When it was created in the 1880s, City Park was a mile away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Over the past century, Denver has crept outward to surround the 450-acre playground of rolling lawns, ancient trees, duck-strewn lakes, and gardens. Today, the park is enjoying a renaissance, thanks in part to a new 3.1-mile gravel running path and painstaking restorations. We suggest grabbing a bike and spending a Sunday exploring the park’s highlights. Choose a few from the route below.

1. The City Park Esplanade Fresh Market sets up shop in front of the Sullivan Gateway off Colfax, summer Sundays at 9 a.m. Grab a couple of Colorado peaches and farm-fresh veggie tamales to go.

2. Dedicated in 2002, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial includes quotes and reliefs of important figures in African-American history.

3. At night, the newly restored Electric Fountain transforms into an LED light show every 10 minutes for bystanders around Ferril Lake. During the day, rent a paddleboat at the landing near the Pavilion.

4. The whimsical, nine-foot Children’s Fountain, sculpted by Max Blondt for Mayor Robert Speer’s “City Beautiful” campaign in 1912, depicts three white-marble kids peering down at a huddled trio of bronze frogs.

5. Grab some shade under the Shakespeare Elm near the corner of 17th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The behemoth tree was grown from a scion—part of a branch—from an elm at the Bard’s grave at Stratford-upon-Avon.

6. The exhibit halls at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science are a cool respite for warm days, and the rose garden is a sweet stopping-point for an afternoon snack.

7. The 76-acre Denver Zoo took shape following a special gift to the city in 1896: an orphaned black bear. Today, the zoo is home to more than 600 species.

8. Rent a set of clubs from the City Park Golf Course and practice your long balls on the driving range.

9. Let barbecue stalwart M&D’s Café pack you a picnic of pulled pork, cornbread, and potato salad. 2000 E. 28th Ave., 303-296-1760

10. Spread a blanket on the east side of Ferril Lake for postcard vistas of the city skyline and Front Range.

11. Stash your ride at BikeDenver’s free docking area and stake out a spot near the Pavilion for a free City Park Jazz concert, Sundays at 6 p.m. starting June 7.

This article was originally published in 5280 May 2009.
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.