Ten Thing Natives Should Do Every Summer in Denver

Tour de Fat.
Tour de Fat. Ken Hamblin
Some Denver experiences are iconic, things you must do if you’re a newcomer to this city. But natives appreciate them, too. In fact, the quintessential Colorado events are things you can do over and over again. This is the inside-scoop stuff, the cherry on the top of the living-here sundae. These activities may not be secrets, or even unique to the Queen City of the Plains, but make no mistake: They’re Denver through and through. If you’re a local, consider this a friendly reminder of ten ways to count your blessings.

Film on the Rocks
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison

If you’ve lived in Denver for almost any time at all, chances are good you’ve been to Red Rocks. (And if you haven’t? Go now: Red Rocks Amphitheatre is not just a Denver treasure, but one of the best venues in the world.) But even if you were there when U2 was under the blood-red sky and have been to more Red Rocks concerts than you can count by the wrinkles on your skin, Film on the Rocks never gets old. This year’s edition boasts a killer lineup, from Rogue One and Dirty Dancing to Bridesmaids and Twister. On many Monday nights during the summer, you can catch some live music and standup while the sun goes down, then sit back under the stars as the show begins. It’s another great way to enjoy Colorado’s most legendary venue, and it never gets old.

Tour de Fat
National Western Complex
4655 Humboldt Street

An intoxicating mix (possibly literally!) of alcohol and amusements, bikes and beers, the Tour de Fat has been around for seventeen years in various iterations. Sponsored by New Belgium Brewing and spurred by philanthropic purpose, the festival is ever-growing, always entertaining, and pure Colorado — even if we share the wealth with cities nationwide these days, from Asheville, North Carolina, to Tempe, Arizona. New Belgium’s goal for 2017 is to crest the $5 million mark for money raised for nonprofit partners — and to have a blast (and a few beers) while doing it. Watch for it to roll into town on August 26.

Fireworks Games at Coors Field
20th and Blake streets

Baseball at Coors Field is a must on any Denver summer to-do list. But locals know that there are a handful of special times every season — no matter the league standings — to celebrate MLB, and the Rockies in particular. One is over and done with in April; that’s the citywide party that is Opening Day. But there are a few other days — or nights, to be exact — when you want to be at Coors Field. Around the holidays (July 3 and 4 in 2017), the sky lights up immediately following a Rockies game. If you’re in the right section, you’ll be allowed to go down to the field with a blanket, lie on the grass under the sky and ooh and aah — no matter what the final score was.

Friday Pig Roast at Charlie Brown’s
980 Grant Street

You might go to Charlie Browns solely for the ambience — the wood paneling, the piano bar, the strong pours, the old-world charm. But if you’re there on a Friday night in the summer (that’s June through August), you can enjoy all of the above, as well as a long-time Denver tradition: the pig roast. The food at Charlie Brown’s is always good (as at many places in the heart of the city, Greek is a specialty here), but on these nights, the patio turns into pig-meat heaven. Jump in with both feet — but not literally, because that would be gross and just ruin it for everyone.

click to enlarge Brainard Lake - MATT LEWIS AT FLICKR
Brainard Lake
Matt Lewis at Flickr
Brainard Lake
Just off the Peak-to-Peak Highway
Brainard Lake (Forest Service)

Nestled between Nederland and Lyons, right by the road to the tiny town of Ward, is the turnoff to Brainard Lake, a gorgeous body of water in a glacier-carved valley at just over 10,000 feet. Take the trails and see all the sights the area has to offer; it’s so high that it’s really only accessible in the summer months, when it can still be chilly in the evenings —or even the daytime. If you hike around, you might see snow lingering in the shade here and there, depending on the month. This is one of those Colorado places that only natives or longtime residents know about. So when the rest of the rabble is heading to Rocky Mountain National Park, true Denverites hit the road for Brainard, where they can see the same natural wonder — and far fewer people.

Keep reading for more things natives should do this summer.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen