PLAYGood libations, hikes for every mood, plus the absolute best places in the city to make out. Sometimes you just need a diversion; these are the best Denver has to offer.
EDITORS' CHOICE Museum of Contemporary Art
1840 15th St., 303-298-7554, www.mcartdenver.org
MCA is like that fun girlfriend from college. You know you'll have a blast every time you see each other, but you also know that a steady diet might be too much. And this is exactly what makes MCA so good. It brings in fun, challenging, often local, and always edgy art, but you never feel like you have to get too serious about it all. Bonus: With the grand opening of its acclaimed, David Adjaye-designed building on the horizon this fall, the world, too, is about to take notice.
READERS' CHOICE Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org
The architecture critics are split 50-50 on the new building, but who cares? We think the whole thing is like the best parts of climbing a Colorado fourteener. Like a well-marked trail, the topsy-turvy atrium tempts us up into the stratosphere of fine art. The reward for the climb? Full-on mountain vistas and Denver's finest contemporary collection spread out for our enjoyment.
EDITORS' CHOICE The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar
404 S. Upham St., Lakewood, 303-934-1777, www.belmarlab.org
Aspiring do-it-yourselfers will dig the offbeat craft-assembly classes at the Lab for their sheer eclecticism. These two-hour Wednesday-night sessions are an assorted mishmash of creative how-tos, such as a jewelry-reconfiguring class where you learn to disassemble your old gaudy accessories, mix and match the parts, and reconnect the pieces for totally fresh looks.
READERS' CHOICE Art Students League of Denver
200 Grant St., 303-778-6990, www.asld.org
You can't go wrong in a class taught by a national artist at an institution entirely devoted to the learning and teaching of art. It's kinda their shtick. Classes range from basic drawing to fiber art, and generally meet once or twice a week. Interested, but no artsy-smartsy background? No sweat. The League recommends you enroll in the Fundamentals of Art class to bone up before diving into an open-lab ceramics session.
Tourist Attraction Worth Seeing
EDITORS' CHOICE Georgetown
East of I-70, 45 miles west of Denver
Georgetown: How do we love thee? For the bighorn sheep that form the welcoming committee, for the old firehouse, the unpretentious cafes and shops, the sweet and sleepy main street, the painted-lady architecture, the steam-train that chugs visitors up to 9,000 feet and back...and the total lack of a Starbucks, even now. This is Colorado day tripping for the uninitiated.
READERS' CHOICE Red Rocks Amphitheatre
When you want to wow 'em with killer views, soaring pinnacles of stone, amazing acoustics, and those dudes who are always hanging out and drumming on the stage during the off hours, our readers bring out-of-towners to the Rocks. Work in a hike (like the Mt. Falcon trail) and you've got an afternoon. Or go in the summer for the music and movies.
EDITORS' CHOICE Colorado Symphony
There's nothing uptight about this group of performers, led by dynamic music director Jeffery Kahane. With an annual lineup including classics, jazz, pops, holiday fare, and family entertainment, they are sure to have something to pique everyone's interest. Still not sure? Catch them as they tour the state this summer, playing free of charge in cities near you.
READERS' CHOICE Buntport Theater Company
717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com
Don't sit home watching predictable reruns. Get your underused funny bone over to Buntport, just off Santa Fe, for a much-needed live-sitcom laugh riot.
EDITORS' CHOICE "Opening Doors" by Christopher Weed, 2005
Located between the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center-Fitzsimons Education Facility buildings, these three giant doors stand ajar, beckoning students, professors, and patients to open their minds to the power of lifelong learning. And, yet, at the same time, this playfully creative installation offers a lighthearted break from the intensity of all that surrounds them.
READERS' CHOICE "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent, 2005
At 40 feet tall, the Big Blue Bear (as he's been dubbed) has easily become Colorado's most recognizable public art icon. Peeking into the Convention Center, his inquisitive and unassuming nature reflects not only his image in the glass, but also our own Western ideals.
Bar to Catch Live Music
EDITORS' CHOICE El Chapultepec
1962 Market St., 303-295-9126
El Chapultepec's faithful house band makes us want to wear a loose-fitting summer dress and fan ourselves like we're in an old jazz club in the South. This hole-in-the-wall gem offers the live jazz standards that will get you dancing with the older regulars. Tip: If you want a booth with a good view of the band, plan on getting there at around 8 p.m. because, when the music starts at 9 p.m., it's standing room only.
READERS' CHOICE Hi-Dive
7 S. Broadway, 720-570-4500, www.buntport.com
Offering nightly live music from punk to indie to metal, the Hi-Dive is the venue that great local bands deserve and that touring bands covet. And we can't get enough of the Monday $1 PBR. Grab your hoodie and your Chuck Taylors and go hear the local music you need to know about.
EDITORS' CHOICE Peaks Lounge
650 15th St., 303-436-1234
What do you get when you couple great martinis and a sophisticated appetizer menu with a killer view of the Front Range? Peaks Lounge atop the Hyatt Regency hotel, of course. Any vantage point will do in this chic bar. For something to satiate, try the creamy smoked salmon stack, cool tomato Caprese, or gourmet ham and Brie cheese panini on toast. For something to regret later, try the decadent crème brûlée.
READERS' CHOICE The Cruise Room
1600 17th St., 1-866-696-3617, www.theoxfordhotel.com
Boasting a huge menu, full of sizzling seafood options and even bigger drinks, you can't argue with the Oxford Hotel's Cruise Room. Just off the hotel's main lobby, this long, thin bar emanates an intoxicating red glow that couldn't feel less like, well, a hotel bar. And here's a bit of history: The place was modeled after one of the lounges on the Queen Mary and opened the day after prohibition was repealed.
EDITORS' and READERS' CHOICE Choppers Sports Grill
80 S. Madison St., 303-399-4448, www.chopperssportsgrill.com
If you're searching for maximum square inches of television, head to Choppers, where the Broncos are damn near life-size on the monstrous televisions. Camaraderie and/or rivalries can build quickly in the wide-open bar area, so leave that Raiders hat home—your kind's not welcome in these here parts.
EDITORS' CHOICE The Compound
145 Broadway, 303-722-7977, www.compounddenver.com
Whether you're out to dance the night away under the disco ball or just kick back with a cocktail and friends, the Compound is your joint. With a newly remodeled dance floor, two bars, and an enclosed back patio, it's no wonder the gay community has gotten its groove on here for more than 20 years.
READERS' CHOICE JR's Bar and Grill
777 E. 17th Ave., 303-831-0459. www.myjrs.com
Don't let the name fool ya. JR's is anything but junior league. Drawing huge crowds nearly every night, this expansive two-level pub is a staple for those in the gay community looking for seriously strong cocktails. Libations aside, JR's also boasts Broadway musical sing-alongs on Mondays and a Gong Show on Tuesdays.
Bar in a Bar
EDITORS' CHOICE The Tavern Lowry
7401 E. First Ave., 303-366-0007, www.tavernhospitalitygroup.com/lowry
The quintessential bar—a long, spacious wooden altar with well-worn stools where locals swill away the day—seems to be a dying element of architecture. Today, most bars at trendier digs suffer little space and less focus; bars just aren't the spectacular centerpieces they once were. The bar at the Tavern Lowry (from the owners of Tavern Uptown and Tavern Downtown), however, would make Norm proud. Congenial bartenders service a huge, oblong, dark-wood bar with mounted flat-screen TVs that rests squarely in the middle of the restaurant. It's the kind of bar where you can belly up and never feel like you have to—or want to—leave.
READERS' CHOICE Sengers on the Fax
3014 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-0823
Open only since January of this year, Sengers' bar has quickly made an impression on our readers. It's not hard to see why—the epoxy-finished bar with at least 14 stools and easily hundreds of bottles of liquor stretches across nearly half of the space. And that's only the first bar. You can also head out back to the patio for a frosty cold beverage (happy hour is Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) or pub food at the fully stocked outdoor bar. Yes, it's just like heaven—for bar rats anyway.
Beers on Tap
EDITORS' CHOICE The Cherry Cricket
2641 E. Second Ave., 303-322-7666, www.cherrycricket.com
At what other hamburger joint could you choose from more than 20 tasty drafts to complement your juicy quarter-pounder? The Cherry Cricket is the place to get chow with friends, which makes its extensive draft menu perfect for pitchers, from Kronenbourg 1664 to Great Divide to O'Dell's Pale Ale.
READERS' CHOICE Falling Rock Taphouse
1919 Blake St., 303-293-8338, www.fallingrocktaphouse.com
Falling Rock is the beer lover's mecca, a shrine to the malts and hops that flow from the more than 70 taps lining the walls. The Falling Rock also understands that Colorado's beer snobs thrive on variety—its draft offerings change as often as the local breweries can produce new seasonal brews.
EDITORS' CHOICE Purple Martini
1201 16th St., 8000 E. Belleview Ave., 1710 29th St., Boulder, 1-877-486-3521, www.purplemartini.com
Whether you're an ultratraditionalist who can comment on bruised vermouth, or a modern drinker more concerned with the size of the cherry garnish, there's one martini here in Denver that does what no other can: Help fight breast cancer. The folks at Purple Martini have created "The Cure" martini, a pink vodka concoction that yields $1 from every pour to breast cancer research. Now that's a toast-worthy drink.
READERS' CHOICE Cruise Room
1600 17th St., 303-628-5400, www.theoxfordhotel.com
This landmark Denver cocktail lounge has been shaking its famous martinis since 1933. The secret? The bartenders. These cocktail-creating veterans will tell you that the key to a great martini is in the vermouth, adding, "Just a quick glance at Martini & Rossi is all you need to shake a superb martini."
EDITORS' CHOICE Sports Column
1930 Blake St., 303-296-1931, www.denversportscolumn.com
If you've crawled out of bed to watch your favorite sports team on a weekend morning, a fizzy draft might be a bit too much of a shock to the senses. No problem. Sports Column has your number and serves up a great, spicy Bloody Mary—it's a thick, mouth-tingling drink with no frills but for a few green olives.
READERS' CHOICE Lucile's
275 S. Logan St., 303-282-6258, www.luciles.com
This Bloody Mary was born in the culture of New Orleans, and its brash garnish (a huge celery stalk stabbed with pickled shrimp, pickled okra, and lime) matches Lucile's brunch-time laughter. The Bloody itself is a simple tomato drink, but the extra veggies and Creole seasonings on the rim make it sassy enough to fit into the colorful atmosphere.
EDITORS' CHOICE Tahona Tequila Bistro
1035 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-938-9600, www.luciles.com
Tahona encourages tequila enthusiasts to try sippin' tequilas rather than the standard margarita—though its coin-style margs are puckery enough to keep you coming back. Come here prepared to learn about tequila—its blancos, reposados, and anejos are offered in vertical and horizontal tastings with tasty flavored salts. If you're feeling adventurous, try a Hot Tamale, a drink that features chile-pepper-infused tequila.
READERS' CHOICE Mezcal
3230 E. Colfax Ave., 303-322-5219, www.mezcal-restaurant.com
You'll be tempted to try one of Mezcal's tasty 30/30 margs—as most of the young professionals are during happy hour—but it's time to branch out. Tequila flights aren't on Mezcal's menu, but ask your tattooed server for a sample flight of its extensive list. (We got tasty samplings served with a palate-clearing tomato-orange sangrita.)
EDITORS' CHOICE Gabor's
1223 E. 13th Ave., 303-832-3108
Sometimes you wanna go where they always know your name. And at Gabor's, Capitol Hill's coziest no-frills bar, they're always glad you came. It's dark, but not dingy. Small, but never cramped. And the '50s Hollywood decor (James Dean posters, Marilyn Monroe glamour shots, etc.) just feels cool. Pull up a stool and engage the dedicated regulars in conversations ranging from Chinese Zen patriarchs to zombie flicks.
READERS' CHOICE Don's Club Tavern
723 E. Sixth Ave.
If the name Don's Club Tavern doesn't ring a bell, it's probably because folks simply refer to this classic Denver dive as Don's Mixed Drinks. Arguably one of the coolest bar names ever. And the joint ain't bad either: throwback neon signage, wood-paneled walls reminiscent of a 1970s rumpus room, a mixture of punk and politician patrons, and, most importantly, cheap PBR.
EDITORS' CHOICE The Santa Fe Stroll
Art District on Santa Fe (fifth to 10th avenues): www.artdistrictonsantafe.com; Cuba Cuba: 1173 Delaware St., 303-605-2822, www.cubacubacafe.com
The Art District on Santa Fe Drive has garnered national attention lately—all the more reason to woo a date here. Stroll along the six-block radius and enjoy over 30 participating galleries and artist studios during a First Friday Art Walk. Afterward, splurge on dinner at the bright and lively Cuba Cuba, just a bit farther. Before digging in to delicious entrées such as the camarones al ajillo ($20) or the lechon asado ($16), sip mango mimosas and pomegranate mojitos at the bar. Your art walk should give you plenty to talk about.
READERS' CHOICE Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake St, 303-296-1970, www.vestagrill.com
With its exposed brick walls and romantic lighting and decor, this readers' favorite feels like a chic urban loft. But the food is the reason to stay. Entrées like sofrito-grilled pork tenderloin ($19) and five-spice grilled scallops ($24) come with three dipping sauces, so experiment and find your favorite dip—and don't forget to share with your new friend sitting across the table.
EDITORS' CHOICE Cinderella Twin Drive-In Theater
3400 S. Platte River Drive, Englewood, 303-761-8232, www.cinderelladrivein.com
Drive-ins make us feel like giddy teenagers again (Danny Zuko and Sandy, anyone?). And we're lucky to have one of the few remaining old-school theaters right here in the metro area. So pick a clear Saturday night, motor on in, and stake your claim in the soft light of the big screen. Don't get too close, though—the Joneses in the SUV behind you don't need to be witnesses.
READERS' CHOICE Lookout Mountain
Five miles up Lariat Trail (19th Street) off Sixth Avenue in Golden
The stars are out, the moon is shining, the lights of Golden are twinkling below. You're looking out over the vastness of Colorado, two tiny people under a wide-open sky. C'mon, nobody's watching...
Rock of Ages5280 contributor (and Opie Gone Bad front man) Jake Schroeder picks Denver's top bands for 2007.
The score from Little Miss Sunshine might just vault this sickeningly talented band into the national spotlight they've deserved for years. Their annual Halloween show at the Boulder Theater is consistently rad, as is their sousaphone player, Jeanie Schroder. www.devotchka.net You might also like... Go Go Lab or The Motet
Their musical honesty and willingness to take collaboration chances cement them as the leader in Denver country and western. Plus, their shows are a guaranteed beer-swilling sing-along. www.railbenders.com You might also like... Fondis
Born in the Flood and Rose Hill Drive tie
Edgier and more gripping than (and international superstars) the Fray, look to Born in the Flood to fill some tour dates with the Fray this year. Also, don't be surprised to see Boulder's Rose Hill Drive (one of Rolling Stone's picks to watch in 2007) ascend to a Fray-like level in the near future. www.bornintheflood.com, www.rosehilldrive.com You might also like... Vices I Admire
Their horn section is enough to get even the stodgiest suburbanite's feet moving. And the band (an octet, chock-full of talented musicians) is a lab of sorts for shredding players, and a joy to witness. www.filthychildren.com You might also like... Buckner Funken Jazz
For the best Denver jazz, follow Eric Gunnison's gig list. Every act this jazz pianist and composer plays with (like the Darren Kramer Organization or Dotsero) is the cream of the crop. www.ericgunnison.com
You might also like... Wake Up Call
EDITORS' CHOICE Wash Park and 16th Street Mall tie
Pick your poison: If you prefer spandex- or shorts-clad twentysomethings and soccer moms getting in a jog or a stroll, or just lolling in the sun—roll on over to Wash Park. If the polished, professional look is more your thing, the 16th Street Mall is wall to wall with attractive ladies who (power) lunch in heels. Hint: Check out Green Fine Salad Co. (1137 16th St.) at noon for some primo hottie spotting.
EDITORS' CHOICE Coors Field
20th and Blake streets, Coors Field, www.rockies.mlb.com
Just about every guy in the country has a soft spot for America's favorite pasttime. Which is great for those of us on the prowl. When fans congregate at Coors Field during the height of summer, boy watching hits an all-time peak. Whether you're in the good seats or the Rockpile, you can be sure boys abound. (The guys in the good seats are usually a better bet...and generally less inebriated.) If no one strikes your fancy, it's not a total loss: You'll still be treated to a breathtaking view of the Rockies (and we're not just talking about the mountains).