Every summer when I was younger, my friends and I basically moved out of our parents' houses and into the surrounding wilderness, resorting to a primitive caste system whereby whoever had the coolest stuff dictated what we did. We spent days re-creating World War II with cap guns, fortifications in the local construction site and an elaborate set of rules dictating what "killed" people and for how long. (A full roll of caps detonated under a baseball bat had a kill radius of ten feet.)
We also spent countless hours playing at the closest baseball diamond, working on our fielding and swearing skills. We often didn't have enough guys for two full teams, so the "ghost runner" was the Ricky Henderson of the neighborhood. I realize now that most guys' obsession with beer-league softball was born back in those sweltering days; I just wish they'd bring back the ghost runner so I could drink my beer uninterrupted.
We'd also commune with nature on numerous fishing trips, occasionally bringing home Chicken McNugget-sized fish that our parents felt compelled to fry -- as long as we cleaned them. So for a total yield of two ounces over a three-month period, we spent that entire three months smelling like dead fish. It was totally worth it.
As we got older, we continued to commune with nature, but our appreciation of God's wonders was typically enhanced with beer. We spent as many weekends as possible camping -- not only because we could fish and swim, but also because no parents were present. I hope I'm not that naive when my daughter grows up, because I know for a fact that these outings resulted in more than 500 stitches, ten bazillion necrotic brain cells and at least one pregnancy.
I still like to enjoy my favorite adult beverage outside on a nice summer day or night. Unfortunately, I have a finite supply of alcohol in my abode, and I have yet to find a delivery service here in Denver. So instead, I find a nice patio, kick my feet up, flag down a waitress and sit for seven or eight hours, not counting bathroom breaks.
My all-time favorite is LoDo's Bar and Grill (1946 Market Street, 303-293-8555), because the commanding position overlooking Market Street and Coors Field offers something other LoDo patios don't: the ability to heckle passersby. If you can keep from falling over the railing, it's a perfect vantage point for hurling insults at guys or inappropriate suggestions at women. My personal favorite is to wait for whatever band is playing across the street at the Soiled Dove and then yell, "Play 'Freebird'!" On the Fourth of July, I particularly like this bar for camping out and watching the fireworks; they're always more impressive in double vision.
Also across the street, at Above the Dove (1949 Market Street, 303-830-9210), it's apparently a few degrees hotter than in the rest of the city, because the women seem to wear a hell of a lot less clothing. In fact, the summer-long Budweiser bikini contest will return this summer. Maybe Pete Coors can get his Twins to model, in an effort to grab the key younger demographic that isn't already enamored with the idea of a future senator who makes terrible, cheap beer.
In the Capitol Hill area are two of my other favorites. First is Govnr's Park Restaurant and Tavern (672 Logan Street, 303-831-8605), which has a large patio right on the street so you can see early on which women you're going to hit on relentlessly for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, the patio is not expansive, but the happy hour featuring two-for-one monster beers (including Guinness for the real guys out there) allows you to invade others' personal space with a clear conscience -- or at least no recollection.
Gov's peters out as it gets later, so I recommend you hire a cab to help you navigate the relatively short distance to the Funky Buddha Lounge (776 Lincoln Avenue, 303-832-5075). People here also seem to look with disdain upon too much clothing; however, patrons are so packed in that you can hardly breathe, let alone enjoy all the writhing flesh and bellybutton rings. Still, on a night when you're looking for something more than beer, this is the place for flavored, fluorescent martinis with names I can't pronounce at the end of the night.
There are several great patios in Cherry Creek, and the two best serve a mean Black and Tan. The Squealing Pig Tavern (2700 East Third Avenue, 303-388-4440) has a very nice sunken patio that sequesters those of us who, after a dozen or so beers, start acting like the bar's namesake. Just be careful descending the stairs -- especially if you started your day/night at the Irish Hound (575 St. Paul Street, 303-996-0709). This is one of my all-time favorite bars, and the patio atmosphere matches the indoor vibe. In my travels around England, I always liked the fact that going to the pub was a family event. It wasn't uncommon to see baby carriages and several kids bellied up to the bar with their parents. (Yes, even the moms.) I take my daughter to the Hound occasionally, and we are able to escape the smoky interior and enjoy a warm or even brisk day sheltered by the beautiful trees in this old neighborhood. You've just got to overlook the dirty glares of the uptight Cherry Creek denizens who disapprove of children being treated as older than they are.