Coloradans love the great outdoors, and the greatest of all outdoor spaces are those that serve fine food and drinks. A gentle breeze, a clear blue sky and a stunning view make a good dinner even better, while having a seat with a view of the city's action makes for an exciting evening out on the town.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the ten best new restaurant patios, beer gardens and rooftop bars in metro Denver, all of which have opened since last summer. Grab a seat at one this Memorial Day weekend to start off this summer right.
For updated picks, see our list of the best Denver restaurant rooftop patios in 2019.
1475 California Street
You may have had a drink at Denver's highest rooftop bar at the tail end of last year; 54Thirty opened on the roof of Le Méridien hotel in September 2017, but it just kicked off its first full patio season this month. Take in the views of downtown around you, backed by the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Enjoy snacks and craft cocktails — and maybe just a touch of vertigo, since the deck is surrounded by nothing but a low glass wall.
1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette
How do you get the best 360-degree view of any bar and restaurant around? You build on a hilltop in the middle of Boulder County countryside. Stem Ciders opened its new cider-making facility and eatery in January, when snow still blanketed the surrounding hills and valleys. But now that things are greening up, the views of the mountains, the prairies, Boulder Valley and everything in between are spectacular — and made even better by a glass of cider in hand.
2706 Larimer Street
The rooftop patio at this new RiNo cocktail bar is a great perch for observing the Larimer Street action while staying above the fray. With a martini or some other house concoction in hand, you can count the number of bicycle-messenger near misses, watch the stragglers prowl for parking spots and calmly observe neighboring bars fill to overflowing as the hour grows late. There's no better seat for views of the street art, people and pace of Denver's hottest neighborhood.
2715 17th Street
Entering through Bamboo Sushi's semi-hidden alley entrance makes you feel like you've discovered a secret. The dimly lit front bar is intimate and inviting, but the izakaya opens up to a sushi bar and spacious dining room, and beyond that, a second-story deck looks out onto one of LoHi's few quiet streets. The patio is zen-like in its minimalist tranquility, with a fireplace on one end and a pergola up above adding dappled light. It's a peaceful retreat for contemplating each bite of seafood or sip of sake.
1023 Walnut Street, Boulder
Boulder's hot new Spanish steakhouse looks down on the Pearl Street Mall from its fourth-story space. The patio extends the experience outdoors with a fire pit and views of the Flatirons, adding drama to an evening already filled with stunningly presented Spanish tapas and flame-kissed beef.
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton
3120 Uinta Street
The wraparound patio at Punch Bowl Social Stapleton may not be as visually stunning as the historic air traffic control tower that rises over it, but it's a landing spot for outdoor fun of every kind (within legal limits, at least). Bocce, cornhole, giant Jenga are available for the restless types, and sun worshipers can crash in lounge chairs of many different configurations. There's even a faux wading pool lined with even faux-er blue turf, with a four-seater paddle boat "floating" on the surface. Two walk-up bars serve up cocktails and draft beers, and on the second floor, the "Moon Deck" provides an intimate, out-of-this world experience after dark.
Poka Lola Social Club
1850 Wazee Street
This retro bar inside the Maven Hotel isn't new, but its outdoor seating just received a considerable extension. Now that The Alley at the Dairy Block is open, Poka Lola drinkers are free to grab their cocktail and wander the cleverly designed outdoor space that's filled with murals, sculptures and other eye-catching art. Who would ever have thought that hanging out in a downtown alley would be such a good idea?
Red Rocks Beer Garden
116 Stone Street, Morrison
Stopping in Morrison before a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre or after a hike or drive through the mountains is a summer rite for Front Range residents, and now there's one more draw in the tiny town. The Red Rocks Beer Garden offers a secluded spot for you, your dog and your family to enjoy a shady table and some Colorado craft beers. There's nothing overblown or fancy about this beer garden, making the fresh mountain air the main attraction.
RiNo Beer Garden
3800 Walnut Street
RiNo Beer Garden opened last fall at the north end of Walnut Street, as the latest project from the founders of Historian Ale House on Broadway, and it boasts what the owners claim is the largest patio in Denver (we'll let them duke it out with Punch Bowl Social for the honor). The whole setup is built for all seasons, with covered areas, fire pits and heaters — all serviced with sixty beer taps inside. While you're quaffing, make sure and order a platter of German nachos — an eye-popping mound of potato chips, sausage, cheese and sauerkraut. We'll say "prost" to that!
1701 Wynkoop Street
Ultreia's patio doesn't have a stunning view of Colorado scenery or outdoor activities to keep you busy. What it does have are great seats for people-watching in front of Union Station. Relax with a sangria or Spanish-style gin tonic, tuck into some tapas and watch the tourists, travelers, business people and downtown denizens rush past. You'll feel like you're on a European vacation, only without the grueling schedule of sight-seeing and navigation unfamiliar seats. Bon voyage on your Denver day-cation!
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.