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DU Field Notes: Places to Relax, Denver’s Best Outdoor Oases

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Nika Anschuetz





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From its first park in 1868 to the nearly 5,000 acres of park space today, Denver has no shortage of outdoor oases. More than 250 parks and 80 miles of trails are in Denver’s parks system, which ranks 18th in the nation. And 90% of Denver residents live within walking distance of a park, reports the Denver-based Trust for Public Land.

With Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine each year, it’s no surprise that many choose to spend their time outdoors. In an ever-changing world, Denver’s parks offer a place to relax, take a break and enjoy time with friends.

Washington Park (Wash Park)

Wash Park

The 155-acre park is one of Denver’s must-sees. The park, at 701 S. Franklin St., is an eight-minute drive, 30-minute walk or short light-rail ride from the DU campus. The green rectangle offers plenty to do: tennis, walking, running and cycling trails, paddleboarding, fishing on two lakes, or just space to chill in one of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods.

City Park

City Park

City Park, at 2001 Colorado Blvd., is Denver’s largest, and it’s just a 12-minute drive from campus. The 355-acre park is home to the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It also boasts two lakes, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, a soccer field, handball court, horseshoe pit, picnic areas and playgrounds, and free concerts through the summer.

Civic Center

Civic Center

Civic Center is the civic and cultural heart of Denver, flanked by Denver City Hall and the state’s gold-domed Capitol, and by the main Denver Public Library and Denver Art Museum. The 12-acre site at 101 W. 14th Ave., a 14-minute drive from DU, is a National Historic Landmark. The nonprofit Civic Center Conservancy aims to keep the space active and thriving. The park hosts festivals, fitness classes and comedy shows. For a calendar of events, visit

Cheesman Park

Cheesman Park

Cheesman Park, just east of Capitol Hill , is off East Eighth Avenue and Humboldt Street. The 80-acre park is a 14-minute drive up University Boulevard. Check out UMB Bank Amphitheater, Cheesman’s Memorial Pavilion, the nearby Denver Botanic Gardens and more.

Cheesman Park played an important role in Denver’s LGBTQ+ history. Denver’s first PrideFest parade was held in 1976 at Cheesman Park, and it remains the parade starting point.

Observatory Park

Chamberlin Observatory

Observatory Park is a short walk from campus at 2930 E. Iliff Ave. Its green space is studded with mature trees and tennis courts. Plus its home to DU’s historic Chamberlin Observatory. That circa 1890 edifice is listed the National Register of Historic Places. The Romanesque style building features an Alvan Clark-Saegmuller 20-inch refracting telescope. Chamberlin Observatory holds various public events throughout the year, including a telescopes show after sunset Aug. 14 of the month’s first quarter moon, weather permitting, with telescopes provided. Register at

Paco Sanchez Park

Paco Sanchez

For the young and young at heart, Paco Sanchez Park at 3240 W. 14th Ave. has slides, ziplines, ropes, swings, a basketball court and a skate park just a 10-minute drive from DU. A microphone-inspired tower pays homage to Paco Sanchez, who started Denver’s first Spanish-language radio station. This vibrant, all-ages, Instagram-worthy park isn’t your typical playground. Take a break and let your inner child out!