Our Favorite Denver Summer Activities

denver summer activities union station

With Summer in full swing and kids out of school, we’re always on the lookout for new Denver Summer activities.

Denver Summer weather is typically a tale of two seasons. In June and into July, it’s pretty cool but you have to be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms that can bring hail.

And typically after Independence Day the rain storms give way for blue skies and heat. It’s not uncommon to reach 100 degrees in July and August. And we don’t care what anyone says about dry heat: that’s still really hot!

With that in mind, we’ve collected some of our favorite Denver Summer activities that work in a variety of weather. Enjoy!

1. Red Rocks

The iconic Denver landmark is a hot spot in the Summer.

While technically located just outside Denver, Red Rocks has long been known for hosting some of the most legendary musical acts in American history.

To this day it remains one of top spot to see live music, and still draws the biggest names in entertainment.

However, many visitors may not be aware that the music is just one of the many offerings of this state park.

Movies

In addition to concerts, the infamous amphitheater also hosts Film on the Rocks.

From comedies to action flicks, the movies span a variety of genres. This makes movies at the park a great attraction for family nights or a night out with friends.

The movies are not on any sort of weekly schedule, but they are published ahead of time for the entire Summer season. Movies start after dusk, making this a perfect Summer activity since you’ll avoid the majority of the bead weather.

As a bonus each film is preceded by live music and a comedy act. Doors open at 6:30 so make sure you arrive early to get the full experience.

The normal selection of food and drinks will be available for sale inside the amphitheater, but you can also bring in your own. Just make sure you read their guide to what’s allowed and what isn’t before you pack.

Fitness

If being active is more your speed, Red Rocks has plenty to offer.

Throughout Summer, the amphitheater hosts Yoga and Barre classes. These classes sell out fast and can only be purchased online. We recommend you buy early to secure your spot!

If you’re looking for a little higher intensity workout, checkout the Snowshape classes that are held in late Summer and early Fall. These are perfect for getting fit for ski season.

Additionally, Red Rocks is a Denver Mountain Park and has several miles of trails for hiking and roads for biking.

Just remember to follow a few rules and guidelines:

  • Trails open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset
  • If biking, follow designated signs
  • No rock climbing is allowed
  • Never interact with wildlife

We recommend you check their website for full list of rules before you visit.

And most importantly: check the event schedule! Certain areas of the park (specifically the amphitheater) may close early for events. Make sure you plan accordingly!

Red Rocks is known for its legendary music, but offers so much more.

2. Stanley Marketplace

Come for the food, stay for the everything else.

The Stanley Marketplace is a former aviation manufacturing facility that has been converted into a community oriented shopping and food hall. And with indoor and outdoor spaces galore, Stanley is a great Summer destination.

Stanley has quickly grown to be one of the top food halls in the Denver area. It’s conveniently located on the border of Denver and Aurora, two of the three largest cities in Colorado.

It boasts 50+ local businesses covering a wide range of offerings. Inside you’ll find restaurants, shopping, fitness, craft beer and wine, a dentist, photography studio, and so much more.

With all of its diverse offerings, the Stanley has become an integral part of the surrounding community. For us, it’s become synonymous with community and a place where we can conduct our everyday life.

It’s a place to grab coffee with a friend. It’s where we take our out-of-town guests and reconnect with family. And it’s where we escape for a few hours to get some work done.

There really is something for everyone and it’s impossible to try and summarize just how amazing this place is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share our favorite spots!

Food & Drinks

The Stanley has plenty of food and drink options, meaning even the pickiest eaters in your group will be happy.

One of the things we love is that many places don’t have their own seating.

Instead, you can grab your food and find a table in any of the common areas. We love being able to walk around find friends and neighbors to dine with.

Stanley also has a common liquor license, meaning you can grab a drink from most of the businesses and walk around.

Just ask for a to go cup, and make sure you check with each shop and restaurant before bringing your drink in.

But with all these choices, how do you choose where to eat? Not to worry, we have a few ideas.

If we had to pick a perfect day of dining at the Stanley, it would look something like this:

  • Breakfast at Denver Biscuit Company
  • Lunch at Rolling Smoke BBQ
  • Happy hour at Cheluna Brewing Company
  • Dinner at Annette
  • Dessert at Sweet Cow Ice Cream

But that’s just us. And if you ask us tomorrow, we might tell you breakfast at Rosenberg’s Bagels, lunch at Maria Empenada, happy hour at Create Cooking School, dinner at Misaki Sushi, and dessert at Miette et Chocolat.

Luckily there are plenty of days in Summer to keep working on this list!

Shopping

Stanley has a wide range of local businesses beyond food. Whether you’re shopping for a birthday, mother’s day, or just trying to treat yourself, you’re sure to find what you need.

If you’re shopping for kids, we love Little Wolf, Trunk Nouveau, or Mindcraft.

For the ladies, you can’t go wrong with June Ruby, Steele Angel, or Sterre.

And for the gentlemen, check out Squadron Co, Goose & The Goat, or Zero Market.

Having trouble deciding? Just do what we do and grab a glass of wine from Infinite Monkey. Then wander around until something catches your eye. All of these shops are locally owned and always have a great selection from local suppliers and artisans.

And if you’re still stuck after that, Stanley offers gift cards that can be used at more than 30 of its shops. As bonus, you can use the time you saved to go get a pedicure at Base Coat nail salon.

Summer Activities

Above all else there’s one thing we absolutely love about Stanley. It was designed from the ground up to be a place where people gather and everyone feels welcome.

To that end, there are numerous events throughout the Summer to help bring people together:

  • Friday Farmer’s Market
  • Sistine Chapel Exhibition (July / August 2019)
  • Stanley Arts Festival

There are also frequent events in the attached hangar, a massive 18,000 square foot event space that can host fundraisers, parties, and just about anything else.

In the past we’ve found swing dancing, casino nights, and fitness boot camps in the hangar. When it’s not booked for a private event, they do a great job of offering free community activities.

And since this is a list of Denver Summer activities, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the outdoor areas. Outside Stanley you’ll find everything from food truck roundups, taco festivals, pet adoptions, and more.

While there is no playground (yet), there are plenty of places to run around. We love grabbing some food and drinks from the beer hall and sitting outside. There are some corn hole boards available, as well as lots of open space for kids to get their energy out.

Keep an eye on the Stanley calendar for the latest happenings in the hangar and the rest of the marketplace. You can spend anywhere from an hour to a day here, but either way you won’t be disappointed!

denver summer activities stanley marketplace
Food and shopping abound at the community oriented Stanley Marketplace.

3. Denver Botanic Gardens

Who knew plants could be so cool.

The Denver Botanic Gardens is actually comprised of two locations:

  • York Street (in Cherry Creek neighborhood)
  • Chatfield Farms (located in Littleton)

Both locations have a wide variety of activities, but for now we’ll focus on the York Street location (not to worry: we’ll probably have a lot to say about the Chatfield Farms location in the Fall).

Gardens

The main attraction is of course the gardens. The York Street location has 24 acres of beautifully maintained flora and fauna from around the world. Well maintained walking paths help guide you through each one.

Most of the gardens are dedicated to native flowers of Colorado and the west. The other spaces feature internationally inspired collections, as well as ornamental collections full of roses, lilac, and other classic varietals.

Our favorite gardens, however, are the two water gardens. In here you’ll find waterlilies, lotus flowers, cattails, and so much more.

On hot days, make sure you visit the Shady Gardens. These feature plenty of large trees that provide shade, as well as benches to sit on. Perfect for the hot Summer days in July and August.

Finally, if you’re visiting with young children make sure you stop by the children’s garden. This area is specially designed for kids under 2 to play and interact with plants. Who knows, it might just be the start of a lifelong love of horticulture!

Other Attractions

Aside from the beautiful plant life, the botanic gardens boast several other activities.

Yoga is offered throughout the week in both the morning and evening. Tickets can be bought ahead of time or when you arrive. Check the calendar for the class schedule.

The science pyramid is an indoor facility that features more hands on activities. Touch screens, videos, and volunteer demonstrations make this a fun stop, especially on hot days.

The gardens also feature various art and sculptures. Most of the pieces are rotating, but the gardens often feature world class works of art that perfectly accent the natural beauty.

Finally, consider one of the summertime tea tastings. These are limited throughout the Summer, but are a unique experience that make for a great girl’s day activity.

4. Museums

Just don’t tell your kids they’re learning during Summer break.

Museums are great for rainy or hot Summer days. And Denver has no shortage of great ones!

Nature & Science

We’re somewhat partial to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It’s got lots to offer for kids and adults alike, and is conveniently located near city park.

The museum has nearly a dozen permanent exhibits, in addition to an impressive list of rotating ones. 

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Discovery Zone: Dig for dinosaur bones, build with giant foam blocks, splash in some water, and catch a story. This area is hands down our favorite and usually the first one the kids ask to visit.
  • Space Odyssey: Hang out in zero gravity, explore the red planet, dress-up like astronauts, and learn how humans have explored every edge of the solar system.
  • Prehistoric Journey: Learn about origins of earth and explore lots of dinosaur fossils. You can even watch through a glass observation window as scientists examine new fossil findings from around the state.
  • Wildlife Halls: Discover animals, both large and small, from around the world in their perfectly reconstructed habitats.
  • Gems & Minerals: Explore beautiful gems and minerals in the confines of a reconstructed underground mine.
  • Expedition Health: Learn how the human body works with personalized and highly interactive activities.

This museum shares a parking lot with the zoo, and it can fill up quickly. We recommend arriving when they open, or waiting until after lunch to avoid the crowds.

There is a decent cafe inside, but you are also free to bring your own food and drink if you like.

And if you get a little tired of walking and need to sit down, there is an IMAX theater and planetarium inside. They both have shows throughout the day, usually with short running times that make for a quick rest stop in between all the walking.

The museum has multiple free days throughout the year, including during the Summer. On free days the museum will be busier than normal. Parking will be more challenging and popular exhibits may have longer waits.

Check their calendar so you can be prepared and take advantage!

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Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Denver is a hidden gem in Denver. Tucked away near Elitch Gardens and the downtown aquarium, this museum is a must-visit for anyone with kids.

While not as big as the science museum, this place still packs plenty of hands on fun. Here are some of the exhibits to look forward to:

  • Adventure Forest: An amazing 500 foot long aerial adventure. Kids must be 5 years old or 44″ tall. And they even offer adult only nights!
  • Fire station 1: Life size firetruck to climb on with plenty of clothes for dress-up.
  • Kinetics: Gravity and air tubes help kids collect balls and guide them through structures they build themselves.
  • Water: An immersive exhibit where kids adorn rain coats and explore all the ways that water impacts our world.
  • Bubbles: Explore how bubbles work with a variety of hands on stations.
  • Assembly Plant: Using recycled materials such as cans, cardboard, and wood blocks, kids can let their imaginations run wild and build their own new toys.

The Children’s Museum also hosts a number of events throughout the day such as story time,  volunteer-led exhibits, and art projects.

Like the science museum, there is a cafeteria with decent food offerings. But you can also bring your own food and snacks. And lockers are available so you don’t have to carry your stuff around.

Finally, if the weather cooperates, make sure to save time for Joy Park. Located adjacent to the museum, it’s a wonderful children’s playground with zip lines, sand pits, and much more.

Parking is free but shared with other downtown attractions, so be prepared for it to fill up. They also offer periodic free days, so check their calendar before you plan your visit!

Wings Over the Rockies

The Wings Over the Rockies air and space museum is a flight themed museum that occupies an old aviation hangar on the former site of Lowry Air Force Base (note there is a newer site located at Centennial Airport, but our review is based on the original museum in Lowry neighborhood).

Your visit will actually begin before you ever step foot inside. As you walk up, you’ll be greeted by a massive B-52 bomber that was once used for training at Lowry Air Force Base. Today it stands impressively outside the museum, greeting visitors and giving them a taste of what’s to come.

Once inside you’ll quickly discover that the museum houses an impressive collection of airplanes and artifacts. From a F-14 fighter jet and B-1 bomber, to Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the collection of aircraft is diverse and spans many decades of aircraft design. There are even a couple of Star Wars replica spacecraft!

While the majority of your visit will be spent walking around and under retired airplanes and jets, it doesn’t end there.

What really sets this air and space museum apart is its uniquely Colorado heritage. It features multiple permanent exhibitions that share the history of our great state and its role in the evolution of manned-flight.

From the history of Lowry Air Force Base to collections of stories and artifacts from around the state, this museum does a great job helping to preserve our history.

Outside of the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts a few time-limited exhibits and educational events throughout the year, from guest speakers, movies, and story-telling. Check their calendar to see what’s passing through before you visit.

For your visit, we suggest planning for a half day. Parking is generally ample, though they do share lots with some other businesses there is a chance it could get crowded.

There is no on site food service, and outside food and drink is prohibited. However, the museum is located right next door to several great dining options. We’re huge fans of the Lowry Beer Garden because of its great food and beer selection and kid friendly environment.

Firefighters Museum

The Denver Firefighters Museum is another one of our favorites that is also Colorado centric. The museum’s mission is to preserve the history of the Denver Fire Department and firefighting.

Located in downtown Denver inside a restored fire station, the museum houses numerous artifacts. Inside you’ll find restored fire engines and trucks, firefighting equipment, and stories from major firefighting events throughout Denver’s history.

While it doesn’t have the same real estate as larger museums, they make the most of it by packing it full of artifacts and exhibits. Many of the items are hands on, just be sure to pay attention as some exhibits are for viewing only.

The museum hosts a number of activities throughout the year. Story time, camps, and even trivia nights are just some of the things you’ll find on the event calendar.

Keep in mind the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The entrance is wheelchair accessible, but access to the 2nd floor is only available via stairs.

There’s also no cafeteria inside and they ask that food and drinks be left outside. However, your visit should only last a couple of hours and this is a great stop before grabbing lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area

5. Fountains & Splash Pads

Our favorite kid-friendly watering holes around the city.

There’s no better remedy to hot Summer days than splashing through water! We’ve found a few free spots around town that are great ways to cool off during the Summer.

Union Station

The iconic downtown train station is home to several great bars and restaurants. And in the middle of it all is a series of fountains that are great for splashing.

Bring a towel a change of clothes, and when you’re done complete the cool off with a cocktail at one of the many great bars inside the station.

Bonus tip: if you have kids, take the RTD A line train to Union Station. The cars are clean and air conditioned, and there are multiple stops along the I-70 corridor and downtown to help keep kids entertained.

denver summer activities union station
Visit Union Station to cool off in the fountains and stay for a cool beverage inside.

Centennial Center Park

While not technically in Denver, Centennial Center Park is one of our favorite Summer destinations. Located just south of Denver east of I-25, this park has both water features and traditional playground equipment.

In addition to a splash pad and fountains, it boasts a massive 2 story play structure, climbing wall, sand pits, swings, and lots more.

It also has several covered pavilions which can be reserved for picnics and BBQs, which make it a great place to host birthdays and family gatherings.

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Barnum Park

Located on the west side of town, this park was recently renovated and has lots to offer.

We love that there are two splash areas, one for smaller kids and one for older kids. Each area includes plenty of age appropriate water features that will keep you cool as a cucumber.

6. Indoor Adventures

A collection of some of our favorite indoor destinations to keep cool and get the adrenaline pumping.

For those of you looking for some ways to stay indoors and close those Apple watch rings, we’ve got you covered.

Trampoline Parks

As the popularity of shows like ninja warrior have grown the past few years, there’s been a rise in the number of indoor adventure parks.

These places are great for helping kids burn energy while developing self-confidence. And of course they’re great for helping grown-ups feel not so grown up for a couple of hours.

Every place we’ve visited is a little different but in general you’ll find trampolines, foam pits, zip lines, dodge ball, and actual ninja warrior obstacle courses.

Here’s a few of our favorite places that help us satisfy our inner ninja:

Indoor Climbing

Much like trampoline parks, indoor climbing gyms have seen huge growth in the past few years. If you’re not afraid of heights, these are another great way to beat the heat!

Indoor climbing gyms are a great way to test your love of heights and climbing without too much commitment. Most gyms have routes that are designed for a wide range of experience levels, making them a great activity for all ages and abilities.

As a bonus, many climbing gyms also offer auxiliary activities such as yoga or cafes. A great way to keep the kids entertained while you take a break and enjoy some well-deserved downtime.

Here’s a couple Denver climbing gyms worth checking out:

Arcades

Arcades make for a great hot or rainy day activity. As much as we try to encourage outdoor and physical play, a small dose of video games can help encourage creativity, self-confidence, and problem solving.

Plus, most modern arcades offer more than just video games. Most newer places offer laser tag, mini golf, billiards, bowling, and other activities to keep both your mind and body engaged.

Here are a few places we love:

7. Ice Cream

Yep, we have a whole section for ice cream.

Just like a great Summer day, we wanted to end with a little bit of ice cream. We consider ourselves experts in this area so without further ado here’s our top ice cream spots in Denver.

Little Man

Little man is easily identifiable from its larger than life cream can (28 feet, to be exact) at their flagship location the highlands neighborhood.

They also operate several sister stores around Denver, each one with a unique brand and style. For example, the Constellation ice cream shop in Stapleton is covered by a life size replica of a Lockheed Constellation aircraft, an homage to the neighborhood’s old airport ties.

But one thing they all have in common is tasty ice cream. Their ice cream is hand made, their flavors are diverse, and they serve up all the traditional fixings like waffle cones, sundaes, splits, and more.

But perhaps the cherry on top is that they all participate in the Scoop for Scoop program. For every scoop of ice cream they sale, they donate an equivalent amount of essential food items to areas that need it.

So go get yourself a scoop or two, and help make your palate and the world a better place at the same time.

Nuggs

This little unsuspecting ice cream shop is located on Colfax on the east side of town. It’s become one of our goto ice cream shops over the past few years.

Their flavors are very eclectic (Pablo’s Danger Monkey Coffee, anyone?) and always hand made. And they offer other tasty treats like ice cream cakes, waffle tacos, and more.

And if you’re on any sort of dietary restrictions, they have plenty of Vegan choices, as well as nut-free offerings.

Be aware that seating and parking are limited. But don’t let that stop you from trying them out!

8. Conclusion

No more excuses to be bored this Summer!

We hope we’ve inspired you with some new Denver Summer activities. There is so much in this amazing city, we’ve undoubtedly missed a few places.

If you’re ever in doubt, head over to the good folks at Visit Denver. They have tons of inspiration for both residents and visitors alike.

What about you? What are your favorite Denver Summer activities that we need to know about? Let us know in the comments and happy exploring!

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