Swallow Hill Music
Swallow Hill Music

The fact that Swallow Hill has not only survived, but thrived over nearly forty years says a lot about the nonprofit's dedication to folk, roots and acoustic music of all kinds. Since its beginnings in 1979 as an outgrowth of the Denver Folklore Center, Swallow Hill has hosted local, national and international artists on its stages and taught countless students through its music school and, more recently, its outreach programs. Here's to another forty.

Lost Lake

Since opening in 2010, Lost Lake has gone through a few changes, both in ownership and aesthetics. Nearly a decade ago, the club's interior sported a cabin vibe, but after renovations, the feel is more industrial, with exposed brick behind the bar. Welcome upgrades to the stage and sound system have made it the best intimate spot to see live bands most nights of the week, from acts that tour nationally to the best in local talent.

Readers' Choice: hi-dive

The Black Box
@JVPhotography11

The folks behind the Black Box have shown time and time again that they've got dubstep down. That could be because Nicole Cacciavillano ran Sub.mission, a successful dubstep production company, for nearly a decade before opening the club in November 2016. But even though that music sounds amazing run through the Box's specially designed Basscouch sound system, there's a lot more than just dubstep here: The dual-room venue also hosts a wide variety of EDM acts at least four nights a week.

Readers' Choice: The Black Box

Beta

With Beta nearing its ten-year anniversary in May, it's safe to say that the venue is the king of dance clubs in Denver. Beta consistently pulls in the biggest names in dance music and electronica, like the Crystal Method, Infected Mushroom, Cedric Gervais and Ferry Corsten. But you don't have to take our word for it: Billboard named Beta one of the 25 Best Dance Clubs of All Time in 2015, and world-class DJ Paul Oakenfold, who has spun at the club multiple times, has called it one of the best venues in America.

Readers' Choice: The Black Box

Trade
Courtesy Trade Facebook page

Looking for a stiff drink and a stiffer man? Located in the building that once housed the Barker Lounge, Trade offers an unpretentious spot for gay men to congregate. This isn't a bar for the buttoned-up set: Expect underwear and leather nights, pulsing house music and hairy men galore. While some bear bars in town have garnered nasty reputations for being transphobic and misogynistic, Trade has established itself as a queer-friendly bar that's as welcoming as it is delightfully cruisy. The bartenders are fast and friendly, the beats are good, and whether you're in the market for a beer or a bear, Trade is ready and willing to serve up both.

Readers' Choice: Charlie's

Karaoke at Armida's is special because of the potential for greatness that every night holds for wannabe singers. The drinks are good at this Best of Denver stronghold, and the food is tasty (hello, Macho Nachos), but the real draw is that absolutely anyone can walk onto the stage and become a star for three or four minutes. While karaoke in front of strangers can be intimidating for first-timers, Armida's crowds are almost always engaging and supportive. And if none of that helps, there's always tequila.

Readers' Choice: Armida's

Blush & Blu

Despite a flood of development, Denver has suffered from a lesbian-bar drought in recent years. While there are plenty of open spots where queer women in this town feel welcome to drink and dance, Blush & Blu is no longer just the best lesbian bar in town; it's practically the only one. But even if there were twenty more, Blush & Blu would likely top the pack. From poker nights and poetry readings to dance parties and comedy nights, the space has got something for people of all tastes. And unlike many gay bars in Denver, Blush & Blu is transgender-inclusive.

Readers' Choice: Blush & Blu

Pepsi Center

Yes, the Pepsi Center is home to the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, but the 18,000-seat arena is also the place to see music megastars — from legends who've been touring the globe for decades, like the Who and U2, as well as artists who've moved up in the ranks over the years, like Lady Gaga, who played the Gothic Theatre in 2009; Arcade Fire, whose first stop in Denver was the Larimer Lounge in 2004; and Lorde, who headlined the Fillmore four years ago. If you're looking for a big show with big production, you can't beat the Pepsi Center.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

There are many excellent things about Red Rocks Amphitheatre, one of the most striking places in the world to see a concert outdoors. But the venue just keeps getting better, with an expanded concert season that gives music lovers even more opportunities to enjoy their favorite acts in a spectacular natural setting. While previous seasons have generally run from May until September, this year's Red Rocks calendar is jam-packed from the third week in April to late October, showcasing a wide range of talent that includes locals Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Gregory Alan Isakov and Big Gigantic.

Readers' Choice: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Levitt Pavilion Denver
Joel Rekiel

Part of Levitt Pavilion's mission is to build community through free music and education, and the outdoor amphitheater in Ruby Hill Park started doing exactly that when it opened last July with an inaugural concert from Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The venue will host fifty free family-friendly concerts this season, which means fifty chances to check out a variety of local and national acts in a gorgeous lawn setting with an awesome view of the Denver skyline. When not being used for Levitt's concert season, the amphitheater is available to schools, arts organizations and other nonprofits.

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