I Heart Denver Store

I Heart Denver (and its predecessor, the city-backed pop-up, YesPleaseMore) is simply the smartest Colorado curio shop in all of the state, with the slickest design, the cleverest merchandising and the best-quality memorabilia that any tourist — or local — could purchase to remember Denver by. The shop even has one of the most lovable store mascots to roam the Denver retail world: the charming corgi Denver Picard Schimek, who's been immortalized for I Heart Denver in locally made felting kits, stuffed animals, cards and buttons. And Denver's dad, Samuel Schimek, is the man behind it all. A designer himself, Schimek scouts the city for the hippest creatives, stocking the store with their imaginative jewelry and handmades, Denver-centric tees, reasonably priced artworks and prints, hand-printed stationery, beetle-kill furniture, keychains and mugs. No wonder Schimek received the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Create Award, given to "an outstanding, for-profit creative business that has made a significant impact on Colorado's creative economy," earlier this month. Thanks, I Heart Denver, for rising above the lowest common denominator of downtown shopping and challenging shoppers with new ideas and merchandise.

You don't have to be a teen to appreciate this pretty hole-in-the-wall boutique on the far southern edge of the West Wash Park neighborhood, but if you are, it's guaranteed you'll like its style, which is less cookie-cutter, with a hand-curated selection of clothing all priced under $100. There's a vintage vibe in the look here, but not overwhelmingly so: Twirl's flippy, polka-dotted minis, put-together tops and go-with accessories are hip and sweet, dressed up or down, making the store a great place to go with a friend (or a whole shopping party, as Twirl suggests) for an afternoon of shopping.

"Thriftonista" TaRosa Jacobs lives and dies for vintage, and over several years, she's become very, very good at accumulating better clothing and other treasures from bygone times. That includes sourcing specific requests from customers, whether you're wishing for an antique corset, period designer frock or even a leopard-skin pillbox hat. But you can also have a blast checking out the ever-changing inventory at Wishlist (call ahead for hours), her upstairs shop on South Broadway. In the world of thrift and vintage, it's the element of surprise, after all, that adds to the thrill of the hunt.

In 2000, longtime sports staple Ron Zappolo moved into the anchor seat at Fox31, helping to establish the credibility of the station's fledgling news operation even as he boosted its profile. Then, last year, he announced that he would be returning to sports reporting, and the knowledge that his days dispensing hard news were dwindling seems to have freed him up. Over the past few months, he's delivered some of the most relaxed, confident and personality-filled performances of his long career — a fine swan song preceding his scheduled April 5 shift to his new/old gig.

A newscast rises and falls based in large part on the likability of its regulars, and CBS4 has that base covered: News anchors Jim Benemann and Karen Leigh, ably assisted by main forecaster Ed Greene and sportscaster Vic Lombardi, specialize in balancing accessibility with substance. But what really pushes the station's flagship news offering over the top is the investigative work of journalists such as Brian Maass and Jodi Brooks, who regularly tell compelling stories that matter for reasons of content and not just as ratings bait.

Predicting the weather remains an inexact science, particularly in Colorado; no amount of fancy gadgetry or eye-candy graphics can change that. And given that most rain-and-snow prognosticators are dealing with the same data, the best of the bunch stand out for the way they handle their screwups. As such, Marty Coniglio bought a lot of goodwill when, after blowing the forecast of a storm that caused epic citywide traffic jams a few weeks back, he let colleagues pelt him with snowballs on camera. Such a sense of humor makes us less likely to take Coniglio's name in vain when predictions turn cold.

Colorado is well known for indoor-grown marijuana, but because of our short growing season, the outdoor kind is another story. Grassroots Grown is trying to change that by nurturing everything it sells in massive greenhouses on a seventy-acre plot outside of Boulder. The result is suntanned, dark-green buds that might not have the shiny, artificial luster of their indoor counterparts, but certainly pack a massive punch in the potency department. We were most impressed last fall by their 707 Headband x Maui cross and a lemony sample of Vortex.

Vegans know that typical grocery stores are minefields of animal products — they not only lurk in foodstuffs, but also in cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products and more. Nooch Vegan Market is more of a gold mine than a minefield, though; everything on the shelves is vegan, and you'll find some locally made items that you simply can't get anywhere else, including Denver Seitan Company's wheat meat and assorted flavors of Sweet Action Ice Cream. You'll also find vegan belts and wallets for the menfolk, vegan cleaning supplies — vegan products for every part of your life. When you want to know it's plant-based and fits your ethics, and you don't want to spend hours reading labels, Nooch is the place to drop your grocery dollars.

Forest Room 5

Bartender Paul Garcia serves multiple roles at Forest Room 5, but one stands out on his business card. Garcia is curator of the bar's kooky vending machine, which means he scours thrift stores to find enough odds and ends to restock its wares twice a week with items including take-home marijuana tests, American Spirit cigarettes, expandable sponge spiders and various pulp-fiction novels from the 1970s. (As of this writing, both Cosmic Crusaders and 2061: Odyssey Three were still available.) Customers can also use their coins, $1 and $5 bills to purchase insect putty, ovulation predictors and pepper or basil seeds while they last. And if your strangely shaped item gets stuck, no worries: There's always an employee available to help you get the rusty used wrench you bought out of the machine. True story.

Don's Club Tavern
Sarah McGill

No matter what decisions you make on your night out, Don's Club Tavern has got you covered in the best of times and the worst of times. And we're not just talking about the friendly dive's good-time vibe and generous hard-alcohol selection: Immediately to the left of the bar is a particularly well-stocked vending machine, where drinkers and pool-players can find Spam and cans of tuna, along with Hot Pockets, Cracker Jack, frozen pizza to pop into the bar's microwave, and even a pregnancy test (it costs $5 with button B5). How you sneak it into the bathroom to take it is up to you.

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