The anchor of Denver’s performing arts scene, an important part of this increasingly sophisticated city, is the 4-square-block Denver Performing Arts Complex, located downtown just a few blocks from major hotels. The complex houses nine theaters, a concert hall, and what may be the nation’s first symphony hall in the round. It is home to the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, and Denver Center for the Performing Arts (an umbrella organization for resident and touring theater companies). In all, Denver has some 30 theaters, more than 100 cinemas, and dozens of concert halls, nightclubs, discos, and bars. Clubs offer country-and-western music, jazz, rock, and comedy.
Current entertainment listings appear in special Friday-morning sections of the Denver Post. Westword, a weekly newspaper distributed free throughout the city every Wednesday evening, has perhaps the best listings: It focuses on the arts, entertainment, and local politics. Also pick up the Denver/Boulder edition of The Onion, which also has a nice arts and entertainment section after all the funny and phony news stories.
You can get tickets for nearly all major entertainment and sporting events from Ticketmaster (tel. 303/830-TIXS ), which has several outlets in the Denver area.
Classical Music & Opera
Colorado Symphony Orchestra[em]Denver's orchestra performs about 100 concerts a year at venues all over the metro area, including the Denver Performing Arts Complex. [tel] 303/623-7876. www.coloradosymphony.org.
Opera Colorado[em]From February to May, Opera Colorado produces three different operas, typically performing at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. tel] 303/468-2030 for tickets, or 303/778-1500. www.operacolorado.org.
Theater & Comedy
Buntport Theater- This is the best—and zaniest—original theater company in Denver. At their warehouse-turned-theater in the Art District on Santa Fe, Buntport stages four plays a year as well as events like “The Great Debate,” with actors debating bacon the food versus Kevin Bacon, for example, on the third Tuesday of the month. Recent productions have included an off-kilter adaptation of Shakespeare's “The Tempest” and a play starring a life-sized Tommy Lee Jones puppet. 717 Lipan St. [tel] 720/946-1388.www.buntport.com.
Comedy Works- Comedy Works is one of the anchors of Larimer Square. Top touring comedians and rising stars of Denver's local laugh scene take the stage here. 1226 15th St. [tel] 303/595-3637. www.comedyworks.com.
Denver Puppet Theater- This beloved theater in the Highlands area showcases puppets of all kinds in regular performances of fairy tales and other kid-oriented fare, as well as more mature entertainment in the evenings. Tickets cost $7. There is an ice cream parlor onsite. 3156 W. 38th Ave. [tel] 303/458-6446. www.denverpuppettheater.com.
Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center- One of the pillars of the local Hispanic arts community, El Centro produces bilingual performances that include poetry festivals, film screenings, dramas, and musicals at the historic Denver Civic Theatre in the Art District on Santa Fe. 721 Santa Fe Dr. [tel] 303/296-0219. www.suteatro.org.
Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret- Named for Lannie Garrett, a.k.a. “Patsy DeCline,” this eclectic venue in the basement of the landmark D&F Tower on the 16th Street Mall serves up burlesque, comedy, and musical theater. In the D&F Tower, 1601 Arapahoe St. [tel] 303/293-0075. www.lannies.com.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance- The eponymous founder of this contemporary dance company has been one of the shining stars in Denver since launching it in the 1970s, and her international reputation is well deserved. Annual spring and summer productions are the hallmark of the local calendar, but the company tours the country as well. 119 Park Ave. W. [tel] 303/295-1759. www.cleoparkerdance.org.
Colorado Ballet- The state’s top professional resident ballet company, the Colorado Ballet produces both classical and contemporary works as well as “The Nutcracker” in December. 1278 Lincoln St. [tel] 303/837-8888. www.coloradoballet.org.
Major Concert Halls & Auditoriums
Fillmore Auditorium- Formerly a roller-skating rink, this theater got a slick redo in 1999 and has emerged as one of the top music venues in the downtown area. Jam bands like to stop here for multiday stands, but musical talents ranging from Slayer to Robin Thicke have played here in recent years. 1510 Clarkson St. [tel] 303/837-1482. www.fillmoreauditorium.com.
Paramount Theatre-This has been a focal point of local culture since it opened in 1929. Now an anchor of the 16th Street Mall, the venue has recently been graced by the likes of Tom Waits and Queens of the Stone Age. 1621 Glenarm Place. [tel] 303/623-0106. www.paramountdenver.com.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre- With a scenic view of the city and incredible scenery in every direction, there is no finer outdoor music venue in the United States. Flanked by fins of red rock that provide near-perfect acoustics, the 9,000-seat amphitheater is the place to see a concert in Colorado in the summer. The Beatles played here in 1964—it was the only non-sellout on their initial U.S. tour—and in the time since has been the site of concerts by everyone from Jimmy Cliff to The Flaming Lips to Widespread Panic. For the record, however, Willie Nelson has played here more than anyone else, a title he took from The Grateful Dead in 2003. Whether there is a concert or not, Red Rocks is a great attraction, featuring trails, a museum, a restaurant and more (see p. ###). 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison. [tel] 720/865-2494. www.redrocksonline.com.
The Bar Scene
The first permanent structure on the site of modern Denver was supposedly a saloon, and the city has built on that tradition ever since. Today, there are sports bars, dance bars, lots of brewpubs, outdoor cafe bars, English pubs, Old West saloons, bars with views of the city, Art Deco bars, gay bars, and a few bars we don’t want to discuss here.
Appropriately, the newest Denver “in” spot for barhopping is also the oldest part of the city--LoDo--which has been renovated and upgraded, and now attracts all the young partyers and upwardly mobile professionals. Its trendy nightspots are often noisy and crowded, but if you’re looking for action, this is where you’ll find it.
Other popular “strips” are along Broadway (centered on 10th and Ellsworth aves., respectively), and along East Colfax Avenue from about Ogden to Monroe streets. For those who prefer caffeine to alcohol, a number of good coffee bars abound throughout downtown Denver, as well as in the Capitol Hill and Uptown neighborhoods.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.