Berk Gibbs started Elm & Oak in 2005 while living on the East Coast; since then, it has grown from an artist collective of sorts to a monumental player. Backing artists like Two Fresh, Cherub, Black Actors and fellow Elm & Oak owner Alex Botwin's solo project Paper Diamond, the label also provides space for boutique art and clothing sales at its Boulder location. In keeping with a community mindset, the imprint has teamed up with the University of Colorado to hold semi-regular lectures and classes for CU students interested in all facets of art and the music business. Thanks to the constant flow of releases from its artists, Elm & Oak has established itself in the community as a force to be reckoned with.

Eden

Eden is a garden of lesbian delights. Thanks to a diverse menu of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, Eden is as green-friendly on the inside as the grass-colored building is on the outside. But it's the after-dinner fare that makes Eden a standout on the nightlife scene: In addition to regularly supporting the women of Denver with events dedicated to roller derby, women in slam poetry, female fundraisers, International Women's Day and the like, the restaurant also offers fun, one-night-only events that cater to the double-X-chromosomed. Did you miss the Lady Gaga tour documentary on HBO? Eden's got a bad romance with the singer. You might also encounter diva-centric dance jams, sapphic sirens burlesque, yoga over brunch, or your favorite lesbian reality star.

Onus Spears, local character and a man of the people, is also an avid fan of Denver's writers, musicians, comics, artists and poets, on whom he bestows lots of love at Rawlitix, the intimate live talk and variety show he hosts monthly at the Deer Pile. In a casual, salon-like, house-party atmosphere, Spears, a born yakker, focuses on people who don't necessarily spend time in the spotlight; like any good talk show, each installment features live music and comedy, tied together by a guest interview. Denver has recurring comedy shows like the Grawlix and the Fine Gentleman's Club. We have storytelling and readings, the Narrators and My Teenage Angst. But until now, we didn't have a talk show...and certainly not one like this.

Co-ops, schools, associations and art groups often mount shows that feature the work of their members exclusively. Material Engagements, at Laura Merage's RedLine, comprised pieces by the complex's residents and former residents, and it was definitely a winner. Guest curator Harmony Hammond made the savvy decision to choose material as the organizing theme; this was a necessary call, given that there is no particular stylistic requirement for RedLiners and every artist does his or her own kind of work. Among the best aspects of the exhibition was its intelligent design, with each of the two dozen artists given a dedicated space and plenty of breathing room.

Heritage Square Music Hall

The quality of the food varies, and the shows range from hilariously creative to the occasional damp squib. But over its 25 years, Heritage Square Music Hall has always been worth a visit. The melodramas and songfests feel like a wonderful party where your friends get up, one by one, to tell jokes or sing songs — though your friends aren't likely to be as talented as director T. J Mullin, who maintains a soft-spoken dignity on stage, right up until the moment he turns into a wailing baby; Rory Pierce, who'll play it straight for a while and then pop up in drag, showing off the best legs in the business; Alex Crawford, a grandfather who can still do the splits; Randy Johnson, who pounds the piano keys with such skill and enthusiasm that you have to sing along. And where will we go after December 31 — when the place closes — to see Annie Dwyer, the crazed comedian who made her mark snatching glasses of booze from customers' tables and downing them, impersonating singers from Janis Joplin to a fat-suited Mama Cass, terrorizing male audience members with sticky red forehead kisses and then yelling at their female companions? There is still a season's worth of shows to see, but the fun will stop at the end of the year, with Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.

Time is on the Boedecker's side: The intimate, state-of-the-art film palace opened at the Dairy Center just two years ago, so it includes the most modern of amenities. Its sixty seats are plush rockers, each with four feet of leg room, and the theater also boasts 5.1 Surround Sound and HD DLP projection that rival better sophisticated home-theater equipment. Throw in a well-plotted schedule, with films ranging from hard-to-find classics to more recent must-sees, as well as a sprinkling of live opera broadcasts, themed series and a concession counter that sells beer and wine, and you've got a night out that's more comfortable than the one you might spend on your own couch.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

The long-awaited Alamo Drafthouse just made its Colorado debut at Aspen Grove, but its fun-loving movie-party reputation precedes it. One big part of the Alamo formula is the food: a full menu of burgers, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and brunch items that brings home-style amenities to the movie-going experience. And fueling up at the Alamo is no problem: You can choose from many wines and an extensive beer list, with an emphasis on Colorado craft brews; there's also a full lineup of adult shakes, including the Left Hand Milk Stout Shake and a Mexican chocolate version shot through with reposado tequila. And, yes, you can enjoy bottomless popcorn, too, with or without real melted butter — or, for a buck more, a side of herbed parmesan to sprinkle. Want an even homier snack? Order up a baked-to-order warm cookie and a pot of hot chocolate. Whichever way you go, it will be nearly impossible to go hungry during your Big Lebowski quote-along or Oskar Blues Dinner screening of The Jerk at the Alamo.

Sie FilmCenter

Sie FilmCenter programmer Keith Garcia wears his film fanaticism in a bright splash right on his sleeve, and his constituents love him for it — because he's one of them. Thanks to Garcia, the Sie's schedule pairs the best in current indie and art films with more esoteric sidesteps into anime and animation, documentaries and genre films he books for his pet late-night project, the Watching Hour. And the Sie always plays to its audience when it specializes, making film-going into a party with a movie as the entree, whether it's marketed to anime-loving cosplayers or the sophisticated film-festival crowd. For all-around diversity, quality and unexpected quirks, the Sie puts it together best.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum has really stepped up its game since the Hamilton Building came on line, giving the facility more space and allowing director Christoph Heinrich to turn the place into an exhibition-driven destination. The homegrown blockbuster Becoming van Gogh was a perfect example: The museum stayed open around the clock at the end of its run to accommodate the crowds. For this show, the DAM's Gates Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture, Timothy Standring, compellingly recast van Gogh as an artist who was at one with his times rather than a madman who stood alone, a common perception. Standring did this by presenting rarely seen pieces showing van Gogh following the same stylistic arc as other artists of the period — first creating dark realist works, then sunny impressionistic ones before he got around to his signature post-impressionism.

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The History Colorado Center has courted controversy with its exhibits, but the powers-that-be at the institution did get a few things right. They commissioned David Tryba to design a spectacular new building — a winner, even before it opened, of a Best of Denver award last year. They also stocked a spacious and handsome gift shop on the main floor, just steps from the front door. The space is filled with books, handmade jewelry and pottery, T-shirts and more, and together this inventory (some of it actually made in Colorado) reflects the cultural, ethnic and racial characteristics of the Centennial State. Best of all, you don't have to pay museum admission to just go inside and shop.

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