Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Over the past three decades, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center has made itself a must-visit brick-and-mortar destination for Colorado shopaholics, and its well-curated, in-mall entertainment is part of the appeal. From concert pianists performing on gorgeous Steinways on quiet afternoons to the Beverly Belles singing holiday carols Andrews Sisters-style, the halls are alive with the sound of music. String quartet Spinphony has performed on risers in the equivalent of the center's town square, and modern-day ratpackers On the Rocks have offered their a cappella tunes to weekend crowds. While malls may seem like an endangered species, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center has managed to buck that trend and support musicians at the same time.

It's now commonplace for malls to include play areas, where exhausted or exasperated parents can turn their progeny loose for a few minutes. But most of these kid-friendly zones are inside, fairly modest in size and encourage scrambling on vinyl-covered doodads that are supposed to be hygienic but don't look that way. Denver Premium Outlets, in contrast, has created an enormous outdoor space covered with artificial turf and loaded with a slew of different diversions — elaborate climbing structures with clubhouse-like platforms, crazy slides, interactive contraptions and more. It's certainly more enjoyable in warm weather than cold, but when the sun is shining and your little ones desperately need to burn off some energy, this attraction offers plenty of fun, with no purchase necessary.

The Yard
Mark Antonation

When the next bomb cyclone is predicted, forget hiding out at home: Head out (early) to the Yard. The original structure of this former sawmill on Santa Fe Drive is largely intact, but it's been repurposed to house a distillery, a barbecue restaurant, a coffee roaster and shop, a gym, a board-game bar and a brewery — essentially everything you need to survive a snow day or combat a bad case of cabin fever. The only thing missing is a place to take a nap, but with 5,000 square feet of space left to fill, that could be added to the lineup soon enough.

Stanley Marketplace

Stanley Marketplace brought the neighborhood indoors, and somehow the strategically planned market hall on the border of Stapleton and Aurora has something for everyone, from barbecue to bagels and beer to boutiques, not to mention a yoga studio, nail salon, cooking school, co-working space, restaurants and countless other amenities. Stanley sets a standard: It's a weatherproof communal gathering place, immersive theater space and urban playground with wi-fi and good coffee — an indoor retail concept with none of the plastic old-school mall experience.

Small-business owners shacking up together in one location has become common as more and more neighborhood storekeepers find themselves plagued by rising rents and operating costs. But Unlisted does it bigger...and better. Under one roof, booths run by more than 100 local vendors offer a full gamut of gifts: hand-packaged food items, cut flowers, clothing, jewelry, handmade cards, home decor and more. To make shopping even more fun, Unlisted hosts periodic workshops, open house weekends and ladies' nights.

The Cherry Creek spot that once housed Bed Bath & Beyond has really gone beyond the call of duty with its new occupant: the District Shops. This year-round indoor vendor market brings together 200-plus small local businesses that are prepared to fill your every need. Smartly divided into "districts" specializing in boutique, vintage, spa, food and drink themes and more, District Shops has everything you could ever want, but in a far more informal environment than you'll find over in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center proper. Put on your sweats and shop 'til you drop.

Unless you have an unfortunate suitcase blowout going through security at Denver International Airport, you're probably not perusing the wares at the airport's luggage shops — where are you going to store another bag, anyway? But the options at Topo Designs are worth an extra stop...and maybe that extra baggage fee. At its store on Concourse A, this local gear-maker sells a variety of color-blocked backpacks, duffels and travel kits, plus jackets, quick-dry apparel and accessories. You'll find a large collection of items that will inspire you to better organize your packing job, and even if you're not looking for a full suitcase overhaul, the luggage is so enticing and functional that you might trade up on the spot.

Readers' Choice: Tattered Cover

Not too long ago, the section of Broadway known as Antique Row was crowded with one store after another filled with vintage and well-loved items of every description. Today many of these shops are gone, but the Antique Broker remains — and all by itself, it manages to encompass the range of offerings on view in the old days. Some parts of the outlet showcase big pieces, and we do mean big: Don't be surprised to find an entire bar from an old saloon here. Others, meanwhile, spotlight curios, knicknacks and forgotten products from the past century (or more) of pop culture. Stop by and explore before the Antique Broker disappears, too.

Readers' Choice: Peak Dispensary

Marczyk's Fine Foods

From its elegant setup — that barrel ceiling belies its origins as a hardware store — to the exotic packaged items and spanking-fresh sustainable seafood, there's a lot to love at the Marczyk Fine Foods on Colfax. "I feel like I'm a kid in a candy store when I walk in," says one fan. But unlike candy, most of the things you buy here will be good for you, from pre-made foods (even better with chef Jamey Fader now overseeing culinary innovation) to the in-house baked goods and organic dairy (butter flights!). The wine store next door offers a small but choice selection, and there's a small patio for enjoying your impulse buys on a sunny day. When the Marczyk crew opened its second store in 2011, this stretch of Colfax wasn't the hotspot it is today; the market's conscientious approach and community events have helped get the area cooking.

Readers' Choice: Argonaut Liquor

Denver residents have been getting in hot water at Lake Steam Baths for nearly a century. When the business started in 1927, it catered to what was then a predominantly Jewish population; today everyone from hipsters to Russian émigrés come through the doors for massage therapy, an exfoliating scrub, foot-bath detox, a dip in the whirlpool or a sense-searing visit to the hot room. As development begins to flood this stretch of Colfax, Lake Steam Baths remains an island of wi-fi-free relaxation.

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