Labor Day events in Denver: What to do and what to avoid this weekend

It might seem like everyone in Denver is heading to the mountains for Labor Day Weekend — or, at least, it will if you’re actually on Interstate 70 on Friday or Saturday. (Look for The Denver Post’s tips for how to avoid the worst of that traffic here). But that’s not actually the case. Metro Denver will be a teeming cauldron of crowded festivals, shows, picnics, parties and events.

That means there will be plenty to do (but also that there will be plenty of traffic). So, with that in mind, here are some places to avoid if you’re driving, along with fun activities to hit up.

3 intersections to avoid in a car

Food (and more): The area around Colfax Avenue and Broadway is difficult enough on a normal day, but this year, A Taste of Colorado returns to Civic Center in all of its glory, with five stages of live music, restaurants, food trucks and an arts-and-crafts fair. That means street closures, parking nightmares and traffic jams. But don’t think you can sneak into the adjacent Golden Triangle neighborhood to park, because the wonderful Chalk Art Festival is taking place there. Instead, walk, ride your bike, take a bus or the light rail.

Music: Every year since 2011, the culture-creating jam band Phish has played a series of sold-out shows at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. This year, the normal three-day run has been boosted by a night and will take place Sept. 1-4. But in addition to the usual festival-goers, there also will be all manner of Phish phanatics in the area, trying to score last-minute tickets, selling wares or simply hanging out. Dick’s is mostly in an out-of-the-way location near the intersection of 56th Avenue and Central Park Boulevard, north of the Central Park neighborhood, but it’s probably a good idea to be aware that traffic will be a painful mess in the vicinity.

Bonus tip: Wanna celebrate Phish without getting too close to “Phish Dick’s” (as the weekend is called)? At least three breweries are tapping Phish-themed beers. Station 26 Brewing is pouring It’s Gonna Be Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold IPA; Great Divide Brewing has Take The Highway, a hazy IPA (on draft and in cans) that is a nod to the song “The Wedge”; while Over Yonder Brewing in Golden will have a tapping and charity event.

Sports: LoDo near 20th and Blake streets is going to be uncomfortable on Labor Day. Yes, there is a Rockies game (the team returns to Denver to lose to the Milwaukee Brewers at 2:10 p.m.), but Coors Field also will be showing what is arguably the best baseball movie ever made, “The Sandlot,” on its massive scoreboard screen afterward. You have to buy a special ticket package but it includes field access and a picnic blanket — and it will likely be a big draw.

5 events to hit

Flap Jack Day. Here’s a syrupy history lesson: In 1948, the town of Berthoud created an event called Flap Jack Day to celebrate Labor Day and get neighbors together around plates of pancakes. That first year, 1,000 people ate 5,000 free pancakes, according to the Berthoud Historical Society. The following year, the town welcomed 3,700 visitors from 21 states. But that was just the beginning. Over its 11-year history, the event grew to include the crowning of a Flap Jack Queen, diving and baton twirling competitions, pet parades and a tractor driving challenge.

Flap Jack Day disappeared in 1959 due to its high cost. Fast forward to 2016, when City Star Brewing in Berthoud decided to bring back a version of the festival, which it has been hosting ever since. This year, the spectacle takes place on Monday, Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and includes a vintage car show, rockabilly music by The Atomic Drifters, a reborn Flap Jack Queen contest and, of course, free pancakes. Donations and some sales benefit the Berthoud Historical Society. Attendees are urged to dress in 1950s style.

Nan Desu Kan. This is the Rocky Mountain region’s largest and longest-running anime and Japanese cultural convention, according to organizers, welcoming 27,000 cos-players, gamers, shoppers and lovers of Japanese anime over its three-day run, Sept. 2-4. This year, the convention celebrates its 25th anniversary with all of the above, plus traditional Japanese arts, music, dance, cultural panels, screenings of new and classic anime, workshops, competitions, an auction and several voice actors and special guests. It takes place at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, 6700 N. Gaylord Rockies Blvd., Aurora. For tickets and programming information, go to

Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibition. If you’ve ever explored the lovely Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Pavilion at the Denver Botanic Gardens, then this event, the 53rd annual Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibition, is for you. Held in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society, it features advice, live demonstrations and RMBS artist-of-the-year Dan Wiederrecht. The expo takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3-4, at 1007 York St.; tickets to the gardens are required.

Fall beer tappings. Fall is the best time of the year for seasonal beer drinking. It’s when Oktoberfest-style Marzen lagers, pumpkin beers and fresh-hop beers hit the taps. Strange Craft Beer Co. in Denver will tap two fresh hop beers, Fresh Hop Heather’s Ale and Night of the Comet, on Friday, Sept. 2. Across town, Station 26 Brewing is now pouring both its Marzen lager and its excellent pumpkin lager, Patch to Porch, made with cinnamon and allspice. In Broomfield, 4 Noses Brewing is hosting a release for its award-winning Pump Action Imperial Pumpkin Ale on Thursday, Sept. 1. (Give its foeder-aged Marzen lager a shot while you’re there.) And Arvada’s Odyssey Brewing will host an early Oktoberfest party on Saturday, Sept. 3, complete with brats and mustard, polka music and beer steins.

National Cinema Day. Have you seen Brad Pitt in the new movie “Bullet Train?” Did you even know that Brad Pitt was in a new movie called “Bullet Train?” If not, then that’s the problem. People haven’t been returning to movie theaters as quickly as the nation’s movie theater chains would like them to. As a result, the Los Angeles-based Cinema Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Theater Owners, has created National Cinema Day on Sept. 3. It will involve 3,000 theaters across the country showing movies for just $3. And, hey, temperatures are forecast to be in the ’90s this weekend in Denver, so you might as well enjoy the theater air conditioning — and some Brad Pitt stunts.

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