Best Sports Bar for Food and Drink 2015 | Highland Tap & Burger | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

When Highland Tap & Burger opened in September 2010, it was a sports lover's secret spot for catching a game. Not only could you walk in and grab a seat at the bar (where there are five TVs alone) or a table without a hassle, but the staff was more than willing to tune in to whichever obscure sporting event you were searching for. But word soon got out about the Tap's top-notch burgers, sinful bacon-topped mac and cheese, and standout smoky Stranahan's wings with a sticky, crackling glaze perfect for nibbling on with one of the bar's many local beers. These days, the joint is always hopping, and often too crowded for people who like to watch games in relative quiet — but for most fans, that crowd just means more friends to help you cheer on the home team. There may be better bars for watching a pitcher's every move or capturing the hushed whisper of the Masters at Augusta, but you won't find a better menu at any of this town's other sports-crazed bars.

Readers' choice: Highland Tap & Burger

There is no place in this state quite like Lakeside Amusement Park. On a perfect Colorado summer evening, a stroll through the grounds reveals a gathering place shaded by mature trees and lit by thousands of twinkling bulbs, all accentuated by the sounds of the rattling Cyclone roller coaster and a chorus of happy screams and hollers. The turn-of-the-century amusement park wears its age well and with pride. From Victorian-era buildings to the art-deco additions of the '30s, Lakeside is just as much a place for fun as it is a home for those who appreciate beautiful historic architecture.

As the snow melts, Vail's Adventure Ridge swaps out tubing, ski biking and a kids' snowmobile course for zipline tours, a climbing wall, a primo disc-golf course and other activities. The best of these is a pair of ropes challenge courses. You'll start with a ground-school lesson to make sure you know how to operate the can't-fall, can't-fail harness system, then spend thirty minutes up in the air on the North Course or sixty minutes on the more challenging South Course, quivering in that harness as you attempt to traverse a series of increasingly difficult obstacles. Don't sweat it when some adventurous little girl shows you up. Happens all the time.

With their name and image plastered on everything from T-shirts to car dealerships to street signs, it's easy to forget that the Flatirons are more than just a cool logo. But they're definitely real: majestic slabs of sandstone, punching up a thousand feet or more out of the ground just a scant few miles from Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. The best way to properly appreciate them is to rope up and scale one of the formation's many moderate lines, like the Direct Route on the First Flatiron. Climbing the Flatirons is far from a wilderness experience: The parking lot at Chautauqua Park is packed with dog walkers and hikers shortly after sunrise, and on game days you can watch instant replays on Folsom Field's jumbotron from halfway up the face. But convenience has its benefits: When you're done, you can hike straight off the summit and into the Chautauqua Dining Hall for a post-climb drink.

It may be rimmed by concrete and smell like feet on its best days, but for city-bound kayakers, Confluence Park is the best place outside of a swimming pool to sneak in an hour or two of after-work paddling. The park is located in the shadow of REI's flagship store, where Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River, and the water's waves and eddies give paddlers a convenient way to practice the basics before striking out on wilder rivers like the Arkansas or the Animas. Confluence Kayaks, located on Platte Street just a block and change from the park, offers beginner lessons in the water for $149 a pop, equipment included.

Carol and Punch Bohn, son of legendary boxer Eddie Bohn, run Lake Carol Anne, a private fishing enclave in north Denver. Fishing is belly-boating only, and membership is limited to a hundred — but those lucky fishermen can catch (and release) big bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill and brown, rainbow, brook and tiger trout — including the biggest tiger trout ever caught in Colorado. Joe Petrow's catch landed on the cover of a magazine, which brought him to the attention of the state and earned him a thirty-day license suspension, but he got to keep the bragging rights...and avoided a $1,000 penalty.

5880 Lowell Blvd.

Best Place for Kids to Commune With Nature in the City

Mordecai Children's Garden

Brandon Marshall

Denver Botanic Gardens offers one of the finest examples of nature play around. That's because naturalists used indigenous species, alpine plants and tons of natural materials to craft a legit mountain experience for kids and their families at its Mordecai Children's Garden. The highlight is Springmelt Stream, where children can dam things up with logs, skip stones and surmount rocks to their heart's content. Little ones can meander downhill to Chipotle Homes Harvest Garden — just beyond Pipsqueak Pond — then get elevated at Marmot Mountain, which features a rickety bridge, a picnic nook and furry friends. Because the environment is constantly changing, no two visits to this magical three-acre oasis are ever alike.

The Berrypicker trail out of Vail will get you into Colorado's famed scenery quickly as it heads straight up the mountain — the same one you ski in the winter — from either Vail Village or Lionshead. Named for the wild berries that grow alongside it, Berrypicker runs by streams, aspen trees, wildflowers and the occasional moose. But it's so close to town that hikers also have excellent cell reception, allowing them to make reservations — try Mountain Standard for a burger and a craft beer — on their descent. The trail is short but challenging, so you'll be hungry.

Boulder is full of good hikes and great beer, but there's one combination that stands above the others. Perhaps one of the most well-known trails in the area, the Mount Sanitas loop is a rugged three-mile hike that will take you to the rocky top of the 6,843-foot peak. From there, you'll have great views of the surrounding area, and you can pretend to make out Sanitas Brewing off in the distance. You'll certainly be thinking about a delicious saison or a black IPA by the time you and your sore knees get to the bottom. And from the patio of the brewery, you'll be able to gaze up at the peak where you just were.

Mark Antonation

Globeville Landing Park, at 38th Street and Arkins Court, is home to the only disc-golf course within the Denver city limits, and although it's small and a little rough, it has its charms. Don't own any discs? Hop on the Platte River Greenway or the Cherry Creek Trail and ride to REI to pick some up, then head to the park. The tees are hard to see, so you may want to find a course map online first. After playing nine holes, get back on your bike and ride carefully down 38th and over the bridge to Walnut Street, then walk in the welcoming red door at Black Shirt Brewing. At the brewery, which specializes in beautifully crafted, hoppy red beers, you're likely to find a saison or a porter to help quench that recreational thirst.

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