Best Small-Town Shopping District 2011 | Downtown Louisville | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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.

Rejuvanest has moved from Southglenn to its new location at 1550 Platte Street; please contact that location for information.

We loved Rejuvanest, now a transplant to Southglenn from the Highlands Square neighborhood, giving it a Best of Denver nod in 2009. All we praised about it then -- the selection of women's pajamas both cozy and steamy, the too-cute sleepwear and robes for tots, and the bath and boudoir linens and incidentals -- still rings true. But we also have to hand it to owner Brenda Meyers for taking a chance on the suburbs and helping to bring a city feel to Southglenn's new mall. Bedtime never looked -- or smelled -- better.

Fancy Tiger, which comprises the pair of boutiques (one sells clothing, the other sells DIY crafts supplies) that helped revitalize the hip strip of Broadway where they're located, is now even fancier. In January, the clothing store, which peddles pants, shirts, jackets and accessories for both girls and guys, moved to a bigger spot next door to its old location. The result is an airier, more spacious place to find that cowboy shirt that fits like you were born to wear it or the handcrafted necklace that's unique yet goes with everything.

Ken Hamblin III

Over the years, record stores have come and gone — these days, mostly gone. But Twist & Shout just keeps on rocking. It had already been going for two decades as Underground Records when Paul and Jill Epstein, both high-school English teachers, bought it at a tax auction in 1988, on the very first day of spring break. They didn't have much time for teaching after that. They moved the store to one spot on Alameda, then another, and in 2007 made the big leap — a big leap of faith, given how the music industry was imploding — to the Lowenstein project on Colfax Avenue. And somehow, they managed to make a thriving business out of a dying business model. Paul was way out ahead of the vinyl revival, stocking records, turntables and cartridges; Twist & Shout also has big DVD and Blu-ray departments and an incredible selection of music. But Twist & Shout is much, much more than a record store. It's a mainstay of the music scene, bringing in big national acts for in-store appearances, championing local groups and serving as a community gathering place. (The cool toys and clothing also make it a great gift shop.) With the Tattered Cover and the Denver FilmCenter just a few feet away, Twist & Shout has fueled a cultural revolution on Colfax. Long may it rave.

Technically, yes, EZE-Mop, a short block of shops, and its companion coffee and teahouse, Grindhaus, located in an adjacent house, make up their own cozy little urban strip mall in the city. With an emphasis, that is, on urban. The work of inner-city booster couple Stephanie Shearer and Chris Bacorn, the row includes Peppermint boutique, which focuses on one-of-a-kind women's clothing, accessories and jewelry by local artists and designers, the hip men's boutique Soul Haus and the spectacular flower shop Babylon, forming a shoppers' oasis where your visit might happily end with a board game over a cuppa.

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