Best New Building Outside Downtown 2011 | FBI Denver Field Office | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The architecture at Stapleton is a mixed bag, with much of it having a throwaway character. But not the FBI Field Office that opened last summer: It was built to last. The building, which was privately developed and is being leased to the FBI, was designed by Chicago's Skidmore Owings and Merrill, which also did the Air Force Academy as well as many oil boom-era skyscrapers in the city. Though made almost entirely of reflective glass, the Field Office is very secure — as might be expected, given its function — because believe it or not, those big window-walls are bomb-proof. But the building is also quite chic-looking, something that can only rarely be said about the G-Men and G-Women working inside.

Four years after voters approved a hefty package of civic improvements, the Better Denver Bond Program is finally paying off like a born-again bookie. The bond issue has yielded a new rec center in Stapleton, a new greenhouse at the Denver Botanic Gardens and makeovers of several libraries, with a new police crime lab still to come. But perhaps the most impressive new addition is this airy, light-filled, 26,000-square-foot temple of books and media on the way to DIA, in an area underserved by the libraries of surrounding Aurora. Loaded with aviation-themed features (from a real cockpit for kids to propeller-shaped benches to the aerodynamic ceiling panels), the Green Valley branch is bright, huge, technologically savvy — and ready to take off.

Did you ever wonder why the City and County of Denver has no county fair? Every podunk county in the state has one, for crying out loud! And though we still boast the National Western Stock Show in Denver — at least for now — where do prize-deserving pie-makers and urban chicken-keepers get to show off their hard work and wares? The new Denver County Fair, of course, which is shaping up to be the most unusual rustic fair you'll ever see (the inaugural edition hits town at the end of July). Put together with enthusiasm by promoter Dana Cain and artist Tracy Weil, the Denver County Fair will address the urban lifestyle while dressing it up in rural clothes, offering such offbeat events and attractions as a skateboard rodeo, a funky sideshow, a new-age pavilion, competitions for backyard chicken and goat farmers, cheeseburger cook-offs and much more.

Wynkoop Brewing

Flash back a hundred years and there's a good chance you'd see horses pulling carts loaded with beer from Denver's breweries to its saloons and restaurants. Now, thanks to the Wynkoop Brewing Company, you can see the same thing today. The brewpub, co-founded in 1988 by now-governor John Hickenlooper, began delivering kegs and cans of its handcrafted suds to accounts around downtown last April via horse and carriage as a way to bring back some of the Queen City's storied beer culture. And in January, the Wynkoop's hired rig delivered beer and the governor himself to his own inauguration at the Fillmore Auditorium. Now, those are some hoof prints that will be hard to fill.

The goal of the inaugural Colorado Gives Day, a 24-hour online charity bonanza powered by the Arvada-based Community First Foundation, was to raise $1 million for 536 local nonprofits. The foundation pledged to pick up the credit card transaction fees, ensuring that 100 percent of the money went to charity. But as it turns out, the original goal was too modest: In one day in December, more than 18,700 people gave over $8 million to more than 500 nonprofits, proving both the generosity of Coloradans and the power of the Internet.

"Everybody's a photographer" goes the lament often voiced by grizzled newspaper shooters regarding the wave of iPhone shutterbugs jostling for elbow room at concerts, conferences or even traffic accidents. And while quantity may not always correlate with quality, the digital age means that you can find a picture of almost anything out there. Enter, a blog that relies on its users to submit pics of graffiti, street art and creativity in unusual spaces around the city. While there are few beautifully composed images, the subjects of these pictures are often overlooked. It's worth a daily visit, if only to see what might have already been painted over and forgotten.

Some Foursquare mayorships bring coolness, while others bring sweet satisfaction. Only a few offer the mayor any benefits, however, or at least anything good. Which is why Lala's Wine Bar & Pizzeria stands tails and tie above the rest. If you can oust the current mayor of this spot, you'll be treated to a free glass of wine (under $10) on every visit. You'll have to pay for the second, third and fourth glasses, but that's the price of politics.

The craft beers made in Colorado are fantastic, but if you want to make a beer with Colorado, you'll need to either grow your own hops or pick wild hops that grow like weeds on the hillsides around Central City. Legend has it that the vines were originally planted in the late 1800s by residents of this old mining town, who would then harvest the flowers and sell them to local brewery owners like Jacob Mack. And while the Mack Brewery now lies in ruins on the outskirts of town, the hops have kept that history alive. Need help finding them? Ask for advice from the folks at Central City's only active brewery, Dostal Alley, which makes one of its own beers from the wild hops.

Downtown boosters recently conducted a major study of the 16th Street Mall, which turns thirty next year, trying to determine what directional changes it needed to truly be a pedestrian paradise. Their conclusion? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. So beyond getting some basic repair work and a general sprucing up, the 16th Street Mall will carry on as it has for almost three decades, a mile-plus artery stretching through downtown that's an ideal place to stroll, window-shop for bad Colorado souvenirs made in China, and watch all kinds of people — from punks to businesspeople to buskers to tourists amazed by the bustle, some good, some bad, all lively. That's what you get at the heart of a vibrant city.

Junkies still miss the Stump, which supplied Rocky Mountain News readers with a regular fix of political tidbits. But its spirit lives on in the Spot for Politics & Policy, the Denver Post blog devoted not just to political news reported by the paper's own writers, but a roundup of other worthy stories in the fast-changing media world. At the center of the Spot is former Rocky reporter Lynn Bartels, who continues to be Denver's best, most tireless political beat reporter, covering — and uncovering — the scene with the verve of a sportscaster offering a play-by-play account of the biggest game in town.

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