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Antiquing Weekend in Niwot

Those who spend weekends "antiquing" do it with cult-like verve. The list of historic towns within a short drive of Denver is long and lovely, each locale offering unique collecting opportunities. There are the mountain silver-mining boom-and-bust towns of Idaho Springs and Georgetown to the west; Boulder, Lyons and Fort Collins along the northern Front Range; Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs to the south (to name just a few). All are within an hour or two of metro Denver, and each is worthy of a special trip.

But if we must declare one spot better than the rest, we recommend a weekend excursion you might otherwise overlook: Throw a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine in the trunk and head to Niwot, the prettiest little town you've never visited. Nestled among the rolling farm hills northeast of Boulder, Niwot's main street (2nd Avenue) is a designated historic district lined with Victorian buildings. There you'll encounter several antique shops, including Niwot Antiques for fine furniture, glass, silver, ceramics, textiles and decorative art; and Wise Buys Antiques, whose owners specialize in architecturally salvaged fireplace mantels, mirrors and other elements recovered from vintage houses.

Niwot is quaint, not unsophisticated. Perfect your 2nd Avenue-centric weekend with an overnight at the luxurious Niwot Inn, perhaps an indulgent hour or two at Prophecy Spa and an unforgettable dinner at Colterra, whose award-winning classically-trained European chef will wow you as you dine on the historic property's stone patio under a canopy of summer stars. When you awaken on Sunday, stop next door at New York-native Howard Treppeda's namesake market restaurant for a gourmet sandwich-to-go, and head out to nearby Cottonwood Square for your main event: the Elysian Fields country estate auction. Held the second Sunday of most months (please call in advance of your trip), the auction offers not only a bounty of antique and estate objects, but also the unparalleled excitement unique to a country auction. Be sure to arrive early (10 a.m.) to preview the sale (inspect and choose the objects on which you wish to bid), and pitch your picnic lunch early in order to be ready, bid-card in hand, as auction action begins at noon.

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