Brown Palace Hotel Tea Room
There are usually a couple of cabs lingering in front of this Denver landmark, but if not, the Brown Palace hotel doorman will almost always help you get one if you're stuck downtown. Just don't be rude: Doormen can get a little ornery when an obnoxious drunk who isn't a hotel guest starts demanding service. The nice thing is that when the upscale Brown Palace calls for a cab, it'll show up long before it would at whatever dive you were really drinking in.

An immediate lull falls over you as you walk into the Barong Collection; perhaps it's the gamelan music that wafts, trancelike, through the room. But it most certainly has something to do with the peaceful profusion of limestone and lavastone pagodas from Bali, ranging in size from shin-high and delicate to massive and striking. Regardless of size, they're all in some kind of laid-back stasis, just waiting to offset that stand of Japanese iris over in the left corner of your backyard. You can't let the moon rise there without one.

The Pleasant Avenue Nursery in Buena Vista has been specializing in the growing and testing of native and apt species for high-altitude gardening since 1972, changing its focus over the years from mined-land reclamation projects to the lighter-hearted realm of mountain gardening and landscaping. But Pleasant Avenue has became even more of a growth industry this year, starting off the spring with a big retail expansion offering nearly 3,000 square feet of high-country flora. If you choose to live the high life, your plants will have to, too; here's a good place to find the right stuff.

Now you can hear the sound of falling water (a popular reverberation these days because of its calmative powers) all year long, because this class is offered all year long. Everything's provided except the bowl and pump, which you have to buy separately -- but Wildflowers has those, too. And if you're so inclined, once you've brushed up on your trickle-down theory, you can then sign up for a Feng Shui workshop to help you figure out where to put your fountain.

There's a reason humans have been taking advantage of the curative -- and sensual -- powers of herbs throughout the ages. Apparently, they do work, deadening pain and soothing jittery nerves the natural way. Come to Lily's and you're certain to leave a believer, at any rate: The tiny shop seems hell-bent on providing comfort, or at least a momentary island of peace, in people's hectic lives by offering such items as Kneipp health bath products, Moms Ache Oil, delicately scented bath candles, gel-filled thermal compresses, a multitude of tea accoutrements and even herbal ice creams from an outfit called Out of a Flower, including lavender and orchid vanilla flavors. Never underestimate the power of an herb.

You're the kind of shopper who needs products to match your philosophy -- products that bring peace, harmony and love into your life. Or maybe you're just sick of being jarred out of bed by that screeching alarm. Whatever your reasons, Boulder-based Now & Zen can bring you spirituality and help you to maintain a tranquil state. Founded by Steve McIntosh in 1995, Now & Zen's products can be found locally at the Boulder Book Store, Namaste and Nature's Own Imagination, among others, or at www.now-zen.com, which lets shoppers mix and match various finishes and other details of whatever they are buying and even see the product before they buy. Products include the Zen Alarm Clark for $99.95, which plays Tibetan chimes as the volume slowly increases to gradually awaken sleepers. There's also the Affirmation Station for $89.95, an alarm clock with a recording device that lets you record a ten-second personal affirmation like "I love myself." The message plays before you go to bed and as you wake up. And for those who want a little therapy while brushing their hair, there's the Mudra Mirror for $69.95 -- a hand with a circular mirror in the palm, signifying that worry is only an illusion. Finally, a Zen justification for a shopping spree.
Glendale's collection of Russian-language newspapers, books and aids to becoming an American entrepreneur are outstanding, reflecting the Glendale Public Library's commitment to serving a growing immigrant community in the land of singles apartments and strip bars. Pass the English-Russian Business Dictionary, will you, comrade?

Best store at Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Illuminations

Making a pilgrimage is a sacred time for worship and self-reflection. There's the Ganges River for Hindus, the Vatican for Catholics and Mecca for Muslims. Locally, there's even a place for candle-worshipers: Illuminations. As you enter the serene establishment, a sweet, inviting scent drifts into your nose, the sound of upbeat music and trickling water floats into your ears, and red sales tags flash before your eyes -- what a great welcome. The company was founded by a Boulder native who now boasts 45 stores nationwide offering a multitude of wax goodies ranging from roasted-chestnut-scented candles (which smell good enough to eat but taste like wax...not that we'd know) to canister candles loaded with the yummy aroma of sugar cookies to chunky white candles filled with vivid rose petals. Their newest line of candles, called Sacred Space, are made with essential oils and botanicals. Your prayers have been answered.

Readers' choice: Neiman Marcus

Best store at Cherry Creek Shopping Center, Jr.

The Children's Place

Kids grow like mutant weeds, wear rips in the knees like trophies and possess mud-seeking radar. After window-shopping the high-priced boutiques at Cherry Creek, it's a relief to stagger into the Children's Place. The store (which has three other metro-area locations) features stylish, bright colors, comfortable fabrics and accessories to the moon -- all exceedingly cute, and without the acute price tag to match. Sized for babies, toddlers and kids, the clothes at this mall chain make shopping -- and shopping again -- a little more fun and a lot less expensive.

After fearing that you'll smack into the kajillion-dollar Jaguar speeding through the parking lot and then bumping into hundreds of cropped-pants-clad shoppers, a visit to the mall can seem pretty stressful. But the Lauren Brooks furniture and accessories store in Park Meadows makes the fear and frustration worth it. Kathy Imes, a local designer who first opened the store in Evergreen ten years ago, offers an establishment stocked with stunning antiques and beautiful new furniture. One piece in particular, a massive bed full of fluffy, zebra-print pillows, seems like it could have the strange power of driving shoppers to throw off the "please don't sit on bed" sign, jump in, and -- for those who can afford it -- roll around in the saffron-charmeuse-tufted, $1,210 comforter and scream "I love being loaded!" Aside from the luring bed, the store is full of treasures such as insect-shaped antique pins, vibrant glass perfume bottles and cozy furniture. For shoppers who can't afford to sleep like the rich, the store offers sweet-smelling soaps made with flowers so you can at least shower like rich folks do. Walk away slowly from the Jag and enter an unparalleled mall paradise.

Readers' choice: Nordstrom

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