Denver's alley-scavenging and dumpster-diving economies have boomed as the economy has swooned. Leave a pile of rusty scrap out behind your house and it's gone in a day. A bicycle in need of serious work won't last an hour. And divers commonly fish cans and bottles from dumpsters, as well as all kinds of other trash and treasure. The city frowns on scavenging — primarily because of liability issues — but proponents argue that it opens a divine path for junk to be reincarnated instead of suffering eternal purgatory in a stinky landfill. That said, the best alley to scavenge in Denver runs between the businesses of Broadway and the houses of Acoma Street south of Evans. The product is downscale but diverse; you might find half-drunk cans of beer from a dive bar, bad works of art from a basement apartment, or even a bag of day-old jelly doughnuts.

American Girl

Lock up your daughters: It's here! American Girl, which opened earlier this week at Park Meadows, has finally made it to town, and threatens to swallow whole, slavering ten-year-old girls alive. The American Girls website warns you to set aside a whole day for a visit here, which might include a thorough perusal of the line's novelized historical dolls, look-alike dolls or Bitty Baby dolls, shopping for doll and child matching outfits, flipping through American Girl books, making an American Girl craft or even getting your doll coiffed in the Doll Hair Salon. For doll's sake, you can even buy it a pony or get its ears pierced. Buy American!

Best Literacy Program for the Really, Really Precocious

Book Babies

Denver Central Library

Because "it's never too early to start reading to kids," the Denver Public Library has extended its popular storytime offerings to include a language-enrichment program for infants from six months to two years old. There are rhymes, games and music on hand for these early bloomers at the main library and select branches, with some fare tailored to "pre-walkers" and other, weightier readings reserved for "early walkers." One baby per adult, please — and sorry, no drop-off service.

Body Photage is head and shoulders above those mall glamour-shot businesses. These are real art portraits, tastefully — and artistically — done to show the human body, your human body, off to its very best advantage. Husband-and-wife team Sherry Whitney and Darrell Pierson run an incredibly professional operation, listening to your ideas and then making suggestions — complete with accessories — of their own. If you care enough to look your very best, call Body Photage.

Best Person to Call When Your Steam Boiler Is on the Fritz

Darla Scott

Darla Scott, the Queen of Steam for Broomhall Brothers Mechanical Contractors, knows steam boilers from their Hartford Loops on up, and she's as comfortable in a discussion of steam-boiler theory as she is with a wrench in her hand. To know steam boilers, of course, is to love them. And Scott does, both the residential and commercial breed. One of her favorites is a grand old boiler in a building near 20th and York; she sends a Christmas card to it every year. But then, our pal in Bonnie Brae whose boiler was saved by Scott feels pretty sentimental about her, too: He has her picture in his basement.

Tiri's Garden

Walter and Christie Isenberg are best known for bringing Denver hotels back from the dead. But last year, the Isenbergs unveiled a development of a very different flavor when they opened Tiri's Market: a former parking lot that has been transformed into a pocket Eden, with raised beds and pergolas dripping with vines, all of it inspired by Michelle Obama's garden on the White House lawn. Fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables grown on the site are sold every Wednesday at an adjoining farmers' market. Some of the green stuff is planted by homeless youth from Urban Peak, who keep what they grow. Here's hoping the Isenbergs will green some of the city's other empty lots.

A collaboration between Green Spaces Colorado and the global Green Map System, Denver's Green Route directs users to sustainable businesses and resources throughout the metro area, with a changing seasonal focus. Available as an interactive online map or a printable brochure, the map is easy to use, whether you're looking for chemical-free dry cleaning or the closest farmers' market. And in a more physical interactive realm, the Green Route is also sponsoring a tasting tour of local sustainable restaurants in April, with other promotions planned for the future. As summer approaches, look for a listing of community gardens, green restaurant patios and eco-conscious transit information.

Smoking pot through dirty bong water is so 2009. If you're ready to toke with the big boys (medically, of course), check out the Incredibowl, the Cadillac of weed pipes developed by couple of whiz kids in Longmont. The slick-looking $200 device, which involves a polycarbonate expansion chamber, brass smoke-injection nozzle and an annular purge carb, recently took home two awards at the vaunted Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Get one for yourself at dispensaries around the state, then get ready for liftoff: It's gonna be a wild ride.

Quacker Gift Shop

Sometimes you just need a good duck. Steve and Jennifer Brown, who already had an artisan soap company, recognized that there was another accessory integral to the bath experience: rubber duckies. And so they opened the Quacker Gift Shop, 3,000 square feet filled with rubber ducks that are offered up in Quacker Baby gift packs and Quacker Bouquets, sold as hand-painted collectibles and even offered encased in soap. Guaranteed to quack you up.

"Congenital cheapskates" and journalists Claire Walter and Laura Daily found their true calling over a year ago when they joined the Atlanta-based On the Cheap web network as its official Front Range deal-finders. Since then, they've been throwing the region's best bogos, discounts, giveaways and free lunches up on www.milehighonthecheap.com daily.

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