Best Place to Check In Before You Check Out 2016 | Denver Central Library | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Libraries truly are for everyone. Ever responsive to its unique clientele, which includes homeless patrons seeking to plug into public computers, the Denver Central Library added social worker Elissa Hardy to its staff last spring to help match people on the street — or those who just have problems they can't afford to treat — with housing opportunities, counseling and services. "Sometimes our customers don't even know they need help, and that's where I come in — to assist them in ways that make them feel comfortable and supported," says Hardy, who is one of the first social workers in the nation to be employed by a public library. In a town where the homeless are constantly being shuffled around with no real place to go, this is a small step toward recognizing that the daily human tragedy taking place on our streets won't go away simply by ignoring it. Let's hope this is just the beginning of a national trend in public service.

Not wild about bossy book groups? Do you distrust those computer-generated "recommended for you" lists spewed out by Amazon and Netflix? Simply by filling out a brief request form online, detailing your favorite (and least-favorite) subjects, authors and titles, you can get a customized reading list from the Denver Public Library that's actually been prepared by a living, breathing, fellow book lover. No more bum leads, no more lame suggestions that if you liked Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, you should check out Where's Waldo?. This list's for you.

Tucked in the back of Black Eye Coffee in its airy LoHi location is a pop-up enterprise that's just the right fit for the area's bohemian vibe: a once-refrigerated 1930s display case that now houses a chill selection of independent and imported magazines, from Delayed Gratification to Kinfolk to Life & Thyme. Walled In's selection, which includes paeans to design, niche markets and unconventional journalism, doesn't try to compete with the huge inventory of the big-box chain stores, but rather provides an eclectic and welcome alternative to the prefab — just like the coffee shop itself.

3408 Navajo St.

Those of us who still love to read books (the kind with pages made of paper) pay a high price to do so — which is why waiting for tomes to be discounted makes so much sense. Problem is, the titles that wind up in the budget sections at most book shops tend to be former mass-market bestsellers you passed up the first time around — for a reason. In contrast, Boulder Book Store boasts a huge, and hugely unpredictable, variety of markdowns, including literary fiction by cult authors whose work most retailers don't bother to stock. The opportunity to see it all in one place, as opposed to searching for individual items online, makes it much simpler to discover your next favorite book for a price you can afford.

Think of Local Editions as a public service to Colorado authors: The store deals only in books published by locals in all genres, though you'll be surprised at how much variety the marketing model generates. Owner Ron Vejrostek, who is in the tax and finance business and has written a book on the subject himself, calls the shop a "mini book store," as it deals with only about 100 titles at any given time, but his tender loving care is evident in the nook, which is small enough to display all books facing out. And because Vejrostek strives to provide patrons with the most pleasant of book-browsing experiences, there's also a coffee bar, with hot java available for a mere buck.

Heaven for a bookworm? Holing up in a private room above a bookstore sounds like just the thing, and that's a real possibility that exists right here in Denver, on Tennyson Street. Already responsible for crafting an inviting venue where you can sip wine or nosh on tea sandwiches while you browse the shelves for something to read, BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan converted an upstairs apartment into an Airbnb destination and called it BookBed. It's the perfect getaway for vacationers who like privacy and the ambience of an urban neighborhood — and if they happen to be bookish, new reading material is just a staircase away, along with the strollable shops and friendly eateries of the Berkeley Shopping District. Book it, Denver!

When seamstress Jil Cappuccio left Denver for her native California, taking the bulk of her line with her, Kirsten Coplans — her partner in the Broadway handmade boutique Sewn and the creative behind the charming Pearl repurposed clothing line — recognized that she was left with an empty spot in her day-to-day merchandising mix. Serendipity led Coplans to fill that space with help from the cozy, vintage-inspired Night & Day Vintage boutique, fresh from the Golden Triangle, which made the place cozy again. Both boast a Best of Denver track record from awards given in past years, and Albuquerque-based Little Red Thimble makes it a triumvirate with a mix of vintage accessories and one-of-a-kind baby items tucked into crannies on the shelves: Just two more reasons to love this down-to-earth meeting of the retail minds.

Casa Bonita's not the only game left in the near-ghost town that was once the JCRS Shopping Center — now renamed the Lamar Station Plaza by the strip mall's new owners. Businesses are moving in quickly, including the Gallery of Everything, a longtime Lakewood consignment gallery and gift shop that also shelters a couple of other businesses under its wing in its new location: Kristen and Bob Autobee's highly selective Red Herring Art Supply, which focuses on hard-to-find items, and Sandy Nyland's Wings Aloft, an outlet for her clever handmade bird shelters. In the spirit of the 40 West Arts District — of which this aggregate is a member — the venue is by, for and all about artists and art-making (and providing housing for our feathered friends).

6719 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood
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We gave Curating the Cool an award for the Best Highbrow Junk and Eclectica in 2014 for good reason: The place is a veritable paradise for junkyard pack rats and all lovers of one-of-a-kind furniture and plain old stuff — really good stuff — with a constant turnover of new/old merchandise that keeps things fresh no matter how often you visit. But it just so happens that late last year, the purveyor of antiques and curiosities had a little extra space to fill. Grooves & Games took up the challenge, bringing in its own handpicked stock of vintage vinyl, retro video games and toys galore as a pop-culture counterpoint to Curating the Cool's more decorative focus. Come in and play!

The Art brings a modern beat to Denver that fits right in with the spirit and architecture of the Museum District. Designed to blend in with Daniel Libeskind's Hamilton wing of the Denver Art Museum and neighboring Museum Residences, it puts on a welcoming face for Broadway, where traffic used to pass by a blank parking-lot wall. But the best treasures are saved for those who get to walk in: A collection of artwork curated with a sharp eye by former DAM modern-art czarina Dianne Vanderlip adorns the interior, with works by artists both internationally known and locally revered. The beautifully envisioned and ultra-comfy rooms also sport art from the collections, and each floor has a theme specific to an artist. The fourth-floor, open-to-the-public restaurant is aptly named Fire; a huge firepit on the open-air terrace just outside the glass-walled eatery beckons those looking for an urban experience, with some of the best views of Broadway and beyond — not to mention creative and well-presented food. Want to really get to meet the cultural spirit of a town when you visit? The Art is a great place to start, for out-of-towners and curious locals alike.

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