Patio season has finally begun in Denver. Despite a snowy and rainy spring, it's now time to get out there and enjoy drinks in the sun in neighborhoods across the metro area. Here are our recommendations for the best neighborhood bars in ten different categories of patio, whether you're looking for a great view, fun activities or just a quiet place to chill with your pooch.
Best Patios With a View
Everyone loves a patio with a beautiful view, but finding one without expensive drinks or pretentious downtown attitudes can be difficult. The patios of many neighborhood bars, especially in the suburbs, offer views of little more than parking lots, strip malls or rows of identical houses. But for sweeping scenery and a comfortable patio, the Lakeview Lounge, at 2375 Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater, stands out for its view of Sloan's Lake and the Denver skyline. You can enjoy this spot at sunrise or sunset, because the Lakeview opens for the bleary-eyed at 7 a.m. For a panorama of the city and the Rocky Mountains, hit the patio at Jay's Grille and Bar, at 7820 Washington Street in the northern community of Welby. The spacious second-floor patio looks south over Denver, and Jay's offers extensive brunch, lunch and dinner menus to go along with the inexpensive drinks and panoramic vistas.
Best Patios for Meeting Your Neighbors
If you like a patio that gets you up close and personal with neighbors, friends or even passersby on the sidewalk, the socializing and people-watching is at its best on colorful Colfax. Enjoy the lively and sometimes strange scenes on the patios at Kinga's Lounge (1509 Marion Street), the Irish Snug (1201 East Colfax Avenue) or the Squire Lounge (1800 East Colfax Avenue). In the Baker neighborhood, SoBo 151 Bar and Grill (151 South Broadway) and Atomic Cowboy's south Denver location (141 South Broadway) put you right in the mix. Kinga's and SoBo 151 also specialize in Polish and Czech food and drinks, respectively, offering a taste of Eastern Europe to go with the nightlife. And the Squire is, well, the Squire — full of cheap drinks and weirdos, with live music or comedy thrown in. As the tagline on the website says: "Drinks. Music. Colfax."
Best Patios for Watching Television
For some folks, drinking al fresco is best when the location is just an extension of the bar's indoor area. You crave the cool night air but still want good service, a big menu of bar food and, most important, televised sports. The covered outdoor area at Challengers, 12161 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora, is open year-round and full of big screens and Denver sports fans. Charlie Brown's Bar and Grill, at 980 Grant Street, has a covered and heated patio, which is welcoming during football season, and comes complete with touchdown Jell-O shots when the Broncos score. A note for the smoke-sensitive: This is one of Denver's prime patios for smokers, but there are plenty of fans to keep the air moving.
Best Patios for Games
Indoor bar games get us through the winter, but games on the patio make us feel a little more sporty, as we sip a drink from one hand and toss a beanbag with the other. For ping-pong and cornhole on a maze-like patio with designated nooks and crannies for each game, visit Local 46, at 4586 Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood. There's also a frozé machine at the outdoor bar and fire pits to keep you warm after dark. For a full-on sports experience with volleyball leagues or drop-in play, plus beer pong and cornhole, look no further than Gibby's Big Backyard, at 1555 South Havana Street in Aurora. And Milo's Sports Tavern, 6495 East Evans Avenue in Virginia Village, has a covered patio where you can smoke and play Skee-Ball and arcade games year-round, plus leather couches to make for luxurious patio seating — not at all like the couch on the porch of the house you rented in college.
Best Patios for Street Art
For beautiful patios filled with street art (great as a backdrop for your Instagram photos), art enthusiasts should make a beeline past the bar and onto the back patio at the Brutal Poodle, at 1967 South Broadway, or the Matchbox, at 2625 Larimer Street. Local artists show their best stuff at the Matchbox, where murals change every year as part of the Crush Walls art festival. At the Brutal Poodle, live music hits the stage on the back patio when the weather's warm, and the wall designs change on a monthly basis, so it's rarely the same place twice.
Best Secret Patios