Best Indoor-Outdoor Venue 2023 | Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Jack Gould

Considered a stepping stone for many musicians, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom is where local acts cut their teeth before making their way to places like Red Rocks. Cervantes' — which contains two separate indoor options (the Ballroom and Other Side) as well as an outdoor patio with a stage — celebrated its twentieth anniversary in January with an amazing daily lineup of concerts. While Cervantes' often caters to jam bands and EDM, you'll also hear multiple genres there, as well as some surprise shows. For instance, last summer, Colorado DJ GRiZ announced a spur-of-the-moment set on the outdoor patio, and lines to get in wrapped around several blocks. Whether you're dancing to bluegrass on the patio or grooving to a jamtronic group inside, Cervantes' is a guaranteed good time.

Molly Martin

A bold turquoise-and-gold-striped exterior emblazoned with a lion heralds an intimate music lounge with dive-bar vibes, grungy music, cheap drinks and lip-smacking slices of pizza. The Lion's Lair is one of Denver's oldest independent music venues, first opening as the Playboy Club in the 1930s and then the Aladdin Club before reopening in the early '90s in its current iteration. The lounge has a varied calendar (including weekly open mics for both music and comedy) and books local bands almost every night. Most important, the drinks here are cheap: Well liquor, shots and beer range from $5 to $7, and during happy hour (Thursday to Sunday, 3 to 8 p.m.), all drinks are an additional $1 off.

Julianna Photography

Shows at the dark, divey Globe Hall run the genre gamut, but a big part of the venue's draw is that on concert nights, the kitchen sends out heaping plates of tender, top-notch Texas-style barbecue: brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken and even jackfruit, all lightly seasoned and smoked over post oak wood, which gives everything a slightly spicy and smoky taste. We also applaud the sides of mac and cheese, fried okra, loaded waffle fries, potato salad and apple slaw. Wash it all down with an inexpensive beer and finish with a banana pudding or, in season, peach cobbler. Not in the mood for music? As long as a band is playing, food is available for takeout, too.

There's no shortage of great queer bars and clubs in and around Denver, but X Bar remains our top pick. While many queer establishments cater to a certain niche, X Bar is where you're most likely to find every letter of the LGBTQ+ community represented. Open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., this spot has all kinds of crowd-pleasing entertainment, including Laugh Your Yas Off, the longest-running queer comedy showcase in Denver. X Bar has a different signature event for every weeknight, from Musical Mondays to rotating drag shows every Friday and Saturday hosted by some of Denver's best performers. The Buy One Get One Happy Hour lasts for five hours every Monday through Saturday, with Sundays dedicated to Beer Bust, when you can get four hours of unlimited beer for $13. With low or no cover charges and an expansive outdoor patio with plenty of seating, X Bar is our go-to for summer day drinking, wild nights and everything in between.

Brandon Marshall

With two decades of supporting local musicians and touring acts under its worn leather belt, the hi-dive has become an institution in Denver. Its smaller stage, elevated at just three feet, creates the perfect intimate setting for the rock and metal shows the club is known for. That's not to say it discriminates against other genres; you'll find plenty of singer-songwriter, indie and country acts here, too. But if you like cheap tickets, excellent music and a laid-back atmosphere, then the hi-dive should be your go-to spot for rocking out. As owner Matty Clark told us in November, "Even as Denver's been booming, the local scene has stayed tight-knit." And much of the credit for that goes to the hi-dive.

Jeff Davis

When the Larimer Lounge opened just over twenty years ago, there were hardly any businesses or storefronts on its stretch of Larimer Street. But as much as the neighborhood has changed, the Larimer's mission of bringing rock to RiNo has remained the same. The club, which just completed renovations on its bar, often books indie-rock bands on the brink of making it big: The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, Portugal. The Man and the Killers are just some of the big names that got started on its intimate stage. A quick perusal of the club's current schedule reads like an indie-rock bible; check it out, and maybe one day you, too, will be able to say you saw them when.

Broadway is home to some of the city's great live-music locales, but HQ is the best place to catch a metal show. The club moved into the former 3 Kings Tavern space after the pandemic, when Oriental Theater owners Peter Ore and Scott Happel took over the beloved dive bar with the intention of keeping its independent music legacy alive. And metal bands are taking the stage nearly every night: This year's lineup includes Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, hardcore legends Madball and new wave of British heavy-metal mainstays Satan and Max Cavalera's Soulfly. Those acts alone give HQ more than enough heavy-metal cred, but the space also regularly books local bands and events, including drag and burlesque shows. That type of diversity and welcoming attitude is pretty metal, too. Horns, HQ!

Anthony Camera

DIY isn't dead in Denver, and the proof is at Seventh Circle Music Collective, which sits in a small house and garage in west Denver. Here you'll find an art gallery, a record store, and a multi-purpose art and music space that welcomes a variety of genres, including shoegaze, indie, punk, rock, ambient, metal and more. The entire place is run by volunteers — music enthusiasts and creatives who are passionate about keeping Denver's wild and weird spirit alive while nurturing a community for those who prefer to indulge their interests in more alternative settings.

Nissi's is known to offer rock, jazz, swing, Latin, R&B, funk and more, along with the occasional comedian. But you'll also find high-quality blues at its weekly Bourbon, Blues & Grooves night, free Wednesday evenings that showcase regional and national bands covering or playing original blues, including Mojomama, the Toneshakers and Reckless and Blue. Nissi's has also been known to host some of our most beloved local blues bands, including the Delta Sonics (recipient of many past Best Blues Band awards) and Eef and the Blues Express. While you're enjoying a set on the club's stage, which has plenty of space in front to shake your groove thing, take advantage of $1 off any bourbon or whiskey drink — the bartenders are skilled, so try the Manhattan — and nosh on a few of the savvy small plates.

Cynthia Griggs

The Beacon has become one of the most desirable hot spots in RiNo since Mario Nocifera and Robert Champion opened it in December 2021, and it's easy to see why. The space is brimming with immersive installations from local artists, including Jon Medina, Aleesha Anderson and Sidney Connell; even the ceiling above the dance floor is a work of art, with a massive cloud-like installation hanging over the packed crowds that gather there. The Beacon emphasizes supporting local musicians, too, and has become a destination for people who want to dance and let loose, and perhaps even stumble upon secret sets from famous DJs. With all-around good vibes, you'll find yourself coming back for more.

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