In one fell swoop, Blake Adams made the flea market more man-friendly — in a unisex, fun way — with the Denver Flea (denverflea.com), which pops up in different locations and collaborations to suit the season while mashing up its merchandise with free craft beers at the door (to all who RSVP in advance) and good eats to cure the mid-shopping munchies. This is no garage-sale flea market, either: Quality vintage items and handmade crafts by local artisans are what's on sale, and those snacks come from a fleet of the city's better food trucks. And the fun doesn't stop there: Along with its vendor booths, the Denver Flea has built-in activities for all ages. This is definitely a market catch.

In one fell swoop, Blake Adams made the flea market more man-friendly — in a unisex, fun way — with the Denver Flea, which pops up in different locations and collaborations to suit the season while mashing up its merchandise with free craft beers at the door (to all who RSVP in advance) and good eats to cure the mid-shopping munchies. This is no garage-sale flea market, either: Quality vintage items and handmade crafts by local artisans are what's on sale, and those snacks come from a fleet of the city's better food trucks. And the fun doesn't stop there: Along with its vendor booths, the Denver Flea has built-in activities for all ages. This is definitely a market catch.

Josh Sampson had a big idea: to create a portable eating experience on the level of the Brooklyn Flea food market he'd frequented before moving to Colorado. And TheBigWonderful — an outdoor, sustainable foodie marketplace with its own craft-beer garden and fun and games to entertain the whole family — more than lives up to its name. The market, with its locally sourced vendors, food trucks, live music and more, will return for another season of weekly Saturday outings on May 2, and Sampson has launched a couple of sister events: the Denargo Farm & Truck food-truck park and the Friday Night Bazaar, both at 3530 Brighton Boulevard. Will his wonders never cease?

Boulder County Farmers' Market
Juliet Wittman

While bigger, seasonal farmers' markets crop up from May through October to take advantage of Colorado's harvest, Denver Urban Homesteading is still the place to go for year-round local meats, dairy, baked goods and other farm-fresh products. It's open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday (unlike the weekly parking-lot markets), and since it's indoors, customers don't have to worry about sprinting for their cars with every thunderstorm that blows through. Choose from excellent cuts of beef and pork from Callicrate Beef, fresh produce from Wise Acre Farms, pasture-raised chicken and duck eggs, and honey from regional beekeepers. Visitors can also purchase cow and goat shares for raw milk and pick up their weekly allotments here. The market also offers classes on urban beekeeping, backyard chicken- and goat-raising, composting and small-plot gardening, and even brings in chicks and baby goats that are cute enough to inspire you to start your very own urban farm.

Readers' choice: Boulder County

Boulder County Farmers' Market
Juliet Wittman

"No Farms, No Food" is a bumpersticker cliche that happens to be true. The people who run the Boulder County Farmers' Market (and its Longmont sibling) know that farming's a hard and uncertain job and that farmers need customers and support. They also recognize that the fresher and more local the food, the more delicious it is. That's why the produce sold at these markets is locally grown, much of it in the county, though the fruit can come from as far away as the Western Slope. The beef, goat and chicken come from Colorado-raised animals, too. While you can get delicious baked treats and some packaged and prepared items at the Boulder County Farmers' Market, the primary focus is on food you'll take home and cook. And if you need to know how to prepare that artichoke, what to do with pork fat or how to grow your own garlic, the farmer's right there to tell you.

For a growing gardener, Sunflower Farm is Colorado's version of Disneyland. This non-commercial, 55-acre working farm began as an experiment in customizing a farm around the interests of children. Over the past twelve years, it's become a local treasure. Century-old shade trees are festooned with tire swings and a series of connecting treehouses; while their parents look at lovely views of alfalfa fields, kids can gaze at pigs, baby calves and roaming peacocks or play in the sandbox. There are also pony and tractor rides and a zipline for those seeking bigger thrills.

UCF gardens are more than community gardens: They infill neighborhood spaces with growing things instead of condos; they create a learning environment for children; and they provide fresh produce for Denver's food-desert neighborhoods as well as for social-service nonprofits like Warren Village. Currently, UCF runs four garden farmstands, where folks pay what they can for food grown with love by gardeners of all ages: Gabrielle's Garden, at 832 Kalamath Street; Celebration Community Urban Garden, at Iowa Avenue and Birch Street; Chaffee Park Community Urban Farm, east of Federal Boulevard on 52nd Avenue; and Columbian Elementary School, at West 40th Avenue and Federal. This is one concept we'd love to see keep going — and growing.

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome

Although the metro area is blooming with good farmers' markets, few evoke the charm of a European market — the kind you'd find nestled along a brick lane, overflowing with perfect baguettes, heady cheeses, rare heirloom tomatoes and other gourmet fixings. Behold Le Jardin Secret, which entered the market last summer. Tucked away in Larimer Square's Bistro Vendôme courtyard, it has just the right vibe, right down to the mimosas you can drink as you browse (Vendôme's liquor license extends into the courtyard). Brought to life by chef Jorel Pierce (who was then at Euclid Hall and now oversees sibling Stoic & Genuine), this secret garden — which rolls out on Saturdays from June through August — yields goodies from such Denver foodie landmarks as the Truffle Cheese Shop, Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, Sugarmill and more.

Aspiring foodies will adore Sticky Fingers Cooking, a mobile school that teaches children ages two and up gourmet scratch-cooking techniques, instructing them on the preparation of global concoctions (think dragon noodles and lemon-ricotta pancakes) using child-safe knives and organic produce. The organization's main offering is after-school cooking classes, which are taught weekly at 130 Colorado schools. But Sticky Fingers also cooks up delectable small-group summer and spring-break camps, which are open to the public and held at Stir Cooking School. Additionally, the Sticky Fingers staff offers in-home instruction — cleanup included — and parties at Stir, with prices starting at $150 for private groups of up to a dozen kiddos.

It's Sugar

If you noticed a rise in manic behavior on the 16th Street Mall in the past year, the fault might lie with It'Sugar at the Denver Pavilions, Colorado's first link in a gargantuan national chain of candy stores that claim to do everything sweet and bad for you, bigger and badder than anyplace else. The proof is in the packaging: At It'Sugar, you can walk out of the store with a five-pound keg of gummy bears or the "world's largest box" of any of several popular candies, from SweeTarts to Nerds, or a one-pound Snickers bar. Sweet!

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