Colorado is known more for skiing than swimming, more for pot than pools, but there are still plenty of places across the state where you can submerge yourself this summer. Whether you're a water sports novice or an underwater expert, looking to beat the heat or settle in for a hot, steamy soak, here are ten places you won't want to miss.
Carla Madison Recreation Center
2401 East Colfax Avenue
Denver's newest and flashiest rec center has it all when it comes to fitness, and it didn't skimp on pools, either. Yes, it has two: an eight-lane lap pool for serious swimmers, and a leisure pool with a giant water slide, splash area and lazy river, just the thing for wearing out kids on a long, hot afternoon. And with drop-in rates of just $6, discounts for monthly and annual memberships, and discounts for MY Denver Card and MY Denver PRIME Card holders, it's the cheapest way to get wet in the Mile High City.
Cherry Creek State Park
4201 South Parker Road, Aurora
For people who prefer the open water — or as close to it as we get in our landlocked state — there are a handful of state parks around the metro area with swimming beaches. With the swim beach at Chatfield State Park closed this summer because of construction, we'll be hitting its eastern counterpart, Cherry Creek State Park. The water is roped off here, so swimmers don't have to guess when they might run afoul of a boat, jet-ski or sailboard.
1111 14th Street
Anyone with champagne tastes on a champagne budget will want to take advantage of the Four Seasons' Urban Oasis Pool Pass at least once. From Monday through Thursday during the summer months, non-hotel guests can lounge on the third-floor terrace and soak up the sun between dips in the heated, fifty-foot pool. And while the price tag on this venture isn't exactly small — it starts at $150 for pool access, though we recommend ponying up $200 for access to the locker rooms, a steam room and $50 in food and valet credits — it's cheaper than booking a room, which will run you upwards of $300.
Mount Princeton Hot Springs
15870 County Road 162, Nathrop
If you're heading southwest of Denver this summer — or any time of year, really — take a detour from your road trip and loosen up those muscles at one of Mount Princeton's numerous mineral pools. There's an adults-only spa pool, a 400-foot water slide emptying into the upper lagoon, an exercise pool and a historic bathhouse, plus two sets of hot springs pools. If you visit outside of spring runoff, you can settle into one of the creekside pools constructed directly in Chalk Creek that spike at 120 degrees. Think about spending a night or two — just to make sure all your soaking options have been thoroughly evaluated.
Orvis Hot Springs
1585 County Road 3, Ridgway
Pools and hot springs are the easiest way to placate bored kids during the summer; put just about any child in a pool and they'll happily shriek and splash for hours. So what's a hot springs lover who doesn't love kids to do? Drive 280 miles to Ridgway. While Orvis does allow children, its clothing-optional policy almost guarantees that you'll only encounter adults marinating in these mineral waters. Choose from three indoor and five outdoor pools — including a smoker's pond — surrounded by stunning (ahem) natural scenery.
Pirates Cove Water Park
1225 West Belleview, Englewood
If you want more attractions than just a single water slide and a few swim lanes but can't bear the sensory (and financial) overload that is Water World, Pirates Cove may be just your speed. Adult admission tops out at $15, and while there's plenty of fun to be had (including a 750-gallon dump bucket above the leisure pool, four water slides and a sandy beach for kids who are future architects instead of aspiring Katie Ledeckys), the Cove is significantly smaller, mellower and easier to navigate for overstimulated kids and adults alike.
Puddle Jumper Pool
2401 Xenia Street
If you've got an ankle-biter, the best place for him or her to learn how to take the water is the Puddle Jumper. This Stapleton swimming pool is especially designed for young and beginner swimmers. It can be tough out there for a water baby, what with the other kids knocking you over into scary, too-deep water and glaring adults who don't appreciate the childlike wonders of splashing water and squealing at the top of your lungs. This zero-entry pool was designed with all that in mind: It boasts splash fountains and pads, bubblers and a dry-land playground for water-shy tykes. Just don't think too hard about what's in the water.
Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center
350 South Dahlia Street
The swimming pools at the spanking-new JCC Aquatics Center are perfect even when it's cool out; both the inside and outdoor pools are heated to a cozy eighty degrees or above, so they're comfortable whether you always run cold or want to keep your muscles nice and loose during your water workout. There are plenty of classes to choose from, too; both low- and high-impact workouts are on the schedule, which also boasts expansive lap-swim hours. A summer-only membership gets you access to JCC's fitness center, and — bonus — you'll emerge from the saltwater pools with perfect beachy waves in your hair.
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Union Station Fountains
Wynkoop Plaza is the perfect place for people who dislike swimming pools to get wet. The bubblers erupting from the plaza from May through September delight children of all ages, water-loving dogs and the occasional adult trying to cool down (or just get a quick shower after a long, long night). Parents who prefer to supervise rather than swim can settle in on one of the many restaurant patios surrounding the plaza for a bite and a drink while the kids try to figure out which geyser will go off next and passersby get a laugh out of the little ones' fountain antics.
8801 Pecos Street, Federal Heights
For the ultimate water park death march, there's no competition. Water World has over 35 attractions — including a roller coaster/water-slide mashup dubbed a "hydromagnetic watercoaster," water slides that drop off faster than Lombard Street, a wave pool and a gondola — as well as two gift shops and twelve restaurants. It even boasts an all-you-can-eat buffet (surely the least likely food concept at a place where diners spend all day in swimwear and hurtling down thrill rides). It's crowded, it's over the top, it's a guaranteed sunburn and it's a Colorado classic; you've got to go at least once this summer.