In a booming metropolis that shelters nearly 3 million people, you’d be hard pressed to find worthwhile attractions that don’t have crowds flocking to them day and night (especially during our glorious summertime). But fortunately for us, there are some fantastic places around Denver that are slightly less known but equally as captivating as the popular landmarks. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to spread the word about these hidden gems, but I know it’s only right to share the peace and happiness and solitude.
1. Clyfford Still Museum
The Clyfford Still Museum
is undoubtedly one of the most serene spots in all of Denver and is just around the corner from the fabulous but ever-popular Denver Art Museum. The sleek, smooth modern architecture of the two-story, 28,500-square-foot building was designed specifically to showcase Still's work, and the quality of natural light afforded by the skylights and perforated concrete ceiling is subtle yet powerful and creates an air of tranquility throughout the space. Be still my heart!
2. The Dikeou Collection
If you're trying to avoid crowds in the Mile High City, the 16th Street Mall is pretty much the last place I would advise anyone to go. However, if you should find yourself lulling about downtown at said location, the Dikeou Collection at 1615 California Street is one of Denver's best kept art secrets and a lovely place to escape from the madness. (Unless you consider giant inflatable bunnies to be mad, that is.) The Dikeou Collection is open and free of charge, Wed.-Fri. from 11am-5pm, as well as for special events or by appointment.
3. Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
The 27,000-square-foot, environmentally sustainable facility that houses the
, is another hidden gem of our city's art world. The building in lower downtown Denver has five galleries on two floors with rotating exhibits by regional, national and international artists. After you peruse the galleries, stop by the MCA Café & Bar for coffee, lunch, happy hour, free WiFi, and a spectacular rooftop deck with phenomenal views of our beloved city.
4. Old South Gaylord Street
If you want to satisfy your shopping urge without the crowds at Cherry Creek, check out the unique shops and eateries on Old South Gaylord Street just east of Wash Park. It's one of Denver's oldest shopping districts and is brimming with gift shops, vintage flare, boutiques, galleries, and plenty of quality neighborhood haunts where you can wet your whistle or fill your belly.
5. Chatfield Farms
I have never had trouble finding a nice quiet place to sit and meditate at the Botanic Gardens in Cheesman Park, but if you really want to get away from it all, visit their sister location at
near Littleton. This 750-acre plant refuge offers plenty of opportunities for solitude, serenity, and floral beauty. (Open daily 9am-5pm)
6. The Hudson Gardens and Event Center
Another lovely Littleton oasis is
, 30 glorious acres of botanical gardens on the banks of the South Platte River. Enjoy art installations, water gardens, wetlands, a songbird garden, and more, and be sure to swing by Nixon's Coffee House for beverages, smoothies, sandwiches, and baked goods.
7. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
There's no way to completely avoid crowds at any hike outside of the metro area; however, there are plenty of less populated parks with picturesque family-friendly hikes such as Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Roxborough State Park, Centennial Cone Park, and Lory State Park.
8. Staunton State Park
Another fantastic hidden treasure is one of our newest additions to the Colorado state park system, which opened in 2013 and boasts 3,828 acres of natural beauty and Elks Falls, the highest waterfall near the Mile High City.
9. Mount Ida Trail (& Others in RMNP)
There's a rumor that locals "hate" Rocky Mountain National Park (perhaps because a record-breaking 4 million visitors descended upon it last year), but that allegation is not entirely true and there are a few ways to at least attempt to avoid the masses. You can increase your chances of solitude by arriving at sunrise or sunset, adventuring on the less popular west side of the park (on trails such as Mount Ida), or acquiring a backcountry permit.
10. Backpacking in RMNP
The further you get from a paved road, the fewer people you will encounter. After four days of camping in the backcountry in the west side of RMNP, Adam Baker captured this mesmerizing shot of a moose while hiking out - followed by an unprecedented total of four more on his homebound trek. Yes, please!
11. Four Mile Historic Park
If you prefer a more domesticated environment, there's an urban oasis on 12 historical areas just four miles from downtown Denver on the banks of Cherry Creek, which features the city's oldest standing structure built in 1859. Visit
Four Mile Historic Park
for tours, educational programs, special events, and more!
12. Crown Hill Park
I should really stop sharing my favorite "hidden" park in the metro area, but I must abide by the rule that the land belongs to all of us and not just to some of us. I used to frequent Sloan's Lake until I discovered the slightly more authentic and rugged beauty of Crown Hill Lake and Park in Wheat Ridge. There are wildflowers and overgrown grasses, waterfowl and other dainty birds flitting through the trees, and an elevated view of the Front Range in the distance that all contribute to a sense of clam amidst a thriving metropolis. (But I implore you: PLEASE LEAVE NO TRACE!)
13. Leprino Family Atrium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Of course the
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
is no place to escape hoards of other humans, but as luck would have it, somehow most visitors have not yet caught onto the magic of the 12,850-square-foot Leprino Family Atrium and open air terrace that affords breathtaking views of City Park, the Denver skyline, and the Rocky Mountains. And it's the perfect spot for a family or friendly picnic away from the hubbub of the food court. But, shhhhh...don't tell!
14. Tattered Cover Book Store
"Bringing People and Books Together Since 1971," this remarkable independently owned bookstore (with locations on Colfax and in LoDo), is one of my all time favorite places to read, work, imbibe, reset, and select random passages from random books and read them silently to myself as I stroll among the shelves. When in need of solace or counsel or verity, I seek the company of Tattered Covers.