Ironwood Gallery

Over the years, Ironwood has settled comfortably onto its foundation, and it now glows with an aura of history that makes its museum-like collection of oddities, treasures and specimens from the natural world seem timeless. And like a museum or a library, Ironwood is also a place where you'll want to bide your time, turning objects over in your hands and leafing through the pages of fascinating and beautiful books. But unlike at a museum, you can buy the pieces so stunningly curated by owners Alyson Two Eagles and Jeff Childress. Drop by and fall in love with the ever-changing stock of butterfly wings, growing plants, antique objects, books and art.

Readers' choice: Fancy Tiger Crafts

Studio Colfax is at least half a family affair, dreamed up by the sister duo of Rebecca and Sarah Tischler, who, with the help of friends Sara Bruce and Marguerite Specht, opened the artisan boutique on Colfax Avenue last summer. And like the eclectic street itself, the shop is a mixed bag of mysteries and delights. Here you'll find original jewelry pieces and gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn silk panties right next to fancy letterpress stationery and comic art by Colfax-lover Karl Christian Krumpholz. In keeping with the rhythm of the avenue outside, prices are affordable and the vibe is relaxed; drop in next door at Cafe Max for an after-shopping cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Readers' choice: Tattered Cover Book Store

I Heart Denver Store

Samuel Schimek's Colorado-centric I Heart Denver, which began as a temporary project and grew into a thriving downtown business, keeps doing its magic on the second level of the Denver Pavilions, where it caters to tourists and locals alike. But in spite of its stock of Denver-stamped merchandise and T-shirts, it's far from just another cheap curio shop: I Heart Denver also serves as a local-artist incubator by selling one-of-a-kind handmade and small-run items created in Colorado, and rewarding its suppliers with high returns. And here's something to look forward to: Schimek hopes to open a second store later this year as part of Southwest Plaza Mall's big makeover in Littleton.

Readers' choice: Tattered Cover Book Store

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These days, when you don't even need paper tickets or boarding passes to get on a plane, having a U.S. Post Office in an airport might seem like a quaint relic of the past. Quaint, until you realize that you forgot to sign that contract you must get in the mail before you head to Japan. Or that you're still carrying around your parents' anniversary card because you didn't have a stamp. That's when this post office will come in very, very handy. And then there are those edibles you forgot to hide in the dirty laundry in your luggage...although you know it's illegal to send marijuana through the mail, don't you?

Readers' choice: Tattered Cover Book Store

Charlotte Elich's well-honed retail formula for her 5 Green Boxes store on South Pearl Street — a lovely blend of repurposed furniture, whimsical housewares, fun and stylish clothing and accessories, and other serendipitous finds — is a perfect fit with the vibe at the renovated Union Station, though Elich has had to rein in her stock for the tiny LoDo space. Still, the shop is tourist-ready with its sophisticated brand of kitsch, and filled with things that are meant to be used and to last. Denver can always use more of the humor and eclecticism that Elich has in store for us.

REI

Whatever part of their paychecks outdoor-loving Denverites still have left after paying for their lift tickets and filling up their Outbacks with gas usually ends up getting spent on Platte Street, where three of Denver's biggest outdoors stores are clustered next to each other. Located in the old Denver Tramway Company building, retail giant REI's flagship store (1416 Platte St., 303-756-3100) is a multi-story emporium of everything from sleeping bags to bikes to GPS units, with meeting rooms for classes on the upper level, a climbing wall, and an in-store Starbucks whose deck looks out over the Platte. Across the street, Wilderness Exchange United (2401 15th St., 303-964-0708) is one of Denver's best spots for new and used climbing gear, skis and apparel. And from its base in the bottom level of the Natural Grocers building, Confluence Kayaks (2373 15th St., 303-433-3676) sells boats and teaches paddling skills in an in-store pool and nearby Confluence Park.

The neighborhood businesses of Old South Pearl Street seem to have a way of handling growing pains while still making the shopping and dining hordes welcome. And that just might be the secret to the business corridor's ongoing success: By catering to the neighborhood's needs and wearing a world-class face, these merchants and restaurant owners not only host a summer farmers' market and other seasonal festivals and sidewalk sales, but they handle changes like pros. Case in point? This year, the district became the first shopping area in Denver to install bike corrals — one in front of Stella's Coffee Haus (1476 S. Pearl St.), and the other at Black Pearl Restaurant (1529 S. Pearl St.) — along the busy street, where parking is at a premium. Each one parks twelve bicycles within a space that's one car wide, allowing at least 24 bodies at a time to leave their cars at home.

Readers' choice: South Broadway

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Thriving in the heart of Denver for over a quarter of a century, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center defies categorization — and attracts hordes of tourists as well as local shoppers ever year. Far more than just your average mall, Cherry Creek offers a high-end shopping experience through retail experts like Nordstrom, Hyde Park and Neiman Marcus, as well as more down-to-earth service at spots like Apple, Gap and Sephora — a combination no other commercial area in the state provides. The center also offers luxury seating for weary shoppers, fancy restrooms, two Starbucks locations and a bevy of food options at all price ranges, not to mention a playground for kids. And later this year, the best will get even better when Cherry Creek adds a four-story Restoration Hardware (complete with its own cafe), along with 38,000 more square feet of shopping space.

Readers' choice: Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Thriving in the heart of Denver for over a quarter of a century, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center defies categorization — and attracts hordes of tourists as well as local shoppers ever year. Far more than just your average mall, Cherry Creek offers a high-end shopping experience through retail experts like Nordstrom, Hyde Park and Neiman Marcus, as well as more down-to-earth service at spots like Apple, Gap and Sephora — a combination no other commercial area in the state provides. The center also offers luxury seating for weary shoppers, fancy restrooms, two Starbucks locations and a bevy of food options at all price ranges, not to mention a playground for kids. And later this year, the best will get even better when Cherry Creek adds a four-story Restoration Hardware (complete with its own cafe), along with 38,000 more square feet of shopping space.

Readers' choice: Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Aspen Grove

When it first opened, Aspen Grove featured the usual suspects, links in national chains lined up in an outdoorsy Colorado setting. But increasingly, Aspen Grove has become a cultural draw, too, with the addition of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which pulls in people from across the metro area with its savvy programming. For the past few months, the center has also featured a pop-up art gallery featuring Plein Air 365 x5, artist Ted Garcia's series of paintings created after he vowed to paint a new piece every day for five years; that show's run has been extended several times. And soon Aspen Grove will be home to a suburban Tattered Cover, which is moving there from Highlands Ranch. Yes, there are still national outlets here...but now, while you're picking up a Pier One pillow, you can score a lovely, original landscape to go with it.

Readers' choice: Belmar

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