1) Art District on Santa Fe
A drag that’s changed drastically over the last twenty years, the stretch of Santa Fe Drive between Fourth Avenue and the Auraria campus has become a destination for art-lovers across the region during often-crowded artwalks on the first and third Fridays of every month. But not without growing pains: Though it’s now home to galleries, museums, shops and eateries of every stripe, the vibrant district still retains vestiges of its past history as the central thoroughfare of the Chicano Westside community, maintaining a delicate balance between the old and the new.
2) Su Teatro, CHAC and Museo de las Americas
As noted, Santa Fe Drive remains the cultural heart of the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood, thanks to these stalwarts in Denver’s Latino arts community. Su Teatro, led for decades by artistic director Tony Garcia and rooted in the street theater of Chicano activists in the ’70s, has found a permanent home at the mural-wrapped Denver Civic Theater at Seventh and Santa Fe, bringing original community-based theater fare, film and music to its spaces throughout the year. Up the street, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, also a product of the ’70s Chicano movement, continues to host gallery shows by local Latino artists while preserving cultural traditions. And the Museo, a relative newcomer to the scene (its first exhibit, Visiones del Pueblo: The Folk Art of Latin America, opened in1994), brings fine art to Denver from all of Latin America, while not forgetting artists from its own back yard (veteran Denver painter and sculptor Jerry De La Cruz’s current retrospective at the museum runs through January 16). Need to chill before or after visiting these cultural bastions of Santa Fe Drive? Check out the patio at El Noa Noa or drop by El Taco de Mexico for a burrito for the ages.
3) Golden Triangle Museum District
Bounded by Colfax Avenue, Speer Boulevard and Broadway
Home to eight museums, including the Denver Art Museum, the History Colorado Center, the Clyfford Still Museum and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art (which will move from its current Pearl street enclave to new digs at West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street in 2017), as well as the acclaimed Curious Theatre Company, the tony new Art Hotel, the Denver Central Library, the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park, a gathering of upscale galleries and, yes, Westword, the Golden Triangle represents one of the city’s most lively cultural hubs.
4) Shopping in Baker
Hipsterish, funky, down-to-earth and cutting-edge, the South Broadway business district serves the Baker neighborhood and visitors from all over Denver with a street-smart helping of boutiques, bars, restaurants, thrift stores and bookstores. The people-watching is always in high gear along the way, day or night, and the eats are amazing. Don’t forget to top off your stroll down Broadway with a cone from Sweet Action.
5) Mayan Theatre
The Art Deco Mayan Revival-style Mayan Theatre, a 1930 relic that narrowly escaped destruction when a grassroots movement saved it from the wrecking ball, is now a renovated marvel run by the art-theater chain Landmark Theatres as a last vestige of the golden age of the movie palace. The Mayan sports three screens and one of the city’s best concession stands, and a trip here is the complete movie experience.
6) La Alma/Lincoln Park
La Alma/Lincoln Park isn’t the city’s prettiest park, nor is it the most popular, but it stands as green space in the middle of an old neighborhood that’s only partly gentrified. At its center is the mural-covered La Alma Recreation Center, with an outdoor pool where kids can cool off in the heat of summer and indoor amenities where adults can work out all year ’round. That's just one reason why the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood was named one of the nation's Ten Great Neighborhoods by the American Planning Association in 2014.
7) Buckhorn Exchange
You haven’t really experienced Denver until you’ve taken a seat at the upstairs bar at the Buckhorn Exchange, the owner of Denver liquor license number one and a remainder from the days when railroad workers dominated the adjacent neighborhood, lodging in its tiny Victorian tick-tack houses. Founded in 1893 (yes, 1893!) by Buffalo Bill scout Henry H. Zietz, the restaurant is a trippy tribute to the red-checked tablecloths, vintage firearms and taxidermy that decorate its spaces, serving true mountain man fare, from rattlesnake to good, old-fashioned, giant-sized steak.
8) The MaxFund
The MaxFund distinguishes itself as one of Denver’s largest no-kill animal shelters, providing a temporary place for lost, injured and abandoned animals seeking their forever homes. Founded more than twenty years ago by Dr. Bill and Nanci Suro, MaxFund — named for an early canine client, Max — provides veterinary care and a second chance to dogs and cats in need.
9) Buntport Theater
Now in its fifteenth season, Buntport Theater has always done things a little differently than most indie theater companies by — gasp! — writing, directing and performing its own material from scratch, often paying homage to classic literary fare in its own twisted and often hilarious way, using bare-bones sets and its own ingenuity to power every show.
10) Youth on Record
Formerly Flobots.org, originally founded by Flobots members to help turn young lives around through the power of music, poetry and art, Youth on Record has grown to include school outreach programs for at-risk youth and recently moved into fancy new digs, complete with the Youth Media Studio, where kids can gather for salon-style discussions and performances and hands-on recording sessions.
Stompin' Ground Games: La Alma/Lincoln Park will take a dance theme and roll with it, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, December 17, at Buntport Theater. A multicultural mixture of capoeira, Mexican folkloric dance, step-dancing and break dancing is on the docket, along with a few words from poet Molina Speaks and collectible neighborhood trading cards from cartoonist Kenny Be. Warm Cookies asks for a $5 donation at the door to help fund the program; it's also asking for folks to bring old letters, photos, newspaper clippings and memorabilia for Historic Denver to scan on-site for its collection. Oh, yes: There will be cookies. Visit Warm Cookies of the Revolution online for more information.