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Splashy murals aren’t the only Instagram-worthy masterpieces in Denver these days. Across the Front Range, nail art is flourishing as a creative statement—and for that, we largely have Rachael Waggoner, owner of Lakewood salon the Beauty Collective, to thank. While working as a nail artist to help pay for law school about a decade ago, Waggoner noticed a void in the city for the elaborate manicures she favored. Her acrylic 3D art started filling the space, but more important, Waggoner became the matriarch of the mile-high nail scene, mentoring and teaching dozens of other local technicians how to craft designs for their own clients. “Unlike a lot of other cities, one thing I think is really cool about this community in Denver is that we all network really nicely together,” Waggoner says. Her three-year-old salon and the new Beauty Collective Academy located next door are the physical manifestations of that spirit. At the salon, Waggoner and 11 other techs work independently (financially) but together (as colleagues) to bring even the wildest manicure dreams to life. At the academy, Waggoner and her faculty are training the Picassos of the future, so whether you prefer rhinestone-clad acrylic claws or shorter, eye-catching gel fingernails, you’ll be in good hands. —Madi Skahill
OK, sure: Casino-filled Black Hawk technically resides about 45 minutes west of Denver. But we simply couldn’t ignore the Monarch’s recent $400 million expansion, which bet big on self-care seekers with an elaborate, Vegas-style spa that ups the ante on offerings closer to home. The 23-story hotel and entertainment mecca gave the 60,000-square-foot retreat a prime, top-floor location that feels all the more tranquil after traveling through the din of slot machines on the way up. Booking any service (from a $65 pedicure to a $205 gemstone facial to a $365 soaking and massage ritual) gains you two hours of access to the mostly coed wellness oasis—and its overwhelming labyrinth of lounges—both before and after your treatment. Use our guide below to navigate all the amenities and come out feeling like a winner. —Jessica LaRusso
First Two Hours:
1. Locker Room
Change into your swimsuit and the provided plush robe. Return when necessary for tea, fruit-infused ice water, and trail mix.
2. Mountain Stone Bath
Watch as a bucket of hot rocks dips into frigid water to fill this small sauna with steam in a kitschy but oh-so-soothing nod to Black Hawk’s mining-town roots.
3. Aqua Spa Lounge
Alternate soaking in the hot, jetted pool and sprawling on a cushioned chair with views of the mountainside. Then grab a handful of ice from the pedestal to rub over your skin to stimulate circulation.
4. Laconium Lounge
Ditch your wet suit before letting the dry, warm air and heated, contoured seats loosen your muscles in preparation for whatever pampering service you’ve selected.
Final Two Hours:
6. Brine Inhalation-Light Therapy Lounge
Spend an hour reading, napping, or observing the color-changing illumination on the serene space’s cascading salt sculpture.
7. Experiential Shower
Let this fun, gimmicky shower—there are settings for ice fog, thundershower, tropical rain, and snow—in the Aqua Lounge rouse you from your blissful stupor.
8. Herbal Steam Room
Back in the locker room, bask in this humid chamber, where the ceiling is studded with lights that look like stars.
Best New Hotel
3770 Walnut St., 720-990-5555
3004 N. Downing St., 720-810-1484
Best Pet Store/Services
389 S. Broadway, 720-647-2727; 2306 E. Sixth Ave., 720-780-7766
Best Bike Shop
7085 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 303-424-3221
Best Hair Salon
2021 E. Colfax Ave., 720-535-8661
Best Interior Designer
5650 S. Windermere St., Littleton, 303-783-9327
507 Lincoln St., Suite 102, 303-284-8954; 2501 Dallas St., Suite 264 (inside Stanley Marketplace), Aurora, 720-531-2918
Best Ski/Snowboard Tune
8955 S. Ridgeline Blvd., Suite 1500, Highlands Ranch, 720-641-3740