Summer has only barely begun — and already Denver has been boiled in record heat. This early melting might send many Denverites scurrying for the mountains, but for those not fortunate enough to be able to escape to the cool of the hills, or those simply looking for a lunch hour escape from the midday sun, here’s a guide to Denver’s urban oases — all within walking distance of downtown.
Union Station Wynkoop Plaza Fountains
Where:1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
The Lowdown: A product of the station’s 2014 renovation, the southern portion of Wynkoop Plaza at Union Station contains a large splash pad full of arching fountains. It might not be wise to run gleefully through the fountains during a lunch break, but the rock benches surrounding the splash pad provide a nice space to sit and enjoy the cooling mist of the fountains.
Where:1485 Delgany St., Denver
When: Tuesday – Thursday, 12 p.m – 7 p.m., Friday, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: $8 regular adult admission, $5 after 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday.
The Lowdown: The rooftop balcony at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art offers great views of downtown, and a place to escape the heat. Some of the rooftop is covered, allowing for a shady place to enjoy a craft cocktail or coffee from the MCA’s cafe. Admission to the museum is required, though after 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday adult admission is only $5. It’s the perfect post-work retreat.
17th Street Plaza Mezzanine
Where: 1225 17th St., Denver
The Lowdown: 17th Street Plaza, a skyscraper right in the middle of downtown contains one of the more hidden of Denver’s oases. The second-floor mezzanine, which can be accessed via stairs at the street level, is an open outdoor space with benches, greenery, flowers and even a putting green.
Martin Plaza at the Denver Art Museum
Where: 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy., Denver
The Lowdown: Residing next to the Hamilton Building portion of the Denver Art Museum, Martin Plaza is an airy, beautiful courtyard with plenty of tree shaded-benched seating available. There is also a small amount of green space located to the east of the courtyard, perfect for lunch hour picnicking. This summer, the plaza hosts an outdoor installation, La Musidora. This 20-seat interactive exhibit invites visitors to create music by rocking the colorful chairs that make up the installation.
Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar
Where: 1173 Delaware St., Denver
When: Monday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday, 5 p.m. 10:30 p.m.
The Lowdown: Located in a beautifully renovated old house, Cuba Cuba has been serving delicious Cuban-inspired fare close to downtown for over 15 years. The intimate and quaint alley patio is a great place to lounge secluded from the harsh radiating heat of downtown. The top quality mojitos and dishes such as ceviche and classic Cubanos help bring a little bit of relaxing Havana to summer in the Mile High City.
Sunken Gardens Park
Where: 1099 Speer Blvd., Denver
The Lowdown: This 12 and a half acre park, composed of two triangular sections, runs right alongside Speer Boulevard just south of downtown. The park contains multiple shady shelters, groves of cedar, pine and spruce to lounge under, as well as picnic benches and a basketball court. Its relative unknownness makes the park a lightly-trafficked getaway.
Civic Center: Greek Amphitheater
Where: 101 14th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Civic Center Park is a no-brainer. The large park is full of patrons in the summer making use of the grassy areas and the multitude of trees to escape the heat. If the green areas are all occupied, the Greek Amphitheater that forms the southern portion of the park is a great place to cool down. The marble construction of the amphitheater provides a cool platform to lounge on, and it regularly gets cast in shade.
Where:2250 15th St., Denver
The Lowdown: Denver’s most popular riverfront park, Confluence offers grassy knolls to lounge on, benches to picnic on and water to cool off in. The view of the South Platte rapids and the popularity of the park with the downtown crowd and tourists offer an entertaining break away from the urban hustle.
LoHi Parks: St. Patrick’s, Community Plaza Park, Highland Gateway Park
Where: 3312 N Pecos St., 3250 Osage St., 2533 19th St., Denver
The Lowdown: For those on the other side of the Platte, these three small neighborhood parks, all located near each other in LoHi, offer refuge from the summer heat. Although not stocked full of amenities, all three parks offer shaded seating and green areas for lounging. The parks’ close location to Avanti Food & Beverage makes them the perfect locations for a lunch break picnic.
Where: 1365 Osage St., Denver
When: 11 a.m – 2 p.m., 5 p.m – 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: Long considered one of Denver’s best Japanese restaurants, Domo’s beautiful Japanese garden style patio is a perfect lunch spot located not too far from downtown. Serving up traditional country-style Japanese cooking, Domo’s decor and atmosphere — including a museum on site — make it a slice of refreshing Japanese culture in the heart of Denver.
Benedict Fountain Park
Where:401 E 20th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Offering striking views of the skyline, this intimate yet beautiful park features an ornate fountain and plenty of green space. It’s location, just north of downtown, shields it from most of the bustle and traffic of the city, offering a welcome refuge.