How to Experience Peak Holiday Cheer in Denver This Year

These are the best ways to spend the most wonderful time of the year.

Cherry Creek Holiday Market | Courtesy of Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek Holiday Market | Courtesy of Cherry Creek North

The lights are twinkling, Mariah Carey is on loop in your head, and the consumerist tactics are in full force—it’s the holiday season, folks! Though not a small European village, Denver pulls out the stops for the holidays, offering residents (and those in town visiting) exceptional light displays, immersive art experiences and themed pop-up bars, and all the wonderful winter activities that make the season extra bright. Lace up the ice skates, grab your favorite hot cocoa thermos, and check out all of the holiday fun happening in Denver this year by shopping, eating, drinking, and delighting in as much merriment as your soul can handle.

Holiday Markets in Denver

Friday, November 17-Saturday, December 23
Civic Center Park, Free
Denver’s Christkindlmarket is one of the oldest holiday markets in the city, its wooden vendor booths spanning Civic Center Park. Bring the whole family for a day browsing shops and crafters’ wares and munching on sizzling hot European delicacies like Knödel, fluffy pretzels, and pierogies. Warm your bones in the evening by one of the firepits with some hot cider and listen to the live music play in the entertainment tent, and consider it a day well spent.

Thursday, November 16-Sunday, December 24
Cherry Creek, Free
Also back this year is the Cherry Creek Holiday Market and its more than 50 vendors as part of the annual Cherry Creek Winter Wanderland experience. Enjoy live music and dazzling light displays after shopping to your hearts’ content. Fancy a beverage and a place to rest your feet when you’re done? Check out the libations at the Mistletoe Lounge.

Saturday, December 9-Sunday, December 10
Baker, Cost varies
New this year is the WHAM—Winter Holiday Art Market—put on by the Art Students League of Denver. This weekend event will showcase the works of more than 30 ASLD faculty and staff vendors; if you’re looking for the perfect art piece for your home or a great gift for a loved one, this market should be stop number one.

Blazing Bright Bar | Photo by From The Hip Photo

Holiday-Themed Bars and Pop-Ups in Denver

Through December
The Blazing Bright pop-up at Fireside Bar & Grill (inside The Inverness Denver) will feature sleigh shots, an Angry Elf peppermint martini, Ugly Sweater Weather mule, and Not So Silent Night sangria alongside charcuterie boards and other snacks. There will also be a Bah Humbug Hot Cocoa Bar and plenty of holiday decor, plus a cozy firepit to toast your feet by.

Wednesday, November 22-Friday, December 29
Union Station, $2 reservation fee
Miracle at Union Station is where you’ll find impressively fun, over-the-top Christmas (& Hanukkah) decorations, tasty seasonal and specialty cocktails, and all the holiday whimsy you could hope for, and Zeppelin Station is asking the eternal question this year: Naughty, or Nice? Its themed pop-up bar is a “Choose your own adventure” type of experience this year, where your ticket time (and some decisions the day-of) determines whether you’ll be hanging out with the delightful Mrs. Claus and sweet candy canes or Krampus and some seriously naughty elves.

Other seasonal bar transformations to note include Adrift Tiki Bar’s Snowdrift and The Ramble Hotel’s Death & Co., both of which are offering glitz, glee, and good drinks to celebrate the holiday season.

Courtesy of Union Station

Other Holiday Activities in Denver

Light shows

Various locations
For the holiday light magic, the options are plentiful. The Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Zoo both have incredible displays (as they do every year), with some additional fun at each, too, like ice carving exhibitions and seasonal beverages. Littleton’s Hudson Gardens is always a family favorite, as is the holiday staple of visiting Downtown Denver’s ​​Mile High Tree.

Ice skating

Various locations
Itching to get out onto the ice? Grab your skates and head to one of the many rinks across Denver, from the Instagram-worthy Downtown Denver Rink to the quaint Downtown Belmar ice rink, where you can skate and holiday shop all in the same trip. If you’re coordinated enough, you can watch whatever’s on the big screen while you loop around the rink at McGregor Square, and not to be missed this year is the rooftop rink at Halcyon on Ice. Skate among the clouds and reward yourself with hot drinks, tasty bites, soft blankets, relaxing music, and breathtaking views of the Mile High City.

Live holiday shows

Various locations
Perhaps you’re looking for something more along the lines of live entertainment—we get it. Consider the talented Colorado Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, which runs through December 24. Or, for something a bit more immersive, head to Stanley Marketplace for Camp Christmas—a mesmerizing holiday wonderland that includes visiting Santa at his Glampsite and enjoying a campy Drag Queen experience.

Union Station shines every holiday season. From its Grand Illumination celebration, featuring the lighting of a 40-foot-tall outdoor Christmas tree, live music, and tons of family-friendly activities to its Holiday on the Block, an extensive lineup of festive events including a local makers market and winter art installations, Union Station has all the holiday fun covered.

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Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.