Sunny on This Side, Sunnyside
One of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods that grew up around sugar beets, the railroad and the smelting industry, it grew out of its “Little Italy” history into a tight-knit community adjusting to a new identity. Taking an urban hike through Sunnyside provides an interesting and engaging opportunity to see how diversity and variety can co-habitat. Feeling a little gloomy? Brighten up in Sunnyside. From streets named after Native American tribes to an annual music festival, you’ll find something for everyone in Sunnyside.
Sunnyside, with boundaries of the Union Pacific Railroad lines on the east, Interstate 70 on the north, Federal Boulevard on the West and 38th Avenue on the south, has a mix of housing, with everything from income-qualified blocks of homes to restored large turn-of-the century homes and WWII cottages intermingled within.
Good Neighbors Helping Good Neighbors
A good community has good neighbors. In Sunnyside, the neighbors have created the Sunnyside Music Fest, held in Chaffee Park in September. Began in 2000 in the backyard of two residents who wanted to have friends over for music 2 bands played, 2 kegs drank, 50 people danced and about 20 dogs howled. The festival folder in the mid 2000s when the original couple moved away. But soon, neighbors organized again and revived the festival with the help of local musicians like Mollie O¹Brien. The Sunnyside Festival is now a mainstay, found the second Saturday in September, and it even raises enough money to provide grants to local kids wanting to play music.
Neighbors also formed the Troy Chavez Memorial Peace Garden, in response to gang violence, to provide local kids with healthy after-school activities. The Garden provides peaceful locations to connect, while the Foundations raises money to help kids pay for school supplies and learn computer skills. Within the garden, you’ll find local art reflecting on Aztec and Mexican culture.
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In addition, Sunnyside’s downtown area thrives with the excellent Sunny’s Cafe (get the Hipster!) and new breweries opening in several locations. Also on its main street, you’ll find Common Grounds Coffeehouse, a happening place to find everyone in Sunnyside hanging out. Their vibrant bulletin board tells the story of what to do in Sunnyside. Be sure to pick up some flowers at the very cute Diz’s Daisies–they also deliver. Get some hydrangeas! And throw in some gerbera daisies with your order to keep up your happy Sunnyside smile.
Why Native American Street Names?
From income-qualified homes to old treasures, Sunnyside’s growth has waxed and waned. But it remembers its past, embraces its present, and thinks about its future. The artwork in alleys honors Sunnyside’s Native American street-naming conventions. But why Native American tribal names? Back when Sunnyside finally annexed to Denver in the late 1880s, there was a movement to standardize Denver’s naming convention for streets. Antelope, Bison, and Deer Streets, for example, change to tribal names, including Pecos, Navajo and Zuni. While walking in Sunnyside, be sure to see the entire neighborhood, not just some of its more popular areas.
Restored Gas Stations and Great Public Art
Along the route, you’ll pass Chaffee Park, not to be confused with the neighborhood of the same name. This park,
This community park, punctuated by Mark Lansdon’s lively steel flower sculpture, ‘Garden of Flowers’, is the heartbeat of the neighborhood and where the community organizes its annual Sunnyside Music Fest. Whether you’re here for the music or not, enjoy a game of pick-up basketball, toss a ball on the ball fields, or let you kids play on the playground that has a climbing wall, rope bridge and tractor!
The Route (click for interactive map):
Start at 4202 Lipan St. Head north, enjoying the artwork on the dumpsters around the income-qualified housing. Take a left on W 46th Ave. At Tejon St, head south.
You’ll pass Chaffee Park on the left. Drop down and see Artist Mark Lansdon’s ‘Garden of Flowers’, then come back up and go west on W 44th Ave.
Drop in on Common Grounds for a cuppa or if you need to use the restroom. They might even be roasting some coffee beans while you’re there. Continue toward Zuni, walking through the small commercial area, Sunny’s Cafe, and the darling, restored, auto shop on the side side of the street. Take a left on Zuni.
Take a right on W 43rd Ave then a left on Bryant St. At W 39th Ave, turn east (left).
At Tejon, take a right and then a left into the first alley. Walk in the ally until you come to the Troy Chavez Garden. Walk through the garden, reading the signs and artwork, making sure you see the tiles on the columns at the entry. These tiles were made by the families of several of the victims who’ve fallen to neighborhood violence. Exit the garden at Shoshone, turning north.
Take a right on W 40th Ave, then a left on the alley between Osage and Navajo, then a right on W 41st Ave.
At Navajo, head north, noticing the artwork in the street and the gorgeous Horace Mann school, now Trevista. At W 42nd St, take a right and return back to Lipan where you began this 3.5-mile amble.
Getting Happy in Sunnyside and Supporting DenverByFoot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family, or even along during our lock down.
Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
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See you on the trail!