Best Museum for Tourists
Aaron Thackeray

Tourists of all ages will find something to like at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Enjoy an out-of-this-world experience at the recently remodeled Space Odyssey, or take a trip into the past at shows about ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, dinosaurs and more. You can also explore blockbuster exhibitions, IMAX movies and a virtual-reality arcade — then grab a bite in the cafeteria and buy gifts for your friends in the well-stocked shop. After you're done at the museum, take a stroll around City Park — or make it a double-feature day with a trip to the neighboring Denver Zoo.

Upending the entire concept of an art museum from the moment it was founded, Black Cube Nomadic stays free from the confines of the white-cube gallery walls as it exhibits ambitious public-art projects, from sculptures to performances, in town and beyond. While the nonprofit has deep ties to Colorado artists and gives them an international platform, it also brings in lesser-known creatives to do site-specific installations in uncanny spaces. Executive director and curator Cortney Lane Stell ensures that the programming is challenging, sophisticated and smart, and encourages dialogue between artists and the community along the way, using her museum to forever change the sites that Black Cube activates, delivering a fresh and provocative experience every time.

blackcube.art

Every neighborhood business district seems to have an art walk these days, but you might not know that Five Points has one, too, along the Welton Street corridor. Sponsored by the Five Points Atlas and Vibe Palace, it's deliberately small and neighborly, featuring work by a changing selection of Black artists from the community installed inside cafes, salons and other small businesses along the street. Catch the art walk on the third Wednesday of every month, from 4 to 8 p.m.; it's fabulous and free.

fivepointsatlas.com

Colorful Colorado didn't earn that moniker because of the murals and street art that cover the walls of so much of the state — but it could have. And it's that art that the Colorado Tourism Office and Colorado Creative Industries have begun to document statewide, creating a series of travel itineraries across various regions under the name Mural Trails. The state recommends popular public art, from Gregg Deal's "MMIWG2S" in Boulder to Carlos Sandoval's "Sierras y Colores" in San Luis, and couples it with suggestions for lodging and dining in various regions. What are you waiting for? Road trip!

colorado.com/colo-road-trips

You hate tours. When you go to a new city, you want to see it through the eyes of a native, and not necessarily in a hip way, though a touch of glamour doesn't hurt. That's the type of adventure that Treasure Box managed to create online during the pandemic, and it recently released its 2021 Treasure Map of possible in-person tours so tempting that even natives might want to join in. Neighborhoods, history, museums, community gardens, food, main drags and day hikes are just some of the directions in which Treasure Box tour guides will take you.

treasureboxtours.com

In the early days of the pandemic, when partners Susannah and Chloe McLeod were stuck at home, Susannah began documenting — and mocking — how their lives started changing (and their hygiene began disintegrating) week by week, in a satiric series of photographs. They won so many fans that the couple published a book, Quarantine Week by Weak, which they sold in a benefit for the Denver Actors Fund, established in 2013 to provide immediate assistance for members of the Colorado theater community. When COVID-19 arrived, the DAF set up a separate relief effort, the Denver Emergency Relief Fund, which distributed tens of thousands of dollars to artists who'd lost jobs when shows were postponed or canceled by the shutdown.

mcleod9creative.com

When Metropolian State University of Denver associate professor David Heska Wanbli Weiden, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, set out to write a detective novel set on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, he had the knowledge necessary to bring his protagonist, Virgil Wounded Horse, to life — and then his talent did the rest. Since its release last summer, Winter Counts has been deluged with enthusiastic reviews and crime-novel nominations and awards. And that brings up another mystery: When will the next Virgil Wounded Horse book be released?

davidweiden.com
Best Place to Drink In Scary Movies
Courtesy of Nathan Szklarski

The horror-movie crowd found a place to gather over drinks when horror-phile Nathan Szklarski brought a pop-up film series to Bellwether late last year, complete with a matching horror-themed cocktail program. The project was such a hit that Szklarski took over the joint and reopened it in March as Horror Bar, with a nightly schedule of films and fun. Tired of being scared while home alone? Head to Horror Bar: This place is a scream!

Against all odds, Denver Film managed to program movies through the pandemic and into the next year, even as its theaters have been shuttered. Through its online Virtual Cinema, the nonprofit opened programming to new audiences and forged ahead with its signature Denver Film Festival, along with smaller strands of programming such as the Dragon Boat Film Festival, Women + Film and Cinema Q. The programmers even managed to do a drive-in version of Film on the Rocks. No matter what the rest of 2021 throws at Denver Film, you can be sure the organization will keep screening great movies one way or another, and that the Virtual Cinema program will be a powerful tool in the arthouse's arsenal long after COVID-19 fades from memory.

denverfilm.org
Best Theater Programming
Aurora Fox Arts

Since Helen Murray took the helm at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, the small theater company has consistently put on a mix of challenging, literary and engaging productions, continuing its longstanding tradition of celebrating cultural diversity. Staying two steps ahead of social movements, the Fox uses its shows to engage the community in urgent conversations about race, gender, identity and politics, all while delivering contemporary theatrical works. Through in-person and virtual offerings, Murray and company have rallied to entertain and stay relevant during the pandemic, with no plans to stop anytime soon.

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