indoor movie theater. But on blissful Denver nights, we prefer al fresco film screenings, like Southwest Movies at Skyline Park, Civic Center Bike-In Movie Series, and Movies in the Parks.
3. Tour an Art District
A classic date night, an art walk is still one of our favorite free summer events (that is, if you don't purchase a painting to take home). Join one of the ever-popular First Friday walks at the Art District on Santa Fe or River North Art District, or plot your own trek through artsy neighborhoods like the Golden Triangle and LoDo.
4. Stand Up at the South Platte RiverFest
Head to Confluence Park for this two-day festival—which happens on June 28 and 29—to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding right in the middle of the city. Lessons are free, as is the live music.
5. Celebrate Independence Eve
Show your patriotism at the city’s (almost) Fourth of July celebration. An evening of live music from the likes of the Colorado Symphony and the Hazel Miller Band is paired with a truly dazzling light display that will illuminate the Denver City and County Building. Festivities kick off at 8 p.m. on July 3 at Civic Center Park.
6. Stock Up at a Farmers’ Market
Just admiring—and sampling—the colorful, seasonal goodies at one of Denver’s many farmers’ markets is reason enough to battle for parking (the only drawback of these perennially crowded extravaganzas). Bring your wallets, though, to nab some of Colorado’s famed Palisade peaches and Rocky Ford cantaloupe, which hit stride in July.
7. Watch a Meteor Shower
Some of the best entertainment just requires you to look to the sky. The Delta Aquariids meteor shower is set to peak around July 30, while the spectacular Perseid meteor shower—one of the most spectacular known to scientists—should light up the cosmos around August 12. Get out of the city (light pollution dims the show) for the best views .
8. Attend a Street Fair
Choose almost any weekend this summer, and chances are a street fair or festival is happening. The big ones—like Denver PrideFest (June 21-22) and the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (July 19-20)—can draw tens of thousands. If crowds aren’t your thing, head to neighborhood bashes like the Highlands Street Fair on June 14.
9. Ride the West Rail Line Bike Path
Looking to mix up your usual biking route? Take a spin along the bike path that runs adjacent to the most of the light rail’s West Rail Line to Golden. The just-over-a-year-old cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare unfurls for more than 12 miles with minimal auto traffic interruptions.
10. Get Involved
What’s better than enjoying a perfect summer day? Doing it for a great cause. Warmer months are a great time help organize a charity 5K, pull some weeds at a community garden, or show some love to homeless pets. Get more ideas here.
—Image courtesy of VISIT DENVER