Jump Ahead:

Top Barber: R&R Head Labs

Beard trim at R&R
Photo courtesy of Mickkail Cain

It would be easy to make Sweeney Todd jokes about R&R Head Labs, but it takes more nuance to appreciate the mission behind the five-month-old barbershop on East Colfax Avenue. As the text on the sleek space’s windows reads: “We are not a conventional barbershop.” Indeed, the staff at R&R is made up of formerly incarcerated individuals—the shop’s website describes them as “justice-impacted expert barbers and other returning community members”—who are invested in giving you more than a sharp haircut.

On a blustery weekend this past spring, I sat down in a chair, described in detail the kind of cut I wanted, and then spent the next 45 minutes chatting with my barber about his past (including 14 years in prison); his present (not only cutting hair at R&R but also providing cuts at sober-living homes); and his future (continuing to stay clean and put smiles on the faces of his clients). My barber’s story was so raw and so honest that it was impossible not to be taken in by his candor and the arc of his life.

You don’t go to a barber for a story, though. I can only vouch for one barber at R&R—which has high ceilings and a welcoming atmosphere—but he was excellent. He listened closely to what I asked for and responded with questions. He was careful and fastidious. He washed and conditioned my hair after draping a hot towel on my face and used a straight blade to clean up the back of my neck. And the cost, before tip, was just $40. The result was a fantastic haircut that came with an equally poignant and inspiring conversation. —Geoff Van Dyke

Top Bike Shop: Treehouse Cyclery

To understand the story of this teeny, blue-painted bike shop in the northeast corner of Five Points, you first need to know the numbers. Like three: how many years co-owner and founder Alyssa Gonzalez has been riding bikes. And one: the percentage of bike shops in the country owned and operated by women. Also, less than one: the percentage of those that are owned by women from marginalized communities.

Gonzalez, who is half Asian and half Hispanic and queer, didn’t own a bike when she landed in Boulder for a master’s program in 2016. But like most transplants, she wanted to explore her new digs. There were a couple of problems with that, though, such as the sheer cost to get started cycling, rock climbing, backpacking, or skiing. The other big one: Gonzalez didn’t see anyone who looked like her participating.

So Gonzalez, now 30, took to social media, posting about the barriers to the outdoors she noticed. Gonzalez slowly built an Instagram following of roughly 10,000 people, who watched in real time as she started mountain biking (May 2021), gravel biking (July 2021), and talking about opening her shop “to get people on bikes in a way that feels good to them,” she says.

That idea became reality in September 2023, when Gonzalez and her business partner, Kolby Clements, debuted Treehouse (pictured above). A full-service bike shop, Treehouse offers a complete menu of repairs, diagnostics, and custom-build (no off-the-rack) options. But Gonzalez also keeps an events calendar filled with introductory classes on topics like mechanics and bikepacking and schedules monthly group rides around Five Points.

In short, Treehouse’s owners do everything they can to get more folks in the saddle. “A bike shop doesn’t have to be an intimidating place,” Gonzalez says. “It can be a catalyst for community—where there is stuff to learn and a place to meet other people and everyone is welcome.” —Maren Horjus

Top Bookstore: Petals & Pages

Bookshop interior
Photo by Sarah Banks

Dylah Ray left a career in politics to cultivate a space where LGBTQ+ Denverites feel safe to pursue their passions, connect with the community, and explore their identities. How did Ray pull off such a lofty goal? By founding a bookstore that’s packed with more than prose. Inside this Art District on Santa Fe spot, which opened in October 2023, you’ll find a flower shop, a writer’s corner, shelves brimming with bestsellers, and a robust inventory of queer and feminist literature. But Petals & Pages also hosts free and ticketed events nearly every night of the week, at least one of which is sure to appeal to the person you are—or want to be. Below, a sampling of the monthly soirées (check the website for exact dates and pricing). —Jessica Giles

1. Cozy Read-A-Thon: Pack your pillow, a blanket, and your read and stave off the Sunday scaries with a morning of leisurely page-flipping with other bookworms. Your $10 ticket includes a beverage and snacks.

2. Bookstore Burlesque: If you need a little help honing your “come hither” eyes—and rereading all the steamy sections of A Court of Thorns and Roses isn’t helping—let dancer Sophia Eliana lead you in a beginner-friendly burlesque class. No matter your gender identity, body type, or skill level, Eliana will ensure you leave feeling feisty and free.

3. Trans+ Community Game Night: Take a seat at the table with other trans folks for a communal night of bonding and board games. Bonus points if you bring something that everyone can play.

4. Social Justice Book Club: Instead of doomscrolling at home, read up on current issues, such as the Israel-Hamas war, with other aspiring changemakers. The club votes on a book each month and meets to discuss the selection with a local expert on the topic.

5. Paint & Sip: Art director EmmaMay Beers will help you tap into your inner Bob Ross during this BYOB bash. (Beers painted the floral trim on the shop’s walls and curates the local art scattered among the shelves, so it’s safe to say you’re in good hands.) Each session has a different theme—stacks of books, bouquets of flowers, etc.—which means you’ll have a new creation to hang in your home every time.

Read More: The 10 Best Indie Bookstores On the Front Range

Top Fitness Studio/Gym: Viv Cycle

Workout spin instructors
Photo courtesy of Grace Gatto Photography

I tried my first spin class in 2019 when, following a bad breakup, I hoped to ride my way to a revenge body. While the six-pack is still pending, I did discover sanctuary in the choreography-laced cardio workout. So when the first pangs of loneliness hit shortly after I moved to Denver in July 2023, I turned to my time-tested coping mechanism.

To be clear: I didn’t think riding bikes in the dark with bass so loud it rattled my kidneys would lead me to my besties. I just didn’t want to spend another night wallowing in solitude. I expected to slip into the Monday night class, claim my bike in the corner, and pedal anonymously until the lights came on. Viv Cycle had other ideas.

Since opening in July 2019, the beat-based indoor cycling, strength, yoga, and Pilates studio in RiNo has been cultivating connections through events such as member happy hours, speed friend dating, book clubs, and karaoke nights. But Viv’s instructors also inject vulnerability and intentionality into every one of its roughly 50 weekly classes. “To start to encourage people to be that way too has really helped that vibe of being authentic,” says Sophia Mar, a lead instructor and the chief marketing officer at Viv Cycle.

I felt that vibe almost immediately. Before the lights dimmed on my first class, chief operating officer Nadine Potter, also a lead instructor, welcomed me by name, and 40 people cheered like I’d just won a marathon. My cheeks flushed the same color as my hot pink Lululemon top—but not from embarrassment. Moving to a new city can be isolating. This was the first time in weeks I had been noticed by someone other than my dog.

What followed was roughly an hour of coordinated chaos. We tackled long intervals out of the saddle and resistance drills so hard that sweat turned my top an unseemly shade of rouge. But I also belly laughed when Potter made us shimmy like Shakira, belted the Killers’ “When You Were Young,” and screamed like I was at a Jonas Brothers concert. Despite having logged more than 300 spin classes, I had never experienced such an electric environment.

The following week, we celebrated a fellow rider’s 300th class with glow sticks and hard seltzers. We cheered for a member who’d passed her nurse practitioner boards the week after that. At Viv, you have no choice but to be seen and celebrated. After my first class, Potter flipped on the lights and asked, “Jess, where have you been all my life?” It didn’t matter. I was never leaving. —JG

Top Florist: Rowdy Poppy

Bouquet from Rowdy Poppy
Photo courtesy of Friends and Lovers Photography

After running her eco-conscious floral business out of her home in Whittier for six years, Kim Zimmerman signed a lease on a brick-and-mortar shop in RiNo. The location, which was slated to open in June, will provide more space for creating her organic arrangements—for events, restaurants, and Rowdy Poppy’s flower subscription service—while also allowing her to host hands-on workshops that teach the fundamentals of sustainable floral design. As a primer, Zimmerman provided a quick tutorial for crafting a modern, personality-filled arrangement that’s easy on the environment at home. —Michelle Johnson 

Ditch the Plastic: When it comes to eco-friendliness, not all floral mechanics—the materials that hold stems in place—are created equal. Instead of single-use plastic floral foam, Zimmerman employs recyclable and compostable materials in arrangements, noting that chicken wire is a tried-and-true mechanic.

Get Weird: To create visual movement, incorporate what Zimmerman calls “the weirdos.” A curly branch or a curved flower adds extra personality, especially if you surround it with negative space to accentuate its form. Zimmerman also recommends playing with asymmetrical shapes and a variety of different textures.

Forget Flower Food: The packets of powder attached to store-bought bouquets often include harsh chemicals. Zimmerman keeps blooms perky by giving flowers fresh, clean water each day, trimming stems every few days, and making sure no leaves or petals become submerged below the waterline, which encourages bacterial growth.

Waste Not: Instead of sending your wilted arrangement to the dump, consider drying or pressing blooms, Zimmerman says. She recommends drying and flattening flowers beneath the weight of, say, a heavy book or a wooden block and then using them for arts and crafts projects or for mixing with essential oils and dried citrus to create DIY potpourri.

Read More: Meet the Denver Florist Who Is Saving the Planet, One Flower at a Time

Top Fly Shop: Anglers All Fly Shops & Boathouse

Anglers All fishing gear
Photo by Sarah Banks, styling by Charli Ornett

Chris Keeley still remembers how intimidating it was walking into a fly shop for the first time. “They didn’t want to pay attention to me because I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I never forgot that.” So when he bought beloved Littleton fly shop Anglers All in 2009, he vowed to focus on customer service. It’s been a winning strategy: Not only is the business celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, but under Keeley’s stewardship, Anglers All has expanded, first in 2023 with the Boathouse, a separate showroom at the Littleton fly shop for oversize gear like fishing kayaks, and then with a second shop, on Sixth Avenue in Denver, in April. To put Keeley’s service-first approach to the test, we asked him to name his favorite Colorado gear at every price point. —Nicholas Hunt

$50 & UnderWhiting Farms 1/2 Rooster Cape – Bronze Grade
“Fly tyers know that the most premium feathers come from Whiting Farms,” Keeley says of the Delta hackle producer renowned for its flock bred specifically for their feathers. “They set the standard worldwide.”$50

$150 & Under: Fishpond Nomad Canyon Net
What makes this net from Denver’s Fishpond worth a Benjamin and a half? The carbon fiber/fiberglass construction is as light as it is tough; it features a long, flared handle for extra grip and reach; and if you do drop it, the Nomad Canyon floats. $150

$500 & Under: Ross Reels Evolution LTX Fly Reel
Keeley offers high praise for the reels made by Montrose-based Mayfly Outdoors’ sister brands Ross Reels and Able. And he’s not alone. Fly Fusion magazine bestowed an editor’s choice award on Ross’ Evolution LTX, praising its powerful, ultra-smooth drag. $475

$1,000 & Under: Scott G Series Fly Rod
Scott, another Montrose outfit, introduced its G Series rod in 1976 and has been improving it ever since. The current version is stronger, more flexible, and lighter than the previous iterations thanks to redesigned ferrules (the joints that connect each piece of the rod). $895

Top Hiking Trail: Denver Orbital Trail

North Table mountain, along the Orbital Trail route
North Table Mountain, along the Denver Orbital Trail. Photo by Sarah Banks

When he moved to Golden in summer 2023, Michael Tormey felt overwhelmed by his options. The Denver area teemed with so many trails—rural and urban—that the Maine-bred 26-year-old had no idea where to begin. A transportation engineer working in public lands, Tormey set his analytical mind to work connecting existing trails until he assembled a network that circled the Denver area. Called the Denver Orbital Trail (DOT), Tormey’s 177-mile creation comprises 28 segments, some you’ve likely tread before (Red Rocks Park in Segment Two) and some you haven’t (the riparian woodlands of Aurora’s Morrison Nature Center in Segment 16).

A project independent of any agency or nonprofit, DOT’s specific routes debuted in April at denverorbital.org. Local striders are already flocking to the website. “Someone sent me a TikTok of them hiking Segment Eight the other day,” Tormey says. “He lives locally to the segment but mentioned that he’d never been on those trails before and never been to that park. That’s what I love to hear: That people are getting out and discovering new things.” —Spencer Campbell

Top Local Jewelry Designer: Young in the Mountains

Jewelry piece
Photo by Emerald Boes, courtesy of Young in the Mountains

Although Mariele Ivy’s work is anchored in the West—she was born in Montana, lives in Boulder, and learned stone cutting in New Mexico—she used to source inlay materials from Afghanistan. Until 2017, that is, when she learned that the Taliban controls the supply of lapis lazuli, a popular inlay stone. Ivy immediately switched to domestic inlays, most of them coming from the West, instantly making Young in the Mountains more humane, not to mention more colorful and dynamic. Her Colorado collection, for example, pairs Centennial State stones—including topaz, aquamarine, smoky quartz, and Cripple Creek turquoise—with Ivy’s signature geometric and crownlike silver and gold settings. At its RiNo studio, which opened in 2019, Young in the Mountains will even switch in stones that customers collect in the wild—perfect for those who believe nature’s most enduring beauties are found in their backyards. —MJ

Top Spa: Pure Elevations Spa & Garden

Rebecca Marroquin wants to dispel the common misconception that THC massages will get you stoned. They won’t. They will, however, tranquilize the trickiest aches by reducing pain and increasing serotonin, “which helps to aid in things like depression and lack of sleep,” she says. For Marroquin, THC- and CBD-infused topicals did even more than that, easing her pain from a broken neck. The relief she experienced inspired her to open Colorado’s first cannabis-friendly spa last month in Baker, where customers can enjoy a 30-, 60-, or 90-minute massage. After your back rub, stop by the on-site hair salon for a glam sesh, the coffee shop for a (ganja-free) latte, or the mini-dispensary for one of the THC or CBD ointments that just pacified your muscles. —Barbara O’Neil

Readers’ Choice Winners



Sports, Outdoors & Fitness

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke is the editorial director of 5280 Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffVanDyke
Jessica Giles
Jessica Giles
Jessica is a senior associate editor on 5280's digital team.
Maren Horjus
Maren Horjus
Maren is 5280’s digital director.
Michelle Shortall
Michelle Shortall
Michelle Shortall is the home editor at 5280.
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas writes and edits the Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections of 5280 and writes for 5280.com.
Spencer Campbell
Spencer Campbell
Spencer Campbell writes features and edits service packages.