Having fun and experiencing all that Denver has to offer needn't be the lone purview of bourgeois weekenders. Our city is too vibrant, too filled with the creations of odd characters to let something like pricey tickets keep you homebound. With that spirit in mind, the following list offers ten wildly different opportunities to engage with the multi-colored tapestry of Denver culture, with everything from poetry slams and drag-queen comedians to cannabis bazaars and children's theater happening around the Front Range this weekend, all for $10 and under. If you've got a crisp Hamilton, we've got ten great suggestions on where to spend it.
1. Daniel W. Coburn: The Hereditary Estate
Friday, April 21, 6 to 9 p.m.
Colorado Photographic Arts Center
The Hereditary Estate, a haunting photo exhibition and book from Kansas-based artist Daniel W. Coburn suffuses the high art of gallery photography with a deeply personal intimacy. The striking black-and-white images of Coburn's loved ones complicate the tradition of family photo albums while creating their own darkly revisionist Americana, one that interrogates its own hollow promises. The internationally renowned exhibition will be on view until June 3, but readers should take advantage of the free opening reception, which includes an artist talk and book signing. Admission is free.
2. Bag Lady Sue and Mona Lott
Friday, April 21, 8 p.m.
The Buffalo Rose
Hitting stages all over the world since 1989, Bag Lady Sue has amassed a loyal following among bikers, soliders and ’80s hair-metal fans. Over the years she's opened for everyone from Sam Kinison to Kid Rock, winning crowds over with her outlandish persona and bawdy jokes. She's also got a fitting opener in Mona Lott, a local comedian and Drag Queen who's been running shows all over town for years. Be sure to buy your $10 tickets in advance from TicketsWest; admission increases to $15 at the door.
3. Colorado Poetry Rodeo
Friday, April 21, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Wrangle up some fine imagery at the 29th Annual Colorado Poetry Rodeo, which uncoils like a dusty lasso from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday, April 21. With readings from a selection of the region's best poets, flash fiction readings, even elements of music and dance, the "Podeo" has evolved over the years to encompass a broad spectrum of spoken-word performance art. A multi-layered celebration, Podeo marks the culmination of National Poetry Month, honors the supporters who've kept it going, and enchants a new generation of poets — who are invited to perform during the open mic at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $10.
Friday, April 21, 10 p.m.
Voodoo Comedy Playhouse
The cinematic oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock is utterly distinctive, with its icy blondes and secrets hidden in inky shadows, and therefore ripe for parody. HitchCocktails, a new improv show at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, mines the penguin-shaped filmmaker's favorite tropes, such as double agents and fraught romances, for scenes. Meanwhile, the crowd and performers alike get increasingly soused — there'll be a full bar on stage — as they play an increasingly elaborate drinking game where no one in the cast can refuse a drink when offered. HitchCocktails, which continues through the end of June, is a hilarious and high-energy extemporaneous performance where everyone is so blitzed they don't know their north from their northwest. Admission is $8 in advance from Vendini and $10 at the door.
5. Five-Dollar Day at the Butterfly Pavilion
Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Butterfly Pavilion & Insect Center
Westminster's Butterfly Pavilion is always worth a visit. Frankly, if the sight of dozens of colorful fluttering wings doesn't restore your sense of childlike wonder, you might be dead inside. But the only thing better than frolicking with butterflies is saving money while doing it. Five-Dollar Day at the Butterfly Pavilion includes access to the Tropical Rainforest and the recently remodeled "Crawl-a-See-Em," as well as creepy crawly encounters with Rosie the Tarantula. Admission is $5 via Ticket Tailor.
Read on for more of the best weekend events that cost less than $10.
6. Wild Earth Day
Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
For the fine humans behind the scenes at Keenesburg's Wild Animal Sanctuary, honoring the mission statement of Earth Day is a year-round commitment. With "Wild Earth Day," the Sanctuary invites supporters to enjoy their scenic walkway for free in exchange for a plantable tree or bush. They're looking for Cottonwood trees, Eastern Red Cedars, lilac and sand cherry bushes to beautify and enrich the animal habitats. Attendees can also peruse the wares of arts and crafts vendors, nosh, and mingle with the crowd while taking in the natural splendor of the Sanctuary's well-tended animal residents. Admission is free with a donation.
7. 3 MCs with Billy Wayne Davis and Ramon Rivas II
Saturday, April 22, 9 p.m.
Blackbird Public House
Over the past few years, Denver comedians have hustled ceaselessly to create their own opportunities to perform by starting standup showcases in clubs, bars and breweries all over the greater metropolitan area. By cultivating relationships with venues, sponsors and crowds, some of these upstarts eventually blossom into comedy nights that rival professional productions. 3 MCs, a new weekly showcase from prolific Denver comic Ben Bryant and his co-host, Alan Bromwell, has gained a foothold in only a few short weeks and returns on Saturday, April 22, with its best lineup yet. The nascent showcase has attracted a full bill of out-of-towners including Oklahoma's Matt Raney, Jeramy Westbrook and Josh Lathe along with Philadelphia's Alejandro Morales opening for co-headliners Billy Wayne Davis (Conan) and Ramon Rivas II (Comedy Central Half Hour). The conceit of 3 MCs is that Bryant and Bromwell, who also co-host a weekly open mic at Scruffy Murphy's, welcome a third comic — this week it's Kira MagCalen — to help them host the show, generating three times the laughs for only $5. Learn more at blackbirdpublichouse.com.
8. World Cannabis Week
April 22-23, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
If you're looking to keep up the 4/20 festivities all weekend long, a fine opportunity awaits you at World Cannabis Week, a free grand bazaar unfolding this weekend at Cluster Studios. Food, vendors, prize giveaways and DJ booths abound at the weekend-long paean to pot. With 420 Shuttles standing by, the event promises to be the "Cannabis Experience of a Lifetime." Admission is free, but pre-registration is required at worldcannabisweek.com.
9. Denver Children's Theatre Presents The Jungle Book
Sunday, April 23, 1 p.m.
Mizel Arts and Culture Center
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In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Denver Children's Theatre is presenting a massive production of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling's classic tale about a boy named Mowgli (portrayed here by Trevor Fulton) coming of age in the wild, where he must contend with tricky monkeys, sly snakes and his fear of the tiger Shere Kahn. With a brisk narrative pace, eye-popping sets and costumes, The Jungle Book promises to delight kids and parents alike. Performances continue through April 30. Get tickets, $10 to $12, via Vendini.
10. Choral Evensong
Sunday, April 23, 3 p.m.
Saint John's Cathedral
The beauty of choral liturgies transcends cultural roots, stirring the souls of worshipers and non-believers alike. A monthly tradition, the 3 p.m. Evensong at Saint John's Cathedral is an essential part of Denver's musical landscape that too often gets overlooked. Part of the surprisingly robust performance calendar, the Saint John's Choral Evensong features some of the most beautiful harmonies anywhere in the city. Admission is free, but Goodwill donations are always appreciated.