In case the chilling climes and early sunsets weren't enough indication, Westword can confirm that autumn has indeed descended upon the Queen City of the Plains. The days ahead are rich with entertainments to suit the season, including corn mazes and zombie crawls. And destitute readers needn't fret about cover charges; most of the events listed below cost $10 or less to enjoy. Keep reading for the ten best free and cheap events in Denver this weekend — starting tonight.
WRITE CLUB Denver: Circling Back
Thursday, October 4, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Syntax Physic Opera
Doubling down on the age-old axiom "The pen is mightier than the sword," WRITE CLUB is the bloodsport of the mind, a "literary thunderdome" that swaps weapons for wits in a series of one-on-one literary yarn-offs contending for a prize donation to a charitable cause. October's WRITE CLUB competitors spring forth from the freewheelingly obscure theme of "Circling Back"; join storytellers Kat Atwell, Laura Condi, Cory Byrom, Jared Ewy, Rich Hohenbrink and Shelsea Ochoa for a bloodless brawl on the battlefield of rhetoric. Admission is $10 at the door — though the kindly gatekeepers at Syntax are unlikely to turn you away if you're a few dollars shy of a Hamilton. More details are available on WRITE CLUB's Facebook events page.
Thursday, October 4, 8 to 9 p.m.
Pay what you can
After months of crowdfunding and hammer-swinging renovations, Grafenberg Productions is ready to open to the public. A burgeoning haven for improvisers and the saintly audiences who support them, Grafenberg — named in honor of the g-spot-discovering physician Ernst Gräfenberg — embarks on one of its earliest endeavors at the new 1223 21st Street location with Genre-ral Hospital. An improvisational performance inspired by televisual tropes, Genre-ral Hospital debuts with a comically escalating series of riffs on medical soap operas and continues with a different theme each subsequent week. Admission is granted on a pay-what-you-may basis; visit Grafenberg Productions' Facebook events page for more information.
October 5 to 7 (ongoing), 10 a.m.
Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms
$9 to $14
Find plenty of autumnal splendor while getting lost in the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms' family-friendly Corn Maze. View the grounds from a pair of fifteen-foot tall illuminated bridges — and struggle to escape anyway — at an event that seizes upon the spooky atmosphere of October. The maze opened on September 21 and admits its last explorer on October 28. Admission is $9 to $14, but all first responders get in for free. For more details, visit the Denver Botanic Gardens' Facebook events page.
Midnight Madness: Beetlejuice
October 5 to 6, midnight
Take heart, overzealous Hallow-weiners; the Landmark Esquire's Midnight Madness film series proffers an early season infusion of the cinematic spooky-ookies with a screening of Beetlejuice, the crowning cinematic achievement of goth-freindly auteur Tim Burton – and we'll haunt the attics of anyone who claims otherwise. While the movie's German Expressionism-inspired horrors have provided trick-or-treaters with endless costume inspiration since its 1988 release, the tone-waltzing gallows humor of Beetlejuice — we promise not to say it three times — doesn't get enough credit. After all, Michael Keaton, the titular star of the movie, made his first forays into show business via standup comedy. Buy tickets, $9.50, and find out more on the Landmark Esquire box-office page.
Free First Saturday
Saturday, October 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Denver Art Museum
Wander through a world-class shrine to creative endeavors with a full wallet on first Saturdays at the Denver Art Museum, a chance for local penny-pinchers to explore one of the city's finest cultural institutions. Gain free entry to DAM's non-ticketed exhibitions and permanent collections, along with the architectural marvels that house them, at this monthly gift to local art lovers. Even amid ongoing renovations, the DAM remains one of the city's must-see attractions. Visit the museum's events calendar to learn more.
Denver Zombie Crawl
Saturday, October 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$5 to $10
The undead rise again to haunt the streets at the Denver Zombie Crawl, an annual tradition that never fails to resurrect the Halloween spirit. Emcee Kevin Torres of Channel 2 News will be on hand to wrangle the brain-hungry hordes through trivia games, a costume contest and the step-by-step choreography required for a "Thriller" dance-along at this yearly opportunity for Denverites to get their ghoul on. Need help getting sufficiently (fake) bloodied up? Arrive early to gussy up with grotesquerie at one of the crawl's on-site makeup booths. General admission is free, but costume-contest registration is $5 to $10 — and what's the point of dressing up if you don't enter the contest? Discover more details on the Denver Zombie Crawl home page.
Blucifer Open Minigolf
Saturday, October 6, 3 to 6 p.m.
Mutiny Information Cafe
Putt your way through Denver's bustling Baker district at the Blucifer Open Minigolf, named in honor of the terrifying killer statue that greets travelers at Denver International Airport. Teams of two can vie for the Blucifer trophy at a series of putting greens located at neighborhood hotspots like Nooch Vegan Market, hi-dive, Sputnik, and Mutiny Information Cafe. Even vegans can chow down on hot dogs before hitting the links to explore the de facto mini-golf course's thematically inspired grounds, including vegan, Barf magazine, and Stranger Things-inspired holes. Entry is $10; find out more on Mutiny's Facebook events page.
Teen Girls Tell Jokes
Saturday, October 6, 7 to 8 p.m.
Park Hill Branch Library
Witness the next generation crushers taking the stage for the first time at Teen Girls Tell Jokes, a Denver Public Library-sponsored effort to introduce high-schoolers to the expressive possibilities of comedy. As an art form, standup primarily exists to help venues sell booze, and thusly has a particularly steep barrier to entry for young women whose IDs prohibit attending dive-bar open mics (to say nothing of the toxic masculinity that too often permeates the dude-dominated field). So the Underground Comedy Club at Denver's Park Hill Branch Library is a vital resource to foster their talents. After a five-week workshop, these teens are ready to rock the mic, and they couldn't ask for a finer emcee or mentor than Pussy Bros. co-founder Christie Buchele. Admission is free; visit the Park Hill Branch Library's Facebook events page to learn more.
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South Dock Comedy Show
Saturday, October 6, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Dry Dock Brewing Company
Keep the Saturday night laughs rolling along at the South Dock Comedy Show, which returns on Saturday for a third installment boasting the show's best lineup yet. Hosted and curated by Harrison Garcia, October's edition of the monthly showcase welcomes local mirth merchants John Davis, Georgia Comstock,and D. Kelley to warm up the Dry Dock Brewing Company stage for headliner Nancy Norton, who recently achieved the historic honor of being the first woman to win top prize at the Boston Comedy Festival. There's no cover charge for the South Dock Comedy Show, so guests should feel free to spend their saved dollars on frothy samples of the eclectic brews on tap. Visit Malcontent Comedy's Facebook events page for more information.
The Big Wonderful Season Closer
October 6 to 7, noon to 6 p.m.
4400 Fox Street
Even the city's grandest spectacles must draw to a close and lie dormant until the next sunny season, and TheBigWonderful is no exception. Party down while preparing for increasingly early sunsets at BigWonderful's season-ending party, a wiggly and giggly hybrid of artisan bazaar, bluegrass concert and Beerfest pre-party. Performers include WhiteWater Ramble, Woodshed Red, That Damn Sasquatch and more; participating breweries are too numerous to mention. Register for free, or purchase early-bird Beerfest tickets for $29 at the BigWonderful's Ticketfly page.
Have an event you want included on this list? Send the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.