One holiday ends and another begins — such is life. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in Denver, whether you're in a relationship or riding solo, and they're getting under way early this year. Denver will also celebrate another special day this week: The Neal Cassady Birthday Bash will return to the Mercury Cafe, for the eleventh annual nod to the Beat figure.
All that and more on this week's list of the best things to do in Denver!
Monday, February 3
Long before Trump came into power, local immigrant-rights activists — organized by Coloradans for Immigrant Rights and the American Friends Service Committee — started gathering regularly outside the immigration detention center at 3130 Oakland Street in Aurora for non-violent demonstrations. Love Knows No Borders, No Walls will return to the facility on Monday, February 3, from 6 to 7 p.m. with the usual instruments, noisemakers, signs and singing to show solidarity with those inside the facility, and will include an open mic to give people whose lives have been affected by detention an opportunity to speak. Find more information on the event's Facebook page.
Tuesday, February 4
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Experimental filmmaker Stacey Steers is currently exhibiting Edge of Alchemy — a cinematic installation depicting silent film-era giants Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor as magicians working to create life — at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Mixing images of Victorian scientific instruments, insects and plants, Steers’s animations are at once science fiction and deeply rooted in technologies and cultures of the past. The filmmaker will discuss Edge of Alchemy and her work with assistant curator Zoe Larkins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 4, at the MCA, 1485 Delgany Street; tickets for the talk, $10 to $15, are available at mcadenver.org.
Wednesday, February 5
The Denver Jewish Film Festival, now rolling into its 23rd year, has become a well-oiled machine known for promoting films with Jewish themes, from documentaries about political figures like Golda Meir and the controversial leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Holocaust stories and biographies of basketballers, novelists, jazz record label founders and newspaper publishers to coming-of-age stories, comedies and transgender dramas. This year's grab bag debuts on Wednesday, February 5, with an opening-night screening of Crescendo #makemusicnotwar, the story of an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra rocked by political discord, at the Elaine Wolf Theatre in the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street. The evening begins with a VIP reception at 6 p.m., followed by the film at 7; the fest continues with daily screenings through February 19. Opening-night VIP tickets are $55, while regular tickets range from $12 to $14 for individual screenings to $330 for a full festival pass. Learn more at jccdenver.org.
Thursday, February 6
Bloomsday the play was written by Denver native Steven Dietz and inspired by the serendipity of Joycean lore captured in a single day. It's also a time-traveling romance in which a couple’s present and past selves become entangled during a walking tour through Dublin. Jada Suzanne Dixon directs the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of Bloomsday, which opens for previews at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 6, and Friday, February 7, and then runs Thursdays through Sundays through March 1 at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. Find dates and tickets, $10 to $38, at betc.org/event/bloomsday.
Friday, February 7
Mardi Gras happens on February 25 this year, and Carnival around the world represents a week or so of uninhibited celebrations before the abstinence of Lent. But Denver seems to go by its own calendar where international holidays are concerned, so Carnival is coming early — in the form of RiNoval — from Friday, February 7, to Sunday, February 9. Denver Central Market, at 2669 Larimer Street, will be the center of the action, but there will be festivities at other locations on the block. Start with a $60 Italian Carnival tasting menu at Il Posto (2601 Larimer Street) on February 7 (make reservations at ilpostodenver.com), then hit Denver Central Market on the 8th for special cocktails, international bites, DJs, dancers and costumes from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Purchase $15 tickets, which include a feathered mask, one welcome drink and a $5 donation to the World Wildlife Fund earmarked for fire relief in Australia, at eventbrite.com. Wrap up the weekend with a free, family-friendly (face painting, jugglers, special menu items) Carnival celebration at the market from noon to 2 p.m. on the 9th.
Healing Through the Arts, a new community-driven show, opens at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, telling a cooperative story of how art and culture can heal the artist as well as the viewer. Help kick it off at a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 7, at CHAC, 222 Santa Fe Drive, or join the gallery in celebrating a Valentine-worthy Day of Healing on Saturday, February 15, from noon to 5 p.m., with Aztec dancers, spoken word, food and a variety of healers doing their thing, from numerology to reiki treatments. The art exhibition runs through February 28; learn more about both events at chacgallery.org.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Westwood's Re:Vision, 3800 Morrison Road, is debuting an art exhibit that's sweet not only for lovebirds, but also the entire neighborhood. The launch party for All You Need Is Love and Chocolate runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, February 7; guests will get a sneak peek of goodies from the Cultura Chocolate Factoría & Café that will soon be opening on site, as well as appetizers from chef Edwin Sandoval's Xatrucho and Mayan street-food truck, X'tabai Yucateco. Tickets are just $10 on the community development organization's website. While you're there, dive even deeper into the flavors of the season by signing up for one of Cultura's cooking classes over the next two weeks: a chocolate mousse kids' class at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 8 ($5); mole class from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12 ($25); and chocoflan class from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 15 ($25). There are still spaces available for all classes, but they're going quickly (as chocolate tends to do).
You've no doubt spent plenty of time gazing at and exploring Colorado's epic landscape. So why not start contributing to its future? Founded in 1912, the Colorado Mountain Club teaches mountaineering techniques, leads trips into the wilderness and battles the effects of climate change by planting trees, opposing dams and influencing policies related to open space, water and more. On Friday, February 7, the club will host its inaugural Benefit Gala, featuring a keynote address by world-renowned adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, a seated dinner, silent and live auctions, mountaineering achievement awards and more, with all proceeds going toward the club's youth and adult education programs. Swap your hiking boots for "mountain chic cocktail attire" starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora. Find tickets, starting at $150, at cmc.org.
Filmmaker and artist Shunsaku Hayashi, who specializes in digitally processed, hand-drawn experimental animations that present like dreamy moving paintings, is making the rounds in northern Colorado, including a return visit to Counterpath, where he’s been a past guest at the Unseen Film Festival. Hayashi will host a program of short animations, leading off with “Leaking Life,” a film that’s been shown in a number of festivals worldwide, including the 69th Berlin International, where it premiered a year ago. Join the filmmaker for an intimate screening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 7, at Counterpath, 7935 East 14th Avenue; admission is free, but donations are appreciated at the door. Learn more at counterpathpress.org.
Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano, a 56-year-old performance troupe, has devoted itself to preserving Mexican myth and storytelling, dance, fashion, culture and music. The troupe, along with a live band playing instruments from the eleven regions of Mexico, will bring stunning choreography to the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 7. Tickets are $15 to $65 at newmancenterpresents.com.
Neal Cassady died decades ago, but the party of this legendary Denver figure continues. At 8 p.m. Friday, February 7, the eleventh annual Neal Cassady Birthday Bash will get under way upstairs at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. The festivities include a headlining performance by the David Amram Quartet, as well as an appearance by Neal's son, John Allen Cassady; speakers will share poetry and tales about Cassady, who grew up in Denver, met with Jack Kerouac when he first visited this city, and became the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in On the Road. Before the bash, Five Points resident John Hayden will lead a walking tour of Cassady's Denver haunts (it leaves from the Merc at 3 p.m.). Find out more about the tour and the birthday bash (tickets are $25) at nealcassadybirthdaybash.com. And for more on Cassady and Kerouac, see our slideshow of spots around Denver that figure in their story at westword.com/slideshow.
John Carpenter’s adaptation of Christine, a novel by Stephen King, might be the mother lode, but plenty of other automotive horror flicks preceded and followed its 1983 release. For your viewing pleasure, Scream Screen hostess Theresa Mercado gathered four of them for Hell on Wheels!, a month-long exploration of the motorized micro-genre. First up is Psychomania, a sinister biker-gang B-movie from 1973, at 9:30 p.m. Friday, February 7, with a pre-screening talk by vintage British motorcycle enthusiast Bryan Flanagan to get things revved up. The series runs at the same time every Friday in February at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue, with additional programming each week, from a Vicious Valentine's Day party on February 14 to a live appearance by Dead End Drive-In director Brian Trenchard-Smith on February 28. Get details and tickets, $7 to $12 per program, at denverfilm.org.
Saturday, February 8
If you don’t have a sweetheart, it’s perfectly okay to lavish a little Valentine’s love on yourself. In fact, even if you have someone to love, why not? Tulaire, a cute Wheat Ridge boutique at 6195 West 44th Avenue, has your back with the Babe Love Fest 2020, a two-day barrel of fun and self-care specials, with tarot readings, chair massages and a professional photo station by Let the Light In Studio, all spread out over the weekend. Of course, you can also shop till you drop, with all the sweet seasonal merch in store. Give yourself a boost on Saturday, February 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or Sunday, February 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; more info is at tulaire.com.
Looking for something out-of-the-ordinary for your Valentine? Go out on a limb for love on Saturday, February 8, at two special pop-up markets that both diverge from the usual offerings of flowers, chocolates and sexy underwear in idiosyncratically wonderful ways. For lovers of the occult, a seasonal edition of CRAVT Market, sharing mystical wares from fifteen hand-picked vendors, invites witches and wizards to shop from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ritualcravt, 7700 West 44th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. Or embrace Latin-American folk art and artisan handmades from throughout the Western Hemisphere, including goods made right here in Colorado, at the Hecho Con Amor Shopping Event, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hijos del Sol, 2715 West Eighth Avenue. Happy shopping! Learn more at ritualcravt.com or lcac-denver.org/hijosdelsol.
Wrap up the Year of the Rat celebration at the Nathan Yip Foundation's Chinese New Year Party on Saturday, February 8. From 5:30 to 11 p.m., revelers can expect a full Chinese dinner, performances, a silent disco, karaoke, fortune tellers, calligraphers and a Chinese "night market" at the Grand Hyatt Denver, 1750 Welton Street. The party is the foundation's largest fundraiser, with proceeds going toward its work supporting education in rural communities. Find tickets, $150 to $250, at nathanyipfoundation.org.
Show appreciation for the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, a cultural touchstone and stalwart of the city’s Latinx community for more than forty years, at the Heart & Sol of CHAC, a Valentine-themed fundraiser formerly known as Milagros de Corazón. The purpose of the event, to support an incredible organization that survived a location change in 2018, is still basically the same, as is its focus: a party atmosphere and silent auction of beautifully decorated wooden hearts created by local artists and friends of CHAC. Sip, chat and bid from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, February 8, at CHAC, 222 Santa Fe Drive; admission is $15, or $20 per couple, at the door. Learn more at chacgallery.org.
For more than a decade, the Morgan Adams Foundation has used arty events to fund research on new treatments for kids, teens and young adults battling cancer. The biggest of these events is artma, a biennial bash that combines fundraising and fabulous art, with more than 200 pieces donated by local, regional and even nationally recognized artists and all proceeds going to the foundation's work. This year's show, the tenth artma, will be at the Denver Design Center, 575 South Broadway, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 8. Tickets are $75; find out more about the event at artmaonline.org and the cause at morganadamsfoundation.org.
There are an infinite number of ways to construct a martini; the flashy versions that most catch our attention (and ire!) are the ones that combine random liquors — not gin or vodka — with an off-the-wall flavor and then tack "tini" onto the end (popcorn-tini, anyone?). For the discerning, though, a martini is gin and vermouth; vodka is acceptable, but only in a pinch. On Saturday, February 8, see how Denver bars build their drinks at the Shaken, Not Stirred Martini Party. The annual fundraiser for Boys Hope Girls Hope — a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring, tutoring and scholarships to academically motivated kids from disadvantaged backgrounds — takes over the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway, from 7 to 10 p.m., with appetizers and dancing to accompany bartenders' creations. Tickets are $75 or $125 on the Boys Hope Girls Hope website.
Sunday, February 9
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The dramatic literary reading series Stories on Stage will switch things up a bit in February by turning over the story curation to an organization that knows a few things about books: the Tattered Cover, a Denver institution that’s kept generations of readers happy for nearly fifty years. For Stories on Stage: Tattered Cover Presents, actors Gabriella Cavallero, Seth Dhonau and Ryen Hilton will be reading whatever the TC dishes out at 1:30 or 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 9, at the Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive. Admission is $15 to $28 at storiesonstage.org.
Movie buffs can escape from the living room couch, dress up for fun and join others of their kind in inexpensive surroundings at the Brightest Night in Hollywood, the Sie FilmCenter’s annual Academy Awards viewing party. But you might want to sip some film-themed cocktails, buy some chow from the WongWayVeg food truck or submit your Oscar picks on a $10 ballot, so don’t leave home with an empty wallet. Catch all the action between 4 and 10 p.m. Sunday, February 9, beginning with red carpet gown-viewing at 4:30 p.m.; early arrival is recommended, as space is limited. Get details at denverfilm.org.
Red Rocks is epic because of its views (and the natural amphitheater thing). And while it certainly doesn't slow down in the winter, wouldn't it be nice to not have to brave the elements to see a great show? Enter the Local Set Series, "an intimate, indoor Red Rocks experience" set in the Visitor Center that includes Colorado musicians, a themed buffet dinner, drinks and even a backstage tour. Catch the next Local Set at 5 p.m. Sunday, February 9, when homegrown singer-songwriter Kayla Marque will be joined by local reggae band Stylie. Marque, a Westword Music Awards Hall of Famer, mixes pop and folk in her moving, introspective songwriting. Find tickets, $60, at axs.com.
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