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Tennis; Image Courtesy of Luca Venter

Top of the Town 2015: Culture & Nightlife

The best places to view art, enjoy a cocktail, watch the game, discover a new band, and more.

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Culture & Nightlife


Editors’ Choice
Tennis (pictured)
A few years ago, it would have been fair to refer to Tennis simply as that cute indie couple who bought a sailboat and recorded their first album while out on the water. But with last year’s release of Ritual in Repeat, it’s obvious this is a band—they’ve added a drummer to the lineup—deserving of more attention. And we’re not the only ones noticing. The maturation of the Denver group’s songwriting and musicianship has been recognized by well-respected music publications such as Pitchfork and Paste. Tennis is starting to look like an act with genuine staying power.

Readers’ Choice
(TIE) The Lumineers and The Congress


Editors’ Choice
Kent Haruf
Within the pages of six brilliant novels, Kent Haruf used simple yet precise language to bring to life the landscape and the people of the fictional Eastern Plains town of Holt, Colorado. Sadly, Haruf died in November at the age of 71. But he left us bibliophiles one last gift: Before he passed away, Haruf finished his final work. Released at the end of May, Our Souls at Night depicts the love story of an elderly man and woman who both lost their significant others earlier in life. Consider it the capstone for your Colorado required-reading list.

Readers’ Choice
Helen Thorpe

Theater Production

Editors’ Choice
The Brother/Sister Plays: In the Red and Brown Water, Curious Theatre Company
When Curious Theatre founder Chip Walton announced earlier this year that the company would present all three of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays over two seasons—the only theater in the region to do so—the performing arts community applauded the move. It was also pegged as a huge gamble, but in keeping with Curious’ “no guts, no story” motto, the troupe pushed forward with its serial-storytelling initiative. Audiences and critics both embraced part one, In the Red and Brown Water. Set in the “distant present,” the spring production interwove Yoruban (a West African culture) mythology with the modern hardships of life in the Louisiana bayou. The deep, intriguing characters and their relationships with each other should keep audiences coming back—or inspire them to tune in for the first time when the second installment, The Brothers Size, opens July 9. 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524

Readers’ Choice
Book of Mormon


Editors’ Choice
Kristen Hatgi Sink
Artists with range always pique our interest—and there is no better example in Denver right now than visual artist and photographer Kristen Hatgi Sink. Since graduating art school in 2008, she has shown everywhere from New York and Washington, D.C., to Japan and Canada. In the first half of this year alone, Hatgi Sink (her husband is renowned Denver photographer Mark Sink) gave us Bon Bon, a combination of video installation and stage performance, at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and A Tented Sky, a series of photographs displayed at Denver’s Gildar Gallery. Both illustrated Hatgi Sink’s romantic yet modern aesthetic, smart use of white space, and desire to make thought-provoking art.

Readers’ Choice
(TIE) Quang Ho and Ravi Zupa

Place to See Art

Editors’ Choice
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
As the maker movement continues to gain steam in Denver, it’s easy to forget that artisanship is an age-old trade. Get a history lesson at this 12-year-old museum (in the former studio of collector and abstract expressionist Vance Kirkland). The venue highlights tableware and sculptures by international designers plus an array of outlandish chairs. Coupled with paintings by Denver’s Kirkland and other Colorado artists, this oft-overlooked gem is an enchanting reminder of the state’s pioneering crafters. Note: Kirkland will close in 2016 to prepare for the opening of a larger Golden Triangle location the following year. 1311 Pearl St., 303-832-8576

Readers’ Choice
Denver Art Museum 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000


Editors’ Choice
After 40 years, PrideFest—Denver’s annual gay pride celebration (held in June)—shows no signs of slowing down. The third largest such festival in the country (it averages 300,000 attendees) endures thanks to astute organizers at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado who know how to keep our attention. Besides the requisite parade and vendors, over the past couple of years PrideFest has added a Big Gay 5K, youth resource area, and family activities including a petting zoo. With that kind of creativity, we’re betting this inclusive festival will be at the top of Coloradans’ calendars for at least another four decades.

Readers’ Choice
Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Venue to Discover New Bands

Editors’ Choice
Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom & Cervantes’ Other Side
Two things Denver doesn’t want for: music venues and on-the-verge bands to play them. Cervantes’ separates itself with an eclectic calendar that moves between folk, funk, indie acts, and EDM—plus two distinct venues in which to showcase bands. The main stage, Masterpiece Ballroom, hosts more established artists (you can score tickets for as little as $5 with early-bird pricing); the Other Side (attached) is ideal for catching really unfamiliar bands. The location is a touch gritty, but the proximity to Welton Street’s light-rail stations, regular themed nights—such as bluegrass Thursdays—and can’t-find-’em-anywhere-else collaborative concerts, in which musicians from different bands jam together for a night, have turned us into regulars. 2637 Welton St., 303-297-1772,

Readers’ Choice
Hi-Dive 7 S. Broadway, 303-733-0230


Editors’ Choice
Dustin Lawlor, The Kitchen Denver
If you spend enough time in bars (and, believe us, we do), you learn pretty quickly that the success of any given watering hole is the result of more than the vision of just one person. Under the direction of head bartender Dustin Lawlor, the Kitchen’s bar staff consistently executes its menu of cocktails (such as the cheekily named Brazilian made with vodka, lime, and simple syrup). But what we really love about the LoDo restaurant’s cocktail program is that the menu is a reflection of each barkeep’s individual tastes. Here you’ll find a regularly changing lineup of drinks conceived by whichever men and women are slinging cocktails that evening—like the recently proffered Mother of Dragons, a bold, truly unique mescal concoction clearly dreamed up by a Game of Thrones fan. The Khaleesi would be proud. 1530 16th St., 303-623-3127

Readers’ Choice
Mike McGill, Old Major 3316 Tejon St., 720-420-0622

New Brewery

Editors’ Choice
Comrade Brewing
With a new brewery popping up seemingly every day in Denver, an operation has to brew something extraordinary to get—and keep—our attention. Right now, we’re focused on year-old Comrade Brewing and its Superpower IPA, a tasty rendition that’s quickly gaining a following throughout the city. The beer is balanced and crisp even with its boatloads of piney Pacific Northwest hops. With a location east of the University of Denver, the brewery—run by brewmaster Marks Lanham, an Oregon transplant—can feel a bit out of the way, but fans needn’t worry: Comrade and its IPA have started showing up on more draft lists around town, including at discerning tastemakers such as To The Wind Bistro and Asbury Provisions. 7667 E. Iliff Ave., 720-748-0700

Readers’ Choice
Mockery Brewing 3501 Delgany St., 303-953-2058

Dive Bar

Editors’ Choice
El Chapultepec
We often miss the worn-in vibe of a true dive bar when we’re checking out all of Denver’s newer arrivals. When we want a reminder, we head to the beloved ’Pec. Situated near some of downtown’s most popular watering holes, the lauded jazz bar is a Denver icon: It was founded in 1933 and hosted some of the 20th century’s greatest artists, including Jack Kerouac, Frank Sinatra, Buddy DeFranco, and Ella Fitzgerald. We love the history, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we also go for the conversations at the bar with regulars and seriously cheap drinks (like $2.50 Coors Banquet on tap). 1962 Market St., 303-295-9126

Readers’ Choice
Hi-Dive 7 S. Broadway, 303-733-0230

Drink With a View

Editors’ Choice
The Bogey Shack, City Park Golf Course
Even amid a flurry of duffs, slices, and four-letter words, it’s nearly impossible to overlook the two-for-one view of downtown Denver’s skyline and craggy Rocky Mountain peaks from the eastern side of City Park Golf Course. Sure, plenty of spots around town showcase praise-worthy vistas of one or the other, but we’re greedy when it comes to scenic photo ops. So grab a can of Dale’s Pale Ale (and, if you need sustenance, a brat or turkey sandwich) from the Bogey Shack, the on-course food stand, take a minute or two to appreciate the view, and step up to the 14th hole tee box, which sits on top of a steep ridgeline. Then enjoy an even more rewarding sight: Your Titleist soaring down the center of the fairway. 2500 York St., 720-865-3410

Readers’ Choice
Linger 2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120

Cocktail Menu

Editors’ Choice
The Cooper Lounge
Union Station’s newfound elegance extends all the way upstairs to Cooper Lounge. Find your way to the secluded staircase across from the Amtrak ticket counter, take your seat at the bar, and relax into a world steeped in glamour and luxury. Scroll through the iPad menu, from bar manager Marcel Templet, for a well-edited list of Old World–style tipples that are nuanced enough to justify the $10-plus price tag. (Cooper Lounge also serves a light dinner starting at 4 p.m.; make a reservation.) Order the St. Therese, a beautifully balanced and modern blend of reposado tequila, Bénédictine, and Ancho Reyes. When the cocktail arrives on a silver platter in a delicately engraved coupe, you’ll wonder if you could get used to this. One swill of the smooth, potent drink, and you’ll know you can. Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., 720-460-3738

Readers’ Choice
Williams & Graham 3160 Tejon St., 303-997-8886

Sports Bar

Editors’ Choice
Wash Park Sports Alley
What we look for in a great sports bar is pretty simple, really: TVs everywhere; solid, if basic, food; cheap, cold beer; and a zero-pretension atmosphere. Four-year-old Wash Park Sports Alley delivers on all of those key components—26 HD TVs, delicious wings and burgers, $2.75 Coors Light drafts—plus it has welcome perks like skee ball, four-player Pac-Man, and giant Jenga. The bar’s side-alley entrance, located near the intersection of Alameda Avenue and South Downing Street, makes this garden-level hideaway a bit difficult to find, but it’s worth the sleuthing when you’re in need of a no-nonsense place to catch the game. 266-B S. Downing St., 303-635-6691

Readers’ Choice
Blake Street Tavern 2301 Blake St., 303-675-0505

Happy Hour

Editors’ Choice
Happy hour’s smaller prices shouldn’t mean smaller flavors. No danger of that at p17 (formerly Parallel 17), where you can sample delights from one of our favorite Denver chefs—Mary Nguyen—during happy hour (Tuesday through Sunday, 3 to 6 p.m., and all evening on Monday). That means pineapple-garnished duck confit tacos, pork belly buns with pickled vegetables, and a lamb meatball over rosemary grits—each for around three bucks. Pair Nguyen’s elegant but accessible cuisine with a glass of house wine ($4) or a signature cocktail ($5), and park yourself outside along the prime-people-watching strip that is 17th Avenue. 1600 E. 17th Ave., 303-399-0988

Readers’ Choice
Jax Fish House multiple locations

First-Date Inspiration

Six “you’re sure to get a second date” ideas from the editors of 5280—and our readers.

For the Classic Dater

Readers’ Pick: A progressive date at Union Station means you can extend (or cut short) an outing depending on how well it’s going. Start with a pint of local microbrew at Terminal Bar and follow it up with a seafood dinner at Stoic & Genuine (we suggest ordering a half-dozen oysters) and, perhaps, a nightcap at the intimate Cooper Lounge. 1701 Wynkoop St., 303-592-6712

For the Midday Dater

Editors’ Pick: Shake up a late-morning date with the Infinite Monkey Theorem’s last-Sunday-of-the-month brunch series. For about $20, enjoy a selection of eats from a rotating cast of Denver’s top chefs—plus adult beverages (wine, mimosas, peach Bellinis, and cold-brew coffee on tap are available for $5 each)—in a relaxed urban setting. Make a reservation. 3200 Larimer St., 303-736-8376

For the Competitive Dater

Readers’ Pick: Up the fun factor with a rousing game of pingpong (up to $15 per hour) at Uptown’s always-hopping Ace Eat Serve. And don’t worry if you forgot to make reservations in advance. An expertly balanced cocktail and an order of Tiger wings will tide you over while you wait—and give you time to build rapport before the flirtatious trash-talking begins. 501 E. 17th Ave., 303-800-7705

For the Cultured Dater

Editors’ Pick: The Cheesman Park Art Fest (July 25 and 26) is a blank canvas for a date. Roam the tents looking at—and talking about—local art, listen to music, and get some grub from the lineup of food trucks. There will be no shortage of conversation starters here.

For the Outdoorsy Dater

Readers’ Pick: You can’t go wrong with an evening stroll through the picturesque Denver Botanic Gardens. Make sure to meander over to the permanent sunrise-hued Dale Chihuly piece in the Ellipse rose garden. It’s sure to impress your date—as will the fact that you know it was created from 750 individual blown-glass rods. 1007 York St., 720-865-3501

For the Whimsical Dater

Editors’ Pick: Craft a choose-your-own-adventure date by whisking that special someone off on a scooter trek (guided, $85, or unguided, starting at $65) around the city with ScooTours Denver Scooter Rental. As you vroom around, take turns picking places to stop. We guarantee you’ll laugh, find something in common, and, maybe, choose a location for your next meet-up.

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