Creative impulses abound in the 'burbs. For proof, just take a walk down Littleton's Main Street, a century-old strip now filling with chic shops, good restaurants and upscale services. Inspired by what you see? Step around the corner to CreARTive, a bungalow staffed by artists and filled with work spaces. This two-year-old enterprise features studios dedicated to artistic endeavors ranging from candle-making to pottery to mosaics, where you can indulge your inner Picasso alone or en masse. Book an aesthetically pleasing baby shower today -- wouldn't Junior just love some tie-dyed diapers? Littleton, you're looking good.
Even when Denver was a wild frontier town, it had a public library, and bookstores remain a major hallmark of civilization in the area. Even as big chains gobble up much of the market across the country, niche stores hold on tight to the hearts, minds and wallets of loyal customers. Over the past two years, Misty Hills Books has become an intrinsic part of Olde Town Arvada. Like most independent bookstores, it's about much more than books. It's about a comfortable place to relax, to browse through not just books, but other oddball fare -- canned haggis, anyone? -- and feel like a part of the community.
West Side Books & Curios
West Side Books has been a part of the Highland community since before "community" became a buzzword. The expansive used-book store feels like walking into a friend's old-school loft, with its concrete floors, rough walls and high ceilings. There are chairs and carpets everywhere, and the books themselves are housed on a mishmash of shelving that appears to have come from every corner of the planet. The general-fiction selection shows depth and breadth, and there are more than a few gems in the rare-books section. The real specialties, though, are children's literature, illustrated books and Western Americana. There are also jazz nights, literary readings and a host of other well-organized "community" events. So come in, sit down and stay a while.
Aveda Institute Denver
The Aveda Institute is like the Vassar of beauty schools, and its rigorous fifty-week program turns out students ready to coif the most fashionable heads around. Until then, the grasshoppers charge a mere $12 for a haircut, which includes a shampoo, wash and style, and facials can be had for $30. The Institute opened last year in Media Play's old space in the Denver Dry Goods building -- giving a new-millennium facelift to what was once the crown jewel of downtown's redevelopment.
Emily Griffith Technical College
The salon services at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School's student salon are so cheap you might be tempted to get your hair done twice in one visit. Outside of a Third World country, where else can you find a $5 haircut, a $7 facial or a $4 manicure? Staffed by students enrolled in the school's cosmetology program and supervised by an instructor, the salon is open Monday through Friday, and walk-ins are welcome. The EGOS salon isn't fancy, but it's a blissful option for those who are both thrifty and stylish.
A cheap wooden sign outside Woonoh's Hair Salon sums up the bare-bones barbershop in three perfectly hand-drawn words: Nite Hair City. Stylist Woonoh will gladly take appointments at nearly any hour, especially late into the evening. With only one chair and one sink, there may be some waiting, but the place feels like a private oasis of blow-dryers and bleach fumes. If Kim Gordon were Korean and cut hair for a living, she would be Woonoh -- and that says something about the genuinely hip, ridiculously inexpensive 'dos trotting out of the shop nightly.
Eden II Spa
Looking for a little nip-tuck without the nasty side effects of the scalpel? Try Eden II Spa's Four-Layer Facelift. The gentle peel hydrates the skin, working over time to fight the effects of city living with all its smoke, pollution and booze. Aesthetician Ceara Quintanilla brushes a dose of vitamin C enzymes over your face, then does a mask with a sunny serum that feels like satin across bare skin. Another enzyme coating and a final glycolic mask, and you're done -- for just $75, and the uplifting results usually last two to three weeks. You glow, girl.
Do contemporary women really want to squeeze all of the air out of their lungs just to be skinnier and sexier? Yes -- and no: Corset-maker Jane Campbell gives them the hourglass look without all the pain of lacing up a corset. Campbell fashions her modern, steel-boned waist-cinchers from gorgeous brocades and fake-snake fabrics, so they feel as good as they look. A student of Victorian undergarb, she strives to make every woman an aficionado by offering occasional corset evenings that include a history lesson along with a fitting tutorial. You can breathe now.
SOL should be a rite of passage, a secret world that aunts open up for their nieces. It would prevent long-term scarring from harsh department-store lights and help end the unfortunate phenomenon of ill-fitting bras. Owners Jeanie Peterson and Cindy Johnson have been running SOL in Cherry Creek since 1997, and almost every woman who goes in comes out a convert. That's because these two -- and their staff -- can size up a customer at a glance and know exactly what she needs. Slipping straps, punishing underwires, ugly bra lines? They've got you covered. Plus, their line of "date bras," as they call them, are fun, flirty and show off your assets to best effect. Yes, SOL's bras are pricey, but when you exit the dressing room, it's like you've had a boob job -- without the risk of finding yourself in a nasty Pam Anderson situation.
Metrosexuals, you no longer need skulk into women-oriented salons to get groomed. Jung Park, an MBA candidate at the University of Denver, has come to your rescue with MetroBoom, a place where you can get a real salon haircut as well as upscale grooming products, titanium cuff links, button-down shirts and trendy designer jeans and tees. Park makes men out of boys -- stylish men, that is.

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