Most days, the mountains are a fair trade for Denver's lack of an ocean. And on those other days when the mercury is really rising, you can beat the heat at nearby pools and water parks. In addition to Denver's sixteen public outdoor pools (daily rates are $3 for adults and $2 for children ages two to seventeen; get info at www.denvergov.org), the area is swimming in pool parties, rec centers with indoor pools and even hot springs. Taking a dip is definitely a more social way to chill than running your A/C 24/7, and given current energy costs, even paying admission fees could wind up saving you money before the summer's over. So dive in!
If you're low on cash but still looking for a cool scene, head to the Sheraton Four Points. From noon to 5 p.m. every Sunday, adults 21 and over can enjoy a free pool party courtesy of Kevin Larson Presents. The crowd tends to be mellow early in the afternoon but usually heats up by the end of the party. The hotel features an indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub, and you can munch on gourmet treats and sip $4 drink specials while listening to a different DJ each week. The parties continue through September 1.
6363 East Hampden Avenue, www.kevinlarsonpresents.com
Wheat Ridge Recreation Center
With a water slide, fountains, lazy river and lap pool, the Wheat Ridge Rec Center boasts one of the best indoor pools in the area. Throw in the steam room, sauna, game room with foosball, pool and video games, a climbing wall, racquetball courts and a full gym, and you have plenty of activities to keep the whole family busy all summer long. You won't soak up any sun here, but sometimes you need a break from all the UV rays. The daily fees are reasonable — $6.50 for adults, $6 for children ages six to seventeen, $4.50 for ages three to five — but you may enjoy yourself so much that you take the plunge with an annual pass.
4005 Kipling Street, 303-231-1300
Water World has been keeping Coloradans cool for decades. And the park just keeps improving, with multiple slides, wave pools, lazy rivers and thrill rides, including the animated Voyage to the Center of the Earth. Admissions is a hefty $33.95, but it's half-price after 2 p.m., and if you move quickly, you should be able to take advantage of many of the attractions before the park closes at 6.
1850 West 89th Avenue, Federal Heights, 303-427-7873
Elitch Gardens Island Kingdom
Admission to the Island Kingdom Water Park is included with the $29.99 day pass to Elitch Gardens, but you might want to bring a change of clothes if you're going to spend your time on the RipQurl and exploring Hook's Lagoon, two of the park's more unique rides. Better yet, bring extra cash and invest in a season pass for $59.99, which will keep you in the swim all summer long.
2000 Elitch Circle, 303-595-4386, www.elitchgardens.com
Indian Hot Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool
Sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire — and those are the times to head to Idaho Springs or Glenwood Springs and spend a day in the hot springs. At Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, your kids can enjoy the water slides while you soak in a big, open pool. For a more intimate and therapeutic experience, Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs offers visitors geo-thermal cave baths, private baths and DIY mud treatments.
Indian Hot Springs, 302 Soda Creek Road, Idaho Springs, 303-989-6666, www.indianhotsprings.com
Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, 415 6th Street, Glenwood Springs, 1-970-945-6571
Who says Denver doesn't have a beach? Anyone who's never been to Cherry Creek State Park, that's who. There's a great beach by the shore of the reservoir, with plenty of sand, a bath house and a first-aid station. The park's entry fee of $8 per car makes this a budget-friendly option, and if you arrive early, you might be able to snag a grill to perk up your picnic. And you'll want to arrive early, because on weekends and holidays the park often fills to capacity. Cherry Creek is open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, and you can swim from dawn to dark, but be advised that there's no lifeguard on duty, and that children under thirteen must be supervised at all times.
4201 South Parker Road, Aurora, 303-690-1166, http://parks.state.co.us