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—Illustration by Daniel Krall

Winter in the City

75 things to do in Denver when plummeting temperatures chase you inside.

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It’s not exactly news to say that Denverites enjoy being outdoors. It’s an ethos that unifies those of us who live in such close proximity to prodigious natural terrain. And for many months of the year, our weather does us a solid by facilitating a wide range of alfresco activities. But then there’s November, a month characterized by nippy temps and only occasional snowfall—a climatic recipe that results in the suspension of our beloved open-air pursuits. It’s enough to make one hole up on the couch and hibernate. That, however, would be the lazy man’s route, and denizens of the Mile High City are anything but lazy. Give them a cool idea for something to do and they show up. So, that’s what we’ve done with this take-it-inside guide to all the things you can do in Denver this month.


Be Active

The Substitutes

Swap your favorite warm-weather pastime for a cold-weather equivalent.

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Shake It

Cut a rug at one of these five dancing hot spots.

Mercury Cafe

The Scene: One of Denver’s most wonderfully weird cultural spots, the Merc is part cafe, part dance club, and part poetry guild.
The Music: Depending on the day, a DJ spinning hip jazz tunes or a band belting out similarly fun swing music
When: $10 Lindy Hop classes at 6 and 7 p.m. on Thursdays, plus DJ music at 8; swing classes on Sundays at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., then a live band starting at 8 ($10 includes the classes)
Don’t Miss: If you had no idea there was such a thing as blues dancing, check out the Merc on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. for a $5 beginner’s class.

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Pictured: Tiffiny Wine and Ceth Stifel are in-house swing instructors at the Mercury Cafe.

—Photo by Marc Piscotty


Denver Turnverein

The Scene:  The two formal dance floors in this 1920s-era building are packed with local dance clubs’ classes and events, which are open to the public.
The Music: Depending on the night, everything from tango and big-band to salsa and waltz
When: Ballroom on Mondays; tango on Tuesdays; salsa on Wednesdays; country on Thursdays; Lindy Hop on Fridays; a grab bag on Saturdays; and West Coast swing on Sundays
Don’t Miss: Entry to the Ballroom Dance Bash ($15 for nonmembers) on November 21 from 8 to 11 p.m. includes a lesson before the dance.


La Rumba

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The Scene: This sophisticated yet clubby atmosphere comes complete with a rockin’ sound system and a spacious dance floor.
The Music: Salsa, bachata, merengue, reggaeton—essentially any Latin-flavored music you can roll your hips to
When: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Don’t Miss: La Rumba offers $10 workshop classes from 8 to 9 p.m. so you can learn how to dance salsa or bachata before the dance floor opens to the public.


The Cowboy Lounge

The Scene: This is the place for twentysomething lovelies to wear cowboy hats from J. Crew and line dance with $4 pours of 8 Seconds Whisky in hand.
The Music: A mix of country and classic rock
When: 8 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday nights
Don’t Miss: Free dance lessons are offered from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.


Grizzly Rose

The Scene: As country as the day is long, this saloon has two mechanical bulls, a well-worn 2,500-square-foot dance floor, and a stage that’s been graced by a variety of musical legends.
The Music: Country, y’all
When: Tuesdays at 7 p.m. for $3 line-dancing lessons and Saturdays to try out that nightclub two step you learned to live music
Don’t Miss: It’s ladies’ night—draft beer and well drinks are free, girls!—on Thursdays from 8 p.m. to midnight ($5 cover)

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Be Creative


Mix It Up

We spoke with Katy Foster, owner of five-year-old Stir Cooking School, about why you should spend a winter evening cooking in her kitchen.

5280: Cold weather and cooking seem to go hand in hand, don’t they?

Katy Foster: They do. In fact, some of my favorite classes we offer are themed for winter holidays. This month, I’m excited about Holiday Goodies To Share and Holiday Tamales. We also have the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner class.

Do you have to know how to cook to sign up for a class at Stir?

Not at all. We’re a recreational cooking school, and our goal is for people to have a good time. People can be intimidated by taking a cooking class, but Stir is casual and fun. Cooking should be relaxing. Of course, our full-service bar helps ease anxiety.

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Did you say bar?

I think our liquor license is pretty important. Drinks aren’t included in the class price, but our staff is trained to mix up whatever you want, and you’re encouraged to drink and cook. Honestly, I think the bar has helped us draw a significant male clientele—we’re probably 50-50—because they come in for a beer after work and also to learn something.

Which classes are most popular?

We rarely offer the same classes, but our most well-attended classes are our Date Nights, our international classes, and anything on a Friday or Saturday night.

What’s your favorite thing to teach?

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I’m a trained chef, so I enjoy teaching the technical stuff, like our Mastering Sauces class. It’s fun for me to explain to someone why a beurre blanc breaks. But I also love teaching classes where students really work with their hands like they do when making dim sum.

What else makes Stir worth leaving the house?

Our gourmet popcorn! Before class, we have bowls of popcorn on the bar that are spiced to go along with the class. So, curry popcorn for Indian food night or herb-lemon for healthy meals night. It’s always delicious.


Play It Again

Ever wish you hadn’t given up the violin in sixth grade? Take it back up—or try something new—by registering for one of these grown-up music lessons.

Swallow Hill Music

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Denver’s favorite music makers understand that signing up for a month’s worth of lessons might not be the best way to go if you’ve never picked up a musical instrument before. So, Swallow Hill offers Intro Workshops. During a 90-minute group session ($27.50) on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, an instructor—of guitar, piano, bass, fiddle, harmonica, or ukulele—will show you how to hold the instrument, explain the basics, and teach you one song to practice at home. The workshops’ reasonable price means you can afford to rent an instrument (we suggest the Denver Folklore Center) and maybe attend a few workshops before deciding to sign up for an eight-week group class ($160).

—Photo courtesy of Scott McCormick


Denver Music Institute

The name might suggest that DMI is only for experienced musicians, but that’s far from the case. For the past 16 years, this Englewood school has taught one-on-one private lessons to a diverse portfolio of students, from three-year-old aspiring violinists to 60-year-old pianists with decades of experience. With 14 private studios, hours that are compatible with work schedules, teachers with music degrees, and a no-contract policy (lessons are billed month to month; a 30-minute lesson costs $30), DMI is an excellent place to learn guitar, drums, piano, violin, or bass or to take voice lessons.

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DIY Art

The rise of everyone-can-be-an-artist, paint-by-numbers-style classes means you can be creative—and actually bring home something beautiful.

—Photos courtesy of Upstairs Circus; Courtesy of Canvas and Cocktails; Courtesy of Alix Christian; Courtesy of Fancy Tiger Crafts


First Person

Coloring Outside The Lines

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I’m trying to replicate the subtle arc of the model’s bare back. My eyes bounce between the easel and the young woman as I add one delicate charcoal line and then another. My strokes are slow, deliberate, precise. I’m just about to begin outlining the model’s arms when I realize the instructor of this life-drawing class at the Art Students League of Denver is standing over my right shoulder. Before I can so much as say hello, she takes a piece of stubby charcoal to my drawing. I watch in horror as thick, wild streaks of black overtake my meticulously crafted sketch. When she steps back from the easel three minutes later, she looks at me and says, “You’re too rigid; drawing is a fluid activity. Lose control a little.”

It is not the first time I’ve been accused of being a control freak. It is, however, one of the few times I tell myself to acquiesce. Her drawing is, without a doubt, better than mine. Way better. It has movement and energy and personality. Photo-realistic it is not, but somehow the woman in the drawing looks more alive than she did when constructed of my perfectly tame lines.

I wait for the model to settle into her next position before putting charcoal to clean paper. Loosen up, I tell myself. Then I begin. It feels haphazard and careless and inefficient to work with such abandon. But it’s also freeing. And creative—like I’m a real artist. And exponentially more fun. When the egg timer signals it’s time for the model to alter her stance, I pause to look at what I’ve done. It’s not great. (I ran out of room on the paper and cut off one of her feet.) But it’s not bad either. The woman looks less robotic and more human. She appears softer, more feminine. I’m no Michelangelo, but I’m thrilled at having received such a useful piece of instruction. And, when the teacher strolls by my station a few minutes later, I get an approving nod.

TRY IT: To sign up for an ASLD class, visit asld.org.

—Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Be Cultured

On Display

Even if you’ve never gravitated toward museum-style exhibits, these three collections—all on view this month in Denver—are worth a peek.

Wyeth: Andrew And Jamie In The Studio
November 8 to February 7, 2016

Why It’s Worth Getting Off The Couch: Organized as an artistic conversation between father (Andrew Wyeth) and son (Jamie Wyeth), this collection allows the viewer to see how works from these American painters speak to one another. Paired quotes, Jamie’s childhood drawings, and displays of real-life objects that appear in the paintings add texture and context to what is easily the most comprehensive exhibit of the combined works of these regionalist masters, whose pieces primarily depict life in the Northeast. More than 100 works will help Denver Art Museum visitors discern the differences and similarities between the two celebrated artists.

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—Photo courtesy of Andrew Wyeth


The International Exhibition Of Sherlock Holmes
Through January 31, 2016

Why It’s Worth Getting Off The Couch: This elaborately designed exhibit transforms the Denver Museum of Nature & Science into foggy Victorian London, where, at the request of the legendary fictional sleuth, you’ll help investigate the horrific crime that occurred in Mr. Persano’s home. By using interactive technology from the late 1880s—a body-drag impression test, a footprint maker, a blood-spatter device—and following the evidence, unraveling this captivating murder mystery becomes quite, well, elementary.


Jerry De La Cruz: A Road Well Traveled
Through January 16,  2016

Why It’s Worth Getting Off The Couch: Denver-based artist Jerry De La Cruz is nothing if not versatile. He’s a painter, sculptor, and photographer who dabbles in realism, surrealism, and the abstract. This 45-year retrospective—on display at Museo de las Americas, just a few doors down from the artist’s Santa Fe arts district studio—will lay out De La Cruz’s work chronologically. As the artist notes, “the goal is to give the viewer a sense of what it might be like to be the artist in the studio, to work on an abstract in the morning, a portrait at noon, and a surreal piece in the evening.”

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Pinkie Fingers Out

Chilly temps make afternoon tea service an even cozier endeavor. Here, three proper spots.

Brown Palace Hotel

Daily from noon to 4 p.m.
The grande dame of Mile High high tea, the Brown Palace serves finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream shipped in from the U.K., and pastries in the hotel’s iconic atrium lobby. Piano music comes standard. This is a one-of-a-kind Denver experience—one you’ll want to make reservations for, especially during the holiday season. Tea service: $36 per person

—Photo courtesy of the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa

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D Bar Denver

Daily from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (by reservation only)
One of Denver’s favorite places to satisfy a sweet tooth also offers a delightful tea service. The menu begins with a savory roasted tomato and herb soup served with a three-cheese panino, progresses to an assortment of fresh-baked scones and condiments, and ends sweetly with dainty petit fours. Tea service: $28 per person


The House of Commons

Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Raised in Lancashire, England, House of Commons owner Jessica Avery puts out a spread her tea-loving grandmother would be proud of. Finger sandwiches and buttery scones served with jam, lemon curd, and Devonshire cream are accompanied by a selection of fresh teas. Bonus: For an extra $8, you can add a glass of bubbly. Tea service: $24.95 per person

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On Stage

Denver’s curtains rise in the fall, but there’s far more to see than Broadway musicals—if you just know where to look.


Be Curious

You Can Do It

Expand your horizons—and your comfort zone—with these eight eclectic classes.

Build a Banjo

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How: By piecing together a pre-prepared banjo kit while learning about the instrument’s long history, varie musical stylings, and complex mechanics.
Where: The Living Arts School; taught at Silver Sage Village, 1650 Yellow Pine Ave., Boulder
When: November 7, 1 to 5 p.m.
How Much: $210
Sign Up: livingartsschool.com


Make Cheese

How: By signing up for the Brie and blue cheese class, a group lesson that details how to make these two delicious fromages. You’ll get to take home two small wheels of cheese to care for during development.
Where: Wine & Whey, 3559 Larimer St.
When: November 7, 11 a.m.
How Much: $55 per person
Sign Up: wineandwhey.com

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Learn to Sew

How: By signing up for the introduction to sewing class, during which you’ll sew a small project and pick up a few basic skills—including how to work on a machine.
Where: HISS Studio, 1136 N. Speer Blvd.
When: November 5 at 6:30 p.m. or November 8 at 3:15 p.m.
How Much: $18
Sign Up: hissstudio.com


Use Herbal Medicine

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How: By taking the Elderberry Syrup For Health & Cocktails class, during which Bridget Molloy will expose you to elderberries in different formats and explain their health benefits.
Where: Bridget’s Botanicals; taught at Nourished Health Center, 1740 Marion St.
When: November 18, 6 p.m.
How Much: $35
Sign Up: bridgetsbotanicals.org


Try Improv

How: By dropping in to an improv class, where instructors guide students through small scenes, group work, and even musical improv.
Where: Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, 1260 22nd St.
When: Monday and Tuesday nights, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
How Much: $5 donation
Sign Up: voodoocomedy.com/dropin


Build a Succulent Terrarium

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How: By taking a terrarium class, where you’ll outfit an eight-inch globe with living succulents, air plants, substrates, bark, rocks, and moss.
Where: Bella Calla, 3100 Downing St., Suite A
When: During one of the 15 classes offered this month
How Much: $50
Sign Up: bellacalla.com


Take Better Photographs

How: By attending this Macro Photography class, during which instructor Bob Krugmire will teach you how to capture amazing close-ups.
Where: Butterfly Pavilion, 6252 W. 104th Ave., Westminster
When: November 28, 8:30 to 10 a.m.
How Much: $15
Sign Up: butterflies.org

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Speak Italian

How: By taking a four-class Italian 101 course, where you’ll learn the fundamentals.
Where: Colorado Free University; taught at the Italian Institute, 3773 Cherry Creek North Drive
When: Mondays from November 2 to 23, 6 to 8 p.m.
How Much: $117 plus $45 for a textbook
Sign Up: freeu.com


Trivial Pursuits

Stretch your brain—while throwing back a few cold ones—at our favorite local question-and-answer competitions.

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Booze Cruise

If you can drink it, someone in Colorado is probably making it—and, even better, letting you taste it.

Spirits: Leopold Bros. Distillery Tour

There’s no better way to see how hooch should be made than to take the Connoisseur Tour ($15) at Leopold Bros. During this three-hour booze-apalooza, visitors learn about the processes that go into making some of the country’s finest spirits. The best part? Included in this mega-tour is the opportunity to taste the distiller’s entire lineup of the hard stuff. Visit leopoldbros.com to check availability.

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Beer: Banjo Billy’s Denver Brewery Tour

Sure, there are many ways to tour Denver’s craft brewing scene, but come winter, a walking tour might not feel like such a great idea. Instead, reserve a seat on Banjo Billy’s Denver Brewery Tour bus. For just $40, you’ll get a warm ride between Renegade Brewery, Beryl’s Beer Co., and Prost Brewing—plus three pints and three hours of touring. Visit banjobilly.com to book your seat.

Wine: The Infinite Monkey Theorem Tour & Tasting

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The Infinite Monkey Theorem is known for great wine, for its urban setting, for sourcing some of its grapes from Colorado vineyards, and for its quirky founder, Ben Parsons. The winery has also become known for canning its vino. All of which goes to say that the 60-minute tour ($25) is a real trip. Visit theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com to reserve atour time.


Speaker In The House

Sometimes you don’t have to do anything but open your ears.

Clyfford Still’s Replicas and the New San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

November 11, 6:30 p.m.; free; Clyfford Still Museum

Listen as Neal Benezra, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, explains the important role the Bay Area played in Clyfford Still’s life. Not only did the abstract expressionist live there for much of the 1940s, but he also made some of his most noteworthy paintings while residing there. Benezra will share stories about Still’s special relationship with the SFMOMA and present new assessments about the acclaimed artist’s body of “replicas”—works that are closely related in composition. Additionally, Benezra will give attendees a sneak peek of the $610 million expansion project at the SFMOMA, an effort that’s adding 125,000 square feet of space and more than 4,000 works to the collection. Register at clyffordstillmuseum.org.

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Color-Oddities and the Colorado Historical Atlas

November 16, 1 and 7 p.m.; $10; History Colorado Center

Often introduced as Dr. Colorado, Tom Noel is an American historian specializing in the history of the American West. He is the co-director of the Center for Colorado & the West and teaches history at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also a prolific author, having written some 40 books about the Centennial State, including his latest tome, the revised Colorado: A Historical Atlas. During this fascinating presentation, Noel will focus on what he calls “Color-Oddities,” the strangest people, places, and things unique to this highest of states. Purchase tickets online at historycolorado.org.

—Photos courtesy of iStock (2); shutterstock (3); courtesy of wikipedia; Courtesy of Banjo Billy’s Denver Brewery Tour; Leopold Bros. Distillery; courtesy of bella calla; Steve Wilder, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse; Sarah boyum; Tom Noel; Ryan Lee

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