Want more of a unique shopping experience? Take a look at the state’s smaller and more historic shopping destinations and discover one-of-a-kind buys. Most of us have our usual shopping spots, so why not break the routine and experience some of the state’s quaint and historic shopping locales.
The Downtown Boulder Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, encompasses the city’s oldest commercial section. In 1976, the city of Boulder closed part of Pearl Street to all automobile traffic and constructed an open-air pedestrian mall. In 1980, the mall won a national award for urban environmental design. Craft breweries, cafes, restaurants, boutique design and clothing stores, as well as outdoor stores and other enticing businesses line the brick pathways in this college town.
Just a few minutes' drive from downtown Denver, Cherry Creek North is comprised of more than 300 shops, spas/salons, home stories, art galleries, restaurants and hotels. Sixteen tree-lined and flower-bedecked blocks set the stage for a veritable Rodeo Drive of independent luxury boutiques. Combined with the adjacent Cherry Creek Shopping Center, home to Colorado's only Neiman Marcus as well as 40 other luxury stores like Cartier, Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, Cherry Creek is the largest and most varied shopping scene between Chicago and San Francisco.
More than 200 retailers line Elkhorn and Moraine avenues in this mountain town just outside the eastern gates of Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of the independently owned shops are eateries are unique to Estes Park, with Colorado-made gifts, sweet shops, "Rocky Mountain rustic" home decor and sundry boutiques and clothing stores. Many of the buildings along the avenues have been repurposed from Estes' early days —a former Presbyterian church now houses several businesses perfect for window shopping.
This area adjoining Colorado Springs was one of Colorado’s earliest settlements. In 1861, it became the Colorado Territory’s first capital — a home to miners, farmers and outfitters in the gold rush days. Today, it retains a bit of Old West atmosphere with historic brick buildings and tree-lined streets. You’ll find Colorado Springs’ biggest cluster of art galleries here, mostly with Southwestern collections. Rare jewelry, kitschy gifts and antiques are among the other goods for sale in these boutiques. The nearby Van Briggle Pottery & Tile art studio draws collectors from all over the world.
Breckenridge hosts distinguished shops, including fashion boutiques, book stores, souvenir shops and even quilting and craft stores that offer regular classes, all within the town's Victorian National Historic District. Perhaps most notably, shoppers discover that the town of Breckenridge is pet-friendly. Doggie bakeries provide treats and trinkets to show pets how much they are appreciated. For visitors interested in expressing their own unique nature, try one of the hat stores that carry anything from sophisticated to downright silly hats. Pick up a free walking tour of the town's historic areas at the visitor information center right along Main Street.
Western elegance is found in antique, jewelry and clothing shops sprinkled all over this mountain town. Telluride is rich in history, and its vintage, Victorian-era charm will have you feeling like you’re walking through a Western romance novel. Its identity as a 19th-century mining town explains why Telluride houses many beautiful, long-lived antiques. You’ll find jewelry, musical instruments, collectibles, prints and mining memorabilia. Antique markets around Telluride also present plenty of vintage finds, such as American Indian and folk art, Western prints and decorative collectibles — all with amazing views of the town's box-canyon walls.
Between the ski-mountain base areas of Vail Village and Lionshead, the year-round resort town of Vail hosts hundreds of shops, selling everything from high-end jewelry and fine art to ski boots and cowboy hats. Located in the shadow of the Gore Range, Vail has a distinctly alpine feel. A free bus traverses the pedestrian area for those who are weighted down by shopping bags. The villages are also home to a growing number of amazing restaurants, including "Top Chef" Kelly Liken's restaurant, Sweet Basil and La Bottega.
Synonymous with luxury, Aspen's shopping scene caters to a discerning clientele with an array of international fashion outposts along Galena Street. Couture coveters will find their home here with Dior, Gucci, Prada and Fendi alongside specialty boutiques and high-end consignment stores. Aspen being a ski town at heart also has plenty of outdoor gear to outfit you for any mountain adventure — summer or winter.
A shopping trip to historic downtown Littleton provides patrons with the opportunity to snag some artisanal buys. Gift, craft and antique shops, galleries, cafes and more are easily found at this welcoming downtown thoroughfare. With fun holiday events like a Halloween zombie parade and Trick or Treat Street, an annual candlelight walk and tree-lighting in November and other annual celebrations, the area is always a festive place to hang out.
• Denver is home to several neighborhoods with pockets of cute shops, including: Old South Pearl, the Highlands, Uptown and, of course, LoDo.
• Historic Olde Towne Arvada is quickly becomming a hot spot for boutiques, dining and fun events.
• Pedestrian-friendly downtown Golden has dozens of shops, restaurants and restful stops alongside Clear Creek.
• A surprising 500 shops are situated in the small and historic town of Durango.
• Western wear, antiques, gift shops, jewelry stores and art galleries in Steamboat Springs offer Wild West flavor and hospitality.
Photos: Courtesy of Estes Park Convention and Visitors Bureau; Pearl Street Mall, copyright flickr/Lee Coursey; Cherry Creek North, Miles.