Some things just taste better when consumed outdoors.
These include but are not limited to grilled meats, anything green, corn still on the cob, all cone-based ice creams, crusty baguettes, canned fizzy drinks, most beers, chilled wines and also quite a few cocktails (see juleps, daiquiris and Pimm’s cups).
For those perfect Denver summer days when a cloudless morning doesn’t give way to an afternoon golfball-sized-hail storm, let there be a picnic, whether it’s in a city park surrounded by flowers and screaming kids, or in an amphitheater before a big projector screen.
Consider sitting down to a meal among nature at least once this year.
Here, we offer a handy guide to picnics around Denver. And remember, the table, cutlery and guests are all very much optional.
Where to picnic
With your basket and a blanket in hand, head to a Denver park for the quintessential picnic experience. We like Wash Park for its full spectrum of activities and people watching on any given day or Cheesman Park for its city oasis vibes. Both parks also have reservable picnic sites that can include tables, grills (Wash Park only) and access to restrooms.
Right next to Cheesman Park, the Denver Botanic Gardens allows visitors to bring their own food for a picnic. You’ll have to pay the $12.50 daily entry fee, so make sure to tour the grounds on your visit. Once inside, find a spot near the solarium in the Woodland Mosaic for a shaded picnic. Or, for sunshine, head to the lawn or perch by the water gardens. Want more waterside picnicking? Try Sloan’s Lake Park, not so far away but miles from the concrete and skyscrapers.
Sunday evenings from June to August, there are free concerts and food trucks to enjoy at City Park. Buy food there or bring it with you to enjoy picnic-style while watching jazz performers from Hazel Miller to Badda Boom Brass Band.
And on a handful of Mondays throughout the summer, Red Rocksplays Film on the Rocks, where you can cuddle up in the coolest outdoor amphitheater while enjoying some packed snacks. At Lakeside Amusement Park, the century-old design really shines by night. You’ll pay just $4 to enter and can snag a picnic table underneath the creaking rides and neon signs.
What to eat
Sandwich lovers can grab a lunch box to go from neighborhood favorite Curtis Park Deli (with another location in Cherry Creek). For $14, you’ll get a sandwich of choice — in varieties like French, Italian and American — plus chips and a cookie. Another classic deli option, Lou’s Italian Specialties specializes in stuffed hoagies — try the Louie, Severino Grande or Roman Fiesta — at $12-$16 per sub. Add on a couple of salads from the deli counter to make a full meal.
Pastrami fans can try the house 12-day cured and smoked meat on a Reuben ($15) from downtown’s Leven Deli. Or step it up with the Fat Jewish ($17), piled with pastrami and corned beef and Swiss and tarragon mustard at RiNo’s Rye Society. Both new-school delis also offer boxed lunches and catering trays. Try Leven’s Easy Does It sandwich platter, which serves six for $75.
Denver Central Market’s Culture Meat & Cheese caters charcuterie boards ($15-$50) for parties of two to 10 people and offers meal bundles with sandwiches, sides and desserts in three sizes for $12.50-$13.75. The retail shop combines meats, preserves, pickles and more for a quick, pre-picnic stop.
Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe in Lower Highland can provide you with nose-to-tail cuts for grilling, all made from meat that’s raised and harvested within 150 miles of Denver. You’ll also find your deli needs and house-made bone broths, and check out the store’s curated pantry section for other picnicking odds and ends.
Just off 38th Avenue, Cask and Craft is a sweet stop for craft liquor and beer and wines, including a $10 bargain bin. And it’s just up the street from Western Daughters, if you’re stopping there for grilling meat.
South Pearl Street’s Pearl Wine Company will not only handle your bottle needs for the picnic, but it can supply your food as well. New this season, you’ll find a dedicated cooler filled with local River Bear American Meats for grilling, Elevation charcuterie and cheeses from Culture Meat & Cheese.
For plenty more picnic tips, go to The Know Outdoors.