Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

If you have slightly conservative relatives visiting who are interested in a night on the town...in the suburbs...head to the Arvada Center. Skip the Black Box Theater, where riskier plays periodically appear, and go for the Mainstage shows — mostly large, professionally staged musicals like Camelot and Don Quixote, with beautiful sets, gorgeous costumes and some of the finest singing you'll ever hear in the area. And during intermission, be sure to check out the impressive art galleries.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is in transition and its last season was uneven — but Geoffrey Kent's A Midsummer Night's Dream ransomed the summer. Set in the fizzy, elegant era of Downton Abbey, it provided one of the funniest, liveliest and most joyous evenings around. The show was both welcoming to Shakespeare newcomers and a delight for experts, and it boasted a zillion crazed comic bits that somehow never detracted from the play's magic and poetry. There were a slew of memorable performances, too, including a Bottom whose improvisations had the audience howling; a lazy, slow-moving Puck; a quartet of delicious young lovers; and a fairy king and queen as dopey as they were majestic.

The Edge Theater Company

For three years, Rick Yaconis's Edge Theatre Company has mounted an eclectic mix of new plays and classics and encouraged the work of local playwrights with an annual Festival of New Plays — one of which gets selected for full production each year. This year, that play was Gifted, a flawed but vivid and thoughtful exploration of the dynamics within a mixed-race family: The protagonist is the teenage son of a widowed white American mother and an Indian father. Edge also mounted an excellent production of the 1960s absurdist comedy House of Blue Leaves; brought in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which caused a stir in New York a couple of years ago; and knocked it out of the park with The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Readers' choice: Denver Center Theatre Company

Miners Alley Playhouse

People often say that if going to the theater were as easy and informal as going to a movie, they'd do it a lot more often. They have this idea that they have to book weeks in advance and then dress to the hilt — but that's not the case at Miners Alley in Golden, a friendly, community-spirited and casual theater with a lineup of pretty serious shows. No one's going to glare at you if you wear jeans and want to take your drink into the auditorium.

Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Looking for a reason to wear your diamond earrings? At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the fashions in the lobby might be almost as interesting as what's on stage — an opera, ballet, maybe a musical. As a bonus, inside the auditorium the sound system is superb, all the sightlines work, you get to sit in the most comfortable seats imaginable, and — if it's an opera you're attending — the translations glide sweetly across the back of the seat in front of you. You're gorgeous. Everyone here is gorgeous. Just sink into that plush seat and enjoy.

The Edge Theater Company

Don't be confused by its suburban location: Edge Theatre Company has one of the coolest homes of any theater troupe in the area. There's interesting artwork displayed in the rooms adjoining the lobby — including, on our last visit, a giant fabric pin cushion — and the decor is colorful and inviting. The plays are an interesting mix of modern and classical. So why shouldn't you wear jeans with holes in the knees if you feel like it? Or a tiara and ball gown? Or the tiara with the holey jeans? We guarantee whoever's handing out the tickets in front will be both warm and unfazed.

Lights, foam, action! That's the idea behind Crowdsurf Concerts, a company that has mastered the art of bringing theme parties and huge dance acts together. It starts with an incredible lineup of dance-music acts and adds theme parties such as the aptly titled Parade of Lasers and Foam Wonderland to enhance the experience. Other events have more specific sonic themes — TrapFest, for example, is designed for the bass enthusiast — but whether you're being bombarded by light beams, getting blasted by soapy bubbles or just dancing your ass off, music and fun are at the top of Crowdsurf's agenda.

The Hundred has become the best source for amazing music that isn't floating near the top of the iTunes dance charts. The group scours the ranks of underground acts to find artists for its Home concert series. In addition, founder Brennen Bryarly provides free entry to all Hundred events for exactly one hundred lucky fans each year, as a reward for those who are positive representatives of the scene and who contribute to underground dance music.

The Clocktower Cabaret
Eric Gruneisen

It has no actual Mafia ties that we're aware of, but Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, run by the inimitable Lannie Garrett, could certainly pass for a speakeasy. It sits on the 16th Street Mall, looking like nothing more than an actual clock tower. But when you walk downstairs into the cabaret section of the building, it feels like you've stumbled right into the 1920s. The lavish adornments and hushed atmosphere, along with the mood-appropriate food and drink, make the Clocktower feel like a secret hideaway for the classy set. Although Lannie's often presents burlesque and variety shows, it's also hosted local musicians including The Raven and the Writing Desk, Chimney Choir and Dan Treanor's Afrosippi Band, as well as national artists such as Suzanne Vega. Cool and comfortable, the underground venue is truly a world away from the busy downtown streets above.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Going to Untitled at the Denver Art Museum is kind of like going to your imaginary rich best friend's fabulous loft party. Rock and roll and fine art may seem like strange bedfellows, but the DAM has found a way to successfully marry the two. On final Friday nights of the month from January through October, the DAM opens its doors to all manner of artists, musicians and generally curious weirdos for what it dubs its "mixed media late night program." For the price of regular admission (free if you're a member), you can catch some of the city's best music — along with dance, theater and comedy — while sipping on a Fat Tire.

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