Tea and Harry just seem to go together, like frogs' eyes and newts' toes. And nearly 200 million books sold worldwide doesn't hurt, either. So Oak & Berries Tearoom owner Roxanne Mays hosts Harry Potter teas each November for kids of all ages to get together over a cuppa to discuss the newest book's possibilities or recount the latest on-screen antics of Harry, Hermione and Ron. It's a splendid, Hogwarts-worthy setting, and costumes are welcome, as are good appetites: The Tearoom offers finger sandwiches, hot chocolate and other tidbits to all attending Potterphiles. We assume there's a nice, safe place to park broomsticks.
The Dushanbe Teahouse rarely needs to coerce anyone to sip or dine there. With its folkloric Tajik craftsmanship, the teahouse is a magnificent place to sit, especially when it's open to the summer breezes like an airy, sun-filled tent. And once it year, it's even more enticing with its wonderfully celebratory Rocky Mountain Tea Festival. There's something here for tea lovers of every stripe: seminars and tastings for serious drinkers, a tea dinner for the serendipitous -- even an inexpensive tea party for the under-twelve set. It's a summertime tradition we hope to see continue for years to come -- with or without two lumps.


This coffeehouse opened last May and quickly became the social epicenter of the Curtis Park neighborhood. The building has seen many uses since it went up in 1885, including as a Prohibition-era speakeasy and a 1950s vanilla factory -- hence the name. Today the coffeehouse has plush sofas and funky furniture, as well as artwork by neighborhood residents on the walls. But what really makes the Vanilla Factory special is the vintage player piano with original sheet music. The circa-1920 piano is on loan from a Curtis Park resident, Cricket Krantz, who wanted her neighbors to be able to enjoy it. The piano still cranks out tunes from the old days, and it's easy to close your eyes and imagine being served a bit of bootleg gin at an after-hours jazz party.


Swallow Hill's annual picnic is a glorious celebration of all things acoustic. The 2002 event featured a high-flying collection of the nation's best singer-songwriters and performers in a wide range of genres. That these electrifying and, typically, electricity-free artists are showcased outdoors in the rustic, rural setting of Four Mile Historic Park makes the event a family-style hoedown of the purest kind. Folk music has never been easier to swallow than at this bucolic-in-the-big-city picking party.


Dude! There is nothing cheaper than free, and free is one concept that truly befits the sport of skateboarding, which, at its best, has no rules -- except, perhaps, those agreed upon by the boarders themselves. And that's exactly how things work at this 60,000-square-foot, city-built facility, which opened to the public in summer 2001 and has been such a hit that it's already expanding. But the fun at Denver Skatepark isn't reserved just for the kids who cram the place: Watching the action can be every bit as entertaining. Grab a soda and hot dog from the cart that always seems to be there when the boarders are, find a spot with good sightlines of the concrete bowls and ramps, and prepare to be amazed -- and amused.


A local staple for eleven years, the Colorado Performing Arts Festival offers locals an opportunity to revel in homegrown arts, whether it be music, theater, dance, or something a touch more avant-garde. Visitors to the 2002 event, held in late September at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, saw Aztec dancers, story weavers, poetry jazz and even kids' comedians. But the best part is that there's no charge to discover the talent lingering within our city limits.


This annual celebration of hickory-smoked meats and serious sauce (sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society) is the high country's best family-style blowout. Visitors sample 'cue from more than seventy of the nation's best grill and smoker masters, making the array of meat and sauce choices finger-lickin' heaven on earth. Sides of down-home, kid-friendly entertainment, a pancake breakfast and Frisco's homespun setting (and dreamy August weather) add even more sustenance to the event. Need a reason to head to the hills? This is it.


Best Place for Pasty Poets to Get a Tan

Ink!

We know, we know. Poets and sunshine go together like peanut butter and broken glass. But if you ever tire of pouring your heart out from some ratty couch in some dim, cloistered coffee shop, why not give Ink! a try? First off, they brew up some mean java, grinding beans from all over the planet and clearly explaining the flavors du jour so you don't accidentally find yourself with a light French chicory when what you wanted was a dark, powerful Sumatran. Second, when the weather is nice, sidewalk tables have a great view of the new condo complex going up on the other side of Lincoln. You poets love that urban-renewal land-rape stuff, don't you? So grab yourself a sweet, foamy latte, bring along your journal, and catch a few rays while you get a look at the real world going by. Trust us: It beats crying alone in the rain anyday.


In a time when a collection of short stories is as de rigueur for debut authors as the tell-all publishing roman a clef, Erika Krouse's Come Up and See Me Sometime, a novel in thirteen stories, is refreshingly honest and well crafted. In fact, the Boulder writer's collection of independent young women at loose ends even elicited a positive review from the notoriously persnickety New York Times Review of Books. Krause introduces each story with an epigram from Mae West, the patron saint of tough dames and wicked wit, setting the stage for a hearty mix of both.


Life, love and used-car lots. It's the stuff of vanity presses. In Up, we find Becky Pine, a recent CU graduate, looking for a life (surprise) as she picks up and moves to Los Angeles. A used-car lot takes her in, and Pine gets schooled on love, life and being a newly outed lesbian. It's a quasi-autobiographical story: Lisa Jones (not the Bullet Proof Diva and Village Voice writer) also grew up in Denver, moved to California and sold cars. Why she gave up that glamorous lifestyle to become a Denver copy editor, we can only imagine.


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