How to Celebrate the Holidays in Denver This Year

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

Courtesy of Cherry Creek Holiday Market - Cherry Creek/Persist Publicity/Fetch Concepts

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, folks, and Denver is ready. While many seasonal or holiday-themed activities have already begun—looking at you, Tinseltown—most of the fun will last for all of December, and some even through the New Year. Delight your senses at an artisan market, sip something boozy and full of peppermint, or gather ‘round with all your favorite people for a holiday meal to remember. It’s the holiday season and below are some excellent ways to spend it.

Courtesy of Cherry Creek North

Shop for presents at a holiday market

Holiday markets are a wonderful way to support local artists and small businesses, get some fresh winter air, and also get some gift shopping out of the way. Denver goes all-out for its markets, so there are quite a few to choose from (and you can hit most if you plan accordingly). Whether you’re looking for the perfect ornament, piece of jewelry, or home decor piece, check out one of these markets for a festive shopping day.

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.

Also back this year is the Cherry Creek Holiday Market and its over 50 vendors, concert series, and dazzling light activation as part of its larger Winter Wanderland experience. Ongoing through December 24, the market is the perfect place for any last-minute holiday shopping, particularly for artisan goods like puzzles, candles, and locally distilled spirits.

Courtesy of Miracle Bar

Kick back and relax at a themed holiday bar

Get a bit literal with “making spirits bright” this December by visiting a holiday-themed pop-up bar (good news: there are many). Miracle at Union Station is where you’ll find impressively fun, over-the-top Christmas (& Hanukkah) decor, tasty seasonal and specialty cocktails, and all the holiday whimsy you could hope for. Milepost Zero’s Sleigh Bar will be hosting a slew of holiday-themed trivia, movie, and karaoke nights through December, and you can sip on boozy hot chocolate, eggnog, or espresso cocktails while you revel in the holiday merriment. And Zeppelin Station’s Tinseltown is channeling Tim Burton this year with its Nightmare Before Xmas pop-up bar, complete with all-over decor, lots of tinsel (of course), music, and a themed holiday cocktail menu. Tickets get you in the door and a themed drink in your hand upon arrival.

Courtesy of Le Bilboquet | Photo by Alex Montoya

Make reservations early for Christmas dinner

While dining at The Fort is always special, the experience is elevated even more during the holidays. Spend Christmas Eve here with family and friends and indulge in a three-course, prix-fixe menu with your choice of eight, 12, or 16-ounce buffalo prime rib au jus alongside seasonal veggies, buttery mashed potatoes, and ending with peppermint crème brûlée for dessert. Reservations encouraged.

Also on Christmas Eve is Le Bilboquet’s three-course, prix-fixe dinner, featuring grilled octopus, seared Alaskan halibut, and roasted lamb tenderloin, in addition to many sides and additions. Dinner service begins at 5pm and last seating is at 7:30 pm, with reservations required.

For Christmas Day, let the pros at Hilton Denver Inverness handle the feeding frenzy. Sit on the Garden Terrace from 9 am - 2 pm and savor a vanilla bean waffle bar, omelet station, and butternut squash ravioli, to name just a few of the delicious offerings (plus bottomless mimosas, because brunch).

Between December 23 - 25, you can enjoy a hearty roasted prime rib at STK Steakhouse, which comes with fingerling potatoes, green beans, and black truffle madeira sauce. Enjoy it in-house or take it to go for just you or split it with your holiday date.

Courtesy of Nocturne | Photo by Jeff Fierber

Hit the town for some holiday magic

There is a lot happening in Denver when it comes to holiday delights. Fancy some impressive light installations? Planning your visit with Santa? How about donning that pair of ice skates you haven’t worn in years? It’s all possible and you should definitely chase that seasonal high.

For that 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, and every night through December 26 you can watch Union Station’s exterior be transformed by an interactive outdoor light show with imagery created by local artists.

Itching to get out onto the ice? Grab your skates and head to one of the many rinks across Denver, from the free rink at DIA to the very Instagram-worthy Downtown Denver Rink. Back again this year is the Downtown Belmar ice rink, so you can skate and holiday shop all in the same trip, and if you’re coordinated enough, you can watch whatever’s on the big screen while you loop around the rink at McGregor Square.

Perhaps you’re looking for something more along the lines of live entertainment—we get it. Consider A Swingin’ Holiday Songbook at Nocturne, running December 20 - 23. Back for its eighth year, the series will showcase three nights of riffs on classic voices (Frank, Perry, Ella—you know the ones) and their holiday arrangements, plus songs from Vince Guaraldi's “Charlie Brown Christmas” and more. There are two shows each night, and “Dinner and a Show” tickets include music as well as a three-course meal.

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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.