Best Sports League 2019 | Play Mile High | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

For more casual athletes, sports leagues offer the opportunity to make new friends and sweat a little. But for more competitive participants, they're about winning — and nothing else. If you're somewhere in between, Play Mile High is the perfect league. It offers indoor and outdoor sports and more than 700 mostly coed teams that get into everything from soccer to beer-in-hand kickball. Players never get too serious, but sweat will definitely pour, and after each game, teammates usually meet at a bar to decompress over cold drinks and food. A percentage of the league's registration fee goes toward free sporting events for kids.

Readers' Choice: Edge Old Time Hockey League

Flickr/Jeffrey Beall

We may have great parks in virtually every neighborhood across our city, but it's Washington Park that Denverites flock to. Built in 1899, this green space, lake included, shares its wealth with the community in the form of a recreation center, playgrounds, fields, basketball courts and even a boathouse that can be rented for special occasions. But it's the park's 2.3-mile loop that gets the most action. No matter the season, outdoorsy folks find ways to walk, bike, rollerblade (or roller skate, depending on what era Denverite you are) and even roller-ski around this city meadow. Rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard and circle Smith Lake, take a ride on a cycle-carriage with friends, prep for a big bike race or take a leisurely stroll with your dog. Whatever your fitness fancy, Wash Park is the place to be.

The Westwood neighborhood found a way to do a lot with a little when its namesake green space received a mighty million-dollar makeover last year. Though small, the area now offers a town-square-like concrete pavilion for community performances and a covered area with beautiful wrought-iron detailing that reflects the area's Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. The park also received sturdy fitness equipment promoting cardiovascular exercise and strength training for any skill level, all connected by a walking trail that lines the area. And there's still plenty of green space for a game of soccer, along with a traditional playground with slides, swings and a jungle gym, plus shady areas for picnics. But the most unique aspect of Westwood Park is its "natural" playground, an area of preserved tree trunks, rocks and sand that surrounds a water pump, creating the perfect way to cool down in the summer.

Imagine what the set of Peter Pan would look like as a playground, and you have this charming Westminster spot. The London Bridge rises next to the Lost Boys rock tower, which is situated near Captain Hook's pirate ship. In the summer, waterfalls pour cool water into a miniature stream, and jets shoot water around the splash pad. Green grass and trees make for comfortable lounging and running about, and a shaded picnic area is great for those days when you want to stay outside for hours. You don't ever have to grow up at Peter Pan Playground; the only thing missing is pixie dust to make you fly.

Molly Martin

Candlelight Tavern might seem like a modest establishment near the heart of the Washington Park neighborhood, but it has a secret: Just to the left upon entering the dark and cozy little bar awaits a high-quality, often completely vacant shuffleboard court. Add in the cheap food and drink deals, a collection of loyal regulars and a few televisions showing the most important game of the day, and you can pursue shuffleboard glory until the Banquet keg runs dry...or succumb to defeat.

Best New Pool Hall That Feels Like an Old Pool Hall

Gerard's Pool Hall

In the growing divide that is Old Denver versus New Denver, Gerard's Pool Hall occupies a welcome space somewhere in the middle. From its sneaky back-alley entrance to its dark, wainscoted walls, this billiards room has a distinctly throwback feel — and it opened less than two years ago. The high ceilings and low-slung barn lighting that hovers over felted tables feel plucked from a Denver gone by, when mining-themed establishments and Wild West vibes were all the rage. If you want to sit and enjoy the action from above, Gerard's loft bar provides an excellent perch, with bar stools and a comfy hotel-lobby-style couch for seating. Shakespeare's may never rise from the dead, but Gerard's Pool Hall could be the next best thing.

A lot of sports bars in Denver give customers a chance to participate in games rather than simply eyeball them. But the Blake Street Tavern takes the concept to a different level: the basement. Dubbed Underground Social, the space is crammed with arcade games, board games of normal dimensions and supersized ones (such as Giant Jenga and Giant Connect 4), Pop-A-Shot basketball, Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, cornhole, pool tables, ping-pong and, of course, beer pong — and it's all contained in a brick-lined setting that's like a fantasy clubhouse for grownups. Upstairs, the Blake Street Tavern has plenty going for it, especially when it comes to people who want to pre-game before heading to a Rockies game at nearby Coors Field. But there are definitely advantages for those who want to go Underground.

Readers' Choice: Blake Street Tavern

Molly Martin

Stoney's may be known as one of the best places in the city to watch Broncos games, but the venue doesn't limit its loyalty to the orange and blue. The enormous joint boasts TVs aplenty (31 HD sets plus two 120-inch projection screens) in a slew of interconnecting rooms, offering opportunities to watch contests of many different kinds — and its website encourages variety by way of a function that allows visitors to click on different dates to see everything that's being telecast when they plan to visit. It's a great place for trivia, too, and has a solid, tasty menu and first-rate happy-hour deals. Just as important, the staff is consistently efficient and professional, even when everyone is losing their mind over a last-minute touchdown or buzzer-beating bucket.

Readers' Choice: Blake Street Tavern

Evan Semón

It's Open Championship Sunday. You need to soak in every minute of coverage, but you know that if you watch from home, there's a good chance that you'll fall asleep on the couch before the leaders tee off. A bar is the obvious solution, but spending six-plus hours at one can be taxing, both on your lower back (all that standing!) and on your wallet. Enter the Dive Inn, a nautically themed Platt Park tavern with inexpensive drinks, a plethora of televisions and an honest-to-God dry-docked boat. Reserve the boat for yourself and your crew, throw on a life jacket (provided by the bar) and utilize the abundance of bar games (table tennis, foosball, pool, cornhole) and the $3.25 well cocktails or $11 pitchers of house beer to pace out a slow afternoon watching one of golf's majors or an all-day March Madness marathon.

When it comes to dining in a sports bar, the key is offering something that fans can't get at home — otherwise, we might as well just stay in our jammie pants. West End Tap House gets big points for its addictive menu of "smalls," including not only the mac and cheese that was a past Best of Denver winner, but also finger-licking-good snacks, such as "lambsicles" with caramelized fat bits, and mind-blowing funnel-cake fries dusted with powdered sugar. And it doesn't end at food: The Tap House offers creative cocktails, more than a dozen beers on tap and three dozen more in bottles or cans (including gluten-free brews and ciders), and even vino from a surprisingly intriguing list. Even with the crucial TVs visible from every vantage point, the space is groovy and inviting.

Readers' Choice: Blake Street Tavern

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