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

Don't lose the phone number, because it's easier to find hard drives loaded with Los Alamos's nuclear secrets than it is to get a direct line to Rocky Mountain Station, the post office on the sixth floor of the main terminal at Denver International Airport. The irony is, once you find this unbelievably clean spot, you'll be enveloped by some of the most amiable staffers imaginable, eager to select just the right stamps for those postcards you forgot to mail from Tahiti, or suggest the right service to get your overdue credit-card payment in before you're cut off, or help you pick out an attractive USPS retail item that will fool your kid into thinking you picked it up in Vegas. Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Sunday (with stamp machines that do their thing 24-7), this place is particularly handy for those who believe the best way to guarantee air safety is to wear clean underwear and make sure all bills are paid before a flight takes off. It certainly gets our seal of approval.

Readers' choice: Body Shop

Rose Peterson makes sitting in a glass booth all day seem like the best job in the world. Though her customers come fresh -- or, more accurately, soured -- from their morning commutes, Rose, who's been working Central Parking Systems' lot at 15th and Delgany streets for the last year and a half (after stints at the McNichols Arena and Mile High Stadium lots), remains remarkably cheery and helpful. Her work ethic is age-old: "If you treat people the way you want to be treated, it'll come back to you, so I treat 'em the way I want to be treated." Learning not to take things personally helps, too. "I would tell anyone who wanted to do my job to remember that people aren't mad at you; they're mad at things that happened before they got to you." And, she reminds her crankier clients, "I'm doing my job. It's not me personally upping charges and things like that."

To say this flight has something for everyone would be a gross understatement. Flight 771 has, at the very least, two somethings for everyone. The show begins at the ticket gate, where travelers will want to marvel at the speed of the boarding operation; the seasoned flight crew will have passengers buckled into their seats and watching the safety demonstration before anyone has had a chance to request an in-flight magazine. And who needs one? The drink trolley is dispensing beverages lickety-split, and the flight attendant is announcing the rules to the first of many in-flight games of chance (everyone coughs up a dollar and writes their guess as to which animal is pictured on the airplane's tail; winners split the pot) well before your shadow passes over the Western Slope. Fun ensues, the drink trolley doubles back. Need something more? This eighty-minute flight is a slow pan of American landmarks: The Rocky Mountains, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and of course, the Vegas strip. Need we say more?
Colfax Avenue is a five-lane study in contradiction. At points, stately Victorian mansions sit just a cobblestone sidewalk away from folks who call the bus stop home; elsewhere, business folks and city legislators mingle with the drunk, the down-on-their-luck, the intermittent desolation of this particular row. The schizo, serpentine street is a fitting location, then, for Temple of Being/ Bound by Design, a store whose combination of elements is nothing short of brilliant. Let's face it: Anyone who says that getting tattooed isn't even slightly painful is probably lying. The human body has certain built-in responses to unnatural stimuli -- like, for example, the repeated penetration of the skin by an ink-filled needle. Yet the experience is likely to be more tolerable here because the tattoo parlor is adjoined by a Zen-like space that's equal parts tattoo and piercing parlor and metaphysical bookstore, gift shop and cafe. What better time to shop for that much-needed quartz-crystal amulet or tarot-card set than while you're waiting for the ink to dry? Temple of Being is a fitting addition to the Colfax landscape, a place to read while you bleed.

Readers' choice: Kitty's

Need a new titanium racket or just some tennis lessons? How 'bout a new ball machine, to rent or own? Well, then, log off Anna Kournikova's Web site and head down to Game-Set-Match, near the Park Meadows Mall, for tennis-knowledgeable staff -- they'll even keep track of the tension at which you set your strings -- and high-end merchandise you might not find anywhere else. For instance: Want to know why you should play high-altitude balls in Denver? The answer, according to a ball salesman, is that high-altitude balls are manufactured at a lower air pressure than regular balls. This compensates for the lower air pressure around us, and slows down the balls a bit. Balls at altitude move faster and bounce higher than normal.

Looking for in-line skates at a price that's not out of line? How about a perfectly good mountain bike that won't set you back the cost of a used car? The folks at Sports Plus, on fashionable South Gaylord Street near Washington Park, can help burn calories without burning salaries. You can even pick up a lacrosse stick -- or a Big Bertha driver that hasn't been tossed into the pond even once. For Denver's physically active set (and who isn't?), here is a useful alternative to outlandish new-ski prices and $200 baseball gloves. Management will also take your name and number and call when the store gets exactly the used item you want.

Best place to buy coins and estate jewelry

Tebo Coins

Coins are Tebo's primary business -- they carry everything from ancient Greek and Roman coins to an admirable selection of U.S. coins and proof sets. The store's friendly staff will answer any question, or at least try to find the answer on the rare occasion that they don't already know it. In addition, Tebo Coins carries a small but wonderful selection of estate jewelry, as well as a large assortment of more modern gold and silver necklaces, rings and earrings. Most people probably wouldn't consider shopping at a coin store for an engagement ring or wedding set, but Tebo has some of the most beautiful Victorian and art-deco antique rings around (most are platinum and set with diamonds and/or sapphires). Best of all, the prices are unbeatable; they often have sales in which they mark down the estate pieces by 35 percent. And that will save you some coin.

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