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Expert Tips

 

Best Places for a Shopping Respite or Shopping Extravaganza in Denver



Denver is a thriving, evolving city and the same can be said of its stellar collection of stores and boutiques. From small and eclectic independent retailers such as 5 Green Boxes to the upscale, multi-block shopping district that is Cherry Creek North, Denver delivers a vibrant and intriguing experience with multiple options for shoppers of all kinds. For art collectors or art lover, there's the gallery-centric Art District on Santa Fe, along with two fabulous (and different) shops at the Denver Art Museum. Tattered Cover, one of Denver's most successful and beloved retailers, now has three locations, including a cozy outpost at the newly revitalized Denver Union Station. Speaking of Union Station, the historic aesthetic remains in tact and the trains continue to run, but a fabulous collection of retailers and restaurants now infuses the evocative structure with a distinctly 21st Century vibe. Historic and contemporary elements also combine at Larimer Square, an area that Butch Cassidy is said to have once visited and where some of the city's best independent boutiques now open for a more genteel clientele. And in the spirit of what's old is often new again, there's Twist and Shout, a record store where new vinyl recordings are being sold alongside those old collectibles and CDs from every genre--plus there's live music. Perhaps best of all, in between many Denver shops are independent restaurants opened by award-winning chefs where shoppers can rest and refuel before heading to the next dynamic shopping experience. 


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Commons Park
REI


Located in the restored 1901 Denver Tramway building, REI Denver is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, from weekend warriors to avid sportsmen and women. The massive store set near the South Platte River at Confluence Park is one of the brand's best. Of course it includes all the climbing, hiking, camping, paddling and cycling gear one could want. It also has a massive 47-foot monolith on which to practice rock climbing, a 6,400-square-foot surface that's hand sculpted and offers 12 top-roped routes and two lead-climbing routes. A climb is free if you're an REI member. In addition to all of the clothing and gear available, the store also offers a variety of classes and demonstrations including climbing techniques, bike maintenance, stand-up paddleboarding and smartphone photography. If you can do it in the outdoors, you can buy it, try it or learn it at REI.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Denver flagship REI store is one of the most incredible outdoor stores around, and that's saying a lot. Colorado is all about outdoor stores.

Christine's expert tip: If you're in town and suddenly just have to go camping in the spectacular countryside surrounding Denver--and who doesn't?--not to worry. You can rent tents, sleeping bags and other gear at REI.

Read more about REI →




Larimer Square is the city's No. 1 historic district and it was integral to the earliest residents of Denver, many of whom were on the rough-and-tumble side. Today, a more genteel clientele strolls along this historic block of Larimer Street to visit its 23 retail shops, 20 of which are independently owned. All of the stores here typically offer some Colorado-made products, including Cry Baby Ranch, Eve and Gusterman Silversmiths. There are shops carrying products for women, men and children, there are shops selling clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories for humans and dogs, antiques and home goods, to name a few. A great time to visit is during a festival or event. Le Jardin Secret, a French-inspired farmer's market, runs summer Saturdays; the Peachy Sidewalk Sale is in late July; there are spring and fall fashion shows and the Chalk Art Festival takes place in May.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Larimer offers an eclectic group of shops and restaurants in a historic neighborhood that are among the best in Denver.

Christine's expert tip: Some Larimer retailers, including Scarpaletto and Eve, a fine shoe shop and chic women's boutique respectively, will deliver to visitors' hotel rooms--no need to lug all the purchases around.

Read more about Larimer Square →




One of Denver's most attractive neighborhoods for shopping and dining, Cherry Creek North boasts endless options for the perfect romantic date night. Dinner for two at one of the area's restaurants can transport you and your partner to a mini vacation right here in Denver. After spending the day the several independently owned shops, boutiques and galleries choose a restaurant to dine at. Top suggestions include Opus Restaurant for fine dining, La Merise for authentic French cuisine, Le Rendezouv for an intimate lounge atmosphere, NoRTH Italia for seasonal Italian dishes, Pikkas Peruvian Cuisine & Pisco Bar for a casual and festive meal, and trendy new spot Hasu Asian Bistro. One of Denver's most attractive neighborhoods for shopping and dining, Cherry Creek North boasts endless options for the perfect romantic date night. Dinner for two at one of the area's restaurants can transport you and your partner to a mini vacation right here in Denver. After spending the day the several independently owned shops, boutiques and galleries choose a restaurant to dine at. Top suggestions include Opus Restaurant for fine dining, La Merise for authentic French cuisine, Le Rendezouv for an intimate lounge atmosphere, NoRTH Italia for seasonal Italian dishes, Pikkas Peruvian Cuisine & Pisco Bar for a casual and festive meal, and trendy new spot Hasu Asian Bistro Expert Tip: Treat your sweetie to something sweet at Sugarlicious, a colorful candy shop that will fulfill all your sugary dreams. Another option that locavores will appreciate is nearby Enstrom Candies, where treats are made in Colorado. They're known for their addictive almond toffee.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: This upscale, contemporary district with shops, spas, restaurants, galleries and home furnishing stores has pretty much everything one needs.

Christine's expert tip: Expert Tip: Treat your sweetie to something sweet at Sugarlicious, a colorful candy shop that will fulfill all your sugary dreams

Read more about Cherry Creek North Shopping District →


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Tattered Cover Book Store
Photo courtesy of Tattered Cover


From its humble beginnings in a tiny space back in the 1970s, Tattered Cover evolved into one of the largest independent bookstores in the nation. It has weathered a retail climate that has not been friendly to booksellers, but thanks to the indomitable spirt and savvy business sense of owner Joyce Meskis, Tattered Cover has not just survived it has thrived. Today it has three locations including an expansive space on Colfax in a former theater. There book lovers and others can browse, sip coffee, listen to authors read from their works and shop. The store has 24,000 square feet of retail space housing 150,000 book titles. There are also calendars, toys, games, puzzles, cards and many other potential gift items. But the Tattered Cover's best asset is arguably its staff, people who know and love books and who can offer genuinely helpful and insightful suggestions and advice.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: It's an amazingly successful bookstore in a world where many independent bookstores have closed their doors. Tattered Cover has evolved without losing its heart.

Christine's expert tip: The best seats in the house are in the historic theater balconies, where book lovers can people watch, read or enjoy coffee and free WiFi.

Read more about Tattered Cover Book Store →


Art District on Santa Fe
Photo courtesy of Art District on Santa Fe

More than 70 establishments populate this very walkable area just south of downtown Denver. While the First Friday Art Walk is indisputably the biggest draw for visitors to Denver, the district's galleries, restaurants and retail shops are open all week. The greatest concentration of shops, galleries and restaurants is in an eight-block area between 4th and 12th along Santa Fe Drive. In addition to shopping, various classes are offered, space is available for private parties and events and there are two theaters and a museum, too. All of the galleries and shops in the Art District are independently owned and roughly 90 percent of the artwork and merchandise is made in Colorado. In terms of special occasions, Denver Arts Week is in November and a luminaries celebration is held during the holidays.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The district has 40 galleries and some 30 other retail stores, providing a shopping experience not duplicated anywhere else in Denver

Christine's expert tip: In addition to First Friday Art Walks, the district also has a Third Friday Collector's Preview night, a more intimate version of First Friday that is aimed at collectors but open to the public.

Read more about Art District on Santa Fe →


The Proper Pour
Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis


Mega liquor stores offer more bottles and selection, but they cannot match the personal attention and passion of The Proper Pour. Customers looking for an unusual wine or liquor can pick the brain of whoever is working and get knowledgeable information and suggestions--they're all self-proclaimed cocktail geeks who see their job as providing the proper ingredients, tools and education so customers can enjoy the same imbibing experience at home as they would out on the town. To that end, the store carries such products as wine produced by a small biodynamic farm in Western Colorado, unusual beers and specialty releases from excellent local small-batch distillers as well as tasty, perfected whiskey from well-known larger distillers across the country. "As long as they are staying true to their craft and making top-notch products," says the owner, "we will continue to support them in their efforts."

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Proper Pour offers genuine hospitality and a focus on the natural wine movement and local and specialty spirits.

Christine's expert tip: Everyone who works in the Proper Pour is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and that Southern hospitality comes through. Those looking for a truly service-oriented, stress-free experience need look no further.

Read more about The Proper Pour →


5 Green Boxes
Photo courtesy of 5 Green Boxes


This is the land of fun and unusual gifts and treats located in two main stores a block apart on Denver's trendy South Pearl Street. The larger store has everything from candles based on literary themes to hand-painted furniture. Shoppers will find one of the best collections of greeting cards around, along with delightful odds and ends they probably didn't know they needed until they stumbled upon them here. The smaller store has clothes, shoes, accessories and jewelry, and both stores carry goods from around the world. It's fun just to wander around the larger store with its cacophony of color, patterns and inventive displays. Prices here, the saying goes, range from $5 to $5,000, so surely everyone will find something.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Independently owned and operated, 5 Green Boxes has a quirky, colorful and eclectic selection of goods.

Christine's expert tip: If you can't make it to the South Pearl stores, there's a small outpost in Denver Union Station in LoDo

Read more about 5 Green Boxes →


Twist and Shout
Photo courtesy of Twist & Shout


When Twist and Shot opened in 1988 there were no MP3 players, iPods or smart phones. The store is in some ways a throwback to those days, yet very much current. It's a place where Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers all can shop for the music they love, old and new. The store carries every conceivable genre and format of music, and its true claim to fame may be what is arguably the largest selection of new and used vinyl in the country. Live performances are staged in the store each month, both local artists and national touring acts, and merchandise includes art films, music movies, toys, shirts and all kinds of other fun stuff. As if all that weren't enough, according to management, the store has "the most creative, unique, artsy, sexy employees on earth." Who wouldn't want to shop there?

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Twist and Shout is a place to find CDs, old and new vinyl and to hear live music--no matter which generation is doing the shopping.

Christine's expert tip: This is one place where shoppers can try it before they buy it. Twist and Shout has listening stations throughout the store and stereos behind the counter where buyers can hear pretty much any record or CD before handing over the cash.

Read more about Twist and Shout →




The Denver Art Museum features two must-see shops. The North Building shop has a family orientation with creative products for all ages including activity kits, books, art supplies, puzzles, games and more. The shop in the Hamilton Building attracts art lovers with art-inspired clothing and accessories such as a men's tie with a Salvador Dali-inspired mustache print, one-of-a-kind jewelry and fused or blown glass pieces. Stock changes to reflect current exhibits, so there's always something new. No matter what is featured, whimsy and creativity abound. This is just the place to pick up a miniature version of one of the best-known sculptures in Denver, the famous giant blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center. Local goods also include uniquely artistic handbags made by Boulder-based Maruca Design and chocolates handcrafted in Denver. The Denver Art Museum stores are where creative expression and inspired shopping become one.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The museum stores don't just showcase art, they showcase many local artists and their Colorado-based artwork.

Christine's expert tip: All purchases in these two fabulous shops help support the Denver Art Museum, and museum admission is not required to visit the shops.

Read more about Denver Art Museum Shops →




Denver's revitalized Union Station features 10 independent, Colorado-owned retail and restaurant outlets across 22,000 square feet of ground-floor space, which is complemented by 12,000 square feet of public common area and 40,000 square feet of outdoor plaza space. It's all in and around the magnificently renovated historic Denver Union Station--and the trains are still coming and going! Among the retail shops are outpost of three popular stores: Tattered Cover bookstore, 5 Green Boxes and Bloom. Eateries range from Pigtrain Coffee and Milkbox Ice Creamery to full-restaurant concepts from some of Denver's best-known and most successful chefs. Mercantile Dining & Provision is a little of both--a European-style restaurant and an "Old World" market.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Its long-awaited July 2014 opening is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in Denver this year.

Christine's expert tip: The new RTD bus station is right downstairs, the light rail and free 16th Street Mallride are steps away. Union Station is easy to get to from anywhere--no car necessary.

Read more about Denver Union Station →


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Meet Christine Loomis

Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York,...  More About Christine

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