Summer slips away fast, but this Denver I Love summer bucket list will help you plan your days wisely and make the most of every beautiful Colorado minute. Here are 25 essential activities to create the perfect summer in Denver.
1. See A Concert at Red Rocks
If you are lucky enough to live in the same state as Red Rocks, you are lucky enough! Red Rocks is the most iconic music venue, and top of the bucket list for a great summer in Denver! Did you know last year, Red Rocks was the most attended concert venue in the world! Some of the most memorable concerts in music history have taken place at Red Rocks like The Beatles, August 26, 1964; Jimi Hendrix, September 1, 1968; John Denver, June 27, 1974; The Grateful Dead, July 8, 1978, and for their final time in 1987; and my first concert U2 June 5, 1983. The schedule has a wide offering and you will undoubtedly find a show you love.
2. Score a Deal at Cherry Creek North’s Sidewalk Sale
Second, only to Red Rocks in my summer playbook, is the Cherry Creek North Sidewalk Sale! Every year, the third weekend in July, the super chic shops of Cherry Creek North offer deep discounts to clear their racks. This sale is so epic, it requires advance planning. Visit the stores in advance to familiarize yourself with the merchandise and top stores you want to hit first. A few favorites are Perch, Lawrence Covell, Garbarini, Covered, Artisan Center, The Brass Bed Fine Linens, and Show of Hands. Be sure to mark out the first and last day of the sale on your calendar, July 14 and July 17, to pick up the best finds and the deepest discounts.
3. Hike One of Colorado’s Iconic Trails
Summer is the perfect time to take a few days away from the office and hit the hills. My favorite hikes near Denver are in Boulder at Chautauqua Park. You can go as short as ½ mile or as long as 6 miles, and everyone always has a great time! There are a number of different trails, but the First and Second Flatiron trails have a priceless reward in the views. Leave time for a meal after the hike at the Chautauqua Dining Hall. The rickety screen doors are a throwback to Boulder’s simpler days. Reservations are needed. Other favorite iconic Colorado hikes are Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, Maroon Bells in Aspen, and the Berry Picker Trail on the face of Vail Mountain.
4. Try One of Denver’s Local Food Trucks
The Denver Food Trucks serve up every genre of cuisine from Denver’s exploding food scene. A good place to catch a lot of the best trucks is at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver on Thursday afternoons, 11 am to 2 pm, during the summer. Choices include everything from a basic cheeseburger or hot dog to exotic cuisine from around the globe: arepas, poke, falafel, pierogies, beignets, tacos, and more. New to Civic Center Eats this year is live music! You can check out the weekly lineup of what food trucks will be there on the Civic Center here. Other great places to explore local food trucks are the Denver Farmer’s Markets, the First Art Walks on Santa Fe, and street festivals like the Taste of Colorado.
5. Ride On the Best Wooden Roller Coaster in the United States
The Denver I Love summer bucket list of course includes a rickety whirl on the towering wooden Twister II at Elitch Gardens. Twister II is the tallest roller coaster in the state with a drop of over 80 feet and a pitch-black tunnel! For those of us who grew up in Denver, we have amazing memories of the original “Mr. Twister” from the beautiful Elitch Gardens that resided in Northwest Denver. Mr. Twister saw its last ride when Elitch’s moved downtown in 1995. Mr. Twister’s memory lives on with the white wooden beauty called Twister II. If you plan to go more than once, a season pass is the way to go.
6. Make a Splash at One of the World’s Biggest Water Parks!
Not everyone realizes one of the world’s biggest, most famous water parks in the country is right here in Denver! With over 70 acres of land and over 50 slides and attractions, its no wonder Water World is ranked #5 of the top 25 Best Water Parks in the USA by Attractions of America! For locals and visitors alike, it’s a super fun summer excursion to add to your summer plans. This year marks Water World’s 43rd summer as one of Denver’s most beloved summer activities to enjoy with the whole family. Denver middle schoolers, Isaac and Ella, went to Water World this week. They said, “The Storm is really scary!”
7. Splurge at the Broadmoor!
When it comes to splurges, the Broadmoor Hotel & Spa is 100% worth it! We are so lucky to live so close to the Broadmoor! You can’t find a more historic, magnificent, relaxing, fun setting anywhere else! Whether you live in Denver or are just passing through, make a plan to stay at the Broadmoor this summer. Seriously! There is nothing quite like this special place! The unique and extraordinary activities are endless: swimming in the infinity pool, walking around the lake with Cheyenne Mountain as your backdrop, hiking Seven Falls, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing at the world-class spa – the Broadmoor exceeds expectations in every way. There are wine tastings, cooking classes, tennis drills, bowling lanes, historic walking tours, and more!
8. Stroll Through One of Denver’s Amazing Farmers Markets
Exploring new neighborhoods through Denver’s weekly summer outdoor markets is a Denver I Love summer bucket list must-do. Two biggies are: the Cherry Creek Farmers Market on Saturday and the South Pearl Street Market on Sundays. Spend a weekend morning, tasting, shopping and feeding the senses. The local vendors are extraordinary. For example, Aleida Ramirez was making the most delicious tamales from her hometown in central Mexico. After her sons studied at the University of Denver, they helped her set up a catering business to share the love. You can find Aleida at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s market. Also, stop by Palisade Peaches. The peaches are not quite ready, but they have fresh grown Colorado cherries now and will have apricots next week.
9. Root for the Rockies at Coors Field
No matter how the team is doing on any given year, eating a hot dog and cheering on the Colorado Rockies is an essential part of summer living in Denver. Denver is a buzz with Avalanche fever, but don’t forget our beloved Rockies too! If you don’t want to spend much, you can get tickets to Coors Field’s Rock Pile for next to nothing. The Rock Pile faces center field and is always a great time! The Rooftop at Coors Field is also a lot of fun! The 38,000 square-foot rooftop patio has the Coors Light Silver bullet Bar and other fun food + drink options. It’s a lot of fun to go to one of the firework games. A few are coming right up on July 1st and 2nd for the home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
10. Listen to Amazing Local Bands for Free
There are so many amazing outdoor concerts all summer long in Denver. The best part is a lot of them are free! A few favorites: City Park Jazz: has free jazz concerts on Sunday nights in Denver City Park. The upcoming lineup includes Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra, July 3; Eufoquestra, July 10; 3rd Annual Brass Band Extravaganza, July 17 featuring the No Hands Brass Band, Tivoli Club Brass Band and Badda Boom; Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles, July 24; the Jakarta Band, July 31st; and Colorado Mambo Orchestra, August 7th. Stanley Summer Music Series also has free outdoor concerts. Upcoming bands are: Flamenco Fusion, July 3; Charles Nation, July 10; Besos, July 17; Robbi Peoples, July 24; and Jazz Hands, July 31st.
11. Eat on the Rooftop
Eating on a beautiful rooftop in the Mile High City is a summer highlight. Some great places to eat outside under the stars are: The Red Barber in RiNO, Del Frisco Grille in Cherry Cherry Creek, El Five in the Lower Highlands, and Tamayo in Larimer Square! For more of a bar scene, check out ViewHouse Ballpark in LoDo or Kisbee On the Roof on top of Cherry Creek’s Jacquard Hotel. One of our favorite new spots for food and drink is a stone’s throw from the Coors Brewery on the rooftop at The Golden Mill. Local sushi chefs, Jesusio Silva, has set up shop there and it’s so good! Sushi Sora has generous portions of sashimi and fully loaded poke bowls. All the food at Golden Mill is first rate. The wings from Republik of Chiken are some of the best in the Front Range.
12. Dine Alfresco
If you want to really put something special on your calendar, buy tickets for one of Denver’s special Dining Alfresco summer events. Two great happenings that come to mind are: The Denver Botanic Gardens Dining Alfresco Evenings and the Cherry Creek Al Fresco Food & Wine Event, August 17 – 20th. This year’s event tickets for a wine experience at the Jacquard Hotel, a rooftop party at the Halcyon, cocktail class at Five Nines in The Clayton, a grand tasting of many Cherry Creek chefs, and an extravagant dinner on Fillmore Plaza. There is also oyster shucking and ceviche making, but those two events are already sold out.
13. Picnic and Paddle in the Park
Next on the Denver I Love summer bucket list is paddling around one of Denver’s amazing parks. Add a summer picnic, and you have the perfect day all made for you. Both Washington Park and City Park offer a variety of fun paddle boats through Wheel Fun Rentals. In addition, Denver parks are boasting with other fun activities: tennis, croquet, biking, bird watching, spike ball, walking paths, historic fountains and statues, playgrounds and more! If you don’t want to pack a picnic, let the Denver Picnic Company make an extra special celebration of it!
14. Strike a Yoga Pose in a Special Rocky Mountain Setting:
Denver offers a number of unique and special yoga classes during the summer that combines a unique Colorado nature experience with an inspiring yoga practice. You can namaste among the butterflies at the Butterfly Pavillon; become one with the plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens’s Yoga in the Gardens soar to great heights at Red Rocks Amphitheater with Yoga on the Rocks, or frolic among the animals at Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga. The calendar of classes and fees at the individual location websites can be found by clicking the links here. Fun Denver yoga adventures are unique and totally worthy of making the Denver I Love summer bucket list!
15. Watch a Free Outdoor Movie
Outdoor movies on the lawn are an awesome part of summer in Denver! You can find great family flicks at Infinity Park in Glendale. Upcoming movie nights are: Cruella, July 8th; Sing 2, July 22nd; and Yesterday on August 12th. Central Park’s Founders Green is presenting free outdoor movies on select Friday nights. The line up has: The Parent Trap, July 8th; Shan Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, July 22nd and In the Heights, August 5th. For something extra special check out Denver Arts & Venues outdoor film + entertainment series at Sculpture Park. On July 12th, the film Selena will start with guitarist El Javi, and on July 26th, Almost Famous will follow a pre show by Youth on Record Artist iZCALLi and Michelle Roquet. McGregor Square has a great variety of free outdoor summer movies. Showing almost every Thursday night with big favorites like E.T, June 30, The Karate Kid, July 7, Mama Mia, July 14, Grease, August 4, Frozen, August 11th and Mean Girls August 18th.
16. See an Outdoor Theatrical Performance
There’s nothing like seeing live performances. Add to that an outside stage and WOW! Denver is a hub for culture and performing arts. During the summer months, you can experience world-class dance and theatre, and a lot of it is free! Founders Green in Denver’s Central Park will present on August 12th and 13th, Vintage Theatre’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; and on August 19th the Central City Opera will present Frida Kahlo and The Bravest Girl in the World. Other special places to feed your soul with culture and art this summer is the Mile High Dance Festival at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance July 16 and 17th, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder at the University of Colorado. Both the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and Colorado Shakespeare Festival require paid tickets.
17. Visit a National Park
Visiting one of these SIX amazing national Parks is a Denver I Love summer bucket list adventure! Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth and only 70 miles from Denver! RMNP contains several ecosystems from lush green forests to grassy plains and prickly alpine tundra. There are lakes, waterfalls, hiking trails and 79 peaks higher than 12,00 feet! Arches and Canyonlands in Utah are a 5 ½ hour drive from Denver with extraordinary massive natural sandstone arches! Also about a 5 hour drive from Denver is the beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Explore the most well preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mese Verde. A short road trip of less than 4 hours takes you to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
18. Look at the World from the Top of a Fourteener
Colorado is home to 58 mountain peeks exceeding 14,000 feet, known by locals as “fourteeners” or “14ers.” Climbing a fourteener is a huge challenge! If you are up for the hike that’s phenomenal! If you still want the experience but not the pain, you can drive to the top of Mount Evans, the 14th tallest 14er in Colorado at 14,264 feet. The road is the highest paved road in North America! On the way up you can see mountain goats, an Arctic lake and an enchanted forest of old gnarled tees that are over 2,000 years old. The drive is less than 2 hours from Denver. If you chose to hike, Quandary Peak, Mt. Bierstadt or Gray’s Peak aren’t far.
19. Eat Tacos
There are so many great places to find delicious tacos in Denver from food trucks to high end Mexican cuisine. While its always great to eat tacos in Denver, there is something about summertime that makes the flavors taste extra good. Sitting on the patio at My Neighbor Felix in LoHi or along the railing outside at Machete in Cherry Creek, the taco vibe in Denver is first rate! Two favorite summer taco happy hours in Denver are: Comida in Stanley Marketplace and Sol Mexican Cocina in Cherry Creek North. If you are traveling up I-70, you have to try Rocky Mountain Taco in Minturn! That place is amazing!
20. Find Your Favorite Colorado Craft Beer
Thanks to Senator John Hickenlooper, who opened the Wynkoop Brewery in 1988, Denver has been on the map for some time as one of the brewpub capitals of the world! Along with hundreds of breweries across Colorado, Denver itself is home to 150 breweries right in the city. Some favorite local hotspots are: Rock Bottom Brewery, Falling Rock Tap House, New Belgium Brewing, Denver Beer Company, and Great Divide Brewing Company. You can also find your favorite local craft beer at one of Denver’s food hall’s self pour tap wall like Golden Mill in Golden and Milepost Zero at McGregor Square.
21. Take a Scenic Train Ride
Catch a train from Denver’s Union Station to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state you can’t get to by car! The California Zephyr is an Amtrak train that runs between Chicago and San Francisco and includes a passage from Denver to Glenwood Springs. The Zephyr even passes by “moon river” – a Colorado passage where all the rafters in the river pull down their pants and moon the train as it passes by. On your way in or out of town, stop by the Cooper Lounge, one of the prettiest bars in Denver. Another beautiful summer ride near Denver is the Georgetown Loop, a 3-foot narrow gauge railroad that scales the Rocky Mountains from Georgetown to Silver Plume in a short 2-mile trip.
22. Get Cultured at a World-Class Outdoor Venue
Summertime brings world-famous dancers, actors, authors, and musicians to the Rocky Mountain area. Planning a summer overnight to Boulder, Vail or Aspen is an extra special thing to do in the summer! The Vail Dance Festival opens on July 29th and will be celebrating its 33rd year showcasing dancers from all over the world under the stars of the magnificent Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The Colorado Music Festival is a classical six-week summer concert series in Boulder at beautiful Chautauqua.
23. Ride Your Favorite Animal on the Conservation Carousel
The Conservation Carousel at the Denver Zoo is a true treasure! Being somewhat of a carousel connoisseur myself, I always love finding the best carousels in every city I go from Paris to New York. I don’t need to travel far though. The Denver Zoo’s carousel is one of the most special rides anywhere in the world! It features hand-carved wooden replicas of the Denver Zoo’s residents including giraffes, okapi, baby gorillas, bears, elephants, zebras and a personal favorite…the emu. The Conservation Carousel of course makes the Denver I Love summer bucket list!
24. Cool off at a Local Ice Cream Shop
For as many local craft beers one can find in Denver, there are just as many local ice cream flavors! Denver is home to some of the best hand crafted ice cream in the United States. Creative cones are abundant throughout the Mile High City with flavors like: Cookie Monster – Rocket Ice Cream; Space Junkie – Little Man Ice Cream; Love Potion – Nuggs; Goat Cheese, Thyme & Honey – Licks; Kahula Banana – Heaven Creamery; Grand Marnier Chocolate Chip – Sweet Cow; Coconut Crème Brûlée – High Point Creamery; and the classic Rocky Road – Bonnie Brae Ice Cream. What better time to try all your favorite flavors than summer in Denver!
25. Tee off with a Billion Dollar View
Denver’s recently renovated City Park Golf Course is a real diamond in the rough – but not that rough! Every Denver summer should include a visit to this beautiful place either to play the 18 hole course, ride in a golf cart, breeze through the par 3, hit balls at the driving range or just sit and have a cocktail on the beautiful patio overlooking the Rocky Mountains and the glorious City of Denver! The Denver I Love summer bucket list would not be complete without this spectacular outing in the city!