Look. We all know that when you describe Colfax Avenue, you’re supposed to talk about it in ways you could also talk about sandpaper.
It’s gritty. It’s abrasive. It’s mostly flat.
But the truth is that there are many Colfaxes. And another truth is that this post is about geeky Colfax, from west to east.
1601 Reed St., Lakewood
This video arcade is a block north of Colfax and a few blocks west of Casa Bonita. It boasts 200 games, with a heavy emphasis on 1980s classics, and has monthly tournaments. It’s $12 to get in and play all the games you want, or you can get a monthly pass for $45.
Snacks and beverages are available, and there is no alcohol sold or allowed on the premises.
4255 W. Colfax Ave., Denver
The Denver area’s second Alamo Drafthouse location features the same film-nerd, film-geek (and occasionally film-buff) types of programming you’d expect from them — and in some ways, it’s the most visible element of a new-look West Colfax.
They also host specialty screenings, ranging from the highly nerdy “Serenity” and other geeky fare (that sometimes come with exclusive merch) to women-only “Wonder Woman” screenings that some people thought were very, very naughty.
Capitol Hill Books
300 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
I love this shop for a lot of reasons, including the clientele (and non-clientele “guests” whom the store minders handle with the gentle firmness native to Denver and specifically Colfax). But what I love most is the ever-present selection of cheap sci-fi paperbacks.
I keep a running list of books I hope to find at a used book shop and … well, I think I’ve almost never had a hit here. I just find what I find. Every time I’ve been in, I’ve seen something worth picking up — some Ursula K. LeGuin, some Octavia Butler, maybe something from the Foundation series or a couple of books from the Vorkosigan saga … I may have said too much already.
717 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
It’s a bar! It’s an arcade! It’s a barcade!
This second location of the 1up — the first is in LoDo — used to be called the 2up, and you know what? Now it’s not.
It’s big. Bigger than you might remember, depending on how long ago you last visited, because they expanded in 2013. There are plenty of games to choose from and skee-ball, but to be honest probably the most important thing is that they have that big Pac-Man Battle Royale game with cup holders. It’s a crowd-pleaser and a quarter-devourer.
Twist & Shout Records
2508 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Sure, you can go and geek out over music of all kinds, try out the local music in the OpenAir listening station or just go straight to the metal section to pick up that very specific album you’ve been looking for, but don’t sleep on Twist & Shout’s movie room.
Within, you’ll find new and used DVDs — with the addictive “recent arrivals” shelves — in addition to collectible odds and ends, mostly of the sci-fi variety. Near the main cash registers, there’s also a truly baffling selection of Funko Pop figurines. Why? Who is buying so many of these that they stock them all over the place now? You know what, if you understand Funko Pop figurines, please email me at email@example.com. Use small words. Thank you.
This concludes the Twist & Shout section, even though I am there all the time and could probably say many more things about it.
2510 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Home of the Denver Film Society, host to “mini-fests” like CineLatino, CinemaQ, Women + Film and more, the Sie feels like your well-to-do friend’s living room. As with the Drafthouse, I just don’t think you can or should live in Denver and not get their email updates — or at least I can’t without feeling violent, paralyzing FOMO.
The beer selection is small but surprisingly good. Wine and spirits are of course also available. Tell you what else: This is a good place to see a movie alone. You’ll find folks who are willing to chat about film if you want to, and you’ll find some peace and celluloid if you don’t.
Tattered Cover Book Store
2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
It’s still weird to me that this is now the most comfortable, most reliable-feeling Tattered Cover location, but the Cherry Creek location closed more than a decade ago (wow) and the LoDo location contracted in 2013, so here we are!
And in fact, this spot, formerly the Bonfils Memorial Theater, now feels like it’s been here forever — the men’s room reminds me of the ancient-seeming bathrooms at my high school, oddly, and I mean that in a nice way — so grab a book, buy a coffee and stay awhile. I’ve lost many, many hours here in the new fiction section, the magazine section, the sci-fi section, the film section, the kids’ section, and spent time doing some very hard and pointed wishful thinking in the foreign-language books section.
Pro tip: Good spot to pick up holiday cards, thank you cards, etc.
All in a Dream Comics
2901 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Man, this post almost became entirely about this shop. Don’t Google it, but if you do, get ready to find a bunch of really angry, negative reviews about it and how the owner may kick you out at a moment’s notice to close for a few minutes, maybe even giving some kind of rude remark — truly the most impressive array of one-star online reviews I’ve ever encountered.
These are met with just a few reviews pushing back against those, saying that it’s a classic, with that East Colfax vibe.
I’d driven past it forever, and I have to admit I always thought it was long-gone. I mean … take a look at it.
“L in a REAM,” the sign says. But I was determined to try to get in there. I had a day off. I took my son. There didn’t seem to be a reliable way to find out the store’s hours online. We got there a little before noon. The sign said they’d open at 1 p.m.
OK. We went to run some other errands. We returned a little after 2 to find this:
This was surprising, annoying and perfect. This was, in fact, the inscrutable East Colfax comic book shop experience I was looking for.
We circled the block. We parked. We ate. We staked it out, in other words. Eventually, half an hour later, we passed by again and the door was open! Inside were two men deeply engrossed in a conversation that had something to do with the philosophy of Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Also perfect.
They eyed me with no small amount of suspicion as I carried a baby around the shop, trying to get a sense of the selection. It was fine! The selection was fine. I talked to Ray, the man behind the register, and he told me the shop used to be right over there, pointing across Colfax to a vacant lot, and that he’d once gotten a jaywalking ticket right there, pointing to some slightly different place across Colfax. We had a really nice, short conversation. He’d gone to the shop as a kid, he said. My own kid burped. I bought some comics. I left.
I checked in with friends. Three Denver lifers said, yes, they’d been buying comics there since high school or earlier and loved it still. One said he’d been kicked out when the shop closed in the middle of normal hours!
It was perfect. It is perfect.
Aurora Fox Arts Center
9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora
A gem — particularly for its family programming. I haven’t partaken, myself, but a friend raves about it. There are kids’ theater classes, including “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” and “Musical Horror” production and this one:
“Star Wars Saga. Ages 7-12. Create and perform a play based on the Star Wars film & fan fiction series. Include your favorite characters & create a new Star Wars adventure. Share a performance with your family on the last day of class.”
The current season of productions (for adults) features both “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Hi-Hat Hattie,” a musical about East High graduate Hattie McDaniel, who, for her work in “Gone With the Wind,” would become the first African-American performer to win an Oscar.