Frankly, Memorial Park (1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., tinyurl.com/CS-Memorial) has long been the downtown park that every city wishes it had, what with its baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, open fields and even a modest lake. But the city upped the ante in 2008, when a contract with the renowned Team Pain design firm yielded a 40,000-square-foot skate park with bowls, a street course and more. Then, last year, a 15-year-old named Jono Schwan completed a $55,000-plus fundraising effort to add a mini-ramp and vert ramp there.
So today, a good day in the sun can include some fishing in Prospect Lake, a bit of ultimate Frisbee and some ridiculous tricks on your board or BMX. Pretty excellent, all in all.
For something a bit more ... quaint, try Antlers Park (31 W. Pikes Peak Ave.), across the street from Pikes Peak Community College's Downtown Studio Campus and Penrose Library. The park is home to Engine 168 from the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, and has a monument to Pikes Peak exploration.
After doing your thing at Antlers Park, you can continue north to Monument Valley Park (170 W. Cache la Poudre St.). Gen. William Jackson Palmer donated the park to the city in 1907, and while its south (West Bijou Street) entry point tends to serve as a congregating spot for local homeless people, he'd no doubt be pleased with how the Horticultural Art Society has kept up the area toward the middle of the park with its flower and vegetable gardens. There's also plenty of space for running, biking and picnicking, to say nothing of the playing fields and playgrounds along the two-mile strip.
Now the first park Palmer provided for the Springs was actually Acacia Park (115 E. Platte Ave.), in 1871. Today it is almost always packed with Palmer High School kids and local characters. But if it's summertime and you're lucky, there'll be musicians in the band shell, or the Uncle Wilber Fountain — donated to the city 12 years ago by the local Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts — will be spouting streams of water around squealing kids.
You'll also find water in hot weather at America the Beautiful Park (126 Cimino Drive), where the Julie Penrose Fountain sends droplets down and trained staff keep an eye on things. This park boasts a $366,000 kids' playground area, lots of summertime events and great access to downtown trails; in fact, you can catch the much-loved Pikes Peak Greenway and ride, walk or run along Fountain Creek. You also can take the Midland Trail through the west side, where you'll run into quite a few more parks, and a ton more trails.
Staying central, check out Shooks Run Trail if you like cardio. You can start south of Fountain Boulevard and head north (generally slightly uphill) for almost four miles, through neighborhoods and a couple of well-kept play areas, to its end north of Harrison Street. If you want to keep running, just turn right and head east on the connecting Rock Island Trail.
We recognize that some people are after peace and quiet, rather than exercise. If this is what you're looking for, head to Evergreen Cemetery(1005 E. Hancock Ave.). The cemetery — yet another gift from Gen. Palmer — is frequented by people looking for a place to sit, walk, bike, run, or even play. If you're here because you just like cemeteries, you'll appreciate that this one was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Whatever you do, appreciate that you're still alive and breathing that mountain air.