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A row of barriers stand valiant guard over the first lane of parking at Total Wine. Photo by Madi Skahill
Infrastructure

8 of the Worst Parking Lots in Denver

An unofficial list of the city’s most hellish lots and garages. Plus, tips on how to save yourself (at least some of) the headache at each one.

In an ever-divided society, few things seem able to unite us these days. But if anything were to come close, it’d be the power of complaining. And for seasoned Denverites as well as transplants alike, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Our city has some horrible parking lots.

From their egregious designs to their unavoidable crowds, there are dozens of universally loathed lots around town—and probably plenty more that deserve to make the ranks (we tip our hats to just about any spot off Colorado Boulevard.) Denver’s parking woes are a somewhat fraught issue for a city facing intense growth, so this isn’t lip service for one infrastructure solution or the other. (If your blood boils just thinking about some of these below, maybe this is your sign to check out the city’s nearly 200 miles of bike lanes.) Sometimes, though, we just need a good ol’ fashioned rant, and to know we’re not alone in our road rage. So in the spirit of pettiness, I present in no particular order, some of the most maddening parking lots in the Mile High City.

Total Wine & More | Colorado Blvd. & Evans Ave.

If the constant stream of customers visiting this liquor store on any given weekend weren’t enough to make your blood pressure rise, then the general geometry of its parking lot should do the trick. The Evans Street entrance is almost always a logjam. And the random metal barriers that you encounter shortly thereafter—blocking only the first row of parking, mind you—breed further bedlam. (If these even remotely served their usual purpose of pedestrian protection, i.e. typically placed against a sidewalk, I’d be able to write them off as a safety necessity. But I digress.) Throw in some deceivingly tight parking spots, and this lot is about as lawless as they come—and will have you fighting the urge to pop open that booze you just bought right then and there.

A little something to inspire confidence in your pilgrimage to the Convention Center. Photo by Madi Skahill

The Colorado Convention Center

This convoluted concrete dungeon can sometimes run you upwards of an hour to exit after an event, and the mind-numbingly narrow, circular ramp required to navigate it (it’s been referred to as the “death spiral”) is the stuff of nightmares. Seriously, you know it’s bad when there are actual signs posted on the wall encouraging you to keep going, as if you had a choice. All around, some pretty poetic stuff from a parking garage, if you ask me. If you’re willing and able, parking at the neighboring Performing Arts Complex will save you from pulling your hair out at this particular structure.

Trader Joe’s | Colorado Blvd. and Eighth Ave. (Hale location)

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say bad parking lots are just a part of this grocer’s business model. (Have you been to a TJ’s with a good parking lot?) And if you’re venturing to this specific hellscape, there’s a good chance you’ve already braved some stretch of Colorado Boulevard, which is a noble feat in and of itself. The second you join the cadre of cars attempting to turn into that skinny little entrance, though, you’ll wish you could take it all back. Some dude somewhere probably making more money than you and I was bold enough to choose a T-shaped setup for this tiny little lot—and the popularity of the grocery store quickly fills that baby right up. But if you’ve somehow managed to survive that far, sojourner, then good luck with the final boss: those corner parking spots.

Lucile’s Creole Café/Chipotle/Jimmy John’s | Logan St. and Alameda Ave.

When you pit a beloved local brunch spot and a couple fast-food chains against each other over a dozen tightly packed parking spots, you’re only inviting anarchy. And despite two outlets, the skinny rectangular nature of this bad boy means that any kind of movement is near impossible. Spot a rare vacant spot? Good luck executing a turn into it with the opposite lane of oncoming traffic—and the cars parked along the back—occupying the remaining square footage you need to do that. If you’re desperate for those beignets from Lucile’s (we get it) but want to save yourself all the trouble, maybe try their far less anxiety-inducing location at 2095 S. Ogden St.

Whole Foods Market at Cherry Creek North | First Ave. and Josephine St.

If you were excited to avoid a parking fee in Cherry Creek for once, this lot is a middle finger to your enthusiasm. The signals at First and Second avenues, on either side of the supermarket, create enough congestion on their own. And with a separate public parking structure sharing an outlet with the Second Avenue entrance, this location is disastrous from the jump. The tightly curved lane hugging the store makes for a mean blind spot, forcing you to be on your guard for the Porsche Cayennes that will whip through this place with abandon. Plus, with the back half of the parking lot suddenly turning into its own one-way, you have to be on your A-game to make it in or out of this lot alive.

What it lacks in infrastructural logic, Queen Soopers makes up for in charm. Photo by Madi Skahill

King Soopers | Ninth Ave. and Corona St. (aka “Queen Soopers”)

There are fewer parking spots than popularity demands at this heavily trafficked grocery spot, affectionately dubbed Queen Soopers, a nod to the neighborhood’s history as a hub for the LGBTQ community since the 1970s. The one-way traffic flow here almost actually makes sense. That is, until the bottleneck begins off Corona Street and creates a pile of cars trying to get in and out. The lot is also home to countless potholes that probably date as far back as the store’s historic moniker, rogue shopping carts often run amok, and if you’re trying to enter or exit on Downing Street, there’s a slew of front-row parking spots slanted right your way, just asking for a collision to occur.

Trader Joe’s | Seventh Ave. and Logan St. (Capitol Hill location)

There’s only one way in to this mess, and one way out. And unfortunately, it’s the same way. On a busy day, that single point of entry clogs up quicker than you can say “Everything But the Bagel.” And a busy northbound Logan Street brings an added twist of madness when you try and turn left to leave. (The lot is a one-way loop as well, so don’t be the town fool who tries to go straight after entering.) Believe me when I say you’re better off finding street parking somewhere else nearby—and in Cap Hill, that’s really saying something.

Honorable Mention: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

I know, I know. This isn’t technically in Denver. But someone had to say it. The iconic music venue is one of the most beloved in the nation—and it’s home to some of the worst post-concert parking lot traffic in the country, too. Patience is your only option as your inch you way out of one of the four dirt lots, so you might as well kick back, queue up some tunes from the band you just saw, and wait. Pro tip: Watch out for the frequent speed traps around the park once you finally get a taste of freedom.

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