Practice makes perfect, in hairstyling as in life. At the Aveda Academy Salon and Spa, advanced students in the Pure Talent program hone the art of snipping and clipping before striking out as full-blown stylists. Legions of loyal, budget-minded clients know the Academy as the place to score a high-quality coif on the cheap: All Pure Talent students are licensed cosmetologists whose services run about a third of regular salon prices. Clients spend a bit more time in the chair, but every cut and color is supervised by an instructor. Plus, the Academy furnishes the creature comforts of any bona fide Aveda salon, from herbal tea to wine. That's a beauty of a deal.


At any hour of the day, you can get rubbed by somebody, somewhere, as long as you're willing to pay. The Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado takes the financial sting out of massage by offering low-cost therapeutic services at its student clinic, an appealing, quiet complex on York Street. Students enrolled in the school's advanced-certification program offer deep tissue, Swedish and shiatsu full-body massages for just $25 an hour; more intensive services are also available. The clinic is not open every day, and the student therapists are often booked weeks in advance -- but it's well worth the wait.


Some Sundays scream to start off the week with full debauchery and drunkenness, while others need to commence in a more cleansed, restful manner. Try to schedule those around the third Sunday of every month, when the Lake Steam Baths open for a special ladies' night. Normally, the West Colfax Avenue institution is only available to the fairer sex on Mondays and Thursdays, but this year owner Amy Hyman finally gave the gals an extra day of pampering. So forget $2 drink specials or free draws, and instead sit and steam in the eucalyptus room or relax with a cheap massage. Bottoms up!


While A New Spirit Wellness Center and Spa has all the makings of a classically great day spa, owner Andrea Hawkins-Leigh offers some non-traditional joys as well. After an hour-long deep-tissue massage, relaxation hounds can get an osmosis detoxification foot bath, try the flotation tank, or experience a pedicure accompanied by sound and light relaxation glasses. So indulge, and try something daring. As Hawkins-Leigh likes to say as she's handing you a glass of wine, "One detoxes so one can retox!" Cin-cin.


Buddhists have a favorite joke about their practice: "I tried to meditate, and nothing happened." Truly, there's usually very little happening at Shambhala Mountain Center, a meditation and retreat center northwest of Fort Collins. Scattered around the boundless mountain encampment, groups gather in tents and study halls to tune out the world and tune into themselves. Advanced students of Shambhala Buddhism spend weeks at the center in silence. But it isn't an entirely wordless world: Beginning classes and seminars are available for those looking to learn about meditation, and guided tours of the grounds and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the largest Buddhist shrine in North America, are daily activities. Stay for an hour, a day or a weekend; for those seeking some quiet time, Shambhala is Om away from home.


Sure, other rub joints can offer you a facial and a wax, but Beau Visage has the whole package: soft lights, music, lunch and a staff that's fanatical about hygiene. Family-run and friendly, the BV staff is ready to indulge your every spa need, whether your pleasure's a hot stone massage, a non-surgical face lift, a sea-kelp pedicure -- or just some time lounging and chatting with the nail techs in one of those super-comfy La-Z-Boy-type chairs.


Parker's Colorado Horse Park has a growing reputation among equestrian circles as a competition site; it also has big plans for a horse museum, an equidome and a wildlife refuge. But savvy horse owners know it as a premier boarding facility, with more than a hundred spacious, heated stalls -- each with its windows and bedding cleaned daily. A scenic location, plenty of trails, a cross-country course. Mr. Ed never had it so good.


Tens of thousands of animals are euthanized in Denver every year, simply because nobody wants them. The Animal Rescue and Adoption Society does what it can to save as many cats as possible from that fate. The 23-year-old no-kill shelter operates on less than a shoestring budget and without the fanfare of some of the city's larger shelters, but it's enjoying quiet, steady success. The facility isn't much to look at, and ARAS is always in desperate need of food and supplies. However, the money they do receive (all private donations, no government funding) goes to giving their feline friends the royal treatment with free-roaming cat rooms and a safe, caged area outside where kitties can play or sit and bask in the sun. The Animal Rescue and Adoption Society is the cat's meow.

Bird is the word at the Birdbrain, a retail store and community-outreach resource for the birding community. Run by the Gabriel Foundation Education Center, the Birdbrain offers seminars on parrot wellness and behavior that bring together parrot enthusiasts, bird specialists and veterinarians. The 'brain center stocks plenty of toys to keep Polly happy, including games designed to stimulate cognitive functions and hardware such as swings and cages. As pets go, parrots are high-maintenance, but the Birdbrain makes it a snap to care for our feathered friends.


Recycled Racers seeks good homes for retired greyhounds -- pooches whose brief careers chasing a mechanical rabbit gave them little chance to show off the breed's gregarious, gentle and often-clownish nature. Located near the dog track, Recycled Racers allows adopters to meet and greet retirees, who are in the two- to five-year-old range, right in the kennels, guided by knowledgeable volunteers. The speedsters are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated -- and ready to assume their new jobs as 45-mile-per-hour couch potatoes.

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