Best Of :: Shopping & Services
At the height of shopping-mall popularity, these centers for socializing and commerce also specialized in entertaining the masses. But the town-square aspect of the modern mall is all but lost today, save for the action you can find at Denver Pavilions, which hosts smart activities and performances throughout the year. ArtStir is the retail plaza's signature event, a Memorial Day weekend festival of live art demonstrations, outdoor exhibitions and a market featuring dozens of local creators (which last year raised money for VSA Gallery, an organization that supports disabled artists and advocates for art space). But the Pavilions doesn't leave the community out in the cold in the winter: At the end of the year, it hosts the annual pop-up Holiday Carousel, a whirling, twinkling slice of carnival fun that raised $5,000 through ticket sales for Food Bank of the Rockies in 2016. And then there's the shopping, of course — the best you'll find downtown.
Does your life feel about as exciting as watching grass grow? Don't underestimate that! Alek Komarnitsky, an Air Force vet and former systems administrator whose 1992 MBA thesis was titled "The Internet: The Information Superhighway of the 21st Century," has turned the lawn of his suburban Denver home into an international superstar via watching-grass-grow.com. Komarnitsky first installed his webcam during the very dry summer of 2002 to monitor his grass while he was on vacation. He soon began leaving it up for Halloween and Christmas, and by 2005 it had become a permanent fixture at his home; he started his grass blog the next year. Today, people avidly track (and comment on) the action in Komarnitsky's front yard — not just the growth of the grass itself ("1/25th of an inch/hour," the website advises, "that would be hard to see in the webcam"), but also visits from the mailman, passing cars, shoveling missions and special holiday displays. Sometimes the action is so intense that Mr. Grass, as he's known, adds other videos, including "December 14, 2016 — my son learning to parallel park." Bonus: The theme to Rocky plays throughout (but you can also switch to bluegrass).
Blame it on the legal weed, the constantly growing music-festival offerings or Denver's proximity to Boulder, but the Mile High City is quickly becoming infested with wooks. Don't know what a wook is? Imagine every bad, mooching quality possessed by a stereotypical hippie, and there you go. Fortunately, Colorado has a Facebook group of rangers who protect us from this growing horde of dreadlocks and corndogs: Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters. Admission into the selective online hunting squad is by member invitation only, and group administrators still check your profile afterward to make sure you don't exhibit any wookish behavior. Bagging and tagging (photographing) these beasts in the wild can become addicting after your first catch, and the group's hilarious captions only up the ante. Hunters don't tolerate laziness: Photos taken at wook breeding grounds, like String Cheese shows and Sancho's Broken Arrow, are too easy and strictly prohibited. But if you have a camera and half a joint at Civic Center Park, you've got the makings of a perfect wook trap.
Our city is changing so fast that if you blink, you might miss a new development going up or an old spot going down. While many lament the rapid growth, it's caused at least one happy accident: While you're stuck in the traffic created by that massive construction project along South Broadway just past I-25, look to the west. With the Gates Rubber Factory now wiped off the map, you have a block-wide view of Denver's back yard, complete with purple mountains and, at sunset, some pretty amazing colors to offset the kindergarten decor of the building to the east. Enjoy it while you can.
DRCOG's Denver Regional Visual Resources Project, accessible from its website, is more than just another grab bag of obscure statistics and fun facts. It's an online repository of interactive data and infographics that locals can use to look at land-use trends and glean the demographic details of their own neighborhoods; you can even see what rush hour will look like in 2040. Denver is changing rapidly, and this is one of the best tools available for trying to keep up with what's happening down the block or on a regional level.
Enjoy the exhibits at the volunteer-staffed visitors' center, then take a short stroll up the hogback to one of the most important dinosaur-track sites in the country. Dinosaur Ridge is a trip back 100 million years in time, to an ancient seaway populated by carnivorous megafauna. But it also offers a stunning view of the metro area's past and future: the remnants of the historic Rooney Ranch in the foreground, burgeoning suburban growth and Green Mountain open space battling for primacy beyond that, the city and the plains in the distance.
Poet Mathias Svalina says that his Dream Delivery Service "allows me to do my three favorite things: write all day; bike around town in the middle of the night, when the streets are empty; and be weird without consequence." But that's only part of the story. Svalina does, indeed, deliver dreams — individually written prose poems with a surreal and dreamlike quality — to the doorstep of a client nightly for a month, for a reasonable fee. Svalina's own dreams aren't usually very interesting, he says, so he takes extra pains with yours. Since last fall, Svalina has been on the road, taking his service to a handful of other cities, but he'll be back in Denver this summer, making your dream of hand-delivered dreams come true.
You think cops live on the wild side? You haven't really seen the seamy underbelly of the city until you've shadowed one of the city's public-health inspectors as they check out whether restaurants, tattoo parlors and swimming pools are meeting required safety standards or investigate the source of a neighborhood noise complaint. You must apply in advance (and pass a background check if you're interested in child-care facilities) and there's no guarantee what kind of inspection you may be in for, but the agency tries to accommodate the curious public. Just be sure to follow the rules, like the one about no free treats from restaurant owners.
The bus starts here! This photo booth comes to you ready to roll, no setup needed. But Photo Bus DNVR has other charms, including the bus itself, a vintage 1971 green Volkswagen named Huey the Hulk, outfitted with fun props, background options and do-it-yourself push-button picture-taking. The bus can park outside or, given accessibility and permission, pull right into your building; there's also an open-air booth option. Part of a fleet of VW Photo Buses operating in ten states, Photo Bus DNVR is portable, social-media-friendly and well-equipped to take and make quality prints. It's the ultimate selfie machine.
Scotland raised him, Denver pays him. Scott Wilson's high-flying photos of downtown Denver have propelled him to the top of the Instagramming pack in 2017. Wilson has the advantage of working from one of the highest office buildings in the city, on the 46th floor, and many of his stunning photographs are taken from there. "Very rarely am I shooting once the sun is up," he says. "It's always dusk and dawn." See more work by Wilson at the Denver Photo Art Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe, where he is a resident artist.
Readers' Choice: @1000thingstodoindenver
The Central branch library's digital-media lab has mics and mixers, keyboards and guitars — and you don't even need a library card to make use of the facilities. Sessions are walk-in and limited to one hour; the studio has become so popular that the library has launched a second recording space in its Community Technology Center. The Corky Gonzales branch library also has a well-equipped studio, suitable for virtual deejaying, beatmaking and podcasting.
Changing Denver is well named. The podcast, helmed by Paul Karolyi, does its best to make sense of the explosive growth currently taking place in the Mile High City by examining its impact through a historical lens. Recent topics include the roots of Lakeside Amusement Park and Denver's Civic Center, the persecution of the homeless community in the Arapahoe Square area, an update on Stoner Hill and an interview with Denver city planner Courtland Hyser. Karolyi sets the tone with a polite but persistent interviewing style that doesn't settle for easy answers. After each episode, listeners will feel smarter even as they learn a little more about the rapidly evolving place where they live.
Readers' Choice: Jon of All Trades