Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

No major venue in the metro area has focused as intently on contemporary art in Colorado than the Arvada Center. Collin Parson, director of galleries for the past eight years, often presents sprawling group exhibits in the very spacious lower galleries that are based on some kind of theme or topic, and he populates these shows with pieces by dozens of artists from around the state — not just the well-known names, but less familiar artists from the ski towns, the Western Slope and southern Colorado. At other times, Parson curates compelling solos that explore the work of individual Colorado artists in depth. But regardless of what's inside, there's always a large ensemble of three-dimensional pieces by Colorado artists in the sculpture garden just south of the building and, yes, Parson curated that, too.

Courtesy Dateline Facebook page

Since Jeromie Dorrance and Adam Milner opened Dateline in 2014, the house gallery on Larimer Street has mounted shows with a sense of adventure while acknowledging the need for a critical eye. These days, 2016 Westword MasterMind Dorrance holds down the fort by himself, but he sticks to Dateline's original aesthetic as a place where experimentation, virtual residencies, brave installations and new faces — artists and curators alike, both local and national — control their own destinies. Every city needs a proving ground; in a town where nurturing artist-run galleries are now popping up everywhere, Dateline was one of the first...and remains the best.

Readers' Choice: RedLine

Leon Gallery

From the get-go, Leon Gallery was conceived as a showplace where artists could thrive and show their most experimental work, unsullied by the constrictive forces of the commercial art world, even if Leon was technically a commercial gallery. Now owners Eric Dallimore and Eric Nord have carried that commitment further by going nonprofit, a rarity in any art scene, and a trusting model that essentially turns the space over to an exhibiting artist for a given period of time. You might not always see the most polished work there, but it's certain that you'll see some of the most ambitious, created by artists whose imaginations have been set free from financial restrictions.

K Contemporary
Courtesy K Contemporary Facebook page

Just as artists have been doing for decades, three art venues came together last year to form the innovative 1412 Collective and share the old Mike Wright space in LoDo. While Abend Gallery and Gallery 1261 both tilt toward traditional art, K Contemporary has been hosting some of the hottest shows in town. Artist Doug Kacena is the force behind the new space, and with K Contemporary, he's shown himself to be an able curator who's already assembled a formidable stable of high-profile Colorado artists, including Monique Crine, Michael Dowling, Kevin Sloan, Suchitra Mattai, Karen Roehl, Scott Young and Mario Zoots.

Le Meridien Denver Downtown
Courtesy Le Meridien Denver Downtown Facebook page

The first thing you notice when you walk into Le Méridien hotel downtown is the stunning work by artist Jonathan Saiz called "Marie." It includes 1,100 tiny portraits of Marie Antoinette, all situated to form the silhouette of a mountain peak. It's just one example of the 1,700-plus pieces of art found throughout the property, and guests can go on a self-guided art tour of the ground floor to check out paintings by artists Laura Guese, Mia Mulvey and many more. Head up to 54Thirty, Le Méridien's rooftop bar, and catch even more works along the way, including Ramon Bonilla's "Netherworld: The Front Range." If you're lucky enough to be staying here, you can also peruse the original art in the guest rooms and hallways.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - Sloans Lake
Alamo Drafthouse

Forget stale popcorn and Junior Mints. Greasy hands down, Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake has the best food of any movie theater in metro Denver. Start simple with popcorn (not stale), which can be doused in herb parmesan, truffle parmesan butter or clarified butter; move on to appetizers like Buffalo cauliflower or edamame hummus; then keep going to entrees of pizza, salads, burgers and more. You can finish up your meal with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie or an adult milkshake or other alcoholic beverage. And that's just during the movie! After the final reel, enjoy a nightcap or three in Barfly, the Alamo's excellent bar that's worth a visit all its own.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome

Ooh la la! Bistro Vendôme, the charming French restaurant in a courtyard off Larimer Square, introduced a tasty treat last year: Monday Movie Night. Twice a month, the restaurant hosts a special screening of classic food, French or French food movies paired with a three-course, prix fixe menu created by Bistro Vendôme's culinary team. The cinematic offerings have ranged from Sabrina to La La Land; Babette's Feast is one of April's offerings. The intimate atmosphere is ideally suited for movie-watching, but the exquisite food is the reel draw.

AMC Bowles Crossing 12

Luxury movie theaters are becoming status quo — which means the competition for most comfortable theater gets steeper each year. After all, multiplexes have to take on the fiercest competition: living rooms. AMC movie theaters in particular have taken up the challenge of re-creating that coziness, and nowhere is this more true than at AMC Bowles Crossing, where the seats, which you pick out yourself, are more comforting than a baby blanket. Drink, eat and be merry — and, most important, kick up your feet and recline, just as you would back home. But don't fall asleep: That would defeat the purpose of leaving your living room.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse

Sie FilmCenter

The Sie, backed by the movie-loving Denver Film Society, has never wanted for good programming, at least not on the small and artful level, but this year, things are changing in a big way. Sie programmer Keith Garcia, who recently returned to the theater after leaving in 2014 for other pursuits, now has the ability to program higher-profile mainstream films around a continuing slate of festivals, series and select indie and art-house fare. Garcia says his job is to decide what's appropriate for the Sie's faithful fan base on all levels, which allows for more varied programming that will bring in new faces and continue to satisfy the old ones. It's the best of both worlds!

Readers' Choice: Landmark Mayan Theatre

If you're a major nonprofit or a corporation, it's possible to book compelling movies. But what is a DIY microcinema programmer working on a shoestring budget supposed to do? In Denver, Adán de la Garza, curator of Collective Misnomer (his title is a misnomer, because he's the sole brains behind the operation), manages to offer a challenging mix of short films and experimental documentaries, and even hosts traveling filmmakers at a variety of spots, including the Dikeou Pop-Up, the Sie FilmCenter and the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake — all with money he brings in from the door and donates himself. He does this with his ethics intact, by ensuring that his filmmakers get a cut of the door.

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