Denver’s expansive parks and recreation system is unparalleled, and no matter where you are in the metro area, you’re most certainly near a park! Lounge in the shade of a sprawling old tree, spread a blanket by a lake and soak up the sun and serenity, or post up at a picnic table near a playground and let the kids graze and roam free. There’s an ideal picnic spot for everyone hiding in the nooks and crannies of Denver’s roughly 6,000 acres of urban parks. All you’ve got to do is prepare your feast and find YOUR niche! Check out the best places to picnic in Denver:
1. City Park
There are almost an infinite number of prime picnic locales around the sweeping 330 acres of City Park, which offers magnificent views of Denver and beyond, but one of the best is undoubtedly from the Museum of Nature and Science. Find a spot on the west lawn and enjoy the kids frolicking in the fountain (during the summer), or for a real treat, enjoy your picnic with a bird's eye view from one of the four levels of the museum's 12,850 square-foot West Atrium. It's simply glorious!
2. Confluence Park
Park it on the lush, green grass or the sandy beach of Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River come together, and watch Denver kayakers attempt to navigate the rapids. Savor panoramic views of the city and free fun-filled entertainment. Doesn't get much better than that! (But wait, it does...there are also NO geese!)
3. Washington Park
Wash Park has a little something for every type of picnicker - serene lakes, tended gardens, interesting playgrounds, and lush lawns with horseshoes, bowling, and croquet. Post-picnic play a pick-up game of tennis or soccer, take a cruise on the bike path, or meander through the Mount Vernon Garden near Grasmere Lake. The perfect combination of activity and leisure!
4. Commons Park
Commons Park is one of the newest additions to our urban green spaces, and it just so happens to be the city's birthplace, where gold rushers began their search back in 1858. There are many seating areas from which to choose or simply spread a blanket among the native plants that cover nearly half the park's grounds. (And if you'd like a little adventure after your meal, there's a tree-lined promenade that will lead you downtown, where you're sure to find things abuzz.)
5. Civic Center Park
Speaking of abuzz, this hustling, bustling urban park in the heart of our downtown is a lively picnic spot with a uniquely metropolitan feel. Choose a nook on the spacious plaza, lawns, or gardens and take in the surroundings. There are architecturally compelling buildings and landmarks on all sides, as well as nearby attractions such as the Colorado State Capitol, the Denver Public Library, the 16th Street Mall, and the Denver Art Museum. There are always plenty of sights to see at Civic Center Park!
6. Centennial Gardens
Just a stone's throw from the South Platte River is a lovely hidden gem, modeled after the Gardens of Versailles but containing native species of Colorado's flowers (and a few from outside that thrive in our dry climate). The charming flowerbeds provide a perfectly inspiring centerpiece for a little Colorado wildflower identification and a lazy afternoon nibble.
7. Highland Park
This tiny oasis in the middle of the Highlands with a playground and basketball court, is a pleasant and unassuming neighborhood picnic spot that's sure to please. Have a bite, escape the energy and noise of Federal, and let it fade into a meditative sound in the distance. Om.
8. Sloan's Lake Park
There's plenty of room for everyone at our second largest, 177-acre park in northwest Denver. This is one of my all time favorite spots to spend a delightful afternoon, because here you can really take it all in in Mile High fashion. Breathe in the surrounding mountains, the Denver skyline, the glistening water, the cool green grass, and unwind. The possibilities are endless! Bring a grill, bring some mates, bring some frisbees, bring some tunes, and have a sunset soiree at Sloan's. (Tip: Mind the goose poop.)
9. Cheesman Park
If you want vista views of the front range, a sunny, sprawling lawn with pathways and a playground, small gardens, shade trees, and the ever popular Cheesman pavilion, this park's for you. (And, if you adore cute pooches, you won't believe the regulars at this green space. They're adorable!)
10. Denver Botanic Gardens
Right next door from Cheesman Park is another hidden urban oasis, the Denver Botanic Gardens. Munch by the water gardens that mirror Monet's lily pads, find a hidden bench in a shady nook and stay awhile, or enjoy a bite in the internationally inspired gardens amongst the bonsais. A slice of true tranquility smack in the middle of the city. (Note: Mordecai Children’s Garden is across the street from the main facility and has 3 acres of Colorado ecosystems that make the perfect setting to picnic and explore with your little ones.)
11. Ruby Hill Park
The newly renovated Ruby Hill Park rests at one of Denver's highest elevations and offers a unique 360 degree view of the city. There's an impressive pavilion with 28 picnic tables, a spacious plaza, and a playground, as well as running water and restrooms. This park is easily accessible to many neighborhoods and has gobs of pure open space where you can throw down a blanket and enjoy an elevated view of Denver with your vittles.
12. Infinity Park
This stadium and sports park in Glendale may be "Colorado’s rugby epicenter," but it also has plenty of green space for picnicking. Catch a rugby game, attend an event, or take advantage of the free movie night they host in the summer. (Bring a picnic, bring your buds, but don't bring glass!)
What are your favorites spots to dine al fresco in the Mile High City? Let us know in the comments below!