The Streets at Southglenn

Indoor or outdoor, your typical mall is practically interchangeable with the rest: the same stores and the same layouts in slightly differing combinations, ho hum. But the redeveloped town-center-style SouthGlenn is bucking the trend by welcoming independent boutiques and shops to its fold, many of them successful transplants from regional neighborhood shopping districts like Highlands Square and downtown Littleton, as well as lesser-known specialty chains. If names like Kismet, Sous le Lit, the Blues Jean Bar and Rejuvanest sound familiar, that's because you've known and loved them elsewhere. Even in the suburbs, it's cool to be unique.

Burnzwell

As the medical marijuana industry matures in Colorado, dispensary names are moving away from the ubiquitous titles with some combination of "green," "herb," "chronic," "wellness," "health," "high" and "care" and toward more creative monikers to describe the place you go to get your pot. BurnzWell stands out among them. For starters, they're no pansies when it comes to describing what they do: You will purchase their medical products and you will burn them. End of story. Be sure check out the company's logo: a red snake wrapped around a smoking joint, a play on the medical industry's caduceus.

College students or people who partied with Charlie Sheen and the goddesses for an evening now have a way to bypass one of the worst parts of partying: the morning after. Hangover Helpers, a business started by two University of Colorado graduates, can't un-drink all that booze or erase the three-way proposal you texted to your girlfriend's roommate, but it will clean your house and bring food and drink. As students, Alex Vere-Nicoll and Marc Simons realized that they liked partying but hated cleaning up afterward. Assuming other undergrads had the same sensibilities, they started charging $15 per roommate to clean houses after parties. They also bring Gatorade and a panini press to prepare freshly grilled breakfast burritos for their customers. Sure beats a handful of Advil.

City Plantscaping specializes in decorating the insides of homes and businesses with plants — even the edible kind. The company will install moveable walls called TerraScreens, made of wire brackets and filled to the top with potted herbs and vegetables. Part decoration and part garden, you can find green walls at a variety of businesses like Total Longterm Care, which uses one to grow tropical plants on one side for visual appeal and parsley, rosemary, thyme, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and bell peppers on the other side for gastronomical satiation. In fact, employees at Total Longterm Care pick herbs and veggies off the wall to complement their lunches. And that, we're sure, is better than something from the vending machine.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

You're not supposed to think about shopping when you visit an art museum — and at most of the museums in the metro area, that's easy. But the Denver Art Museum put as much care into its new shop as it did its exhibit galleries, installing a veritable department store of books, cards, jewelry, glass and pottery on the first floor of the Hamilton Building. Not only are the selections in every category superb, but the shop emphatically cured the doldrums of the formerly dead space that had been a badly conceived lobby.

All of the best shopping districts reflect the neighborhoods they serve, and on that merit alone, Tennyson Street really shines: It's neighborly, funky, friendly, semi-gentrified and built on a solid foundation of community values; each shop, gallery and restaurant seems to smile and wave "hey" when you walk in the door. A leisurely stroll down the stretch of Tennyson between 38th and 44th avenues will lead you from handmade glass demonstrations at Shackman Glass to a scratch-made pay-what-you-can meal at the Comfort Cafe, books to the ceiling at the Bookery Nook, a cuppa joe at Tenn Street Coffee, bacon-doughnuts and beer at the Hole and mid-century kitsch at Mid, Mod and More. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Here's a little secret the tech geeks don't want you to know: Qwest and Comcast aren't the only Internet service providers in town. And one very able competitor is Forethought.net, a Denver company that's been providing stellar local phone and high-speed Internet service for years — at a price that's cheaper than that of its corporate competitors, all their flashy limited-time offers be damned. Even better, if you have any difficulties, you can call Forethought's downtown location and speak to a tech expert who will more often than not recognize you by name. In this day and age, that's a technological marvel.

Finally, parking makes sense again. No need to rummage around for errant nickels, dimes and quarters to feed that annoying meter; no need to wander off to some centralized parking kiosk that, after eons, spits out a ticket to put on your dash. Now most meters downtown, in Cherry Creek North and elsewhere take credit cards (as well as old-fashioned coins, if you're the sentimental type). We know, it's not as great as free downtown parking, but beggars can't be choosers.

What's four feet tall, bears a strong resemblance to Chris "Birdman" Andersen and is always smiling — even when his innards are being ripped out and his body cavity filled with Fun Size Snickers? Birdman the piñata! And Piñateria Yasmin makes one hell of a Birdman — not to mention striking renditions of other Denver Nuggets, as well as Dora the Explorer, Buzz Lightyear, and even, if you ask nicely enough and bring a photo, your mother-in-law...whose innards you'd probably love to rip out and replace with Snickers.

ReSource Tool Library
Say you want to dig some post holes but you don't have your own post-hole digger. And to make matters worse, your toilet plunger is broken, your shop vacuum is in the shop and your brother never gave back that screwdriver set you lent him. Fear not, tool-less handyman or -woman. The ReSource Tool Library, a project of Boulder's Center for ReSource Conservation, has an inventory of more than 2,500 tools that can be borrowed for the cost of an annual membership ($25 for an individual, $40 for a couple, $100 for a nonprofit) plus minor tool-handling fees that range from 25 cents to $4.75 per day. And starting in April, the library will offer Tool School, a buffet of more than fifty classes in subjects like kitchen tiling, bicycle maintenance and how to build a backyard chicken coop.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of