Everything You Have to Do This Holiday Season in Denver

Did you not get the memo? ‘Tis the freaking season, Denver. We’ve got a sleigh-full of holiday events coming at you, from old-school traditions like the Parade of Lights (fair warning: it’s always frigid for that one) to new favorites like the immersive, selfie-friendly Camp Christmas installation featuring a decked out Santa Bar. There’s really no shortage of ways to celebrate the season. 

So get nogged up and soak in those light displays, rock your ugly Christmas sweater like Santa’s not watching, and drink plenty of wassail. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

Shop and sample German cuisine at the Christkindl Market

Friday, November 22 - Monday, December 23
1515 Arapahoe Street
Every year this market named for the traditional fairy-like German Christmas gift-bringer is a destination for those looking to get some holiday shopping done early with a healthy side of bratwurst eating. You’ll also find live entertainment and refreshments like schnapps and Glühwein.
Cost: Free to attend

Scope out holiday home decor during the L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour 

Friday, November 22 - Saturday November 23
Belcaro and Bonnie Brae
Get inspiration for your own holiday decorations by touring six homes in two historic Denver neighborhoods. Each home is beautifully adorned and features floral arrangements and tablescapes from Denver’s top talent. The event is also a fundraiser for the Central City Opera.
Cost: Tickets purchased in advance online are $28

Ice skate for free

Tuesday, November 26 - Sunday, February 16
Skyline Park
Taking a lap around the ice rink is essential to kicking off the holiday season… as is falling over almost immediately. And hey, it also makes for a great date idea
Cost: Skating is free and low-cost rentals are available on site

Take all the selfies at the immersive Camp Christmas installation

Thursday, November 21 - Sunday, January 5
The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace
A new addition to the Mile High holiday festivities, this installation is fully immersive and super fun. Start your experience surrounded by over a thousand Santas at the Santa Bar, then head on a self-guided adventure through the rest of Camp Christmas where you’ll travel through time, from ancient Rome to the present day, exploring thousands of years of holiday cheer. 
Cost: Tickets start at $8

See a live performance of Hip Hop Nutcracker

Saturday, November 23 - Sunday, November 24
Buell Theatre
Set to the classical music of Tchaikovsky, this performance features a contemporary dance take on the classic holiday tale of Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and the Mouse King.
Cost: Tickets start at $30

Run the 46th annual Turkey Trot

Thursday, November 28
Washington Park
Support the United Way at this annual tradition. Lace up your sneakers for a brisk four-mile run and walk. And don’t worry, you’ll still be home in time to help prep the pie. 
Cost: Individual registration is $45 

Get lit at the Grand Illumination

Friday, November 29
Union Station
Watch the Mile High get super lit (literally) with the debut of the light display at Union Station, including the lighting of a 40-foot Christmas tree. There will also be holiday songs, performances, and an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Cost: Free to attend

Celebrate Light the Lights at a winter festival

Friday, November 29
Civic Center Park
Each year, the holiday season ramps up with the lighting of the City & County Building. Come out to see the switch get flipped this year while enjoying other festivities, including food trucks, carolers, activities with the Denver Police and Fire Departments, and more.
Cost: Free to attend

Explore 70 acres of light displays at Zoo Lights

Friday, November 29 - Monday, December 30
Denver Zoo
Lions and tigers and sparkling light displays, oh my! The zoo transforms every year for this popular event where light sculptures come to life right alongside live animals. Grab a cup of cocoa and spend an evening exploring the zoo in a whole new, ahem, light.
Cost: Adult tickets start at $13

See the gardens at their holiday best during Blossoms of Light

Friday, November 29 - Friday, January 3
Denver Botanic Gardens
Take a nighttime stroll and explore the light displays that illuminate this Denver landmark during the holidays. This year’s event promises more lights than ever with an interactive field filled with sound-reactive, animated LED lights, and a few new surprise features. Carolers will also be providing some holiday tunes on select nights. 
Cost: Adult tickets start at $16

Go inside the illuminated -- 110-foot-tall -- Mile High Tree art installation

Saturday, November 30 - Friday, January 31
Sculpture Park
This new holiday attraction is a can’t-miss. The huge conical structure holds up to 140 people at a time and the installation features light and music shows every 30 minutes with classic holiday songs, as well as recorded performances by the Colorado Symphony in between shows.
Cost: Free

Sip warm cider at Wassail Days

Saturday, November 30 - Sunday, December 8
This annual favorite is all about celebrating wassail, a warm apple cider drink. Dozens of businesses in Frisco will serve up thousands of complimentary cups, and you can support your favorite version with a vote. The festival also features a breakfast with Santa, free sleigh rides, a tree lighting, the Soup Cup Classic cook-off, and more. 
Cost: Many events are free to attend, check out the full schedule for details on ticketed events.

Shop for local gifts at the Fetch Holiday Market

Weekends starting Saturday, November 30 through Sunday, December 15
The Denver Sports Castle
Formerly the Denver Flea, this market’s got a new name but still brings together hundreds of local makers for your shopping pleasure. This is your best bet for finding that unique gift that’s just right for all the special people in your life (and that one coworker you drew for Secret Santa). This year, there are three weekends of shopping time so you’ve no excuses for missing out. 
Cost: Weekend passes are $5

Spend an evening at the ballet watching the Nutcracker

Saturday, November 30 - Sunday, December 29
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
For the 59th year, this classic holiday tale comes to life with live music from the Colorado Ballet Orchestra. Get a little dressed up, grab a date, and realize how much fun it can be to watch an evil mouse king fight a nutcracker. 
Cost: Tickets start at $27

Head to the theatre to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas

December 3 - 8
Buell Theatre
You know the Dr. Seuss story. Now see it brought to life as a vibrant musical featuring classic songs like “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas”.
Cost: Tickets start at $35

Bundle up for the 44th annual Parade of Lights

Friday, December 6 & Saturday, December 7
Downtown Denver
Marching bands, illuminated floats, and the big bearded guy himself will all be making their way through Downtown for this annual tradition. Bring a thermos full of hot cocoa (or whatever beverage you prefer to keep warm with) and take in the sights as they pass by. 
Cost: Street spots are free; adult grandstand tickets are available for $19

Take a horse and wagon ride at WinterFest

Friday, December 6 & Saturday, December 7
South Pearl Street
Take a trip back in time at this fest that features old school holiday traditions. After your horse and wagon ride, browse the holiday market, listen to carolers, visit stores participating in the local merchant open house, get a photo op with Olde World Santa, and pick up your tree from the outdoor lot.
Cost: Free to attend

Get retro at the 1940s Christmas Ball

Saturday, December 7
Hyatt Regency Downtown Denver Convention Center
This party goes all out when it comes to the 1940s/1950s theme so this is the time to go all out with your best retro ensemble for a night of dancing to big band music, complete with a Rat Pack tribute. There will also be plenty of sparkling lights, antique cars, and much more.
Cost: General admission tickets are $75

Hear Mannheim Steamroller perform live

December 14 -15
Buell Theatre
For 35 years, this group that combines rock and classical music has been a Christmas staple. This year, see them perform their entire Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album live in honor of the anniversary. 
Cost: Tickets start at $44

Show off your best ugly sweater while sipping brews at Festivus

Saturday, December 14
3881 Steele Street
This beer festival embraces holiday cheer while highlighting Denver-only breweries. Sip the selections, enjoy some music, and lookout for some ‘90s references in honor of Festivus’ rise to fame on Seinfeld.  
Cost: General admission tickets are $45

See live ice carving at Winter Fest on Fillmore Plaza

Saturday, December 14
Cherry Creek
This neighborhood is a great place to shop local boutiques for gifts all season long. On this particular Saturday from 10am-2pm it’ll get even more festive as the street gets a holiday makeover, complete with live ice carving, fire pits, carolers, ice princesses on stilts, giveaways, and more.
Cost: Free to attend

Welcome 2020 with a bang at the annual fireworks show

Tuesday, December 31
Downtown Denver
With two shows -- one at 9pm for family-friendly viewing, and one when the clock strikes midnight -- this Denver tradition is a New Year’s Eve favorite. The fireworks can be viewed from many vantage points Downtown, but your best bet is to gather along the 16th Street Mall. 
Cost: Free

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Molly Martin is a freelance writer in Denver, Colorado who openly admits to not liking holiday music. Follow her @mollydbu on Twitter and Instagram, just please don’t play “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”