PlatteForum
Youngsters are the real stars at PlatteForum, even though some of the biggest names in the local art world are artists in residence. Sculptors, painters, dancers and other representatives of the arts work with local classrooms to develop collaborative cultural projects, and when they're finished, PlatteForum gives the kids -- and mentoring adults -- a space to display their achievements.

In a town where most of the street festivals have become indistinguishable, the Larimer Arts Association came up with something completely different last year: In the great Renaissance tradition, the group invited artists of all levels to decorate the sidewalk with chalk art. Over two days, the corridor became a canvas of colors, sounds and food. La Piazza dell'Arte will return again this year on June 19 and 20, with a bigger, better format that includes an opportunity for artists to reproduce and preserve their street fare for a gallery show, since the actual pavement chalk drawings are washed away at the end of the weekend. Step right up.
With at least twenty music festivals already on the roster, Colorado didn't really need another. But the founders of Blues From the Top believed wholeheartedly that Grand County needed a dose of the blues, so last year they debuted a two-day extravaganza at SolVista Golf and Ski Ranch, just two miles outside of Granby. The lineup was solid, the setting stunning. It was a well-intentioned attempt to bring nationally known acts to somewhere in the county other than Winter Park. These were blues you could use.
The quaint town of Lyons, on the St. Vrain River, has numerous low-key attractions, including Oskar Blues, a first-rate blues-and-brews club that's even received shout-outs from Rolling Stone. Live acts range from members of the Colorado Blues Society to Pinetop Perkins, all augmented nicely by a Cajun-flavored menu and house-brewed beers. Of course, making the eighty-mile round trip to the Boulder bedroom community and back is a little daunting. Instead, gather up to sixteen friends and charter the wildly painted Blues Bus (which could double as Ken Kesey's famous ride of yore) and head up the hill for a night of revelry.
Central City Opera House
Last summer, the Central City Opera featured L'Italiana en Algeri, Gabriel's Daughter -- an original production based on the life of the first female freed slave in gold rush Colorado -- and an evening that combined the famed and familiar I Pagliacci and the rarely performed Goyescas. L'Italiana was laugh-out-loud funny, Gabriel's Daughter poignant, and all three evenings featured magnificent music. This summer, Central City will present The Tales of Hoffman, The Student Prince and The Juggler of Notre Dame. You don't need to be an opera aficionado to enjoy sitting in this gem of a theater while some of the finest voices in the country flow around you -- unmiked and undistorted. But, please, leave the cell phones and crinkly candy wrappers at home.
Arvada is still recovering from the cultural jolt thrown by brothers Adam, Matthew and Jeremy DeGraff, who opened the D Note in sleepy Old Town last year. The Brothers D combined their aesthetic and business senses to produce one of the most eclectic and appealing rooms in town -- part art gallery, part music venue, part yoga studio and, sometimes, church. Open seven nights a week for music, including bluegrass jams and "wine tastings" hosted by local players, the Note also serves cheap sandwiches, salads and soups beginning at 11 a.m. On Sundays, the after-worship crowd eats brunch beneath the wildly realized murals, paintings and sculptures that line the walls of the large room. Denver clubs could take a cue from the D Note's creative calendar and vision: The place is worth the drive every time.
Next time you wander into the Thin Man on a Monday night, head for the couches at the back of the narrow bar, where you'll find the chatty chicks of "Stitch and Bitch" knitting away. An informal gathering that attracts anywhere from four to thirty gals each week, these friendly ladies are more than willing to teach beginners basic stitches while talking about their latest yarn creations, everything from a dog sweater to a purse. So grab your knitting needles and a pint and get ready to gab.
Artist/illustrator Michelle Barnes and club-marketing maven Paulina Szafranski know that women are complex creatures. Sure, they want culture and companionship, inspiration and ideas -- but they also like to have their hair played with and get their nails done. Every Thursday, Barnes and Szafranski host Girls' Night Out at Mynt True Lounge on Market Street, where sophisticated ladies get together to dish, dine and dig each other. Each week, a speaker -- usually culled from the art, media or fashion realm -- talks to the assemblage about what it takes to be fabulous while gals scarf up free apps, drinks and salon services. Yes, it's exclusive, sexist and catty. It's also a blast. Let's hear it for these girls.
Armida's
The atmosphere at Armida's is so calming and amiable that it prompts even everyday patrons to step up to the mike Wednesday through Sunday nights. The disc jockeys are friendly and are happy to accommodate the most absurd request for songs, whether it comes from longtime karaoke heroes or first-time howlers. And even the shiest shower-stall crooners can expect a warm welcome from Armida's enthusiastic nightly crowds. Now, if only they'd take "Friends in Low Places" off the song list...
Mercury Cafe
Mercury Cafe

2199 California St.

303-294-9281 Salsa dancing is not for the meek: The moves are aerobic, and the music is full of frenetic polyrhythms and enough syncopation to make your head spin. But throwing your dancing shoe into the salsa ring is a lot less intimidating at the Mercury Cafe's Thursday salsa night. The community-style dance begins with a lesson from Mambo Dojo, a New York-style dance studio whose instructors make you feel slightly less silly about shaking your hips, cha-cha-ing your feet and trying to get in touch with that thing called a groove. After class, the Merc's huge upstairs room fills with Cuban music and all kinds of dancers working salsa, balboa and swing until well past midnight. Free your mind, and the steps will follow.

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