Already a gem in Denver, this weekend is a big one for the City Park neighborhood, the area bounded by East 23rd Avenue to the north, Colorado Boulevard to the east, East Colfax Avenue to the south and York Street to the west.
Thousands of runners will line up Sunday at the start line for the annual Colfax Marathon, a 26.2-mile race through Denver and parts of Lakewood. Last year, Heidy Lozano, a 53-year-old woman from Boulder, won first place, finishing the marathon in 3 hours, 10 minutes and 41 seconds. Patrick Rizzo, a Colorado Springs resident, won it for the men, running nearly the entire way at a blistering 5:30 pace and finishing in 2 hours, 32 minutes and 35 seconds.
The marathon snakes through downtown, the Denver Broncos' stadium, along seven miles of rivers and lakes, to historic Lakewood and along Colfax Avenue.
And it all starts and ends in City Park, the sprawling, 330-acre urban park that includes the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, as well as two lakes (Ferril and Duck), a boathouse and dozens of running trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, fields, horseshoe pits and more.
PHOTOS: A historic look at City Park in Denver
City Park is one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods.
In fact, while this is barely enough for a down payment on a cardboard box in the Mile High City’s current real estate market (ok … a bit of an exaggeration), the land later used for City Park was first purchased for $56,000.
An urban park was something people in Denver were clamoring for in the late 19th century, as residents sought to improve the dry and dusty former mining town dubbed the “Queen City of the Plains.”
The park was designed in 1882 and based off of a combination of English pastoral gardens and Central Park in New York City.
Construction started in 1886 – 22 years before the Colorado State Capitol was finished.
As for that iconic City Park Pavilion, it was built in 1896 but replaced in 1929 by the current structure designed by William Fisher and John J. Humpheries. This was restored in 1998 as a special event venue available for weddings and more.
The fountain in the middle of Ferril Lake was designed by Fred Darlingen to showcase during the 1908 Democratic National Convention in Denver. It’s similar to one in Mexico City that then-Mayor Robert Speer was a big fan of.
The Sullivan Gateway, which is considered an iconic entrance into the City Park Esplanade on the north side of Colfax, was built in 1917. Phase two of a $2 million restoration project is expected to be finished later this year.
East High School was built on the City Park Esplanade as part of the City Beautiful project, which was aimed at building schools near public places with commanding vistas. The design was courtesy of architect George Williamson, a Colorado native and 1893 East High School graduate.
According to History Colorado, East High School’s design has often been compared to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
PHOTOS: Restoring City Park's Sullivan Gateway
City Park is the start and finish line for the Colfax Marathon, but it also has plenty of things going on all year long for folks who aren’t interested in running really far for fun.
One of the most popular is City Park Jazz, which offers 10 free concerts each summer. It’s a tradition that began more than 130 years ago, when men and women in their Sunday best would listen to music at the City Park bandstand.
City Park Jazz started again in 1986 – and has grown to more than 80,000 guests!
The Colorado Black Arts Festival, which has been going on for 30 years, takes place in City Park in July, and celebrates African American contributions to art and culture.
City Park is also the site of numerous runs/walks benefiting charities throughout the year.
And, if heading to the park to work up a sweat is your thing, the Mile High Loop around City Park is a full 5k that tracks along the city’s 5,280 contour line – meaning for the entire 3.1 miles, you’re running at exactly a mile high!
LIVING IN CITY PARK
There’s a lot of history – and a lot to do – in City Park, so it might not shock you that it’s kinda pricey to live there.
Living in the homes sandwiched between the park and the shopping area is expensive. The median sales price for homes is $515,500, up 15.8 percent from 2016, according to real estate website Trulia.com. Rents follow the typical standard in Denver — at $2,250 for all-size properties.
With that being said, City Park is regularly ranked one of the most bikeable neighborhoods in Denver, coming in at No. 4 from Walk Score.
You’re also not far from Twist and Shout (a record store that’s such a big deal that the Pretenders played an acoustic set there) and the Tattered Cover, a bookstore that once played host to Bruce Springsteen.
These aren’t the only cultural institutions within an easy walking distance from the homes in City Park.
The Denver Zoo drew 2 million visitors in 2015 (that number might rise thanks to a certain baby giraffe named Dobby), and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science saw 1.7 million people, who in addition to exploring its short-term exhibits, also had the chance to check out an impressive fossil collection, space odyssey and look at Egyptian mummies.
SHOPPING AND RESTAURANTS
While most of the neighborhood is taken up by the park itself, it does include some residential areas, as well as a hip shopping area along its southern border, along Colfax Avenue.
Among the many fun restaurants there is Steve's Snappin' Dogs (3525 E. Colfax Ave.), a locally owned hot dog shop with unique concoctions — like an "Atlanta Slaw Dog" or "Mex-si Dog," for example.
Bastien's Restaurant (3503 E. Colfax Ave.) is just up the street, offering thick-cut, sugar-rubbed steaks in a midcentury-like setting. To the Wind Bistro (3333 E. Colfax Ave.) is an intimate, eclectic eatery also worth a visit.
And then there's the Denver Biscuit Company (3237 E. Colfax Ave.) — a very popular biscuit-based breakfast and lunch spot with menu items like "The Colfax A," a hickory ham and fried egg sandwich, and "The Sherman," topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Right next door pizza-lovers can chow down on a huge slice of pie at Fat Sully's (3237 E. Colfax Ave.) or head to Atomic Cowboy (3237 E. Colfax Ave.) for the same, plus brews and burgers.
Coffee lovers can support small business with a visit to Hooked on Colfax (3213 E. Colfax Ave.), as well as boutiques that include t-shirt store Coloradical (3109 E. Colfax Ave.), All in a Dream Comics (2901 E. Colfax Ave.) and The Bad Kittie Salon (2902 E. Colfax Ave.).
And, if what you really love is a good bar, look no farther than the PS Lounge (3416 E. Colfax Ave.). This cash-only establishment hands out roses to all the ladies who stop by, a free shot called the “Alabama Slammer” and the chance to mingle with a diverse crowd ranging from East Colfax hipsters from old regulars. Pete – the bar’s owner – is also known to chat with customers throughout the night as you and the rest of the PS Lounge’s inhabitants listen to the best jukebox in town.
And as if the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science weren't enough for entertainment-seekers, City Park's Colfax-area shopping and restaurant district is also home to the Bluebird Theater, an intimate venue putting on both local and national acts.