RiNo, Denver

When I came to visit Denver to shoot in some of the new neighborhoods I was hoping to explore, my good friend Heather knew exactly what I like and pointed me straight to RiNo. Of course, I would be super enthralled by it — revamped old buildings, street art, high art. That crazy mix of old and new, it's got all of my favorite things.

I liked it even more was when I started looking into it, the district has got an interesting history and a mission. This fall is the 10th year anniversary of RiNo, standing for the River North Art District, starting with just 8 businesses and now expanded to more than 180. It's actually a state-certified Creative District, a nonprofit organization that allows businesses to join as members and which supports all of the creative industries based there. I've been a couple of times now, wandering around with and without a camera. Here are some of the great things I've found so far, though it's growing and there's a whole mess of things I've not come across yet:

    1. THE SOURCE and INDUSTRY are two of RiNo's collective spaces hosting restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shops, and creative workspaces.
    2. My constant favorite, MURALS are all over the place! I'm definitely starting a trend here, but any time I find a neighborhood that has a strong street-art vibe, I'm wandering there.
    3. If you're looking for something arty to do at night, FIRST FRIDAYS artwalks are from 6 - 9 on the first friday of each month. Galleries stay open late, often debuting new shows.
    4. The RECLAIMED SHIPPING CONTAINERS storefront space by Architects Gravitas. The 29 containers aren't all filled yet, but so far host an awesome set of restaurants and shops, like Work & Class, Cart-Driver, Huckleberry, and Topo Designs.
    5. Speaking of which, TOPO DESIGNS Flagship store. This local company produces their beautiful backpacks in Boulder. I have one and I call it my magical backpack, because it doesn't matter how much I put in it and how heavy it is, when I put the backpack on my shoulders it feels like it weighs almost nothing.
    6. The in-progress, half-ABANDONED SPACES. As I walked around in the middle of the day during the week, the area was quiet. I only ran across a couple of other people in the streets. About half of the buildings are older and dilapidated, the rest are refurbished or newer architecture, but it's the mix that keeps things interesting.
    7. There are dozens of art options, but one of my favorites is the DRY ICE FACTORY and ICE CUBE GALLERY. If you're into themed converted spaces at all, they've got a cool vibe. The Dry Ice Factory also hosts about 30 resident artists.
    8. DADA ART BAR has a list of craft beers, small batch wines, and mixed drinks floating around a gallery of eclectic art. One of the best pieces when we were there was a series of photographs depicting nudes wedged in the crevices of rocks.
    9. One of the most fascinating art forms in the area is the blown and fused glass, in GLASS STUDIOS like Bella Glass and Blake Street Glass. The former offers classes, you can even walk in and fuse your own glass, or paint pottery.
    10. Rhinos are everywhere! Rino's adopted mascot has been incorporated into all sorts of fun WAYFINDING around the area, both in and outside of buildings, so keep an eye out for them.
    11. If you've got a sweet tooth, SUGARMILL is the stop to make, for desserts so rich they need to be shared. Each piece we had on their dessert menu one comes in a set of three different yet equally incredible parts, gracefully presented together on a long rectangular plate. Also, their water pitchers have goats etched onto them.
    12. Another great, unusual shop is KOTA LONGBOARDS, place of the handmade decks. I've never been brave enough to try skateboarding of any kind given my fear of road rash, but I've always loved the aesthetic that tends to go along with the sport.
    13. There are a lot of great options for coffee, but CREMA COFFEE HOUSE has fancy brews and fancy eats in a suave brick-and-wood space. I love that they have coffees from different brewers all over the US: Boxcar, Stumptown, Intelligencia and more.
    14. Take a stop at the various FURNITURE SHOWROOMS in the area and decorate your imaginary house with beautiful furniture that you probably can't afford yet.
    15. For someone who isn't a huge fan of beer, I love that cider is taking off, and I'm pumped to see an entire bar dedicated to it — STEM CIDERS.
    16. ART COLLECTIVES are all over the place, and full of strange and eclectic projects, like the graveyard of mannequin heads I encountered outside of Wazee Union. There's tons of others, Blue Silo Studios and more, all of which worth some exploring, even if you only get to stalk them from the outside.
    17. If the cider doesn't do it for you, there are a bunch of great BREWERIES AND WINERIES to try out — Infinite Monkey Theorem, River North Brewery, Mile High Winery, etc.
    18. If you're lucky enough to get invited to a wedding or event, or if you get to throw your own, hope that it's in BLANC, a seriously amazeballs venue that's full of a crazy sort of whitewashed farm charm against the overhauled industrial feel of the neighborhood.
    19. If you time it just right you can watch the bright yellow TRAINS move through across the tracks that cross the space close to the South Platte.

See an even more in-depth guide to RINO at their website: www.rivernorthart.com