Best Replacement for Saks Fifth Avenue 2011 | H & M | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Best Replacement for Saks Fifth Avenue

H & M

The cat is more or less out of the bag that popular Swedish retailer H&M is sniffing around Denver for a good fit. Specializing in fresh and extremely affordable casual separates with a youngish skew, it's the secret dream store to which many fashion-forward Denverites crave local access. So, hey, H&M — we know of a big empty space in the state's hippest mall. Do you? We'd put our money on this match; they can't get in here quickly enough.

It's a common complaint among women shopping the thrift, vintage and resale stores around town: There's never much selection — if any at all — for full-figured women or those blessed with a little meat on their bones. Athena's Closet is the antidote, as it's the other way around there: Anorexic girls can just forget about saving a buck on secondhand styles here, but for big mamas, it's a dream come true.

There's probably not a huge market for gold reptile-print stilettos with faux fur that come in a men's size 14 — but if that's the sort of thing you're into, then you're not going to do any better than Studio Lites. Aside from having the market pretty much cornered on men who need really large heels for whatever reason, the store is like a modern cross-dresser's glamorous fantasy, full of sexy duds, faux jewelry, wigs (for both stagecraft and medical purposes) and makeovers — most notably, the male-to-female kind. Factor in the friendly, accommodating staff, the charmingly low-slung retro location and the surprisingly reasonable prices, and you've got a place where your average Joe can become a truly fabulous Jane.

What's a skateboard good for? Well, you can do tricks on one, and it's a known source of self-transport. You can even break your neck using one, if you so desire. Derek Keenan, a design major and Peace Corps veteran, was inspired by the resourcefulness of the Gambian people he worked with when it came to recycling. When he returned to the States, he came up with an unusual vision for what he could do with an old board: He made it into jewelry. The resulting distressed surfaces and geometric shapes of his earrings, pendants and belt buckles, carved from used skate decks, playfully and stylishly channel the street-savvy DIY-boarder milieu. Keenan even incorporates the Colorado flag into a number of his pieces. Any dude would be proud to wear MuKee.

Deep in the heart of the sprouting Boulder County burb of Louisville lies a breath of the old coal mining town it once was. In downtown Louisville, you're apt to be swept away, far from the creeping developments, into the town's former Italian-flavored self. Should you pull off the turnpike and mosey on into the old-fashioned business district, you'll find a few nice boutiques, some hands-on studio galleries, a great guitar store and lots of variety in eateries, from the Sweet Cow ice-creamery to the storied Blue Parrot spaghetti joint. An afternoon in Louisville is not only an easy getaway; it's also a great way to slow down and enjoy life.

There's nothing worse than showing up at your neighborhood B-cycle station, picnic basket in one hand, book of love poems in the other, and discovering that the romantic afternoon you had planned with the girl of your dreams is foiled because all of the bikes are rented and now you'll never get to second base. Luckily, B-cycle's app is designed to prevent just such a disaster. Using your phone's GPS, it tells you which B-cycle stations are closest and how many bikes are available. Score!

The view through the big windows of the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center would be worth the price of admission — but then, admission to both the park and this revamped facility, with its handy bathrooms, comfortable coffee and snack shop, and interesting geological/history exhibits, is already free. Still, we guarantee that you'll exit the place with a lighter wallet, because it contains not one, but two big gift shops, both of which emphasize Colorado-centric items. The first-floor shop is packed with an impressive array of books, jewelry, mugs, knickknacks and keepsakes, T-shirts and sweatshirts, all several steps above what you might find at a Denver International Airport souvenir shop, to pull a sorry example out of the air, and most actually made in Colorado. Even better is the downstairs children's shop, packed with fun, colorful items guaranteed to turn any kid into a junior geologist or anthropologist. If you're into Colorado kitsch, this place is fit for the gods.

Sure, most of the shoppers in Meininger's look very arty and serious. They've dropped by the giant art-supply store to pick up their framing material, or a few new brushes, or to find the tools that could help them work through that tricky drafting problem. But this is also a great stop for frivolous, last-second gifts -- which are conveniently set up right by the cash registers up front. Need an eraser shaped like a hamburger, a pirate shower curtain, a Hello Kitty purse, or just the coolest notebook ever? Meininger's has what you crave -- even if you didn't know you craved it until you spotted it in the impulse-buy bins.

Tucked into the corner of a shopping plaza a mile from Shotgun Willie's and the Penthouse Club, Ariana Exotic Wear sells all the stripping essentials: flashy bikinis, tight elastic-y dresses bedazzled with rhinestones, and clear heels so high they'd make Cinderella twist an ankle and bust her G-string-clad ass. Plus, the shop's floor-to-ceiling glass storefront makes for some fun strip-mall scenery (pun intended).

The only LEGO Store in Colorado, the outlet inside Colorado Mills is a brick-lover's dream. Not only does it stock an amazing array of LEGO sets, boxes, games and toys, but you (make that your kids, right?) can build your own custom mini-figs at the mini-fig buffet and fill up buckets of individual bricks in the pick-a-brick area. The store, which is chock-full of play areas and colorful displays, also hosts birthday parties and monthly Mini Model builds -- in which participants get to take home free models -- as well as other events. Santa has elves, but the LEGO Store has the magic.

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