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Illustration by Bomboland

How to Make the Most of Your Summer in (and Around) Denver

Time does more than fly when temperatures ratchet up—it hops aboard a jet and breaks the sound barrier. The solution? Weaving the season into every moment you can steal, whether that’s a fleeting minute, a lunch hour, or a whole weekend.

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If You Have One Day

Although we love Boulder and Fort Collins, they aren’t the only close-by destinations worth a daytrip. Use the itineraries below to explore each of these undiscovered towns and their environs. Bonus: You only need to drive an hour (or less) to reach them.

Downtown Elizabeth. Photo credit: Steve Krull City Town & Street Scene Images/Alamy Stock Photo.

Bailey

6 a.m. Early risers can cast a line into the North Fork of the South Platte River at McGraw Memorial Park.
9 a.m. Stop by the Shaggy Sheep for a baked avocado with eggs, roasted Yukon potatoes, and house-made green chile.
10:30 a.m. Blue spruce line the mile-long, wheelchair-accessible Wilderness on Wheels boardwalk. If you missed your 6 a.m. wake-up call, you can still try your luck at the on-site trout pond.
12 p.m. In case the hotdog-shaped building doesn’t clue you in, frankfurters (made by Denver’s CharcūtNuvo) are for lunch at the Coney Island Boardwalk.
2 p.m. Rent an inflatable kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Platte River Outfitters, then drive 11 miles southeast on County Road 68 to glass-smooth Wellington Lake.
7 p.m. Pick up some NYC-style slices at 285 Pizza Pies and take them to nearby Staunton State Park to dine at a picnic table surrounded by conifers.

Frederick

9 a.m. Order a Spanish egg skillet with chorizo at Gabe’s Café in nearby Dacono.
10 a.m. Call at least a week ahead to reserve a time slot for bird watching at Bulrush Wetland Park. Three trails wind through 47 acres with lush vegetation that shelters blue herons.
1 p.m. Most toppings on Peel Handcrafted Pizza’s wood-fired pies come from Colorado, including locally foraged mushrooms.
3:30 p.m. Spot giant American white pelicans on one of St. Vrain State Park’s nine trails (we like the 1.3-mile Pelican Pond Trail).
6 p.m. The Hog Heaven, a pulled pork and jalapeño cheddar sausage sandwich at Georgia Boys BBQ Smokehouse, lives up to its name.
7:30 p.m. The husband and wife behind Mountain Cowboy Brewing Company use hops from their Longmont farm in most of their beers, like the orange-accented Rocky Mountain Sunrise Saison.

Elizabeth

9 a.m. Paintings from local artists fill Isabel’s Coffee, as does the enticing smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.
10 a.m. Climbers can hit their adrenaline quota on Castlewood Canyon State Park’s Dawson Formation; for everyone else, remnants of a burst dam await a mile down the Lake Gulch Trail.
1 p.m. Book high tea 48 hours prior to your arrival at the Carriage Shoppes Tea Room (save time to peruse the adjacent antique store)
3 p.m. As you stroll through Elizabeth’s downtown, take note of the placards denoting the pastel buildings’ historical significance. Stock up on sweets at Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Company; for all things alpaca, step into the Antelope Alpacas Fiber Arts Center
5:30 p.m. Chicken wings with pineapple sauce delight at Catalina’s Diner.
7 p.m. The latest tenant of the 1890s-era Carson Building, Elizabeth Brewing Company is the town’s first brewery. Opt for the fruit-tinged Hop Blocker IPA.


If You Have a (Lunch) Hour

Ditch the desk-hunch in favor of enjoying to-go eats and a spot of sunshine in a scenic green space.

Photo credit: Ed Endicott/Alamy Stock Photo.

If you work in…the DTC
Go to…Le French

Because…Rougui Dia, former executive chef at Petrossian (a Michelin-starred eatery in France), joined forces with her sister, Aminata, on this all-day bakery/cafe, which opened this past April in Belleview Station.
Order…the Poulet Yassa, a grilled chicken sandwich with lemon caramelized onions on a baguette
And take it to…the gazebo at Running Fox Park, a 4.25-acre area outlined by flowers and shrubs. Stroll off lunch on the path—which connects to 47 miles of Greenwood Village trails, if you’re feeling ambitious.

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If you work in…LoDo
Go to…Honor Society

Because…the summer menu at this 16th Street Mall eatery incorporates local produce like arugula, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Fresh veggies even star in funky, made-in-house drinks, such as the carrot-ginger lemonade.
Order…a seasonal roasted vegetable sandwich with arugula pepita pesto
And take it to…Confluence Park. Walk across the Denver Millennium Bridge and find a seat on the steps leading to the South Platte River.

If you work in…Cherry Creek
Go to…Curtis Park Delicatessen

Because…Ciabatta from City Bakery cradles fresh sliced meats and cheeses at two Denver locations; the second, on Clayton Street and East Sixth Avenue, debuted to the delight of Cherry Creek cubicle dwellers last year.
Order…the French sandwich with rosemary ham and house-made aïoli and mustard
And take it to…a patch of grass in Congress Park (bring a picnic blanket). As tennis players volley and dogs prance about the lawn, spend a few minutes on the swings for a dose of childhood glee.

Lobsterado Roll. Photo courtesy of Jim Mimna.

If you work in…LoHi
Go to…Maine Shack

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Because…Colorado may be landlocked, but your lunch doesn’t have to be. Maine Shack, slated to open early this summer, makes meals with New England ingredients such as fried whole-bellied clams as salty as the sea.
Order…the Lobsterado roll
And take it to…Hirshorn Park, with your dog in tow. After owners kept the recently unlocked baseball field there poop-free during a trial run last year, the city removed two fences to allow leashed pups entry.

If you work in…the Central Business District
Go to…Skyline Beer Garden

Because…at the corner of the 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street, Skyline features its own food vendor selling tacos, salads, and more—plus 12 taps with rotating suds—from June through early October
Order…the carne asada street tacos with roasted chile mole
And take it to…one of the tent-covered communal tables within the beer garden, which measures just under 40,000 square feet. Afterward, catch a quick game of nine-hole mini golf or pingpong.


At the Old Ballgame

Peanut shells crunching underfoot, the low buzz of 40,000 people verging on a home-run-induced freakout, the splash of purplish pink slowly fading to darkness behind the scoreboard in left field: When I was five years old, those were just a few of the reasons I fell in love with Coors Field.

Illustration by Bomboland.

Growing up, I spent many summer evenings there with my dad. Each outing took a slightly different form. Some games we’d obsessively keep score; others, he’d rowdily share beers with friends while I gorged myself on too many plastic helmets’ worth of ice cream. Often, we just sat quietly, soaking in the familiar slap of ball hitting mitt echoing through the park.

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Now, in my late 20s, Rockies games have the same multipurpose place in my life. I spend some nights fanatically watching every play. Other times, I relax after a long day at work or use the lulls between pitches to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while. (The fact that tickets are regularly available for less than $20 helps absolve the guilt I might otherwise feel for my lapse in concentration.) Nearly 25 years after my first trip to Coors Field, the stadium remains my preferred backdrop for the rhythm of summer life in Denver—admittedly elevated by the Coors Lights I can now enjoy along with the peanuts, home runs, and Rox purple twilight.
—Shane Monaghan


Dog Days Of Summer

Come June, most evenings my husband, our Lab/border collie mix, Rigby, and I are parked on our Berkeley front porch by 5:30, watching the dog promenade along West 46th Avenue. The schnauzer is usually the first act—a little gray-and-white-haired thing attached to a leash held by a little gray-and-white-haired woman expertly navigating the sidewalk’s panels and cracks. Often our neighbors, a young family of five—if you count Oscar the Bernese mountain dog, as we do—stop to chat in the yard.

Illustration by Bomboland.

Between the parade of huskies and Dobies, my husband and I share nuggets about work or developments with family and friends. It’s an intentional ritual, one born of wedding-day advice from a friend: “Be diligent about going through the details of each other’s day, every evening. Because in a spouse, you are receiving a witness to your life. The joy, the pain, all of the good, all of the bad, all of the delicate nuances that make life worth living.”

Sometimes those delicate nuances are belly laughs from watching doodles drag their humans down the street. But mostly they’re quieter—the caress of my husband’s thumb on my hand, the gentle creak of our chairs swaying in sync, and the sun filtering through silver maple and cottonwood leaves, casting ever-longer soft shadows on our cheeks.
—Kasey Cordell


If You Have a (Happy) Hour

It’s not summer until you sneak out of work early to imbibe alfresco. To help you decide where to quaff, we rounded up our favorite new patios.

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Beer Me!

Joyride Brewing Company

Joyride Brewing Co.’s Summer Ale. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

A recent rooftop addition to this Edgewater brewery made room for 16 more taps and 100 people, all guaranteed epic views of the Denver skyline and Sloan’s Lake. 2501 Sheridan Blvd., Edgewater

Order: The Summer Ale, brewed with orange, lemon peel, coriander, and grains of paradise

Red Rocks Beer Garden

Red Rocks Beer Garden’s Golden Haze. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

You don’t need Red Rocks tickets to enjoy Colorado-made beers, wines, and bites on this watering hole’s dog-friendly patio, which opened in April 2018 and seats up to 100. 116 Stone St., Morrison

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Order: The Golden Haze, a juicy, citrusy IPA made by New Terrain Brewing in Golden

Rosé, All Day

The Garden

Chilled rosé magnum from the Garden. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

Lush ferns and mandevilla vines with blush-pink flowers adorn this aptly named Death & Co–run locale, nestled in the second-floor courtyard of RiNo’s Ramble Hotel and open for its second summer. 1280 25th St.

Order: A chilled rosé magnum, of course

Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers

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Oenobeers Rosé Plus. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

Rome native Alex Liberati’s “oenobeers” incorporate grapes into their grain mash. Sample the sudsy concoctions near the ornate fountain on Liberati’s 200-seat Curtis Park patio, which opened in April. 2403 Champa St.

Order: The Oenobeers Rosé Plus, a tasty cross between a Belgian brune and a spumante wine

This Week Calls for a Cocktail

Kisbee on the Roof

Kisbee on the Roof’s Lieutenant. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

Just when you thought Colorado sunsets couldn’t be improved upon, the Jacquard Hotel & Rooftop in Cherry Creek debuted its ninth-floor, open-air bar in May. 222 Milwaukee St.

Order: The Lieutenant—a house blend of rum, Lifesaver syrup, and lime juice (sealed in a custom-designed can) with soda

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The Hidden Idol

The Hidden Idol’s Zombi Brujo. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

Hawaiian music scores this Tiki-themed, 2.5-year-old sipping spot that will move from East Colfax Avenue to its new home with 50 patio seats in Jefferson Park this month. 2240 Clay St.

Order: The Zombi Brujo, a rum-and-mezcal concoction with lime, pineapple juice, and an absinthe spritz


If You Have a Whole Weekend

A growing number of hotels and lodges around Colorado incorporate activities along with giving you a place to sleep. That means planning your next zero-time-wasted weekend getaway is as simple as deciding where to stay.

The Poor Farm. Photo courtesy of Brady Becker.

LOGE Breckenridge

LOGE (pronounced “lodge”) Breckenridge opens on June 22, and—like its four counterparts in Washington, Oregon, and California—will act as a central hub for your outdoor adventures. Decide between a bed in the hostel or a private room with a Yeti cooler that doubles as a coffee table. Once you’re settled, rent a mountain bike at the on-site gear shop and explore Blair Witch Trail. Downtown Breck is nearby, but if you want to stay close to your bed, make dinner out of a panino from LOGE Breckenridge’s Wayside Cafe and relax around the camp’s fire pits, craft brew in hand. Hostel lodging starts at $55 per person, per night; private rooms start at $160 per night; 165 Tiger Road, Breckenridge

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The Poor Farm

Perfect for a romantic escape, this adults-only historical property in the Arkansas River Valley was converted into an Airbnb by Shae Whitney and Brady Becker of Dram Apothecary in 2017. Wander the 1895 brick building and its surrounding five acres, where Whitney grows lavender and other herbs for Dram’s mixers and bitters. If water levels are low enough, rent a tube from River Runners in nearby Salida and put in on the Arkansas River from the stretch of sandy beach on Poor Farm’s property—it’s an approximately hour and a half float back into town (you’ll want to make sure you have a way to get back). Hopping in upstream near River Runners means you can end your river jaunt at the farm—and walk straight into the communal kitchen for freshly made mint tea. From $132 per night; address provided upon booking

River Run RV Resort

Dying to relive summer camp? This Granby resort, slated to open next month, is your slightly more upscale answer. First, you need to choose your preferred mode of rest: An RV park and cottages with king-size beds and kitchen spaces will be available this summer. (Starting in September, guests will be able to pitch tents in the lakeside campground or glamp in a covered wagon or yurt.) Once you’re settled, explore River Run’s 325 acres of mostly included amenities, such as an arcade, a mini bowling alley, and a lake stocked with paddleboards and kayaks (a pool and fitness center will open in August). RV hookups start at $86 per night; cottages start at $259 per night; 1051 Summit Trail, Granby


If You Have a Half-Day

Time to bust out of your routine: Our curated list of local goings-on will give adults and kids alike that school’s-out-and-anything-is-possible feeling. Now, just choose an event that piques your interest, mark your calendar, and (maybe) line up a babysitter.

Photo courtesy of the Brick Bar.
June

Arts in the Open | June 1–August 4
Let antsy kids stretch their legs at an Arts in the Open show, during which audiences hike down Chautauqua Park’s Enchanted Mesa Trail to reach each new scene of Jack and the Beanstalk (June) and Cinderella and Her Barely Godmother (July and August). Weekends

The Wit’s Shakesbeer | June 9–August 4
Denver watering holes like the Black Buzzard (an Oskar Blues Brewery–run LoDo venue) host these raucous shows. Drink along with the performers between lines of As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dates and locations vary

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Unicorn Festival | June 22–23
For the third year in a row, Littleton’s Robert F. Clement Park will be transformed into a magical realm complete with a unicorn petting zoo, meet-and-greets with princesses and mermaids, a Mad Hatter tea party, and all the sweets.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Davis.
July

Digital Dopamine | July 6
Electronic beats pulse from two stages at the second iteration of one of Denver’s most dance-oriented festivals. When you need a breather, slip away from the laser lights to buy handmade goods at the artisan market.

Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration | July 20
Salute the moon landing’s semicentennial and introduce your kids to classical music as the
Colorado Symphony performs selections from films such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial while
Apollo 11 footage plays on the big screen.

The Bubble Run | July 27–28
Running or walking a 5K (strollers are welcome!) is way more fun when the course overflows with soapy suds. Two foam canons, food vendors, and a DJ await just after the Bubble Run’s finish line.

Photo credit: Jered and Ashley Gruber/Courtesy of Colorado Classic.
August

Colfax ArtFest | August 2–3
For its fifth birthday, this creative party (formerly West Colfax MuralFest) got a second day and a new name. Its 20-plus Lakewood destinations include galleries and alleyways as well as pop-up art in more unexpected places, such as the parking lot in front of Casa Bonita.

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The Brick Bar | August 8–11
Play with blocks and sip craft beer at the traveling bar delivering a dose of childhood to grown-ups around the world. Tickets starting at $15 buy you 90 minutes in the Exdo Center’s boozy version of Legoland.

Colorado Classic | August 22–25
After two years of hosting contests for both sexes, the Classic nixed the men’s race, becoming the sole women-only cycling race on the Union Cycliste Internationale calendar in the Western Hemisphere. Line Denver’s streets on Sunday to give your little ones a glimpse of some serious girl power.


If You Have Just a Couple of Minutes

Daily drudgeries don’t end when June arrives. If anything, they accelerate (your garden requires watering, clothes from last weekend’s camping trip need washing). But with these Colorado items at hand, you can inject a dose of summer into even the most mundane moments.

1. Listen: Head for the Hills’ Say Your Mind
Courtesy of Head for the Hills.

The latest EP from this Fort Collins triad packs bluegrassy, sitting-around-the-campfire vibes so powerful you’ll almost forget you’re sitting in I-70 traffic.

2. Sip: Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water
Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery.

Oskar Blues Brewery’s carbonated concoctions are made with H20 from the St. Vrain River, and the refreshing flavors (melon basil, lemon agave hibiscus) make pulling weeds way more fun.

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3. Wear: The Daymoon by Encounter Hat Co.
Photo courtesy of Encounter Hat Co.

Keep the sun off your face in music festival style—even if your only destination is Home Depot. Encounter’s felt hats are custom-made in Denver.

4. Sniff: Lollia’s This Moment Perfume
Photo courtesy of Lollia by Margot Elena.

A quick spritz of Centennial-based perfumery Lollia’s new fragrance (which features delicate notes of sun blossom and water lily) means you can breathe in the scents of a wildflower hike from the weekday prison that is your five-by-five cubicle.

5. Eat: A Colorado-Grown Peach
Photo credit: Getty Images.

While shopping for the week’s dinner ingredients at a farmers’ market (try the new-on-June 15 RiNo Fresh Market, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), treat yourself to one of these beauties. Make sure the fruit is soft but not mushy, signaling ripeness (they’ll be available as summer winds down).


No Pain, No Gain

At mile 14, the hail started. Deep in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, midway through a 26-mile run, my group sought shelter beneath a tree, trying to dodge ice pellets with little success and shivering in our windbreakers. When you have a standing date with Colorado’s high country, adverse weather is often part of the deal. So are incredulous looks from co-workers. You spent your weekend running? They don’t understand.

Illustration by Bomboland.

Thankfully, I have a group of friends who do. Each Saturday morning, we don packs stuffed with food and water at the trailhead and stride deep into the wilderness, losing cell reception and gaining elevation. As we cover pristine singletrack, we forge camaraderie over hours of sweating above treeline. Every break, my camera captures the splendor, each photo recalling a conquered incline.

A sprained ankle sidelined me last summer. I sat at home, antsy, longing for the High Lonesome Loop’s 15.7 miles near Eldora Mountain Resort or the 16.3 miles (one way) of the Boulder Skyline Traverse. As temperatures rise and I return to my usual antics, I’ll no longer take for granted that adventure is just a quick car ride away…and that I can be back at my desk, sore but rejuvenated, come Monday morning.
—Sarah Boyum

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