Best of Boulder 2020 — Entertainment & Culture

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Music Festival
Silver: Colorado Music Festival
Bronze: RockyGrass
Is there a better venue than Telluride to take in live music? Not according to our readers. In thin air, with dramatic mountains nestling you in, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, from our friends at Planet Bluegrass, has become a must-visit attraction for bluegrass aficionados here in Boulder County. Like moths to a flame, they flock every year to see the best bluegrass talents. Well, not every year. See you in 2021, we know you’ll be there.

Marie-Dominque Verdier The Avalon Ballroom

Place to Dance
6185 Arapahoe Road, 303-440-8303
Silver: St Julien Hotel & Spa
Bronze: Tahona Tequila Bistro
Write-in: Alchemy of Movement
Looking for a partner to swing you around the dance floor? Ever wondered if it really takes two to tango? Had the urge to try your hand (feet, actually) at the different ballroom styles — salsa, waltz, foxtrot, etc. — you’ve seen on ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ Want to take contra lessons — traditional folk dancing like the kind you find in Jane Austen movies? Look no further than The Avalon Ballroom, our readers’ favorite place to dance. With different dance styles offered each night of the week, you can come early and take lessons or stay late to show off your skills and attract new dance partners. And if you need a break, take a seat, grab a drink and watch the live bands carry the show.

Local Celebrity
Silver: Gregory Alan Isakov
Bronze: Zip Code Man
Write-in: Amal Easton
Jared Polis — our congressman turned governor. What can we say, our readers love the guy. He stands up for issues Boulderites care about, and he does it in his trademark humorous-with-a-big-heart kind of way. With a democratic state legislature in Colorado, Polis has been able to push through and champion for things that matter to us in the People’s Republic, and given the tone in Washington, readers appreciate his ability to level with people and get things done.

Local Musician/Group
Silver: Gregory Alan Isakov
Bronze: Face Vocal Band

Big Head Todd and the Monsters have developed a cult-like following in their decades’ long career. The guys met as teenagers in a jazz band at Columbine High School and quickly formed a bond over a shared love of classic rock, blues and R&B. The bond was so strong that lead singer Todd Park Mohr transferred from Colorado State University to join his pals at the University of Colorado Boulder so they could keep making music together. The band built their following by playing college towns over and over, crashing on couches, and ultimately snagging bigger venues each time they’d pass through. Then they moved to gigs at small venues along the Front Range and now have played more than 20 shows at Red Rocks. All while becoming our readers’ favorite local band.

Nonprofit/Charity Organization
2323 55th St., 303-442-4030
Silver: Planned Parenthood
Bronze: Community Food Share
It’s our job to speak out for those who have no voice in a chaotic, confusing and sometimes downright violent world. Among the voiceless in our world are animals, and our readers believe no one speaks louder for our four-legged friends than the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV). Founded in 1902, HSBV provides a safety net to animals in need in our community and beyond. Each year, HSBV provides shelter and care to nearly 7,000 animals, whether through foster homes, “forever home” adoptions, pet food, veterinary care or behavioral training. HSBV truly creates healthy relationships between pets and people.

Susan France Boulder Theater

Movie House/Theater
2032 14th St., 303-786-7030
Silver: Boedecker Theater (Dairy Arts Center)
Bronze: Century Boulder
You won’t see a movie there every night, but when you do, you’ll remember it. Whether it’s ‘The Big Lebowski’ or ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ maybe even an opening or closing night film for the Boulder International Film Festival, Boulder Theater is the place to sip on a cold one or three while enjoying the glory of the moving image. Pro tip: Sit in the balcony — the seats are better, and so is the view.

Live Jazz Venue
900 Walnut St., 877-303-0900
Silver: Hotel Boulderado
Bronze: The Laughing Goat

In the summer, the St Julien Hotel & Spa transforms its terrace into a live music venue, and it’s a particularly great place to take in some jazz. Something about a warm night, delicious libations and the soothing, sometimes challenging tones of jazz makes this experience at St Julien one you ought to put on your Boulder bucket list if you’ve never stopped by. It puts the class in world-class and mixes in comfort and unparalleled ambiance that’ll let you unwind in style.

1750 13th St., 303-443-2122
Silver: CU Museum of Natural History
Bronze: Museum of Boulder                 
Like some of the best parts of Boulder, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA to us locals) was founded in the ’70s — 1972 to be exact. It’s been on the cutting edge ever since, embracing the temporality of contemporary art. More than 114,000 visitors flock to BMoCA annually. If you’re not a member, you’re missing out. Sign up today and let BMoCA enrich your future.

Live Theater Group
5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000
Silver: Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Bronze: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
There’s a stigma that comes with dinner theater, but not here. At BDT Stage, patrons get a taste of the apple, The Big Apple, that is. And a taste of what’s cooking backstage because the actors will serve you before they stride the boards and recite the words. And if you dig what you see, let ‘em know during intermission because they’re back, shaking cocktails and pouring digestifs. And then when you see one of them move on to Broadway or the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, you can tell your friends: I saw them at the BDT Stage.

Classical Music
1595 Pleasant St. (Macky Auditorium), 303-449-1393
Silver: CU Presents
Bronze: Colorado Symphony
For more than 60 years, the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra has been soothing a savage world with the sweet seduction of Brahms, Haydn, Schubert, Vivaldi and a whole lot more. And thanks to the musical direction of Michael Butterman, Macky Auditorium has been (and will be soon enough) filled with the delightful symphonies of yesteryear — the kind that never go out of fashion. If you go, you know. But if you have a young one that doesn’t, check out their Discovery Concerts for grades three to six. It’s never too early to start them on the classics.

Amanda Tipton Costumes by Gene Moore in Paul Taylor’s ‘Airs.’ Dancer Phoeve Magna.

Live Dance Group
2590 Walnut St., Suite 10 (Dairy Arts Center), 303-443-0028
Silver: Frequent Flyers
Bronze: Block 1750
Write-in: Alchemy of Movement
You know what they say: Life without ballet is pointless. And you know who we mean by they: all the purveyors of dad jokes. Still, they have a pointe. (We couldn’t help it.) Regardless of style — ballet, modern, tap or anything else — live dance and the art of movement thrills the senses and communicates emotion beyond the five senses. Presenting originally choreographed works as well as classics, our readers love Boulder Ballet. The company also helps foster a love of dance in the community by offering classes for beginners of all ages.

Bank/Financial Institution
Multiple locations
Silver: Chase Bank
Bronze: Wells Fargo
Write-in: Blue Federal Credit Union
You have to trust the organization you bank with. It’s your money, after all. Our readers trust Elevations Credit Union because it invests in the future of the community. As a credit union, Elevations places its focus on providing real solutions for achieving financial health. In addition to one-on-one consultations, Elevations hosts dozens of free financial seminars on a wide range of subjects and connects with K-12 students to teach financial literacy early on. People know when a business is truly in it to make the community a better place, and our readers know Elevations Credit Union is here for the right reasons.

Open Mic
1709 Pearl St.
2907 55th St.
1720 Pleasant St.
Silver: The Attic Bar and Bistro
Blonze: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe
The original Pearl Street location of The Laughing Goat reopened on June 1. East Pearl kicked open the doors on June 8. Norlin Library? Fingers crossed it comes back when the students do in August. We need The Goat’s coffee. We need its snacks. We got a song in our hearts and a poem on paper, and we want to share them with the world. We have thoughts and feelings, and The Laughing Goat has Boulder County’s best open mic nights. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or a veteran, all are welcome.

Advanced Education
1505 University Ave., 303-492-5148
Silver: Naropa University
Bronze: Front Range Community College

It’s a busy world out there. It’s a big one, too, and sometimes it’s so busy and so big that you don’t know where to begin. Start here: University of Colorado Boulder’s Continuing Education courses. With more than 100 to choose from — from anthropology to sociology, art to creative writing — there’s so much to discover. And with each course, you’ll fill in a little hole in your perspective, making this big, busy world a little more understandable.

Dairy Arts Center

Art Gallery
2590 Walnut St., 303-440-7826
Silver: Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA)
Bronze: Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery
Art is transformative if we take the time to really sit with it, meditate on shapes and sizes, colors and paint strokes, themes and metaphors. With four different galleries, the Dairy Arts Center provides space for diversified content from local, national and international artists. Come to visit one of the rotating exhibits or check them out on your way to any one of the Dairy’s other artistic offerings. Just make sure to give yourself time to see, to sit and to take it all in.

Festival/Event (non-music)
13th Street between Arapahoe and Canyon, 303-910-2236
Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont
400 E. Simpson St., Lafayette
Silver: Boulder Creek Festival
Bronze: Colorado Shakespeare Festival
It’s no wonder our readers chose the Boulder County Farmers Market as their favorite (non-music) event. What’s better than being able to talk to local farmers, smell the aroma of fresh harvested produce, pick from local ingredients and assemble a home-cooked meal sourced from food grown by good folks within 30 miles of home? In typical years (2020 has not been a typical year), there’s live music and food stalls and artisan vendors and a crowd of shoppers that makes the whole experience come alive. We can’t wait for when all that returns, but until then, we’re just glad we still have the opportunity to get our groceries in a safe, open-air market.

Summer Camp
10063 Gold Hill Road, 303-442-4557
Silver: CU Science Discovery
Bronze: Avid4 Adventure
Write-in: Boulder Ki Aikido
Summer camp is where we build some of the most meaningful relationships in our lives — including the relationship we build with ourselves. Our readers say again and again that Colorado Mountain Ranch is the best summer camp option around. Why? Because Colorado Mountain Ranch is founded on healthy values: simplicity, nature, connection and fun. There are adventure day camps, focus camps (like horseback riding, gymnastics and trailblazing) and overnight camps to match your child’s interests and comfort level. Even though Colorado Mountain Ranch had to make the difficult decision to cancel camp for 2020, it will be offering some fun programs for the whole family that you can check out on its website.

Place to Wi-Fi
1001 Arapahoe Ave., 303-441-3100
Silver: OZO Coffee Company
Bronze: The Laughing Goat
Write-in: Belaza Coffee Bar
What better place to seclude yourself and spend hours digging through digital archives and endless websites than the Boulder Public Library? It’s quiet (it’s a library, after all), the chairs are comfy and the tables are large. Heck, grab a few books off the shelf and spread them all around you. People will think you’re working on something important and not just mindlessly watching cat videos. (Mindfully watching cat videos is encouraged.)

Place to Play Pool
1136 Pearl St., 303-449-4987
Silver: World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill
Bronze: Outback Saloon
Hey, who hasn’t spent a night at the Sundown Saloon shooting pool and pounding Pabst Blue Ribbon? It’s the country’s largest purveyor of PBR — at least that’s what the bartender told us. You haven’t? Well, if drinking beer, making friends and racking up balls is your idea of fun, then make the pilgrimage to the Downer. It’s got a charmingly divey feel that you just can’t replicate, and that is much appreciated in today’s day and age. A few games in, and you’ll make fast friends with folks who were strangers minutes before. The Downer is a true community meeting spot.

Michael Goldman Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Music Venue
18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494
Silver: Boulder Theater
Bronze: Chautauqua Auditorium                 
Did you know that the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was built to provide jobs and stimulate the economy during the Great Depression, constructed by FDR’s New Deal alphabet agencies? It’s true, the plan worked, and now we have a world-class venue in our backyard. The views are epic, the red rocks create near-perfect acoustics, and the camaraderie of the audience is unbeatable. It’s no wonder it’s a coveted gig for musicians of all genres and backgrounds — from hometown hero Gregory Alan Isakov to industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails to cellist Yo Ma Ma. If something as amazing as Red Rocks is a product of one of the worst times in our economic history, just imagine what could come out of this moment in time.

Private School
10455 Dawson Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-6679
Silver: Friends School
Bronze: Shining Mountain Waldorf School
Education is critical to the success of society. The foundational knowledge kids learn in school helps propel them into enriching lives and provides the handrails for them in times of turmoil. Our readers say Dawson School is the private institution that best prepares kids for the real world. The K-12 school gives kids skills in critical thinking, creativity and socialization so they can leave Boulder County (or not) and make the world a better place.

Sports Bar
2922 Baseline Road, 303-442-8162
Silver: Lazy Dog Bar & Grill (closed)
Bronze: The West End Tavern
Write-in: The Tune Up Taproom at Full Cycle
Founded in 1975, the World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill knows how to do the sports bar right. All the ingredients are there: low light to make the illuminated screens sharp, long bartops perfect for large groups or finding someone new to argue with. It has draft specials and friendly staff, plus a menu full of classic bar food from burgers to wings to Rocky Mountain oysters, plus arcades, pool and other bar games to distract you at half-time. With multiple rooms, TVs and games to choose from, Dark Horse is the place to be. There’s a reason people say things get better with age.

Arcade Games
1005 Pearl St., 720-508-4916
Silver: Tilt Pinball
Bronze: Gateway Park Fun Center

So you’re looking for something to do that’s outside the ordinary regimen. Or you’re craving a little nostalgia, the kind that can only be soothed by the feel of red and black plastic buttons under your fingers and a joystick in your grasp. Our readers say when that urge hits, head to Press Play. It’s got an immensely impressive collection of classic and unique arcade games that you’ll be surprised you know how to play from muscle memory alone. Plus, it’s got alcohol, if that’s your bag, so playing ‘Street Fighter’ might be a bit different than when you played it as a kid. Stay to try all the games, and you might hear some live music while you’re there.

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