Hop on a road bike. Cast for giant trout. Hike a new trail. Catch a baseball game. Relax on a sunny patio. Colorado calls to us in the summer and draws us outside to play in its spectacular landscape. Here, we present nine itineraries that promise to get you outdoors—and loving every minute of the hot days of June, July, and August.
Mile-High Art Walk
Take in some of the nearly 100 pieces of public art sprinkled around downtown Denver.
By Natasha Gardner
Fuel Up Capitol Hill hipster-hangout City, O’ City serves eye-opening coffee, freshly baked goodies, and a shot of funkiness in the early morning hours. Grab something to go and walk west down 13th Avenue.
Be the Critic From 13th, you’ll have one of the best vantage points for analyzing the Daniel Libeskind–designed wing of the Denver Art Museum. Around the base of the building are several pieces of art, like Beverly Pepper’s gently curved monolith towers of aggregate and the spindly legs of Spider by Louise Bourgeois. Look, but don’t touch—the bronze sculpture gets blazing hot in the summer sun. Denver’s Public Art Program puts together a guide to these projects, including a map with thumbnails of more than three-dozen pieces in the downtown area.
Take a Stroll At the nearby Denver Public Library, standing tall above the Children’s Lawn on the east side of the Michael Graves–designed building, is Donald Lipski’s The Yearling. Installed in 2003, the paint horse stares down from a gigantic red chair at the downtown traffic (dial 1-877-336-2787 to hear a phonecast about the piece). Across the street, the Greek-inspired Civic Center Park is home to older, iconic Denver art, like the 1920 Bronco Buster, where a cowboy clings to a bucking horse, or the playful Sea Lions Fountain (1922).
Pack a Picnic From the park, head to Cook’s Fresh Market to pick up a carryout lunch with a prosciutto di Parma sandwich. Toss in a few ripe Bosc pears and a slice of butterkase cheese, and head toward 14th Street. There’s a treasure trove of art between Welton and Arapahoe streets, including the mischievous I See What You Mean, aka the “Big Blue Bear,” and the 2007 All Together Now monument. Turn right on Curtis Street to walk over Jim Green’s Soundwalk—a collection of raucous noises coming from grates on the west side of the street—to find the Chess Tables on the 16th Street Mall. Take up a challenge, and you can munch on your lunch while you ponder your pawn’s next move.
Relax As the sun starts to slink in the west, meander to the Museum of Contemporary Art for a cocktail at the MCA Cafe’s rooftop garden patio. Designed by landscape artist Karla Dakin, the indigenous plants help draw your eye outward to the 360-degree views.
Last Look Even if the sun has set, walk over to the 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge to catch sight of National Velvet. Created by Colorado artist John McEnroe (no, not the tennis player), the hand-cast red plastic sculpture looks like a playful tower of lava to some and a phallic monstrosity to others.
Wind Down Nab a table on Root Down’s patio. The remodeled garage faces the downtown skyline, and the menu at this field-to-fork eatery is constantly changing. This summer Root Down will use produce from its two gardens in everything from its drinks (melon mojito with homegrown mint) to the veggie sliders. Sip and snack while watching the last bit of sunlight reflect off the glass façades of Denver’s skyscrapers.
If You Go
City, O’ City: 206 E. 13th Ave., 303-831-6443; DAM: 100 W. 14th Parkway, 720-865-5000; Denver’s Public Art Program; Cook’s Fresh Market: 1600 Glenarm Place, Suite 120, 303-893-2277; MCA: 1485 Delgany St., 303-298-7554; Root Down: 1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200.