Drag is exhausting. You need to spend hours creating a look, an outfit, a number, and then even more time walking in shoes so high they'll give you nosebleeds. Anka Shayne, aka Jordan Gilbert, doesn't just display a willingness to do the work; she takes it to the next level. In or out of guise, you can see her wheels turning. What would happen if I poured this liquid latex on my face over my makeup? What would happen if my nails were five inches long? What if I came out wearing nothing but this sticker? Anka is a mover and a shaker who knows how to slay a stage.

Nina Montaldo, Denver's Grand Dame of Drag, will turn 68 this year. Back in 1968, a young James Martinez began to create Nina — borrowing her last name from a high-end department store that once graced our city — because it was the fierce thing to do at a time when being gay, much less a queen, was illegal. Nina's reign at the top of Denver drag has always stood for a few things: professionalism, beauty, glamour, joy and, most important, persistence. Today's drag babies may dismiss Miss Nina's aesthetics as "old-fashioned" — but there's nothing old-fashioned about fighting for your art for fifty years. If you see Nina Montaldo on a bill, do yourself a favor and take in the show.

For some performers, drag only runs skin deep. But for Ultimate Queen Yvie Oddly, aka Jovan Bridges, drag is about more than putting on makeup and a dress and lip-syncing to a pop hit, more than entertaining the masses. For Oddly, drag is a way of expressing your innermost personality, coloring outside the gender lines and using the platform to make a real statement. As a result, there's crackling electricity whenever Yvie takes the Drag Nation stage or leads her own Odd Hour show at Tracks: What you're about to watch is not only going to break the rules of everyday life, but the rules of what drag is supposed to be, as well.

Blush & Blu

The last few years have seen the drag population in Denver expand tenfold, which means that more and more queens are looking for a spot where they can lip-sync their hearts out. While Denver lost a few stages over the past year, it gained Blush & Blu, a cozy bar and coffeehouse that has been expanding its relationship within the gay community and offering its space for many different types of performances. And no one has embraced the place as much as this city's drag stars. Blush & Blu takes pride in its new role, and has secured a critical item any would-be drag stage needs to be legit: a spotlight to show off the faces and hard work of our fiercest performers. The future looks bright!

For nine years, RuPaul has turned every season of RuPaul's Drag Race into a gay holiday; viewers make a fourteen-week commitment to see who'll emerge as the next drag superstar. Here at home, that devotion inspired the Ultimate Queen Competition, which takes the best new drag talent in Denver and stages its own battle royale. If you want to take Denver's drag temperature, catch an Ultimate Queen night; you'll soon see who's polished and who's about to become polish remover. Gentlemen, start your engines — and may the best woman win!

"This is the top of the nation!" For eight years, Tracks has taken host Nina Flowers's clever tagline to heart when describing its Drag Nation show, a drag spectacle on the last Friday of every month. On this stage, a queen can realize the fantasy she's been dreaming of her whole life, complete with lights, stage decor and dancers — via the talents of the hot and nimble Denver Dance members. Most important, these performers get to share the spotlight with Nina and the talented cast members who've all earned their place on the showbill. While Drag Nation also celebrates the guest talents of RuPaul's Drag Race, our own homegrown hotties are the real stars of the show.

If a single party has earned the right to be engraved on your calendar, it's the Circuit Saturday jam that takes over Tracks every first Saturday of the month. The fun themes are announced weeks early so that you can start pulling together a look that will draw attention while you're dancing to the beats of world-class DJs. The night's producers are always out on the floor, making sure everyone is having a good time — whether they be butch queen, twink, daddy, diva, Becky with the good hair, Basic Betty, club kid or just John Q. Public looking for the best place in town to party.

Hyperspace Arcade
Hyperspace Facebook

It's easy to kill the soul of the nostalgic things we love by upgrading. Take, for example, the arcade experience. For children of the '70s, '80s and '90s, it isn't purely what we knew back then anymore; now arcades offer booze, food and other distractions to entice adults, which just ends up alienating the die-hard fans (and making things sticky). Behold Hyperspace, which started as one person's warehouse-sized collection of nearly 200 games and has become a massive arcade with a simple twist: Instead of buying games with quarters, players have access to unlimited games with a $12 day pass. Load up on soda or energy drinks and finally reach the score of your dreams on Galaga.

Readers' Choice: The 1Up Colfax

Lair of Abraxas
Lair of Abraxas Facebook

Geeks need to gather in the safe surroundings of other geeks, doing the things geeks do: playing arcane fantasy-card games, drinking tea and French-press coffee, shopping for cosplay geek-wear and figures, sucking on e-hookahs — the usual stuff. Lair of Abraxas is a clubby den for square pegs looking for like-minded companions who unironically love to play games. The place bills itself as a never-ending gaming convention, which translates to gaming heaven. Entry to the late-night gaming palace is by a flat-fee admission price, which buys you all of the above. That's a lot to love.

Back in the days before Fakebook and power-texting, we used to sit around tables together, playing games. Remember that? The hours of Monopoly, Risk and gin rummy, spent eye to eye over silly conversations, snacks and beverages? Now Denver has a place that brings all that back. Board Game Republic glamours up the old-fashioned family game night for adults with a reasonably priced menu, brews and cocktails and a 700-game library to choose from. The place is suitable for parties of all sizes, at a $5-per-person table charge. You have friends, right? Go do something with them, IRL.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of