Denver City Park caters for just about any activity you have in mind. Here are some of our favorite places.
Editor’s note: This is part of The Know, Staff Favorites series. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best Colorado has to offer when it comes to dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also show you some hidden gems).
Ask people about Denver City Park and they’ll give you a location. “I like walking around the lake,” says my buddy Paul. “I want to go to the playground!” my children plead. “I like to sit on the lawn for City Park Jazz,” say my older neighbors from North Park Hill. “You can bring your own wine.”
City Park Jazz, the free high-quality music series that takes over the City Park Pavilion on summer Sundays, is one of the best angles at the 320-acre park. But there are so many more. Opened in 1882, City Park remains Denver’s largest city park, according to Denver Parks & Recreation, and it continues to enjoy it with a diversity of settings.
Having lived in Denver for the past two decades, I went through my phases there. In my twenties, I loved to party — drinking cans of cheap beer, throwing Frisbees, and otherwise hanging out with my childless and unattached friends — at City Park West and its grassy stretches. They’re great spots for events like this weekend’s Colorado Black Arts Festival, as well as lightning-fast dogs chasing their own Frisbees and live role-players (LARPers), who wield their harmless swords like the whole world is watching them.
In my thirties, I moved south-central along East 17th Avenue, where the trees and shade are heavy and the breeze is almost constant. It’s an easy base camp for picnics, with plenty of space for lounging. When I jogged (briefly, but still), I took the path around the centerpiece of the park, Ferril Lake and its adjacent, smaller Duck Lake. It’s arguably the most popular workout, dog-walking and biking lane, so to speak, and contains a paddle boat rental kiosk and excellent spotters along its benches. Joggers also head to the approximately 3-mile perimeter of the park, which sits across from a beautifully renovated City Park golf course.
As most families know, City Park embraces two of the state’s largest and oldest cultural institutions: the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Like the beautiful mountain views from the east end of the park, these are iconic features that complement the other activities, such as the tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and, oh yes, playgrounds.
My kids only want to visit these, whether it’s the modest one to the east (right by the lake) or the more elaborate and also redesigned playground on the west side, which includes colorful sculptures and access for disabled people. I’ve been to more than one birthday party there, and now that I’m firmly in my 40s, I’m planning several more.
It’s not my favorite part of the park, but the fact that I even have one – looking west from the elevated Museum of Nature and Science – is a sign of the versatility and beauty of this civic asset.