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5 Denver Parks to See on Vacation
Take a breath of fresh air in one of these great Denver green spaces.
If you're heading to the Mile High City, visit the 155-acre Washington Park to enjoy its two lakes, natural beauty and recreational fun.(Getty Images)
With around 20,000 acres of parkland, from an urban ski terrain facility to amenity-rich dog parks to neighborhood green spaces with a rugged mountain backdrop, Denver makes it easy to access the great outdoors year-round.
Even visitors with time and transportation limitations can enjoy Denver's many city parks during an early morning jog or a sunset stroll. U.S. News talked to in-the-know Mile High City locals about some of the best Denver parks to visit on vacation.
All parks mentioned are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Dogs are allowed on a leash. Alcohol (aside from 3.2 beer) and marijuana use are not permitted.
"Wash Park," as Washington Park is known locally, refers to both the 155-acre park and the charming residential neighborhood that surrounds it. The park itself features two lakes, two meticulously maintained flower gardens and a variety of sports courts, including tennis, basketball and lawn bowling. An unpaved jogging path meanders around the perimeter of the park, at the center of which lies an immense field that transforms into a sea of volleyball courts during summer evenings and weekends. Families flock here for two modern playgrounds, pedal boat rentals and a fishing pond.
[Read: The Best Denver Brewery Tours.]
Michael Schmidt, tour concierge at the The Crawford Hotel at Union Station, names Wash Park as one of his favorite places in town. Not only does he praise the park itself as a must-see attraction, but also recommends visitors spend time exploring the neighborhood's many shops and restaurants.
"It has a great neighborhood feel to it," Schmidt says. "On the weekends there's always something fun going on there."
Be sure to stop and smell the roses in the park's southernmost garden overlooking Grasmere Lake, or rent a surrey bike near the boathouse and take a few leisurely laps around the paved bike lane. Or, grab a pair of snowshoes and look for bald eagles that nest there in the winter.
City Park, which features stately fountains and historical monuments scattered about its grounds, is known for having one of the best views of the downtown skyline and mountain backdrop, making it a must for photographers. Because of its vast size and cultural offerings like the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, City Park has been compared to another urban green space, New York's Central Park.
Paul Gonzer, concierge at the ART hotel, also recommends City Park as a great nearby destination for golfers. "If you want a quick round of golf, City Park has an excellent course with club rentals," he says.
An array of events are held there in the summertime, like kickball tournaments and City Park Jazz, a free summer concert series celebrating the city's musical roots that draws picnickers and music enthusiasts to the park grounds on Sunday afternoons.
Those looking to kill some time between checkout and takeoff, take note: City Park is located on the east side of town just off Interstate 70, the main thoroughfare between downtown and the Denver International Airport.
[Read: The Best Things to Do in Denver.]
Out-of-towners staying downtown will want to head to Confluence Park, located where the South Platte River meets Cherry Creek, near Union Station. This park is unique in that it doesn't have much in the way of green space. Instead, Confluence Park is more like an urban water park where people from all over the city mix and mingle – especially when hot summer weather draws splash-seekers.
There you will find people and pets playing in sandy pools, tubing and kayaking down a course of whitewater obstacles or just soaking up the sun on the grassy riverbank. Bold murals decorate the concrete walls lining the surrounding bike paths that merge in front of the immense REI Denver flagship store, whose historic building is a worthwhile attraction on its own. Just beyond REI are the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and the Downtown Aquarium, perfect for rainy days with kids.
Those hoping to find more privacy can cross the street to Commons Park. There, visitors will find a spacious lawn and tree-lined jogging paths. This is where Schmidt sends hotel guests when they need a quick breath of fresh air or a speedy jog when they're short on time.
Civic Center Park
Surrounded by the State Capitol and other distinguished government buildings, Civic Center Park is a hub of activity – and a great place for people watching.
Throughout the year, Civic Center Park offers a slew of fun and free events, and it was even ground zero for celebrations following the Denver Broncos Super Bowl parade in 2016. "Civic Center Park has fitness classes, food trucks and a lot of other neat events that happen essentially in our backyard," Gonzer says.
[Read: The Best Denver Tours.]
The park features a striking row of stone columns representing a Greek amphitheater on the south side of the park. Beyond the theater, landscaped flower gardens, park benches and fountains create a serene setting in this bustling city center. Visitors can also see The Denver Post building and the Denver Art Museum, which are located nearby.
Sloan's Lake Park
Located on Denver's northeastern border, 177-acre Sloan's Lake Park features an expansive lake that people flock to during the summer to go boating.
In addition to boating, the park has a multitude of other recreational offerings like softball, football, tennis and basketball courts. It is also a popular picnic site thanks to its great city views and vast lawn space. And because of Sloan's Lake Park's proximity to the flourishing Tennyson, Sunnyside and Highland neighborhoods, many people who come to see the lake end up spending hours exploring the surrounding area.
To experience more of what Denver has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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