When it's summer in Colorado, there's one thing to do: Get outside! (©activesteve/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Sure, everyone loves Colorado for its winter sports, but summer is the perfect time to explore the city (or a mountain town) and wander festival-filled streets. With clear and sunny days and plenty of warm weather, mountains, parks, rivers and sports fields are among popular places to be.
Get out and enjoy the season to its fullest with this summertime checklist.
See a Show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Cool summer nights should be spent among happy crowds singing along to favorite songs played in an unmatched acoustical setting between natural red rock formations set away from (yet just in view of) city lights. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a magical place to see a live-music performance. It’s a favorite stage for musicians, and is consistently ranked on world’s-best-music-venue lists. Some concertgoers are lucky enough to enjoy the tunes at this amphitheater as their regular venue, but all must add this to a “bucket list” of places to visit. During summer months Film on the Rocks (FOTR) evenings are regularly hosted, often screening older and family-appropriate movies, and during the day Red Rocks takes on a different vibe as active bodies run the stairs during intense workout sessions.
Watch a Baseball Game at Coors Field
Keep an eye on the schedule for your favorite team or attend solely for the killer atmosphere at this mile-high ballpark. Any seat is a good seat at Coors Field, and if you’re looking for a bargain, opt for the Rockpile section where tickets are under $10 and the crowd always seems to be a little rowdier. If you’re a fan of the boys in purple and the score isn’t pleasing, direct your attention to the colorful sunset or the purple polka-dotted dinosaur mascot, Dinger, who was inspired by the discovery of a triceratops skull and other dinosaur fossils during the construction of the field.
Laze or Play at the City’s Best Parks
Denver’s city parks offer a retreat from the nearby high-rises. These greenspaces are in close proximity to each other and are often filled with runners, bikers, volleyball players, flag football and soccer pick-up games, if not an organized race, festival or event. Picnic at Washington Park and rent a pedal boat for the afternoon. Set up a pickup game with friends at expansive City Park or laze on a blanket Sunday evenings for City Park Jazz. Stroll through Cheesman Park with an ice cream cone from Liks Ice Cream following a trip to neighboring Denver Botanic Gardens. Or tackle all three parks in one day by renting a bike from one of the Denver B-cycle stations and stopping for grub (in this case, pedaling fuel) at local eateries along the way.
Spend a Day in a Mountain Town
Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen and Leadville—each has its own offerings of shopping, dining and historical sight seeing. Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen are commonly known for their luxurious amenities and upscale shopping with breathtaking views (both in winter and summer). Georgetown and Idaho Spring, both just 45 minutes west of Denver, carry a historical vibe as they were each developed as mining towns in the mid-1800s. The downtown areas continue to charm visitors both passing through and stopping for a tour. Each August, participants of the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon run along Clear Creek from one town to the next in a speedy, downhill 13.1-mile race. And the old mining town of Leadville offers high-altitude charm, antique shopping, and acts as a stopover each August for hundreds of ultra runners competing in TransRockies and the Leadville 100 trail runs.
Hike a 14er
Colorado’s got 53 of them! These are mountains reaching higher than 14,000 feet in elevation. Take care if choosing this as an activity during your weekend trip to the state, especially if traveling from sea level. Drink plenty of water (more than you think), do a little research on the symptoms of altitude sickness for educated preparation, begin your climb early in order to give yourself enough time, and pace yourself. Ideally, if you’re in town longer than a few days, allow yourself three or four days to acclimate to the altitude before tackling one of these mountains. A few peaks are within just a couple hours of the city, like Longs, Torreys and Grays Peaks, and others require a lengthier drive. Mount Evans offers non-hikers an opportunity to experience these majestic mountains by way of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which leads travelers mere meters away from the summit. This road is North America’s highest paved road, and it’s only an hour outside of Denver.
Climb the Manitou Incline
Instead of zig-zagging your way along a mountain trail, hike straight up the Manitou Incline, step by step, along the route of a former cable car used to transport pipeline building materials. Prepare just as you would for a 14er in terms of hydration and altitude sickness education. Impressive views of surrounding peaks and Colorado Springs can be seen from the top. And be sure to pencil in some extra time to explore the quirky town of Manitou Springs following your hike.
Raft the Rivers
Hop on a bus at one of Idaho Springs’ white water rafting companies to raft along Clear Creek, just 45 minutes west of Denver. Classes range beginner to Class V-expert, and often include an optional zip-line-tour experience. While in Idaho Springs, explore the old mining town, order a Colorado-style pizza (the thick crust doubles as your dessert and is served with a side of honey) at Beau Jo’s, stop in Tommyknocker Brewery for a pint, and soak in the geothermal cave bath or mineral-water swimming pool at Indian Hot Springs.
Ride the Slopes (On Two Wheels)
When the snow melts, several of Colorado’s ski resorts turn into mountain-bike courses, including Keystone Bike Park and Trestle Bike Park at Winter Park. Varied terrain is fit for all levels of riders, with jumps, beams and a skills park at Keystone, and downhill, single-track and freestyle competitions at Trestle for the advanced riders.