First came Gifts for Yule, an absolutely yummy holiday gift show that's run for several seasons at the Denver Turnverein, bringing cool stuff -- folk art, vintage linens, pottery, lotions, jewelry and clothing new and old, antiques and all kinds of whimsical what-have-yous -- together under one roof. And this year, show founder Samantha Robinson introduced Spring Fling, a new temporary-shopping Valhalla. Sure to be a fab fair in its own right, the Fling offers one more reason to come on down: You don't have to feel guilty about shopping for yourself when you should be buying holiday gifts. Sweet.
Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom
There's only one place in town where you can barter with hippies for handmade crafts, partake in drink specials, listen to spaced-out music and enjoy homemade chocolate-chip cookies on a leisurely weekend afternoon: Conscious Creations, the flea market/ art bazaar that takes place at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom from 2 to 5 p.m. the second Sunday of each month. The market's also a family affair, notes organizer Kaewyn, self-proclaimed Minion of Groove, Goddess of Goodness and daughter of the chocolate-chip cookie-maker. "It's a great way for us to get together with our kids and share our art," she says. So what are you waiting for? Round up the crew, head down to that hippie haven in Five Points, Cervantes', and get your groove on.
We love Old South Pearl Street, a homey stretch in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of South Pearl where you can meander from store to store, stop for coffee, grab a meal and gab with the neighbors. There are no bright lights or hard-sell vendors -- which means this is also the perfect environment for a wedding expo. On the second Wednesday of every month, a band of South Pearl merchants anchored by Paper Talk and Polkadot Boutique hosts a truly down-home open house where you can talk to wedding experts and peruse options for invitations, flowers and cakes. Mazel tov!
Many modern Jews would rather eat glass than set foot in a stuffy shul on Yom Kippur, but they still want to connect with their Jewish culture and customs. For them, there's Judaism Your Way, which hosts religious events in unconventional surroundings. Last fall the group offered free, family-friendly High Holy Days services at Hudson Gardens, which culminated in a potluck break-the-fast. The concept continues year-round with a Jewish/African-American cultural-exchange program to celebrate Passover, same-sex-union rites, a quarterly HeeB magazine Urban Kvetch discussion group, and an informative website (www.judaismyourway.org). L'chaim.
Englewood Recreation Center
You never know when you're going to need an emergency Santa suit. The two available at the Englewood Recreation Center are luxurious crushed-velvet jobs, complete with everything required to ho-ho-ho it up, right down to the flowing beard. And even Mr. Claus himself could borrow one in a pinch, since the suits fit up to a size 48. Advance reservations are a must, and Kris Kringle wannabes will shell out $40 a day plus a $50 refundable deposit. Oh, and it's BYO reindeer.
Rave's Oh My Goth!
Denver has its own unchallenged Mistress of the Dark -- and it's not Elvira (who grew up in Colorado Springs, after all). No, it's Raven, Mistress of Mootown. After debuting in 1995, Rave moved four times and went through numerous incarnations before finally settling into the old Enigma space off East Colfax in July. Now Raven has a stellar staff, a monstrous 8,500-square-feet mausoleum, and decor that rivals New Orleans's decadent, pre-Katrina divinity. Best of all, her vintage is back, alongside gorgeous goth clothing and accessories for both men and women, Manic Panic hair dye, faux fetish wear, BDSM lite and funky home furnishings. Things get even freakier when Halloween nears and Raven puts out the boob suits, fetish gear, fangs, devil horns, angel wings and just about every joke suit made under the sun. Or moon. Rave on!
MoonDance Botanicals
Tonja Reichley calls herself an alchemist, and it's easy to agree when you watch her mix her signature potions and lotions in the back room of MoonDance Botanicals. Before setting up shop in the Golden Triangle, Reichley studied in Ireland with an honest-to-God Celtic herbalist and learned to brew fresh, all-natural products designed specifically to combat the dry Colorado air. Try her handmade Chill Out Lavender spritzer, naturally perfumed creams or luxurious bath soaks, and you'll be ready to take on the 21st century with old-world style.
The national eco-friendly movement toward green burials has a new friend in the Denver-based Prairie Arts League, which aims to preserve a large tract of Colorado prairie as a wildlife refuge. To finance the project, the group is selling space in a cemetery that will be a final resting place for folks who want to be scattered to the winds or go into the ground naturally, without the frills of embalming, fancy caskets, vaults or expensive memorials. As a result, local grasses and wildlife -- instead of the manicured lawns of cemeteries or the metal and concrete of development -- can reinhabit the prairie. Ashes to ashes.
Any excuse for dog owners to set foot into macymacy is a good one. Owner Macy Matarazzo runs the cleverest, most pet-friendly shop in town, if not the universe, offering a fine array of pet paraphernalia, goodies, outrageous doggie togs and greetings from the store's tiny Chihuahua model/mascots, Murray and Meatball. Even if you've never had the urge to dress up your dog for Halloween, you will if you stop by macymacy come fall. Matarazzo has everything you need to turn your pooch into a little devil, big superhero or something even more esoteric that calls for a mullet, Afro, hairnet or curler wig. What a howl!
How can you not know Larry? Sugar, everyone who is anyone knows Larry. Larry is not just some metrosexual mutt; he's hunky hairdresser Steve Trujillo's beautiful bichon frise -- as well as Denver's most famous celebrity dog. It's a well-known fact that Larry eats more gourmet meals, dresses in more designer dog collars and has more frequent-flier miles than all of the attorneys at Holland & Hart combined. Having a stylist as a human companion helps Larry keep his fur impeccably shampooed, conditioned and clipped in the latest styles. And when he looks good, he feels good -- which is important, because Larry works like a dog, constantly wagging his tail off to be BFF with everyone on Denver's A-list. And we all know what bichons they can be. Woof!

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