Top of the Town 2016

Our 20th annual list of the best places to eat, drink, listen to music, get pampered, and more!

July 2016

—Illustrations by Halftone Def Studios

Outdoors: Sports and Fitness

Living in Colorado means easy access to mile upon mile of outdoor adventures. Here’s how best to spend your time in the wild.

Health Club/Gym

Editors’ Choice: Colorado Athletic Club–Union Station

Specialized small-group fitness classes, such as high-intensity interval training and hybrid barre workouts, are the vogue in Denver. And the newest addition to Colorado Athletic Club’s mini empire recognizes the trend: The four-month-old location behind Union Station boasts more than 100 such classes, plus a state-of-the-art hot yoga studio—104 degrees!—as part of your $126 per month membership. But we’re busy people whose lives don’t always conform to class schedules. For those times, the 38,000-square-foot space has a weight room, a massive cardio area with plenty of elliptical
machines, treadmills, and bikes, and a functional fitness space that allows you to get your sweat on, on your time. 1601 Wewatta St., 303-623-1601

Readers’ Choice: The Denver Athletic Club 1325 Glenarm Place, 303-534-1211

Sunrise Hike

Editors’ Choice: Mt. Flora

In many cases in Colorado, if you want to catch the sunrise from the top of a peak, you’ll be hiking mostly by headlamp. If you’d prefer to actually see where you’re stepping, opt for the three-mile (one way) calf-busting trek up Arapaho National Forest’s 13,132-foot Mt. Flora. Set out around 5 a.m. from the Berthoud Pass trailhead, part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, and you’ll catch the forest waking up as you walk (backcountry camping is also allowed in the national forest). After 1,738 feet in elevation gain, you’ll reach your well-deserved reward—360-degree views of the Divide, Ethel Lake, and the Winter Park area all bathed in the kind of Colorado morning glow that makes every photo #nofilter-worthy. Plus, unlike some thirteeners, the summit actually has (a little) space to sit, making it one of the prettiest breakfast spots we’ve been lucky enough to come across. 

Readers’ Choice: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, 720-865-2494

Pilates Studio

Editors’ Choice: P.S.: The Pilates Studio

Whether you’re a jackknife master or curious beginner, Wash Park’s P.S.: The Pilates Studio has got your back...and legs and arms and abs. The naturally lit studio is outfitted with top-of-the-line reformers; expert instructors offer patient guidance; and class sizes are capped at seven, which makes for a comfortable setting for all skill levels. It’s the array of classes, however, that really sets this studio apart. Here, you won’t just find Pilates fundamentals and level two; P.S. offers a cardio class on Pilates jump boards, a full-body boot camp, and a session designed just for new moms and moms-to-be. Plus, with prices as low as $10 a class, you can focus on stretching your muscles instead of your budget. 614 E. Kentucky Ave., 303-733-3833

Readers’ Choice: The Ballet Physique 7600 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree, 303-955-7165; 2539 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-955-1698

Car Camping

Editors’ Choice: Mount Princeton Campground 

The best car-camping spots are tucked away and close to plenty of opportunities for adventure; they’re places like Mount Princeton Campground in the San Isabel National Forest near Salida. The area’s 19 tent sites are shaded by ponderosa pines, and each includes a fire pit, a picnic table, and room for two cars. Chalk Creek, where you can fish or just dip your toes in, runs through the southern part of the campground, and the nearby woods beg for exploration. If we were planning the itinerary, we’d bring our bikes for an easy three(ish)-mile ride down a quiet stretch of County Road 162 to the serene Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Because even when you’re roughing it, you deserve a little pampering. 

Readers’ Choice: (TIE) Golden Gate Canyon State Park; Rocky Mountain National Park

Yoga Studio

Editors’ Choice: The River Power Vinyasa Yoga

Practicing yoga should transport you to a different world—one where there’s no laundry to do or dinner to be made. Four-year-old the River Power Vinyasa Yoga has crafted that alternate universe in its Golden Triangle studio. Wood floors, natural hues, and an inspirational quote painted on the wall set the scene; the amped-up temperature in most classes (typically 94 degrees) brings your focus inward; and the teachers are encouraging while also reminding you to respect your body’s limitations. We mellow out during candlelight vinyasa sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights, but the schedule’s variety—both in times and types of classes (yoga with weights, meditation sessions, and more)—means you won’t have any difficulty making yoga a regular part of your schedule. 1212 Delaware St., 720-381-6070, 

Readers’ Choice: CorePower Yoga multiple locations

Ski Resort

Editors’ Choice: Steamboat Ski Resort

Any time Champagne is involved, you can count us in. We are, of course, referring to Steamboat Ski Resort’s legendary powder. Skiers and boarders flock to the ’Boat for its approximately 350 annual inches of snow, 2,965 acres of steep chutes and dense tree runs, and bargain night skiing (last season’s rates were less than $40). This coming season, riders can count on getting in even more laps in the Sunshine Peak area thanks to Elkhead Lift’s upgrade to a high-speed quad. And as if flying down the slopes on two feet isn’t adrenaline-boosting enough, an all-season alpine coaster is opening this fall. You know where to find us. 2305 Mt. Werner Circle, Steamboat Springs, 1-800-922-2722

Readers’ Choice: Vail Mountain

Best Reason To Lace Up Your Running Shoes

Editors’ Choice: Denver Trail Runners

Denver offers plenty of places where you can put shoes to pavement amid pretty scenery (Wash Park, City Park...we could go on). But the views are even better when you head just outside the city to jog on in-the-wild dirt paths. Gain the best introduction to Colorado’s vast network of trail-running options through Denver Trail Runners, a 16-year-old no-cost, no-reservations, no-expectations (slow runners welcome) group that meets Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings at various foothills trailheads. The crew typically heads to places like Centennial Cone, Lair o’ the Bear Park, or North Table Mountain and runs for about 90 minutes, no matter the weather. We promise that wherever you end up, the view is sure to beat the one from your treadmill.

Readers’ Choice: Washington Park

Place To Buy A Bike

Editors’ Choice: The Singletrack Factory

A new mountain bike will easily set you back a couple grand, and when you’re dropping that kind of dough, you want to be confident about your purchase. That’s not a problem at the Singletrack Factory, a small 19-year-old shop that specializes in high-end mountain bikes from top brands such as Yeti, Ibis, and Rocky Mountain. Staffers here are all avid riders, meaning they won’t recommend a set of wheels they wouldn’t consider riding on themselves. And the generous demo program lets you try out your potential new ride before you buy: On several weekends throughout the summer (check the store’s Facebook page), Singletrack brings a few dozen bikes to a local trailhead for free test rides. 1005 S. Gaylord St., 303-733-3334

Readers’ Choice: Wheat Ridge Cyclery 7085 W. 38th Ave., 303-424-3221

Ski/Snowboard Company

Editors’ Choice: Icelantic Skis

It’s not just the arresting graphics that prompted us to bestow this 10-year-old company with this award for the second year in a row: This past winter, we demoed and then purchased pairs of the women’s Maidens and men’s Nomads. Never before have we experienced such nimble skis with an instinct for fun. The Colorado-made planks practically anticipate our next move, whether we’re swooshing in powder, carving up corduroy, or blasting through bumps. These beauties have made us better skiers—and, thanks to the bold artwork, better-looking ones too. 

Readers’ Choice: Never Summer

Outdoor Gear 

Editors’ Choice: Feral Mountain Co.

There’s not much shelf space at this four-month-old tiny Craftsman house turned store on Tennyson Street. But that’s OK because only a handful of brands pass Feral Mountain’s stringent standards. The vast majority of the products on display here have been personally tested by owner Jimmy Funkhouser and his crew, which includes an ultrarunner, an avid backpacker, and a climber. For summer and fall adventures, check out Snow Peak’s bomb-proof titanium cookware and Mountain Hardware’s ultralight (20 ounces), reasonably priced sleeping quilts. Even if you’re not in the market for new gear, a visit to the back room is worth your time: There, you’ll find one of Denver’s largest collections of Colorado trail maps, sure to get you primed for any adventure. 4320 Tennyson St., 303-903-8584

Readers’ Choice: REI multiple locations

—Photo credits (from top): Chris Harnish, courtesy of Jes Kimak