Three Great Denver Walks for Music Lovers
Denver draws some of the best musicians in the industry. It’s been happening for almost a hundred years. From the first performance of Ave Maria at Red Rocks to the giant Garth Brooks show at Mile High Stadium, Denver attracts musicians and music lovers alike.
Yet even though Denver brings musicians here, it has also provided the background for great musicians to rise out of its neighborhoods and onto the stage.
Take the neighborhoods of Whittier, Five Points and Baker. Home to music halls and dance beats, these neighborhoods have held musical court long before Mile High Stadium and the Pepsi Center played tunes. There’s even a great park honoring some of the jazz roots that the African American community brought to Denver. No, it’s not Red Rocks. It’s Morrison Park in Whittier (see video).
If you love music, if you’re a musician, or even if you can’t tuna fish…here are three great urban hikes in Denver that musicians and music lovers will like.
In the Whittier neighborhood, you’ll find the George C Morrison Park. It’s a linear park along Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd which connects you to other wonderful parks that feature portions of Denver’s African-American history. Along with a chain of three other parks dedicated to African-American history in Denver, you’ll find a sweet retreat into the music scene.
Violinist and musician, George Morison, Sr, impacted the jazz scene in Five Points while living in Whittier. He grew up in Boulder, graduated from the Columbia Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and performed with Cuthbert Byrd, Desdamona and Leo Davis, Hattie McDaniel, Eugene Montgomery, Theodore Morris, Jimmy Lunceford, and Andy Kirk.
Morrison also gave back to the community through free music lessons to the kids at Whittier Elementary, Cole Junior High, and Manual High Schools. When walking in the neighborhood, you might want to pass by where he lived at 2558 Gilpin Street. This home became a gathering spot for many famous musicians, including Count Bassie, Jelly Roll Morton, Nat King Cole and other celebrated musicians.
If you’ve worked up an appetite walking through Whittier, stop in at the Whittier Cafe and get a Denver Egg Burger. Who know Denver had a Denver Egg Burger?
Whittier Walking Map (click for interaction)
From Whittier, head over to Five Points.
Five Points is a giant neighborhood that includes Curtis Park, Ballpark and RiNo, which aren’t “technically” neighborhoods according to the City of Denver. But for a music lover, the center of Five Points is the place to uncover. You’ll find all kinds of music history here, along with fabulous art that pays tribute to the musical history of Denver.
At the Five Points intersection, where you can catch the light rail going downtown, the beat of the neighborhood is itching to drum again. The Rossonian, once the heartbeat of Five Points and filled with be-bopping jazz and energetic sounds that attracted some of the best jazz musicians of the ’20-60’s, sits across from a wonderful mural telling Five Points’ story and the musical impact the “Harlem of the West” made on the industry.
The City of Denver has had love-hate relationship with Five Points, that, over time, has morphed it into an interesting eclectic set of homes filled with the rich and the poor living right next to each other. On one street you’ll find Neal Cassady’s father’s barber shop across the street from what was once the Snowden, his boyhood home, that has been replaced by million-dollar town homes. Across from it you’ll find a refuge for homeless women which is diagonal from an actors’ studio. You can also read many excerpts about the music scene and the area from Denver lover, Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road, or native son, Neal Cassady’s, First Third.
Sandwiched on blocks full of residences, you’ll find fabulous places to eat. The Curtis Park Deli has the best smoked trout sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and around the corner is the restored Curtis Park Creamery, a long-standing, dine-out only, Mexican cafe serving up the neighborhood’s best tamales. I loved the green chile.
Five Points Walking Map (click for interaction)
After Five Points, head to Red Rocks.
Set between the famous Ship Rock and Creation Rock, the Red Rocks Amphitheater has welcomed stair-climbing, live-performance music lovers to its 6,450 feet of elevation since 1941. Infamous performances include the Beatles, U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, the Eagles, Santana, Willie Nelson, Journey, Grateful Dead, Tears for Fears, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Sting, Stevie Nicks, B. B. King, Nora Jones, Duran Duran, and DeVotchKa, among others.
Of course, you can climb the amphitheater or hike the 1.5-mile loop through the seven rock formations, and you can visit two stop-worthy music showcases in the park. The first is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in the Trading Post, which tells musical performance history with an emphasis on John Denver. Or, you can climb to the top of the amphitheater and enjoy the Red Rocks Visitor Center which houses great artifacts and stories of the famous performances of this infamous outdoor theater.
To enjoy your day fully, begin your day with the Trading Post Trail, stop in at the Trading Post to grab a snack and see the Hall of Fame, then climb the amphitheater to the Visitors Center. Return to your car and head to Morrison; grab a bite at The Cow Eatery and get the Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese.
Red Rocks Walking Map (click for interaction)
Denver’s musical history perhaps started in Five Points and then grew to Red Rocks. It’s now growing through the Levitt Pavilion at Denver’s other site for red rocks, Ruby Hill. No matter where you live in the metro Denver area, you can find great Denver history via walking and hiking its parks, trails and neighborhoods.
Do you have a walk to add to the best places for musicians to walk in Denver? Post about it and tag it with #denverbyfoot so I can see! I love it when I see how you’re enjoying Denver.
See you on the trail,