While it may not always come with free two-day shipping, there are a lot of perks when you buy local. First, it is good for your community — on average 48% of your purchase goes back into the local economy compared to 14% of chain stores. Additionally, as is the case for this guide, your gifts are likely to be more unique, locally made or ethically sourced. So not only will your present seem more special, it’ll probably last longer and doesn’t come with a ton of ethical baggage. If this isn’t enough to convince you, this list was compiled by real-life local people (editor’s nonetheless) who not only endorse but actually enjoy the products on this list. And as a triple bonus, we were not paid by any of these companies for these inclusions (which has always been our policy, but we figured we’d remind you). Every year, we get together and ask one simple question: what do you recommend? Here are our answers.
Note: all of our selections are under $150! Go here to read our 2018 picks.
Food & Booze
Local Booze & Beverages
Cost: Prices range
The Lowdown: A bottle of booze is usually a no brainer gift and luckily Denver has an insane amount of great locally made hooch. This season, we’d recommend checking out the freshly released Atticus Jones — the Family Jones’ straight rye whiskey made with 100% Colorado grains. Their first grain-to-glass spirit has all of the spice you’d want from a rye whiskey but with added dark cherry and molasses notes from its 10% of malted barley. If your giftee is more of a beer drinker, Longmont’s Left Hand has a solid gift pack of eight nitro beers that gives you that creamy deliciousness of a nitro beer at home (just make sure you follow the hard pour rules on the side of the can). It features their most famous core nitro beers including their famous original milk stout. But the one we love is the chai milk stout which really does have that chai spice flavor. If you’re on the hard seltzer train, we just rounded up the best ones in the state, so you can take your pick.
If you want something non-alcoholic but just as enjoyable, we can’t stop drinking the hop teas from Boulder’s Hoplark. In fact, they aren’t pictured because we accidentally drank them all. They are perfect if you’re trying to kick your beer habit or doing a sober month after the holidays because they slightly taste like a hoppy beer but in a weirdly satisfyingly way. (PS you can find these at the Whole Foods Union Station). CBD waters also provide some relaxing effects minus the booze and there’s none better than Salida’s DRAM (also found at Mr. B’s liquor stores).
Cost: $3- $100
The Lowdown: Almost everyone knows a coffee snob — hell, we are some of them. So if you’re hoping to buy a bag or two for your favorite ‘decaf or die’ friend, you can’t just go to the grocery and pick up any old bag. Rather look locally at two incredible roasters: Dragonfly Coffee Roasters and Queen City Collective Coffee. The former is for the serious aficionado, as Dragonfly was named one of the top roasters in the entire US by Forbes magazine and offers some of the rarest coffees in the world. So prices range wildly from a $14 bag of a classic espresso roast for your everyday drinker to a $100 Panama Geisha. For the perpetually busy and caffeinated type, Queen City Collective is the first in the city to offer steeped coffee bags. Functioning similarly to a tea bag, the environmentally sustainable one-cup solution is much better than a K-Cup and not as much work as a pour-over. If you want a splash of good in your coffee, they also launched a Made by HER program featuring coffees from women-run co-ops. Just look for the logo when you’re in store either in Baker or their new Five Points location.
Local Discount Guidebooks
The Lowdown: Every gift guide we typically recommend a few of these discount guidebooks because it’s a great way to explore new bars and restaurants and helps answer the age-old question: where do we go for dinner (or drinks)? Plus, they don’t look or feel anything like your grandma’s coupon books. Once again, we are recommending the Denver Passport — the buy one, get one drink book — for two reasons: you get a bonus mountain passport and it also includes some buy one, get one coffee as well. Additionally, the booklet is always well-curated and does a good job of getting a feel for what’s cool, new and just flat out good in the city. For EatDenver, their dining deck was just revamped with the help of the former 5280 Dining editor and it has some fun new options. Alongside its more than $500 drink and food deals at 55 locally and independently owned restaurants, they threw in trivia on each card and a food and drink themed scavenger hunt through LoHi. It sounds like a great date night to us.
Pro tip: if you want to make the gift feel more personalized create an itinerary for a day based around spots in the guidebooks that you’d recommend. Maybe throw in a restaurant gift card to round out the experience.
Lifestyle + Culture
Natura Obscura Tickets
Cost: $10-20 purchase online in advance here
The Lowdown: If you’re looking for a gift that is an experience rather than something tangible, tickets to one of the most sought-after immersive art installations in Colorado will do the trick. Called Natura Obscura, the experience puts visitors into an enchanted forest created by a handful of artists, filled with riddles, hidden symbology, augmented reality and more. Although the original closing date was in April, popular demand has kept it open. But the word is that Natura Obscura closes for good on December 29, so this will have to be a gift that is instantly enjoyed.
Cost: $105 per year, purchase here
The Lowdown: Another gift for the “doers” and experience-seekers in your life is a membership to the Denver Art Museum’s fundraising group, CultureHaus. Throughout the year, members are invited to special events like street art bus tours, late-night cocktail hours at the museum and more. Members also get to meet other art lovers in the city.
Laser Show inside the International Church of Cannabis
Cost: $10-15 tickets, buy in advance here
The Lowdown: This gift mixes art and culture with one of Denver’s most notorious characteristics — marijuana. The International Church of Cannabis is an actual church with followers (who call themselves Elevationists) but the building offers members and non-members alike the thrill of standing beneath a monumental ceiling painting by world-renowned street artist Okuda San Miguel. The church now has laser shows and other events beneath the breathtaking piece of art, and you can buy tickets to wow your loved ones and stoke their burning questions about weed in Colorado.
Juju Be Gone, “Feeling Mystical?” Curated Gift Box
Cost: $125 (and other various prices)
The Lowdown: Juju Boxes are curated gift boxes that are sent directly to your recipient, neatly packaged and thoughtfully crafted. Based in Denver, these boxes are all about “good vibes” and spreading joy, matching the sunny disposition that most people attribute to the Mile High City. There are dozens of combinations — gifts or her, for him, for the holidays — and all of them are geared toward lifting spirits and brightening attitudes through spirituality and “a little bit of sass.” The one pictured is the “Feeling Mystical?” collection which includes a pendulum, a recharging bath soak, Mystic Mondays tarot deck, The Golden Book of Fortune-Telling, a sage smudge and matches. It’s $125 (plus an extra $18.95 for the smudge and match add-on) and can include a personal message to your friend or loved one. Check out this page for the Holiday-themed boxes and this page for the “Feeling Mystical?” box.
Awaken Sex Boutique
Cost: Between $15 and $79 or $141 before tax, two locations.
The Lowdown: These presents are definitely best for your intimate relationships, although the name of the game at Awaken Sex Boutique is destigmatization so we aren’t going to judge who you want to give these sexy items to. We asked the owners to put together a fun selection and the results made us tingle a little. Starting with the big-ticket item, pick up the Crave Vesper ($79) which is a vibrating necklace that is unassuming and stylish. Or, go for the combination of a Saint Orgasma prayer candle designed by Denver-based artist Kaitlin Zeismer ($15) and a silky blindfold and handcuff set ($27). Finally, if you’re hoping to snag something for a friend rather than a partner, grab the How to Date Men When You Hate Men coffee table book for some laughs and maybe some really sound advice.
Adventure Gear with Purpose
The Lowdown: If you have friends or family who appreciate the great outdoors, these are exceptional options for both men and women. Maroon Bell Outdoor’s Buffalo Leather Gloves ($65) are fitted and durable to wear for any venture you embark on. The local brand also gives 3% of the profits back to various nonprofits. For your adventure seekers, Adventurist Backpack Co. backpacks have exceptional quality and a clean design. Each backpack ($55-$85) is water-resistant, durable and comes with premium YKK zippers. Adventurist Backpack Co. also works with Feeding America to ensure families across the U.S. are provided with meals.
Cost: Prices Vary
The Lowdown: This year, we rounded up the best in local skincare and beauty brands committed to sustainability and low-impact production, so you can feel good about what you’re giving. Homefill at Modern Nomad has plenty of options for the eco-friendly beauty guru ranging from CBD lip balm to package-free shampoo and conditioner bars. Aurora-based company, LipBar, creates custom cosmetics and personal, “makeup counter” experiences. Fan-favorite, Dram Apothecary, offers CBD Adaptogenic Beauty Drops ($56) that are organic, vegan and alcohol-free and can help protect your body, skin and hair from environmental stressors. Based in Fort Collins and owned and operated by a licensed esthetician, WildBloom Skincare offers a wide range of products that were created along the guidelines of the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. Blue Willow full-spectrum CBD products are infused with botanicals and essential oils to create high-quality, effective and clean skin topicals. WildBloom Skincare and Blue Willow are also women-owned and operated.
Cost: Prices Vary
The Lowdown: Jewelry reigns supreme for classic gift-giving. Whether you’re shopping for your spouse or a family member, gifting a unique spin on a delicate accessory is a good way to go. Luckily, Denver based-company, Balefire Goods supports local jewelry designers that provide distinctive jewelry made from a variety of stones and metals. Eco-friendly jeweler, Nikki Nation, designed a Droplet Arc Necklace in Gold Vermeil ($121) made for someone who prefers statement pieces. For the one who’s currently obsessing with the geometric trend, gift Acebo Jewelry’s ($98) semi pearl studs made in sterling silver with gray/lavender water pearls. Both are available through the Balefire Goods website. Denver handbag designers, Kaci Head and Jay Davis both create luxury leather goods, from wallets to tote-sized bags, in a variety of styles, shapes and colors. Both designers also custom create each bag by hand right here in Denver.
Cost: Prices Vary
The Lowdown: For the fashion conscious and eco-conscious as well, local streetwear brand, False Ego, is the way to go. Each design is made using 100% certified organic recycled cotton, bamboo cotton and Supima cotton. Additionally, False Ego plants a tree for each product sold in a partnership the company developed with Tree-Nation. New South Broadway boutique and clothing brand, NOVL, is a perfect option for streetwear fans who also love the city’s art community. Owners, Taylor Sandona and Tyler Harwood, have taken great care to partner with local street artists for their apparel designs and have worked tirelessly to create a space filled with local street artists’ work. Denver-based footwear brand, Hypo Footwear, is the city’s premier sneaker company, with multiple designs available for both men and women to outfit any streetwear fan from head to toe.
Mission Ballroom Custom Poster
The Lowdown: Concerts at the brand new Mission Ballroom are special, but promoters AEG Presents have gone a step further. For many of the acts that come through the venue, AEG commissions a custom gallery print designed by Kii Arens to accompany the show. These gallery prints are one of a kind and are only available on an auction basis. To get a hold of your favorite band’s custom print stay up to date with Mission Ballroom here.
Flaming Lips Soft Bulletin Vinyl with Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks
Cost: $40 + shipping
The Lowdown: Limited edition vinyl distributed by Vinyl Me, Please of The Flaming Lips’ critically acclaimed 1999 album Soft Bulletin at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony in 2016.
303 Music Vol. 2
Cost: $22 + shipping
The Lowdown: This all-around local vinyl benefits non-profit Youth on Record and includes 12 talented local musicians including Tennis, DeVotchKa and The Motet. There’s the added bonus that the album art is by local artist Anna Churney and the vinyl itself is a work of art with its custom splatter paint.
Local photographer concert prints
Cost: Contact photographer for pricing.
The Lowdown: Ultra5280’s very own founder happens to be one of the most versatile photographers in the business. Castro has shot most shows around the Denver-metro area, with the added bonus of going to several national festivals including Austin City Limits. For variety and straightforward beauty, check out his gallery here.
Cost: Starting cost $15 for a 5X7 print, ranging up to $150 for a 24X36. Willing to print all photos on his website as well as his Instagram.
The Lowdown: Bonecutter is the official Mission Ballroom photographer, and there’s a reason why he’s got that gig. With his color editing ranging from all parts of the pastel color wheel, his work leans on the ethereal, making for a dream-like picture you can’t wait to hang up on your wall.
Editor’s note: Alden Bonecutter also works for 303 Magazine.
Colorado Local Set
The Lowdown: For an unparalleled intimate experience at Red Rocks, the Colorado Local Set is just the right gift for you. The local sets vary from every music genre and put you right in the middle of the action with an intimate concert in the Red Rocks visitor center followed by a themed dinner and a tour of Red Rocks’ backstage.
All photography by Amanda Piela, unless otherwise noted