BookBar

It seems strange that the BookBar has only been open since the fall of 2012, since it already feels like a local institution. Of course, books are one of the main attractions here, and the tomes on hand are consistently smart and intriguing. But the atmosphere is just as important. In addition to comfy sofas that inspire patrons to linger, the shop boasts a full-service wine bar, complete with a delicious menu of items, plus a daily happy hour and even a "happier hour" storytime for youngsters that offers discounted prices on kids' meals. It's the kind of place that residents take visitors to illustrate why Denver is such a great place.

Readers' Choice: Tattered Cover

Each spring and fall at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, at 15200 West 6th Avenue in Golden, the Jefferson County Library Foundation stages a "Whale" sale at which books, magazines, records and more that are being taken out of circulation are put on sale to the general public. The four-day event begins with a preview night on a Thursday, a $10 early-entry opportunity for an hour on Friday morning, and no-fee entries through the rest of the weekend. But the real bargains can be had on Sundays, when patrons are charged just $6 to fill a grocery-sized bag with as many items as possible. Fees are bumped up slightly for larger bags, but it's still possible to pick up dozens of books for a quarter or less apiece. A whale of a sale, indeed.

Twist & Shout
Ken Hamblin III

Three decades ago this year, Paul and Jill Epstein started Twist & Shout, which has changed locations a few times and grown with each move. The sprawling 11,000-square-foot East Colfax location it's called home since 2006 carries a ton of CDs but also sports the best vinyl selection in the city. It's easy to spend an afternoon digging through LPs here, whether you're looking for an original 1950s Blue Note pressing, rare records or newer reissues. These days, you can easily stream music from your phone or computer, but there's still much joy to be had sifting through actual CDs and records, and you'll find that at Twist & Shout. May it continue for another thirty years.

Readers' Choice: Twist & Shout

Best Blowout Record Sales
Courtesy Ryan Dykstra Records Facebook page

Like record albums much? If you can't have too many but have a budget that's holding you back, it's time you got to know record gypsy Ryan Dykstra and his traveling vintage vinyl boutique, which pops up regularly, complete with listening stations, at changing locations in Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and other stops along the Front Range. Once in a while, that also means 99-cent blowouts with thousands of records in every genre and era to choose from. If you want to keep up with Dykstra's pop-ups, visit the event Facebook page or email ryandykstrarecords@gmail.com with the word "add" in the subject line.

ryandykstrarecords.com

Best Bet for Record Geeks
Courtesy Denver Record Collectors Expo Facebook page

The biannual Denver Record Collectors Expo just celebrated its 25th anniversary as the brainchild of former record-store workers Karen Brown and Kurt Ohlen. Dozens of record vendors, both public and private, bring vinyl LPs galore to the floor, along with everything musical, from eight-track tapes to those coveted twelve-inch collectible video discs, posters and memorabilia, CDs, 45s and even a stray guitar or two. Plus, it has a social side: It's like old-home week for metro record geeks, full of familiar faces on both sides of the cash boxes. You've heard of Hillbilly Heaven — this is its vinyl-record counterpart.

bigk.com

Flipside Music
Jon Solomon

Flipside Music owner Anthony "Ike" Iacovangelo Jr. started buying and selling instruments and gear online while being laid up from a busted ankle. He eventually started working out of a warehouse before finally opening his brick-and-mortar store nearly three years ago. His shop is ideal for any player on a quest for the perfect tone, as Flipside specializes in boutique guitar effects pedals. With a low-pressure, old-school music-store vibe, it offers the best alternative in town to the big-box music stores like Guitar Center.

Readers' Choice: Colfax Guitar Shop

Bound By Design

You're a tender tattoo newbie, and about to be even more tender — so where to go for that initial ink? Bound By Design feels your pain and endeavors to help you navigate the process in the gentlest way possible. The team of talented longtime artists includes a dozen pros, so you're likely to find one whose style matches your vision. In addition, they all know how to work with first-timers in figuring out things like placement, tattoo size as it relates to pain tolerance, and what kind of care cream to use for the best results. The space is comfortable and colorful, filled with distracting art and a mesmerizing display of body jewelry. This is a good pick for your first piercing, too, and since it's your first time, we have another tip: If you like what you get, don't forget the gratuity.

Readers' Choice: Certified Customs

Sol Tribe Tattoo & Body Piercing
Courtesy Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing Facebook page

Alicia Cardenas opened Twisted Sol in 1997 to honor her cultural commitment to ritualistic body modification. In 2009, that spot morphed into Sol Tribe Tattoo & Body Piercing, a beautifully decorated shop that continues Cardenas's commitment to ritual and cultural sensitivity. The spiritual gravity the artists at Sol Tribe bring to their work is reason enough to go there for one final tattoo, and their creativity seals the deal. If you're looking for a transcendental body modification experience (because you think about that kind of stuff, especially at the end, right?), there's no better shop to visit.

Readers' Choice: Dedication Tattoo

Thick as Thieves Tattoo
Courtesy Thick as Thieves Facebook page

If you're looking for some ink and don't want to wait, Thick as Thieves has garnered a reputation for being Denver's best walk-in tattoo shop. Come in with an idea, and if it's simple enough, one of the skilled artists will draw it up on the spot and get it done. (More complex ideas will require an appointment.) For the helpful artists, there's no such thing as a stupid question. Be on the lookout for Thick as Thieves' holiday specials, like $13 flash tattoos for Friday the 13th and $31 jobs for Halloween.

Readers' Choice: End of Days

Purple Haze
Courtesy Purple Haze Facebook page

Denver provides tokers their pick of the litter, but it's hard to match Purple Haze's level of quantity, quality and consistency over the years. The head shop chain's four metro locations carry an exceptional mix of affordable glassware, art from local glass blowers, blunt sticks and joint papers, dabbing tools and vape gear to peruse, and employees are usually friendly enough to throw together a deal for you if you buy multiple items. Hey, some of us like to haggle — and a 40 percent discount on any piece of glass in the store on your birthday doesn't hurt, either.

Readers' Choice: Purple Haze

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