Although it’s a relatively newly-developed area, the population of Parker, which is situated in Douglas County, is steadily growing, with a current population of around 50,000. This could very well be because the town, which is officially a suburb of Denver, is said to be one of the best places to live in Colorado.
Parker is a fairly big town, but it’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver, which is a mere 23 miles away.
The suburban ambiance is ideal for visitors who prefer to be away from the large crowds while remaining close to all the major attractions and services of the area.
A defining feature of Parker is the Cherry Creek River, which flows through the town. The downtown area is full of little coffee shops, restaurants, boutique stores, and green spaces, and numerous hiking and biking trails are scattered on the outskirts.
Throughout the year, a number of festivals and events take place in Parker, including the Parker Days Festival. This is where visitors really get to experience the western spirit, which is still very much alive in the town.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Parker, Colorado.
1. Sulphur Gulch Trail
Situated in Riva Ridge Park, Sulphur Gulch Trail is a hiking and biking trail that travels along the Sulphur Gulch and onto Cherry Creek Trail and through a section of town.
At four-and-a-half miles long, it’s perfect for any hiker or biker of any skill level and is a great way to get a taste of the area’s landscape and natural surroundings.
On-site facilities include bathrooms, water fountains, and benches.
2. Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Visitors to Denver can learn about many aspects of the science and history of the earth through a wide range of interpretive and interactive exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Some of the exhibits are temporary while others are permanent, such as The Gates Planetarium and the Phipps IMAX Theater.
Other permanent exhibits include an interactive discovery zone, Egyptian mummies, North American Indian Cultures, a prehistoric area, the history of space exploration, wildlife, and gems and minerals.
3. Downhill Brewing
Craft beer lovers have a relaxing place to sit down and taste an array of local craft beers served by friendly, knowledgeable staff at Downhill Brewing in Parker.
A variety of IPAs, pale ales, and seasonal beers with names like Saturday Nut Fever, Case of the Mondays, and Team America Fruit Saison can be sampled in the brewery tasting room or on the outdoor patio.
Staff offer tours of the brewery throughout the day, pizza is available from the kitchen, and a fenced-in area for dogs is on site.
4. Castlewood Canyon State Park
Castlewood Canyon State Park, which lies just outside of Franktown, is an excellent place for nature and outdoor lovers to spend a day exploring the natural diversity of the region.
The park’s primary purpose is to protect the Castlewood Canyon Dam, but visitors can enjoy several easy to moderate hiking trails, ranging from half a mile to four miles. Rest stops, a natural amphitheater, and a scenic overlook are found along the way, and there are picnic areas near both entrances of the park.
Birds, such as turkey vultures, bluebirds, and canyon wrens, are commonly spotted in the park, and you may also see black bears, bobcats, deer, and elk.
5. Vehicle Vault
Vehicle Vault was initially intended to allow elite car owners a place to store their prized collections. Now, it’s a museum and auto gallery featuring an assortment of rare and exotic vehicles from around the world – and from various periods since the beginning of the 1900s.
Around this vast space, you can also admire artwork by local artists.
6. Colorado Railroad Museum
The beautiful location, combined with the sight of about 100 locomotives, cabooses, and cars, brings a sense of nostalgia to anyone who visits the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.
Some of the on-site exhibits include model railroads and a working Roundhouse, where you can watch maintenance and restoration work. Thousands of photos and artifacts outlining the 125-year plus history of Colorado railroads can be viewed in the depot, and a general store selling train-related gifts is available.
If you happen to visit the museum on a Saturday, you can take a train ride on the Galloping Goose.
7. Explore the Lodo Historic District
Vibrant neighborhoods are in no shortage in the Parker and Denver areas, but the Lodo Historic District is a must-see for any visitor looking for a fun place to walk around and experience a variety of attractions and services.
Lodo is easily accessible as it’s right in the center of downtown Denver. There’s something for everyone of any age, including family-friendly attractions. Old warehouses have been turned into many brewpubs, bars, eateries, and stylish rooftop cafes, and the ever-popular El Chapultepec is where you can hear jazz music and chow down on Mexican fare late into the night.
Other popular stops include Rockmount Ranch Wear and Tattered Cover Bookstore.
8. Purgatory Cellars
For a unique wine-tasting experience, visitors to Parker head to the Purgatory Cellars. In 2014, the owner – a skilled winemaker who came to the United States from Croatia – opened a state-of-the-art wine manufacturing facility.
These Mediterranean wines are handcrafted using modern techniques and traditional methods from as far back as the 6th century, using grapes from local growers.
Visitors can enjoy tastings in a laid-back atmosphere, and friendly staff members provide tours that allow you to see first-hand how this wine is made. Even the inside of the building is an experience.
All of the furnishings were handcrafted by the owner in his home country, and he also put together the Old World design and feel of the interior.
9. See how money is made at the U.S. Mint
Visitors to Denver have the opportunity to see how money is made with a free guided tour of the U. S. Mint, where 50 million coins are manufactured each day. See the step-by-step process involved in creating those shiny coins that eventually end up in your pocket.
During the tour, your knowledgeable guide will also provide a run-down of the history of the facility and the U.S. Mint. A gift shop is also on-site.
10. Discovery Park
Fun for all ages in all seasons can be found at Discovery Park in Parker. The 1.4-acre park is the perfect place to spend a relaxing summer afternoon watching the large interactive fountains with water jets that change color via LED lights or enjoying a concert on the performance stage.
In the winter months, a beautiful ice skating trail zigzags through the park. Skaters and cold-weather enthusiasts can warm up with a hot cup of hot chocolate around the fire pits that are situated along the way.
11. Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater
The Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater is known all over the world as one of the top concert venues around. Many world-renowned artists have performed here, but its most distinguishing feature is the fact that the Amphitheater itself is literally carved from the large, natural red rock formations of the area.
If you’re lucky, you may be in the area when one of these concerts is happening. If not, there’s still plenty to see and do in the park.
The on-site visitor center features a Performer’s Hall of Fame and exhibits detailing the history of the park and Amphitheater. Outdoor lovers can enjoy several hiking trails showcasing the natural beauty of the area.
12. Denver Zoo
At the Denver Zoo, visitors can view a wide variety of animals from every continent, including tigers, apes, crocodiles, and bears.
The interactive exhibits, including Primate Panorama, The Edge, Predator Ridge, and Tropical Discovery, showcase the animals in habitats as close to their natural ones as possible and educate visitors about each species and the importance of conservation.
As you make your way around the beautiful grounds, you will also find a 4D theatre, carousel, and the Kamala Café, which specializes in Asian cuisine. You also have the option to take a train ride on the Denver Zoo Railroad.
13. The Denver Botanic Gardens
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Denver is the peaceful sanctuary of the Denver Botanic Gardens. Visitors can enjoy 33,000 plants in 45 distinct gardens across 23 acres.
A Japanese Garden, Rock Alpine Garden, and the Mordecai Children’s Garden are a small sample of what awaits inside this sanctuary. The Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, which is the largest of its type in the country, is also on-site.
Offshoots Cafe is where you can relax with a delicious meal and hot coffee while you browse the internet with free Wi-Fi.