If Major League Soccer and the Rapids are a little too mainstream for your tastes — that is to say, if you're sick of the deafening 8,000-person crowds, exorbitant five-figure salaries and glamorous cable-access production values — Denver still has you covered. Founded in 2006, FC Denver is the giant of the amateur Colorado Premier League, with four men's teams, a U-19 squad and a new women's team set to begin play this year. The club's top men's team, FC Denver Premier, plays its home games at MSU Denver's Regency Athletic Complex, and tickets are $6 at the gate, with season tickets available for just $20. It's not the highest-quality soccer you can see in Denver on a given weekend, but it may be the most authentic.

fcdenver.org

Best Sports Ticket Value
Flickr/bmyersaz

After a couple of promising seasons that ended just shy of the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets are the real deal in 2019, with a young, talented core led by first-time NBA All-Star Nikola Jokic and a supporting cast that seems to produce a new hero on a nightly basis. Thanks to this breakthrough, the players' appearances at the Pepsi Center have become raucous celebrations where the fun seldom takes a time out. The team store regularly highlights an "Item of the Game" at a deep discount — earlier this season, excellent Nuggets knit hats went for $7 — and giveaways, performances, contests and more take place every time the action stops. Add genius public-address announcer Kyle Speller; Rocky, the top mascot in professional sports; and ticket prices that start as low as $16, and you've got a guaranteed good time no matter the final score.

nba.com/nuggets

Best Annual Sports Event
Brandon Marshall

There's nothing quite like Opening Day in Denver. For baseball fans who've survived a snowy Colorado winter, the grass at Coors Field just looks greener the day of the Rockies' home opener, which is set for April 5 this year. The team ought to be in the thick of the playoff race, so expectations will be high come first pitch. Just be sure to wear an Arenado jersey to show your appreciation for the All Star's re-signing with the Rockies. Batter up!

mlb.com/rockies

Readers' Choice: Rockies Opening Day

Baseball can feel very slow at times. Recognizing the downside to America's pastime, Coors Field turned part of the stadium into a party. The Rooftop allows baseball fans the opportunity to watch a game while moving in and out of three bars high above the field, all for an easy ticket price of $16, which includes $6 in concessions credit. It's best to get there early and claim a spot along the railing for you and your friends to post up; otherwise, you'll be stuck holding your beer the whole time and trying to watch the game through the throng in front of you.

mlb.com/rockies

Chautauqua Park

The jaw-slackening angle on the Flatirons offered by Chautauqua Park helps explain why locals have been drawn to the attraction since 1898, when the city purchased these eighty acres of land. But its location, only a short distance from the University of Colorado, is just as much of a lure for students, who make up a sizable chunk of the crowds that can be found enjoying the park's amenities, including a picnic area, a playground, tennis courts and (in a very Boulder touch) a "Demonstration Garden." Long before recreational marijuana sales were legalized in Colorado, plenty of CU enrollees (and many others) used a certain herb to enhance this experience, and that's continued to this day. It's regularly Colorado's stoniest hike, and we're not talking about the geology.

The Clear Creek Trail in Golden provides the perfect combination of nature walk and urban experience. The city's trail system spans 24 miles, offering alternate access to neighborhoods and open-space areas alike. But the gateway to the system is just steps from Golden's downtown, giving folks an opportunity to stroll along a waterway that, during warm weather months in particular, seems to be constantly bustling with activity. Kayakers are able to practice their moves a short distance from shallow areas where families congregate to get wet and cool off. Strollers can eyeball displays in the Clear Creek History Park, too, and parking is a snap, with free lots nearby. It's a perfect capsule of everything that's great about living in Colorado.

cityofgolden.net

Dog parks are all about location, location, location — and that's the reason Fuller Dog Park has become so popular of late. Set at 2801 Williams Street, near Manual High School, it's a small slice of pooch heaven in the rapidly changing Whittier neighborhood, where the canine population is growing almost as quickly as the human kind. Next to the appropriately named Fuller Park, long a favorite of children (and parents) who live in the area, the dog zone is modest in size but still offers enough space for four-legged visitors to race up and down hills, interact with mutts and pure breeds alike, and even take a break when all the excitement leaves them overstimulated. In a part of town where a lot of young people with pets might not have access to a back yard, Fuller Dog Park is a godsend.

Readers' Choice: Cherry Creek Reservoir

Coloradans are known to take their dogs everywhere — even on potentially dangerous adventures. After experiencing a serious accident with his dog in the backcountry, Paul Hoskinson was determined to create a lightweight device that could carry an injured pup without too much difficulty for its owner. Enter the Fido Pro Airlift, a light, packable, hammock-style backpack meant to carry a dog to safety if it's injured during backcountry adventuring. The Airlift distributes weight evenly through the frame (which includes four leg holes) so larger dogs won't weigh you down, and the shoulder and chest straps help you get your dog to safety as quickly and as comfortably as possible.

fidoprotection.com

Located just thirty miles from Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an oasis of Rocky Mountain nature porn: aspen-rimmed meadows, verdant forests, jagged peaks, all crisscrossed by a well-maintained network of hiking trails. Also inside the park are two large campgrounds — Reverend's Ridge and Aspen Meadows — with scores of tent sites (and even a handful of yurts and cabins), allowing for multi-day escapes from Denver's concrete jungle. While you won't reach the level of isolation you'd find by backpacking farther out, Golden Gate Canyon is still a great option for car campers who want a break from the bustle of the city without having to drive too far. Reservations get snapped up quickly here, so book early.

Roxborough State Park
Flickr/Amarnath

An easy half-hour drive from downtown Denver, Roxborough State Park offers 4,000 acres of Colorado at its most gorgeous, replete with red-rock formations, a wide range of flora and fauna, and opportunities to spot wildlife such as mule deer and even black bears. As a bonus, the park's trail system has much to offer hikers of all ages and skill levels. The five-mile Fountain Valley Overlook provides a lovely way to view the Dakota Hogback without working up too much of a sweat. Meanwhile, the Fountain Valley Trail, the Lyons Overlook Trail, the South Rim Trail and the Willow Creek Trail — all three miles or less — are a bit more challenging, but shouldn't overwhelm the average person interested in spotting birds, including the occasional golden eagle. Carpenter Peak, a 6.4-mile round trip, steps up the difficulty with moderately steeper terrain, but rewards those who make the journey with some of the most spectacular views available near the metro area.

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