Bad parking lots can turn even the most mild-mannered people into asphalt-hungry psychopaths. In an attempt to encourage alternative modes of transportation and give us all conversation space for cathartic relief, we've assembled a top-ten list of the worst parking lots and parking structures in Denver – and some tips on how to avoid them if you can.
1. The Source
The front parking lot of this popular artisan food market is still unpaved and riddled with potholes you must endure to get to the actual parking lot – which has a steep gravel ramp as an entryway. The parking garage isn't connected to the Source, so visitors have to walk along the same ramp cars take in order to get out of the garage. The ramps have orange plastic barriers to shield pedestrians from cars, but that just means there's only about a lane and a half for cars coming from both directions. We secretly think that this is a Hunger Games-style obstacle course in which the loser is buried in a pothole. Instead of driving, Uber or Lyft – but don't ride your bike. Braving this parking lot is safer than riding two wheels down Brighton Boulevard.
2. Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Parking at Red Rocks is easy enough if you give yourself some time — plus, it's free. What's bad is getting out. If you leave at the very end of a show, you could sit in traffic for a half hour, maybe an hour, before you even make it to the main road. Lyft or Uber will take just as much time (though you can drink and...whatever...as much as your little heart desires while stuck in traffic, unless your driver objects). If you're driving, take our social-media editor's advice: Park in a lower lot, walk up the nature path (be sure to have a flashlight or a fully charged phone handy, as the path is unlit) and take the stairs, not the ramp, to the venue. Leaving the show even just a minute before the end will save you from wasting away in traffic.
3. Cherry Creek Shopping Center
The parking structures at this mall are always a little confusing and often full, but they're not terrible. What landed the mall's parking garages on our list is the fact that, come January, patrons who plan on shopping for more than an hour will have to pay to park. That's truly awful.
4. Whole Foods Cherry Creek
While just about any Whole Foods could have made this list, the lot of the Whole Foods in Cherry Creek is often hell on earth. During weekdays it's not so bad, but on weekends and at 5 p.m. any day, you're likely to find a Cherry Creek mom trading her first-born (Reginald, seven, fluent in Mandarin) for a spot. Avoid the surface lot altogether and utilize the oft-forgotten parking structure next to the store.
5. King Soopers in Capitol Hill
At least the parking lot at Whole Foods Cherry Creek is a self-contained shit show. The parking lot at this King Soopers backs up traffic on Corona Street, where you're usually left waiting for a spot to open up in the lot or behind the guy waiting for that spot. Either way, you're stuck.
Keep reading for more bad parking lots.
6. Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
As any parent can tell you, this parking lot just doesn't make any sense. To drop anyone off, you must go all the way into the parking lot before you can get out. So instead, dump your kid with his friends' parents, get a beer on the roof of Ale House at Amato's, and watch all the poor schmucks suffer from a distance.
7. Surface lot at 18th and Market streets
Not only was one of our photographer's cars shot at in this lot, but back in 2010, Alan Prendergast dedicated an entire feature story to the nefarious activity that occurs here, especially when bars let out: “In the view of several veteran police officers, for years the lot was the single-worst place to be when the clubs let out on a weekend or a drinking holiday, the most dangerous block in all of LoDo — a scene of beer-sodden fights, random gun play and gang assaults both calculated and spontaneous.”
8. Colorado Convention Center
Every time a bumper skids along the narrow corkscrew ramps in this parking lot, an angel earns her wings.
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9. Denver Performing Arts Complex
The parking lot for the Denver Performing Arts Complex has held up remarkably well over the decades, even allowing you to reserve a spot in advance. What hasn't kept pace, though, is the system for letting cars in and out at peak performance times. And if you happen to have attended a breakfast meeting at the Seawell Ballroom, you can count on being late for lunch while you wait to pay your ticket and exit the lot.
10. Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport has plenty of parking...but where is it? Between all the construction projects and inexplicably heavy travel days, you can find yourself locked out of assorted levels of close-in parking, blocked from even the double-letter rows of Pikes Peak and sent around and around to the mysterious Mt. Elbert lot. One solution? Take the A Line from Union Station...but no parking there, of course.