Janet Casson, a New York expat, has brought her unique, Brooklyn-bred music classes to Denver. Instead of just teaching kids how to play music, she focuses her Rocky Mountain Aardvarks classes on showing them how to love it. In the process, youngsters — and their parents — learn new ways to express themselves.

Designed by landscape architect Kerry White, this custom adventure playground delivers one of the most unique and eclectic diversions around. The theme is grounded in nature; even manufactured equipment is wholly designed with the goal of giving children control over their play experience via fun features like a boulder labyrinth, a climbing wall leading to a whimsical treehouse, and a sand play area complete with water pump.

Global Goods & Coffee Shop

Give a little, get a lot: That's the thinking behind Arvada's Global Goods and Coffee Shop, where the coffee is fair-trade and merchandise sales benefit the nonprofit Global Refuge International, an organization providing aid to victims of war, disease and disaster in undeveloped nations. Along with the java, Global Goods offers an ever-changing selection of Burmese and Ugandan craft goods, including baskets, paper-bead jewelry, handbags, beaded cards and more, alongside a selection of donated items for resale, from gently used home accessories to vintage goodies. We love that the business spins goodwill in so many ways — supporting charity, recycling used goods, supporting global microbusinesses and, last but not least, providing patrons with the caffeine buzz they need to get through the day.

Housed in an old South Broadway Denver Square, incaZteca develops business relationships with artisans in Mexico, Guatemala and Peru to bring beautiful handwoven items, tooled leather accessories, alpaca rugs, embroidered bags, carved gourds, beaded jewelry and folk art galore to its shelves. The woven alpaca hats and scarves are reason enough to visit the shop, but anyone who wants a little color and cultural authenticity in their lives will stick around a while longer to check out the toys, ornaments and whimsical novelties.

Going to the neighborhood drugstore is already practically a thing of the past; even rarer is the experience you'll find at the Family Pharmacy, where you can buy a bottled soda from an old-fashioned red-enamel Coca-Cola cooler and stock up on Beanie Babies, Precious Moments figurines and whatever other high shlock your heart desires. The shop is a working pharmacy, as well, but its stature as an unintended socio-anthropological museum makes it a guilty pleasure for anyone's incorrigible inner hoarder.

The Source

In every venture they've taken on, it seems that Tran and Josh Wills have tried to combine their many interests — fashion, design, art and lifestyle — into a well-displayed gestalt of what's ultimately cool in modern times. But this new incarnation of Super Ordinary, located in hipster marketplace the Source, is that model's most sophisticated manifestation. Partnering with Bryan Cavanagh and Pedro Barrios, the Willses now have a space with an interlocking but split personality: Monthly art shows go up and down in the gallery, while patrons of the Source's eateries and artisan food shops can stroll through a design-savvy, curated selection of home goods, gifts and books in the retail space. If this is Super Ordinary, the everyday never looked so good.

Curating The Cool
Curating the Cool Facebook

Our favorite stores share one thing in common — that they are not common in the least, and Curating the Cool might be the most unusual of them all. That's because the (obviously) curated consignment shop and dumpster-diver's paradise is the ultimate curiosity shop, a mash-up of new and old, including original artwork, oddities, clothing, homemade preserves and body scrubs, antiques and any kind of rare collectible your heart could desire, all mixed up in an ever-changing order.

Antiques dealer Eron Johnson had spring fever early last year, and the Valverde Bazaar was the serendipitous result, a gathering of a select group of creative friends — and their creative friends — for an outdoor market like no other in the metro area. Modeled after London's Portobello Road, where, Johnson recalls, "you never knew what you'd see in the next booth," Valverde is a beautiful blend of quality vintage goods and antiques, high-end flea-market chic, open-air art show and craft fair, all put together with an eye for unique and well-made merchandise. The only problem? Growing pains. Look for the market to divide and multiply in 2014; the first date is May 17.

The best thrift stores are geographically removed from the gaggles of hipsters who peck otherwise decent shops into oblivion, and the ARC Thrift Store on Cortez is just such a place. Here you'll sift through endless racks of well-organized clothes, much of it fashionable; neatly arranged furniture; shelves of books you might actually want to read; and row after deep row of smartly arranged tchotchkes, cookware, picture frames and more. One of the best things about this ARC is that while you're there, you can put together a care package for a faraway friend and walk to the conveniently located U.S. Post Office next door and send it off.

The wayback model at Cedar & Hyde is the general store, which was once the hub of every whistle-stop, where folks went to buy everything from barrel pickles and lengths of muslin to big-city bonnets and sacks of flour. But nothing's outdated at this shop, which sisters Christie and Poss Lambert call a "modern-day mercantile." The Lamberts start by catering to every member of the family in a neat shop with a rustic feel, stocking clothing for kids, men and women, including sturdy jeans, and things for the home, from sweet handcrafted bronze garden foxes to wooden bangles, jars of artisan pickles from the Real Dill, beard oil and ikat cloth napkins. And it works.

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