Summer Events In Denver, Colorado’s Highlands District
One of Denver’s fastest growing neighborhoods is the hip Highlands district, a 250-acre section northwest of Downtown Denver. Originally the go-to neighborhood for Italian and Hispanic immigrants, Peruvian, Italian, and Argentinian cuisine is available at small, family-owned restaurants scattered throughout the area. This unifying food-lover trait aside, Highlands is actually made up of three distinct areas, each with their own personal style.
The best known area in Lower Highlands’ (“LoHi”) is the Navajo Street Art District at the northern end of the 3600 block of Navajo Street. As one of Denver’s first art districts, Navajo Street Art District began with the founding of Pirate: Contemporary Art, which began its life as an artist co-op over thirty years ago and inspired other galleries and co-ops to relocate to Navajo Street. Three decades later, Navajo Street Art District is now filled with amazing galleries, fine dining, great performance art, and tons of parking. What do you do there in the summer? First Friday Art Walks, of course! Between 5P.M. and 9P.M. on the first Friday of every month, art galleries open their doors to feature new shows and artists. Many other of Denver’s more artistic districts do this at the same time, including Highlands’Tennyson Street Cultural District, so bring your cab fare and wear good walking shoes!
The Tennyson Streetarea prides itself on its homegrown flavor. From art galleries to shops, you will not find a chain store or mass-produced merchandise. Spend summer afternoons wandering this eclectic area, checking out original art, antique prints, and photographs, then see a live show at one of the many music venues in this area, like the historicOriental Theater. The schedule for the First Friday Art Walk in this part of the neighborhood is 6P.M. to 10P.M., so plan accordingly if you want to hit multiple Art Walks.
Of the three areas, Highlands Square at 32nd and Lowell is definitely the most active. Even if no high-profile events are going on in this neighborhood, it’s so full of cute boutiques and restaurants, one could spend all day browsing through the book and gift shops.
The street just east of the 32nd and Lowell intersection plays host to the annual Highlands Street Fair, Highlands Square’s big summer event. They celebrate their 33rd anniversary this year and, at that age, you can hardly be surprised by the high turn-out of over 40,000 visitors each year! With two stages featuring live music all day, 170 vendors selling anything from leather goods to jewelry to ceramics, a “fun zone” for kids, and a classic car show, there’s plenty to do and see on this lively street. This year the fair falls on June 20th and runs from 10A.M. to dusk. Admission is free, so bring your whole family!
If you aren’t going to be in town that weekend, don’t worry! There is a weekly Farmers Market every Sunday from the beginning of June to the end of September from 9A.M. to 1P.M., so you can still come out and see local vendors and buy farm-fresh food.
Not all of Highlands’ exciting events can be as old as their street fair. Coming up on its third year, the new Annual Taste of Highlands is set for August 15th, 2015 and begins at the intersection of 32nd and Osceola. Promising deluxe tastings, live music, and a beer and wine garden, you have to keep your eye on their Facebook page for updates and when to buy tickets.
Denver’s Highlands doesn’t just have these three neighborhoods, but also contains three parks: Rocky Mountain Lake, Berkeley Park, and Sloan’s Lake. At 1700 Sheridan Boulevard, Sloan’s Lake is by far the most eventful of the parks. As the second largest city park in Denver with 177 acres of land, it has water skiing and large amounts of space for picnics in the summer and two distinct summer events.
Newly created Denver Arts Festival at Sloan’s Lake is having its first year this year. Set for early August, Highlands residents are looking forward to seeing this baby festival grow into a big event! It is open on Saturday, August 8th, from 9:30A.M. to 7P.M. and Sunday, August 9th, from 9:30A.M. to 4P.M. Not too many details have been released yet, but admission is free to all comers, so stop by!
Another event grand-daddy is the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, which is turning fifteen this year. Dragon Boat Racing is an ancient Chinese sport, founded on the legend of Chu Yuan. Thousands of years ago, Chu Yuan was a poet, warrior, and loyal aid to the Chinese emperor. But royal courts are subject to royal intrigues, thus Chu Yuan was unjustly cast out of favor, and finally banished when the emperor he had been serving died. After repeated attempts to gain favor from the new emperor through the art of poetry, Chu Yuan threw himself into the Mi Lo River and drowned. Followers of his work swarmed the river, beat their paddles on the water and banged on drums and gongs to frighten away any fish that might eat Chu Yuan’s body.
Two thousand years later, the sport is still so enjoyed that Dragon Boat Racing has spread across the world, with festivals being held in Sydney, London, San Francisco, and, of course, Denver. When the festival in Sloan Lake was first started, only sixteen teams registered. Now, fifteen years later, they have fifty registered teams and are still growing—which means that Sloan Lake is packed with vibrant boats and rowers each summer, and the sounds of drums can be heard throughout the park.
If you want to view the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, you can find information on the event’s official website. Make sure to get there for the opening ceremony on Saturday morning. Named the “Awakening the Dragon Ceremony,” Buddhist monks chant as special guests dot the eyes of the dragon’s head on each boat and the eyes of a special 75-foot dragon puppet, which “comes to life” for an enthusiastic dragon dance! If you’re a brave, athletic sort, you can create your own rowing team and register with the festival, or email them to see if any of the current teams have openings. They encourage all skill levels, so step up!
To Learn More About Denver Highlands, Check Out This Video: