Best Self-Defense Class 2023 | Way of the Crane Martial Arts and StreetWize Self Defense | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Since 1983, Way of the Crane has been empowering people to feel safe and in control. The self-defense classes, which range from beginner to personalized and in-depth instruction, focus not only on the physical skills it takes to protect yourself, but also the mental strength needed to keep calm and take charge of even dangerous situations. Students will leave with more confidence not just in their self-defense abilities, but in the rest of their lives, too.

1925 55th Street, Boulder

Romance doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, and this mini golf course proves it. After all, it's a classic dating move to cozy up to a partner under the guise of improving their swing. At Aqua Golf, you can rent a bucket of balls and a driver, then aim for the buoys on the liquid driving range or take on the 36-hole mini golf course for hours of fun at a very heartwarming price.

I Heart Denver

How much do we heart the I Heart Denver Store, which has hung around through COVID and the construction project on the 16th Street Mall, continuing to offer great gifts and other keepsakes from over 200 talented Colorado artists and designers (those in the consignment program keep 60 percent of sales) as well as other makers? Started as an artist incubator by Samuel Schimek a dozen years ago, this business has grown to be a must-stop for any tourist...if they can get to the Denver Pavilions.

There's always something cooking at Marczyk's. In April 2002, Marczyk Fine Foods opened the doors of its first market on East 17th Avenue, a place that celebrated quality ingredients and products — and local community. In 2011, the crew behind the store — husband and wife Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane, as well as brother Paul Marczyk — opened a second outpost in an old Safeway on East Colfax, a bigger store that featured all of the same amenities, along with a kitchen to up the ante on prepared foods and a next-door liquor store. Over the years, Marczyk's has added a bakery and an even bigger food-prep facility (with a lineup overseen by chef Jamey Fader), as well as events that draw traffic off of Colfax, but the goal of emphasizing both quality and community remains.

Catie Cheshire

In 2022, Denver welcomed back the Rose Lady, now rebranded as Roselady Co., but with the same classic exterior that's a Colfax landmark. The longtime flower shop is still family-owned; Daniele Riopelle has revamped it in honor of her mother, Debbie Orban-Rosen, who'd run it since 1985. After a three-year pause following Orban-Rosen's death, Riopelle reopened the shop, which is filled with colorful bouquets and other giftable trinkets that will brighten any day.

3921 West Colfax Avenue

It may be a few blocks from the busiest section of the Pearl Street Mall, but the employee-owned Trident is definitely a go-to destination, combining the best elements of a bookstore and a cafe. Browse through an impressive and eclectic selection of new and used literature, then order from a menu of coffee, tea and pastries that's just as diverse. Whether you want to sip tea while you read about Zen Buddhism, hang out on a beautiful garden patio with a historic novel or simply spend an evening enjoying free live music, Trident is the pearl of the Pearl Street Mall.

Best Store at Denver International Airport


Denver International Airport is one of the busiest in the country, with over 69 million travelers passing through in 2022. That's a big opportunity to show outsiders what Colorado is all about, and with any luck, those travelers end up at Aksels, which reps our state with unparalleled passion. The Denver-based clothing company has built a following by highlighting Colorado landmarks and history on hats and T-shirts that pay homage to old-school Denver Broncos jerseys, the city's rainbow skyline and even beloved former hangouts like Celebrity Sports Center. In case you need a last-minute gift, forgot your socks or just like Colorado-centric gear, make a stop at Aksels before your flight takes off.

B Gates, Center Core
Courtesy Modern Nomad Facebook page

A dazzling array of home, lifestyle and gardening wares greets you at Modern Nomad, where you can find everything from rugs, furniture and home decor to vintage and new clothing, jewelry, plants and more. More than just a store, Modern Nomad is a collective with an emphasis on supporting small businesses, hosting a variety of local vendors that fill the 5,500-square foot warehouse with stylish and unique finds. Be prepared: You'll want to buy everything.

Amid the nail salons, edgy boutiques and baffling commercial development in Cherry Creek North is an endearing spot that sells art and crafts from local artists, as well as staffers and students at Denver schools. For decades, the Artisan Center has been a go-to spot for gifts that celebrate the talents of the Coloradans who make this state so special, and just browsing the window display does your heart good. In fact, a recent installation of puffy hearts for sale around Valentine's Day benefited Mental Health Colorado. Looking good, doing good.

By Lonnie Hanzon, courtesy of the Wizard's Chest

The Wizard's Chest is celebrating its fortieth birthday this year, but the family-owned store has more youthful exuberance than ever. Witches, wizards, squibs, Muggles and everything in between are welcome at this 16,000-square-foot wonderland of toys, costumes, games and collectibles, as long as the adults check their prudence at the door. If you've seen it on the big screen or want to come up with your own creation, chances are the Wizard's Chest's costumes, masks, makeup and props will get you there. Need something to spice up game night? The bottom floor has a vast collection of puzzles and board games that go far beyond Monopoly, with themes centered around Harry Potter, Star Wars, creature features and other sci-fi and fantasy favorites. Magic is in full force year-round here, but it gets extra special and spooky around Halloween, when the Wizard's Chest serves as a popular spot to watch the annual Broadway Halloween Parade.

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