city park pavilion denver skyline

The original version of Denver’s Spanish-style City Park Pavilion was completed in 1882 as part of the City Beautiful movement. It’s been updated several times since then and now hosts a variety of events, including a free weekly summer concert series.

What to Do in Denver: NCSL Staff Picks

By NCSL Staff | July 28, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

Need a breather between sessions at the Summit? Denver offers plenty of diversions, whether you want to find a souvenir to take home, have a meal or just soak up some Colorado sunshine.

NCSL staffers are here to help, with several suggestions below, all of them just a short distance from the Colorado Convention Center.

For a more complete roundup of hikes, tours, eateries and outings, pick up a copy of NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, which is available at the convention center during the Summit. The special summer edition is devoted to the Summit and includes a list of “Places Political People Love” in which the state’s lawmakers, staffers and public policy leaders share their top picks on what to do and where to eat and drink. There’s also a roundup of downtown Denver’s public art and art venues.

In the meantime, get started with our staff suggestions—and enjoy your visit to the Mile High City!

Outdoor and Retail Options

milkbox ice creamery denver
Milkbox Ice Creamery: great selection,
friendly service.
City Park Jazz Concert

If you’ll be in town on Sunday, July 31, join thousands of locals at the City Park Jazz Concert, from 6 to 8 p.m. This free, ongoing summer event features food trucks, that abundant Colorado sunshine and different, mostly Denver-based entertainers every week. This week it’s the Jakarta Band. You’ll have to Uber/Lyft the 2.5 miles from downtown to City Park, but you’re likely to see some NCSL staff who live nearby in attendance. 2001 Colorado Blvd.; closes 11 p.m. daily.

—Megan MacKenzie

Confluence Park

The hub of Denver’s acclaimed bike trail system, where the South Platte and Cherry Creek trails converge at the western edge of downtown. Rent a bike (shareable bikes/scooters are allowed but some private e-bikes/scooters are not) and jump on either trail for a gentle ride without ever crossing a street. Head southeast all the way to Cherry Creek Reservoir, north to where the South Platte River opens wide or south to Chatfield State Park. Or just relax on the benches and watch folks fishing and kayaking and dogs frolicking in the water. There’s an REI store and a Starbucks on the west side of the Platte and sometimes a hot dog cart on the east side. 2250 15th St.; closes 11 p.m. daily.

—Mark Wolf

The Mall Bus

The electric buses run every few minutes up and down the 16th Street Mall. They’re free, stop at every block for easy off-and-on, and make for a great way to see all the mall has to offer. Route is from Civic Center station across the street from the Capitol to Union Station. (There’s currently a two-block detour in the middle of the route to accommodate renovations.) Bring the kids? They can splash in the wading pool outside Union Station. Usual hours 5 a.m.-1 a.m.; approximately every light cycle during rush hours (6-9 a.m., 4-6 p.m.); every 3-15 minutes other times.

—Mark Wolf

Rockmount Ranch Wear

Cowboy up. If you return home from Summit sporting your new Western shirt and it’s not a snap-button model from Rockmount Ranch Wear, you’ve missed the point. Kevin Costner wears them, so did a model in a fashion spread in French Vogue along with countless musicians and rodeo cowboys. The legendary Papa Jack Weir invented the snap-button shirt in 1948 and his grandson Steve is the CEO. 1626 Wazee St., right off the 16th Street Mall; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

—Mark Wolf 

Food and Drink

Barolo Grill 

For one of the finer dining experiences in Denver, I always recommend Barolo Grill. It’s not cheap, but the food, wine and service are always at the highest standards. Located in the Congress Park neighborhood away from the bustle of downtown, Barolo’s atmosphere always makes me feel at home. Management takes staff on an annual summer trip to Italy so they can learn about the country’s approach to food and wine. 3030 E. Sixth Ave.; 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, till 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

—Gene Rose

Milkbox Ice Creamery

A trip to Denver’s Union Station, less than a mile from the Colorado Convention Center, is worth your time. But I can’t leave without a stop at the small corner shop that sells some of the best ice cream in Denver. Milkbox Ice Creamery offers great selection of flavors and vegan options. If you buy a shake, you can get it with some adult flavorings. 1701 Wynkoop St.; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, till 8 p.m. weekends. 

—Gene Rose

my brother's bar patio
The patio at My Brother’s Bar.
My Brother’s Bar

Get a taste of old-school Denver at this unpretentious burger joint with a wonderful, tree-shaded back patio. Located near Confluence Park at the corner of 15th and Platte streets, it’s reputed to be the oldest bar in Denver, serving fine beers and spirits since 1873. Legend has it that Jack Kerouac and Denver native son Neal Cassady spent time bellying up to the bar. 2376 15th St.; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.

—Doug Shinkle

Prohibition 

Lobbyists, lawmakers and Cubs fans abound at Prohibition, an everybody-knows-your-name style gastropub just four blocks from Colorado’s Capitol. Owner Jimmy Callahan might be in the kitchen. Outdoor tables for taking in Capitol Hill’s urban-core landscape. Pro tip: Start with the Mexican street corn, then segue to an oversized sandwich (hard to beat the pastrami, which comes from Denver’s River Bear American Meats) paired with something from the strong selection of spirits. A favorite pre- and post-show spot for folks attending concerts at the nearby Ogden and Fillmore venues. 504 E. Colfax Ave.; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. 

—Mark Wolf

Rio Grande Margaritas

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant is famous for one thing: margaritas! These delightful and refreshing frozen (or on the rocks) concoctions are wonderful on a sunny August day for anyone, but especially for margarita lovers. But be careful, these delicious cocktails pack a punch. In fact, there’s a three-margarita limit for patrons. Choose from traditional, strawberry, mango or jalapeno—and whatever you do, don’t forget the salt! Five Colorado locations, but you want the one downtown. 1745 Wazee St.; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, till 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday.

—Anne Teigen

Voodoo Doughnut

Good things come in pink boxes and my daughter and I enjoy doughnut dates here on the weekends before a trip to the History Colorado Museum, just south of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center (home to the state Supreme Court) and the Capitol. At the museum, you can learn more about Colorful Colorado, including the history of Colfax Avenue. Two Voodoo locations: 1520 E. Colfax Ave., about a mile east of the Capitol, and 98 S. Broadway; 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily. History Colorado: 1200 N. Broadway; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

—Amber Widgery

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