Patio Daddy-O

Thirteen perfect patios on which to waste the boozy days of summer.

Not too far north of here is the The Bank (2239 East Colfax Avenue, 303-320-9494), a great lunch spot with superb bar fare -- not to mention excellent Colfax people-watching. I particularly like placing bets on which of the afternoon strollers are headed down to Kitty's or some other matinee theater during their lunch break.

For those who enjoy other spectator sports, there are any number of bars in which to relish a mind-numbingly long baseball game without mortgaging your house to buy beer and food for nine innings. I like the Blue Line Bar & Grill (5151 Leetsdale Drive, 303-316-3920), with its outdoor TVs and cheap beer. For those of you out east, Caldonia's Roadside Barbecue and Hiway Tavern (2252 South Parker Road, 303-752-3829) has one of the bigger patios around. It's a good place to watch a game, but it also features a sand volleyball court that entices young women to wear bikinis to the bar. Unfortunately, there are too many guys out there who insist on re-creating Top Gun. The College Inn (4400 East Eighth Avenue, 303-329-9532) also has a nice covered patio, good beer and trivia, and, above all, is close to my house. Much like knowing where the nearest fire station and post office are, it is crucial to know the best bar within stumbling distance of your home.

For those of you down south, there is Earl's Restaurant the Meadows (8335 South Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, 303-792-3275), which features "casual Canadian cuisine." As a Minnesotan, I always thought this meant thoroughly cooked back bacon, but here it seems to mean a menu that is eerily similar to the one at Chili's. Nonetheless, it's a good bar with a wide selection of refreshing drinks and a lot of beautiful people on the patio.

Soaking up the sun at the Morrison Inn (301 Bear Creek Avenue, Morrison, 303-697-6650) in the scenic foothills stimulates a mighty thirst, and the inn's killer margaritas are Gatorade for the aspiring alcoholic. After a few of them, you won't care if you're stranded in the middle of the Arabian Desert -- as long as there are waitresses.

Speaking of margaritas, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (1525 Blake Street, 303-623-5432) has the most flammable ones outside of Ma Crosby's in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Happy hour is always interesting at Rio, because the place closes so early, you're turned loose on the street with a near-lethal blood-alcohol level and four hours or more of bar time ahead of you. I'm pretty sure there's a nice patio here, but I don't really remember, thanks to those margaritas. Patio or not, always bring your passport when you go to this bar.

So as the hot weather sets in, take some time off from stuffing yourself into your swimming suit and get out to a patio near you and enjoy some carbohydrates. (To hell with Atkins -- it's summer!) To make sure you can savor a full day, remember to alternate drinks with eight ounces of water, and take your sunscreen. And when the inevitable happens and you have to hit the little boys' or girls' room right when you meet an especially attractive person, just send the ghost runner.

Ice Box

So you melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West when exposed to sunlight. Or maybe you're one of those pasty poets who favor dark, smoky bars and cafes over the jubilant patio crowds. Or, hell, maybe you just like air conditioning. We hear ya.

Here's a cheat sheet to the city's best combinations of AC and booze so you can properly while away those summer afternoons. How better to introduce Denver to the great New York tradition of summer Fridays (off by noon!)?

1. Carioca Cafe

2060 Champa Street

303-296-1250

2. Don's Club Tavern

723 East Sixth Avenue

303-832-9904

3. Streets of London Pub

1502 East Colfax Avenue

303-861-9103

4. Lion's Lair

2022 East Colfax Avenue

303-320-9200

5. The Lancer Lounge

233 East Seventh Avenue

303-831-8989

6. McCormick's Fish House

& Bar 1659 Wazee Street

303-825-1107

7. Dazzle 930 Lincoln Street

303-839-5100

8. Club 404 404 Broadway

303-778-9605

9. hi-dive/Sputnik

7 South Broadway

720-570-4500

10. Charlie Brown's Bar

and Grill 980 Grant Street

303-860-1655

11. Thin Man

2015 East 17th Avenue

303-320-7814

12. Skylark

140 South Broadway

303-722-7844

13. Cherry Cricket

2641 East Second Avenue

303-322-7666

Okay, okay. You can't drink

all summer. Here are a few non-alcoholic, AC-friendly suggestions for those days after the dog bit a little too hard.

1. Lyons Classic Pinball (339-A Main Street, Lyons, 303-823-6100). First, it's worth the drive: The air is just cooler in the hamlets outside of Boulder. Second, you can spend hours in the lap of swamp-cooled luxury re-creating your childhood.

2. Lake Steam Baths (3540 West Colfax Avenue, 303-825-2995). It's hella hot in the eucalyptus sauna, but it's great for the skin -- and a hangover. Plus, when you leave, the outside world will feel downright balmy by comparison.

3. REI (1416 Platte Street, 303-756-3100). When the thermometer hits 95, head over to REI. The store itself (like any mall or retail chain) is a haven for heat beaters, but true connoisseurs head for the cold room. Normally used to test sleeping bags, this zero-degree facility is the perfect escape from August scorchers.

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