First Fridays have become a citywide event in Denver . Every neighborhood that has art galleries and cultural institutions are getting into the act. The first Friday of each month, art galleries stay open late and it’s as festive as a typical art opening with wine and hors d’oeuvres offered at most stops. Oh, and it’s free.
Some of the more organized First Fridays are in the Golden Triangle and along Santa Fe Drive. There are over a dozen galleries in just a couple of blocks, mixed in with many delightful restaurants. The River North Art District (www.rivernorthart.com ) galleries are also open late on First Fridays.
Try the ArtBus shuttle (www.gtmd.org ) that takes patrons from one gallery to the next; check out their website to see which galleries are participating. There are free drinks at most galleries, so if you’re driving on your own it’s a good idea to have that designated driver. And at www.artdistrictonsantafe.com , there is also information about a shuttle bus that brings visitors to Santa Fe Drive to alleviate parking on the busy street that popular night.
With a smaller concentration of galleries, other neighborhoods have their shops and gallery doors open 5–9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Try Tennyson Street between 38th Avenue and 44th Avenue or 37th Avenue and Navajo Street in Highlands, Wazee Street near 17th Street in LoDo, and Cherry Creek North.
First Fridays have become such a success that in 2008, governor Bill Ritter signed legislation authorizing galleries to legally serve complimentary wine, beer, and spirits up to 15 times per year.
Artists are pioneers in urban neighborhoods, fearlessly moving into old warehouses and transforming them into art havens. The latest funky art enclave in Denver  is the River North Art District, now being called RiNo, where many artists have colonized old warehouses near the train tracks and the Platte River north of downtown.
The best way to understand and experience RiNo is to go to the website www.rivernorthart.com  and print out the field guide that has a list of the nearly 50 members in the greater Denver area. These include specialty furniture shops, artist studios, galleries, architect offices, and a lot more.
RiNo includes a few key live and work spaces in the greater district. One of these is the TAXI development (3457 Ringsby Ct., 303/573-0781, www.taxibyzeppelin.com ), a distinctive new building that provides live and work space with its own café and easy access to mass transit and bike paths along the river.
Ironton Studios (3636 Chestnut Pl., 303/297-8626, www.ironstudios.com ) is home to 13 artist studios, a gallery, and a garden. Ironton hosts events other than just the First Fridays each month, so be sure to check their calendar for upcoming openings.
In the works is the Dry Ice Factory (3300 Walnut St., www.dryicefactory.org ), a renovated old — yes, ice factory — with 20 artists studios, a common ceramics studio, and a coffee shop.
Colorado scenery inspires people to write songs and make music — from Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful” after seeing Pikes Peak , to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.” The purple mountains, quaking aspen leaves, and remarkable heights all make a great setting for music festivals too.
The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival (877/812-5700, www.vailmusicfestival.org ) holds several concerts late June through early August each year in a variety of locations. Visiting jazz and philharmonic orchestras play in private residences, churches, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail , and the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
In Boulder  there’s the Colorado Music Festival (303/449-1397, www.coloradomusicfest.org ) held at the historic Chautauqua Auditorium with visiting musicians from around the world. The music festival usually runs from mid-June to early August with two to four concerts weekly and special family and kid programs.
In January, the one-of-a-kind MahlerFest (www.mahlerfest.org ) is held in Boulder to celebrate the life and work of Gustav Mahler through seminars, recitals, and concerts.