City Park, east of downtown Denver, is the city’s most famous urban park, with flower gardens, expansive lawns, Ferril and Duck Lakes, fountains, picnic areas, walking trails, City Park Golf Course, and grand views of the Denver skyline and the snowcapped Front Range mountains. Some of Denver’s best attractions are in the 330-acre park, including the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Martin Luther King Memorial. Visitors cruise on Ferril Lake in rented paddleboats and animal-shaped boats, while a free summer concert series attracts urbanites. Ferril Lake also has the 1908 Prismatic Fountain and the Spanish-style City Park Pavilion beside Sopris Garden and historic City Park Band Shell. City Park began in 1880 as a 640-acre tract of arid prairie, which was transformed in 30 years into a pastoral urban space that was a western version of New York City’s Central Park.
- The Denver Zoo, one of Colorado’s premier attractions, sprawls across 80 acres in the middle of City Park. The zoo, one of the first in the United States to house animals in natural enclosures, offers over 4,000 animals from over 600 species in diverse exhibits, including Bear Mountain, Primate Panorama, Monkey Island, Predator Ridge, and Toyota Elephant Passage. Kids love the Denver Zoo and its activities including Boo at the Zoo on Halloween and Zoo Lights in the Christmas season.
- The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has exhibited, interpreted, and preserved the natural history of Colorado and the world since 1900. It’s a spectacular place to visit and it’s easy to spend days exploring the vast collection display, including gems and minerals, lifelike dioramas of habitats and wildlife, North American Indian cultures, and Prehistoric Journey which traces the evolution of life and displays huge dinosaur skeletons. The museum also has an IMAX theater, planetarium, and numerous educational programs.
- The City Park Golf Course, built in 1920, is a year-round, 18-hole municipal golf course. The popular 72-par course, with 6,708 yards, is north of Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Natural History. It offers a tight, compact layout with small greens and tight tree-line fairway as well as spectacular views of Denver’s skyline and the mountains. It also offers a pro shop and restaurant for après-golf drinks and eats.
- City Park is a walker’s delight, with numerous trails exploring its grassy acres. It’s easy to park and walk. A couple of the best walks are the 0.9-mile Ferril Lake Loop and the 3.1-mile Mile High Loop. The Mile High Loop follows the perimeter of the park south of the Denver Zoo, while the Ferril Lake Loop edges along the placid lake. A good starting point for both walks is the large parking lot on the northwest side of Ferril Lake.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green