Best Nugget 2008 | Eduardo Najera | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Yeah, we know: The Nuggets would be nowhere without Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and so on. But we also realize that the team would be in a much better playoff position if everyone on the squad exhibited the passion and heart of Eduardo Najera. Although he's not as naturally gifted as many, if not most, of his fellow ballers, Najera expends maximum effort each time his sneakers touch the court, hustling after every loose ball, risking life and limb against bigger, stronger players and making defense a priority. If Melo, A.I. and company followed suit, the Nugs could be world beaters instead of underachievers.
Wheat Ridge Lanes caters almost exclusively to league players during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights, anyone can enjoy open bowling and $6 pitchers of Bud poured from the bar. And not just any bar: This one is called Ye Olde Country Club, and while it is indeed olde, it doesn't look much like a country club. But that's a good thing, because the goal here is to sit back and relax, maybe catch a game on TV. The twelve-lane alley has remained relatively free of the newfangled gimmicks found at other spots around town. This is kickin' it olde-school.
Between increasingly heavy traffic and Texans who'll never learn how to maneuver in snow, the drive up I-70 has become a double diamond, the toughest run you might make all day. All aboard the Ski Train! This Denver tradition got its start generations ago, when kids in the Eskimo Ski Club met up at Union Station for the trip by train to Winter Park; it was resurrected in the late 1980s, when Phil Anschutz acquired the train along with its parent company, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. Over the past twenty years, the train has gotten a complete overhaul, including new cars with comfortable seating and bars, and it's also expanded its schedule from just weekends to include Fridays in February and Thursdays in March. No matter the weather, the Ski Train pushes on, depositing you at the base of Winter Park, Denver's own ski area. But the real treat is the return trip, when you can ride — and drink — in style while I-70 drivers just spin their wheels.
The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have come a long way since their 2004 debut. The league is now nationally ranked and has a substantial fan base. Of course, they're awesome on skates, but let's give credit where it's due: These girls have a totally killer party bus. The Roller Derby Party Bus leaves the Skylark Lounge, 140 South Broadway, at 5:30 p.m. on bout nights, traveling to Bladium Sports Club for lots of hot girl-on-girl derby action. It leaves Bladium at 9:30 for a 10 p.m. party at Skylark with the Rollergirls. A mere $25 fee includes admission to the bout and a seat on the bus. Oh, and did we mention that the bus has unlimited free beer and Rollergirl hostesses for your drinking and viewing pleasure? Get on the party bus!
Pilates of Cherry Creek wins big by keeping it small. Mother and daughter Hope and Jolie Petrine — both of whom came to the world of Pilates through dance — opened their small studio in 2001, offering one-on-one training sessions. As their popularity grew, so did their studio, but the Petrines never lost sight of the personal touch that drew people to them in the first place. Small-group sessions are now offered along with solo ones, and participants of all abilities are made to feel at ease. Looks like Pilates of Cherry Creek, which also offers instructor certification and a variety of massages, has managed to stretch without pulling a muscle.
Like a lot of sports, tennis is played better with an audience: You don't let your feet get lazy or stick to safe shots when people are watching. You want them to see you ace your serves and charge the net on returns. But unless you're Roger Federer, your matches aren't likely to draw a crowd. The next best thing is Center Court at Gates Tennis Center, where $5 an hour for singles or $6 for doubles will make you feel like a star even if no one is there. Set below ground and separated from the others by a cement ledge, the court has a decided air of importance. (And the ledge makes for excellent spectator seating in case any fans do show up.) You could say it's an ace in the hole.
The Front Porch has totally flipped! For starters, the bar hosts Flip Cup tournaments on the first Tuesday of each month. For those who've never played — or for those who've played but were too drunk to remember the specifics — Flip Cup involves two teams of up to five players; the first team to slam their beers and flip their cups over by gently tapping the bottom of the cup wins. But really, everyone wins, because everyone gets inebriated! If Flip Cup's not your thing, try Flip Night on Wednesdays: Flip a coin, and if you guess the toss correctly, your drink is free. Or maybe you're not the flipping kind. In that case, you can take advantage of the Front Porch's Hello My Name Is drink specials. It's simple: If your name is on the calendar, you drink free all night long. Rejoice, all ye Toms, Sarahs, Daves, Amandas and Jasons — and woe to those whose hippie parents named them something weird.

Best Place to Get in Touch With Your Inner Dork

Black and Read, Inc.

Alongside the incredible selection of books and records at Black and Read, nestled next to the science-fiction paperbacks like some fantastic dragon hoard spilling over with powerful artifacts and fabulous jewels, is the most impressive collection of role-playing games and accessories most mortals will ever lay eyes on. The place is a virtual museum of RPG history, from the obvious — enough Dungeons & Dragons-related material to choke a troll — to the genuinely obscure, such as Gary Gygax's Cyborg Commando. Rule books, source books and dice of every shape and size await those brave souls who seek adventure, riches and glory in any of the hundreds of fantastic worlds found within. And fret not: Black and Read also stocks an impressive collection of other nerd fodder, such as the classic Settlers of Catan board game and Magic: The Gathering cards.
When the Skylark Lounge relocated three years ago from much smaller digs nearby, it had a lot of space to fill. So in August 2006, the club cued up its super-deluxe Pair-o-Dice Poolroom with four pool tables and pinball machines. The upstairs hall, which is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., fits in perfectly with the rest of the bar's vintage-centric vibe, meaning you'll be shooting stick in style. Tom Ross, a world-class player and columnist for Billiards Digest, gives free clinics on Thursdays and occasionally brings in other pool aces. And if the Pair-o-Dice is good enough for a guy like Ross, who's taught more than 4,500 people the way of the game, you should feel fine on the felt, too.
Take a good look around you, gals: Little boys never truly grow up. Sure, they morph and mutate, but in the end, they all still want to play with big trucks. New Zealander Ed Mumm of Steamboat Springs wasn't any different, but he turned his stunted childhood fantasy into a big idea, opening what is probably the nation's (if not the world's) first heavy-equipment theme park. For a fee, Mumm will put willing grownups into the driver's seat of a bona fide excavator or bulldozer for a half- or full-day romp in the sandbox, complete with orientation, instruction and special activities. Open year-round (in winter, participants can push snow; after it melts, there's a fantabulous dirt pile), Dig This is like primal therapy, only better.

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