Best New Gallery
Evan Semón

Bell Projects has actually been around for a while, languishing inside Walnut Workshop, an artist studio community in RiNo. But in January, gallery founder and curator Lindsey Bell relocated to the former home of ARTAOS Gallery on East 17th Avenue, across from City Park, and it's a whole new ball game. As at Walnut Workshop, the building is shared by artist studios and other businesses, but the address also comes with street appeal, thanks to the 1907 red-brick building's big picture windows and arched roofline. Bell Projects has come out into the light, bringing along challenging shows by young artists. See it shine.

bell-projects.com
Best New Art Space
RiNo Art District

Denver boasts plenty of public parks to be proud of, some with recreation centers, pools and pickleball courts, a few even with sculptures. But while its river access provides recreational assets, the new RiNo ArtPark stands alone in its emphasis on arts and culture. It truly took a village to turn the ArtPark into a public haven and creative hotbed with artist studios, a gallery, a food incubator for immigrant women and a public library unique to Denver, with flexible maker space for DIY productions. Explore them all — or just sit by the river and watch the water flow by.

rinoartpark.com
Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum gift shop carries an array of unique knickknacks that you didn't know you needed until you step inside — and realize you want to buy everything. There are books, puzzles, stationary, jewelry, handbags and shirts, art supplies and more. The finds include miniature sculptures of some of Denver's famous public artworks, such as "Dancers"; ceramic mugs, vases and lanterns embellished with famous paintings; and beautiful sand hourglasses. There are plenty of options for all ages, and it's as easy to get lost in the bounty of the museum's store as it is in its array of excellent exhibitions.

MCA Denver
MCA Denver

Denver is a street-art city, but the Museum of Contemporary Art shows that this city also has a strong grip on the fine arts. With a passionate curatorial team who have an eye for compelling works that make a statement, the MCA had blockbuster exhibits last year focusing on Deborah Roberts and Jason Moran, and has kicked off 2022 with exhibits that question the roots of abstraction with stunners showcasing Eamon Ore-Giron and Dyani White Hawk. Watch for more creative programming at the Holiday Theatre annex.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Aaron Thackeray

If you grew up in Denver, it's likely you spent some time at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (fka the Denver Museum of Natural History). A favorite destination for school field trips and family outings, it's one museum that kids don't forget: an immersive experience long before there was a name for that. Imaginative youngsters in awe of decades-old museum highlights — such as the dramatic polar bear diorama, monumental dinosaur bones and the constellations displayed on the planetarium ceiling — want to see their favorite displays here again and again, as do certain adults who grew up here.

In a small town like Walsenburg, if you come across a museum on the main drag, you expect it to display mining implements or painful reminders of Colorado labor history. Instead, the Museum of Friends is a nonprofit contemporary art space opened in 2006 by townies Brendt Berger and Maria Cocchiarelli, who envisioned an institution with a collection supplied by artist friends, with an egalitarian and inclusive policy. Does this mean Walsenburg could become the next Trinidad? With the town part of the newly designated La Veta Creative District, it’s a possibility.

museumoffriends.org

Artists Frankie Toan and Therin Zimmerman were far from experienced skaters when they began dreaming up plans for a fun, friendly and immersive roller-skating experience open to folks of all ages and gender preferences. But that didn't stop them from building their dream business, Rainbow Dome, up from rock bottom, opening a warehouse, ordering dozens of rental skates and creating artful props. After a successful pop-up test run last fall, the two have been hosting monthly zodiac-themed events since January while they continue to look for a permanent home for the Rainbow Dome. Have they learned to skate? We don't know, but they've become very good at directing traffic.

rainbowdome.com
Best Immersive Experience
Evan Semón

The long-anticipated Meow Wolf launched in Denver last September, opening the doors to its lore-filled Convergence Station. The space is a psychedelic playground, with multiple "universes" to explore that are brimming with detailed, stunning, interactive works made by both local and national artists. Pair those with the hilarious walking characters that Meow Wolf has meandering throughout the rooms, such as Sid the Psychic (as at a Renaissance fair, they always stay in character), and you've got a full-on trippy experience awaiting you. Meow Wolf has also started offering adult-only nights, in case you'd like to avoid both energetic kids and crying toddlers.

When you enter the icy, cavernous world of Eemia, you'll see two throne-like structures in the shape of robots. Not only can you pose for pics there, but you'll be given access to an array of controls, knobs and handles that if maneuvered a certain way create a wormhole vortex in the normally star-filled sky above. At Convergence Station, the sky is never the limit.

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