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
Sometimes a patio can be a great hideaway for a hot Tinder date or a quiet conversation with friends — or it can be a hiding place from your Tinder date or friends. We don't judge. For a secluded patio, try the Hornet, at 76 Broadway, or Hanson's Grill & Tavern, at 1301 South Pearl Street in Platt Park. Both places also have big menus to accommodate a variety of tastes. For those looking for a grittier secret patio option, Don's Club Tavern, 723 East Sixth Avenue, or the Zephyr Lounge, 11940 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, are the places to be. You can get your patio drink bright and early at the Zephyr, which opens at 9 a.m. daily.
Best Rooftop Patios
There's nothing like a cold beer on a rooftop patio. We recommend the large outdoor space atop the Irish Rover, at 54 South Broadway, or the charming upstairs patio at the Fainting Goat, farther north at 846 Broadway. Outdoor seating at the Goat offers a view of trees adorned with bras from rowdy parties past. In Capitol Hill, the Park Tavern & Restaurant, at 931 East 11th Avenue, added a rooftop patio two years ago, giving longtime fans something new to love at a bar that has served the neighborhood for more than twenty years.
Best Dog-Friendly Patios
If your furry friends are ready to mix and mingle after a long winter, they can come with you to the small but friendly dog patio at the Jefferson Park Pub, 2445 Eliot Street, in the neighborhood of the same name. The Dive Inn's patio, at 1380 South Broadway, is also all about doggy fun. The bar even hosts a "Dog Days of the Dive Inn" summer party, where pets are invited and the Denver Dumb Friends League, the event's beneficiary, has pups available for adoption. Up the dog-to-human ratio even further with happy hour at the Watering Bowl, 5411 Leetsdale Drive, a neighborhood bar that's essentially a dog park with a few extra amenities for humans.
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Best Patios for Island Vibes
Denver might be a geographical far cry from a beach vacation, but some neighborhood spots can take you to an island paradise — with a little imagination — thanks to their festive, tiki-style patios. Li'l Devils, 255 South Broadway, and Hidden Idol at Southside Bar and Kitchen, 3014 East Colfax Avenue, raise island decor to the next level on their tropical-themed patios. Li'l Devils is a gay bar that welcomes everyone in the neighborhood and is known for amazing holiday decorations and celebrations. Hidden Idol also goes full tiki when it comes to the drink menu, enticing those with a taste for the Tropics.
Best Foothills Patios
For a mountain-bar experience within easy distance of downtown, visit the patio at Wrigley's Chicago Bar and Grill, 18200 West Colfax Avenue in Golden, or try out the new outdoor seating at the Morrison Holiday Bar, 403 Bear Creek Avenue in Morrison, which is now ready for open-air drinking. At Wrigley's, you can enjoy Chicago-style food and live music on the wooden deck, complete with a view of the surrounding hills. Or stop in at the Holiday Bar during a Red Rocks show and listen to the music coming from the venue for free.