Parade of Lights for things to do in Denver for Christmas

15 Festive Things To Do In Denver For Christmas

Whether you are a Colorado native or are planning a winter adventure to Denver, you will absolutely love all of the festive things to do in Denver for Christmas and to celebrate the holidays.

If you are like my daughter, you have already made your Christmas countdown chain and queried, “When can we start decorating for Christmas?”

You may have even begun to wonder when it is socially acceptable to begin celebrating the season with winter activities, shopping for gifts, and planning December getaways.

Martha Stewart weighs in: “It was once considered to be the general rule of thumb to wait until after Thanksgiving before decorating for Christmas, but, in modern times, that no longer seems to be the case.” You have her permission to get started.

Every year, our family attends “A Colorado Christmas” performance with the Colorado Symphony. With busy December and holiday schedules, we try to plan for a few additional festive events to attend as well; the “Giving Machines” and the Christkindlmarkt have become new favorite family traditions.

Check to see if there will be Giving Machines close to you this year.

>> Related: 43 Great Travel Gifts to Make Holiday Giving a Breeze

Discover ALL the Festive Things To Do In Denver for Christmas

I love Denver at Christkindl market in Denver, one of the things to in Denver at christmas

Discover some FREE things to do in Denver for Christmas along with fun and festive holiday things to do.

If you are headed to Breckenridge or Vail or Aspen in Colorado—Frommer’s top 20 destinations for a winter vacation in the USA—with friends or family, be sure to leave some time for exploring Denver in December too.

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1. Cherry Creek North Winter Wanderland Light Walk

Wander through Cherry Creek North under twinkling lights that are choreographed to seasonal melodies.

  • WHERE: 2401 E 2nd Ave #150 Denver, CO 80206
  • WHEN: Mid November thru December 24
  • COST: Free

2. Christmas in Color

Driving thru Christmas lights one of the things to do in Denver for Christmas

A drive-thru animated light show at three Colorado locations that pairs perfectly synchronized lights and music. Listen on your car radio. Your kids might just be poking their heads through the sunroof to get the best view.

  • Water World: 8800 N Pecos St., Federal Heights, CO 80260
  • Bandimere Speedway: 3051 S Rooney Rd., Morrison, CO 80465
  • Arapahoe County Fairgrounds: 25690 E Quincy Ave., Aurora, CO 80016
  • WHEN: Mid November thru end of December
  • COST: Priced per vehicle

3. Colorado Nutcracker Ballet

“The holiday spirit leaps to life in this treasured family tradition. Featuring breathtaking new sets and costumes for the second year, Colorado Ballet invites you to follow Clara and her Nutcracker prince on the sweet, snow dusted adventure only Tchaikovsky could score. See where the story you know by heart takes yours this year.” Colorado Ballet

Create a Christmas tradition at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts with concerts, ballets, plays and performances. These performances will be among the favorite Denver Christmas activities that you’ll want to enjoy year after year.

  • WHERE: Ellie Caulkins Opera House 1385 Curtis St., Denver, CO 80204 (DPAC)
  • WHEN: November 26 to December 24
  • COST: Pricing varies

4. Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Denver Symphony is one of the things to do in Denver for Christmas

Enjoy nostalgic holiday melodies, movies set to live music, and timeless favorites with the Colorado Symphony at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) when planning your December events with things to do in Denver for Christmas.

Choose from fan favorites: A Colorado Christmas, Holiday Brass, Too Hot to Handel, Disney’s Frozen in Concert, Elf in Concert and A Night in Vienna.

5. Denver Botanical Gardens

The Denver Botanical Gardens offers Christmas things to do in Denver at both of their locations. Celebrate the season with dazzling light displays.

This family-friendly event is a holiday tradition as both York Street and Chatfield Farm are transformed into twinking wonderlands.

Blossoms of Light – York Street

Trail of Lights – Chatfield Farm

  • WHERE: 8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Road Littleton, CO 80128
  • WHEN: Fridays to Sundays, Nov. 25 – Dec. 11, Nightly, Dec. 16 – Jan. 1 (closed on Christmas)
  • COST: General, Military and Member Pricing

6. Denver Christmas Markets

Denver Christkindl Market one of the things to do in Denver for Christmas

The markets in and around Colorado’s Mile High City offer festive things to do in Denver during Christmas that will spark the holiday spirit of giving.

16th Street Mall Holiday Festival

The 16th Street Mall is usually bustling with residents and tourists year round.

At Christmas, the street is decked with colorful twinkling lights with a 16th Street Mall Holiday Festival that features one-of-a-kind treasures, handcrafted goods, delectable foods, home decor, and unique holiday gifts and ideas.

  • WHERE: 16th Street Mall at Welton and Glenarm in Downtown Denver
  • WHEN: November 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, December 10 from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • COST: Free

Après Ski Holiday Market

Have you ever been to the Dairy Block in the heart of Denver’s LoDo neighborhood? The block celebrates unique arts and crafts of all kinds in the heated alleyways of the local shops and restaurants. If you have ever visited the Christmas markets in Europe, the Après Ski Holiday Market brings them close to home.

  • WHERE: Dairy Block 1800 Wazee St.Denver, CO 80202
  • WHEN: Weekends from November 25 thru December 18, 2022
  • COST: Free

Cherry Creek Holiday Market

Santa’s elves give thanks for the Cherry Creek Holiday Market so they can stock up on gifts ideas from the “50+ local makers, designers, and creators“. Discover the magic of Fillmore Plaza bedazzled in its Christmas finery.

  • WHERE: Fillmore Plaza in Cherry Creek North
  • WHEN: November 17 thru December 24, 2022
  • COST: Free

Christkindlmarkt 

An authentic German Christmas Market in the heart of Denver! Reminiscent of Christmas markets worldwide, the Christkindlmarkt brings you row on row of festively decorated wooden huts to browse for unique handcrafted arts, gifts, and treats.

  • WHERE: Civic Center Park in Downtown Denver
  • WHEN: November 18 thru December 23
  • COST: Free

Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show

The Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show arrives early in November, so if you aren’t on your toes, you’ll miss it. Walk miles of holiday booths filled with handcrafted goods, Colorado-made gifts, and food plus a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

  • WHERE: Colorado Convention Center-Exhibit Hall B, Denver, CO
  • WHEN: Takes place in early November. Next year: November 3-5, 2023
  • COST: Tickets available online and at the door

7. Denver Downtown Rink

Gather with family and friends for a night under the stars. Bundle up for a fun time; bring your own skates and skate for free in Downtown Denver.

  • WHERE: Skyline at 1601 Arapahoe St., Denver, CO 80202
  • WHEN: Open from November to February, check schedule for times
  • COST: Free with your own skates. Skate rentals are available
 

8. Denver Parade of Lights

Parade of Lights for things to do in Denver for Christmas

Think helium-filled balloons, twinkling floats, marching bands, and vibrant displays. Watching the Denver Christmas Parade of Lights kicks of December with the first of many Denver, Colorado Christmas events.

“Spectators can view the parade for free along the two-mile route on Tremont Street between 14th and 17th Streets, on 17th Street from Tremont to Arapahoe Street, on Arapahoe between 17th and 15th Streets, and on 15th Street from Arapahoe to Glenarm.” Denver Parade of Lights

  • WHERE: 16th Street Mall and Downtown Denver, CO
  • WHEN: Dec. 3 at 6:oo pm
  • COST: Free

9. Elitch Gardens Luminova Holidays

Luminova Holidays returns to Denver. You’ll love the giant holiday displays with over 3 million twinkling lights and a larger-than-life Christmas tree. If you are a fan of the rides at Elitch Gardens, there will be limited rides available in December. You might even spy Santa Claus and a few of his elves.

  • WHERE: Elitch Gardens 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver, CO 80204
  • WHEN: November 25, 2022 – January 1, 2023
  • COST: Ticket prices vary

10. Gaylord Rockies

Celebrate the holidays with your family and friends at Christmas at Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora. Step into a magical wonderland of carved and colorful ice sculptures. Be sure to check out the ICE bumper cars too! Make a weekend of it and plan for a fun overnight adventure at the resort.

  • WHERE: 6700 North Gaylord Rockies Boulevard, Aurora, CO 80019
  • WHEN: November 18, 2022 – January 1, 2023
  • COST: Varying prices and events

11. “Light the World” Giving Machines

Giving Machines in Denver at Christmas

“This holiday season, come back to Denver and give to those in need. Join us as we light the world, one donation at a time.” Giving Machines

The Giving Machines are open 24/7 during Thanksgiving week 2022 through New Year’s Day, 2023 at Writer Square in Downtown Denver.

  • WHERE: Writer’s Square, Larimer and 15th Street, Denver, CO
  • WHEN: November 30 thru December 31, 2022
  • COST: Free to participate

12. Mile High Tree

Hey! Denver will be lighting the Mile High Tree at Civic Center Park right next to the Christkindlmarkt.

  • WHERE: Civic Center Park 101 14th Ave, Denver, CO 80204
  • WHEN: Nov. 18–Dec. 31, 2022
  • COST: Free

13. Polar Express™ Train Ride

Marvel at the re-creation of the beloved story of The Polar ExpressTM along with a magical train ride at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Put on your favorite pajamas and prepare to meet Santa as you enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. Tap your toes to the “Hot, Hot, Hot—Chocolate” in a theatrical worthy performance. 

Get your tickets early as this magical train ride is a holiday favorite.

  • WHERE: Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, CO
  • WHEN: thru Dec. 23
  • COST: Varying prices

14. Union Station Festivities

Union Station in Denver at Christmas

“The annual Grand Illumination  event on Nov. 26 will feature performances of classic holiday hits by the Denver Dolls, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the grand highlight of the evening — the lighting of the station’s outdoor 40-foot-tall Christmas tree that features more than 7,000 holiday lights.

“Also, the Grand Illumination kicks off the Merry & Bright Lights  show, which will once again transform the exterior façade of Denver’s landmark train station into a spectacular canvas spreading holiday cheer. You can see it each night of the season. Miracle at Union Station , a whimsical pop-up cocktail bar, will open on Nov. 25. Meanwhile, Santa and Mrs. Claus  will be making regular appearances at the station from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 28; and Dec. 5, 12 and 19.” Miracle at Union Station 

  • WHERE: Union Station 1701 Wynkoop, Denver Colorado 80202
  • WHEN: Nov. 25 – Dec. 26
  • COST: Varies

15. Zoo Lights

Things to do in Denver for Christmas include Denver zoo lights

Zoo Lights are a staple in holiday things to do in Denver. Marvel at the wonder of Aurora Borealis, Savannah Sunset and Electric Jungle as you stroll through the illuminated zoo. Be sure to stop and watch the ice-carving demos, warm your hands at the fire barrels, and enjoy festive treats and drink. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the animals!

  • WHERE: 2300 Steele Street Denver, CO 80205
  • WHEN: Dec. 3 thru Jan. 15, 2023 | Sunday-Thursday: 5:30 p.m.–8:00 p.m. | Friday & Saturday: 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
  • COST: Member and Non-Member Pricing

Don’t Forget to Ring in the New Year with Fireworks

Two spectacular fireworks shows light the sky in Downtown Denver on New Year’s Eve— one at 9 pm and the other at midnight. If you are ringing in the New Year with young ones, be sure to bundle them up and enjoy the countdown at 9 pm. The best place to view the fireworks is along the 16th Street Mall. Jam to music from 8 pm to midnight.

  • WHERE: 16th Street Mall, Denver, CO
  • WHEN: December 31, 2022 at 9:00 pm and midnight
  • COST: Free

Whew! I have tried to be concise and to get the most accurate information and details as possible. Please check the links for dates, times and pricing for the most up-to-date information on all the amazing things to do in Denver for Christmas!

Stay Warm as You Find Fun Things to Do In Denver for Christmas

If you aren’t used to the weather in Denver during the winter months, you’ll want to come prepared. Temperatures are often below freezing and cool off considerably after dark.

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Festive things to do in Denver for Christmas

Final Thoughts on 15 Festive Things To Do In Denver For Christmas

How do you like to celebrate the holiday season? What are your favorite Christmas activities for kids and adults? Do you have holiday traditions such as a white elephant gift exchange, an ugly sweater party, holiday craft projects, caroling, or sleeping under the Christmas tree?

Add to your Christmas traditions by choosing one or five or ALL of these festive things to do in Denver for Christmas. You may find that your city has similar activities and celebrations; let this list spur you to look for things to do in Denver for Christmas or wherever you live.

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15 Comments
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Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones

Such great events and traditions to get you in the holiday spirit in Denver!

Jenn P.
Jenn P.
8 days ago

We don’t live terribly far from Denver, yet we’ve never been down there for Christmas. I didn’t know there was so much to do, but we will definitely have to consider this for future trips

Isabella
8 days ago

I love Christmas markets!!! It’s interesting to know that you could do so many things in Denver. I imagine it would be full of life in Christmas.
Thanks for sharing!

Jan
Jan
8 days ago

There seems to be a lot of things to do in Denver for Christmas! I would love to visit the Botanical gardens, visit the Christmas markets and listen to the symphony orchestra. I have not been to Denver yet, but when I do, I will definitely look up your list even if it is not Christmas, 🙂

Tanya T
8 days ago

I love visiting Holiday markets! Thanks for the great list of things to do during the holiday season.

Geeves
8 days ago

Wow! Maybe I need to get out to the rockies for Christmas. There’s so many things to do! I love Martha but I must say that I can’t decorate for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving, as much as I want to, to me it’s a sin. Lol

Linda (LD Holland)
8 days ago

We often don’t think of heading to cold weather spots for Christmas. But Denver looks like it offers a lot of things to put us in the holiday spirit.  And an animated light show would be a lot of fun. If we got there before the holidays we might even get some shopping done!

Jennifer Record
8 days ago

I love exploring new cities for the holidays..Denver has great markets and seeing the mile high tree would be especially unique!

Denise
6 days ago

Denver sounds great at Christmastime! I love that there’s an authentic German Christmas market!

Renee
5 days ago

Great to see a city that offers so much to get everyone in the holiday spirit! Must be great for families to have that tradition every year.

Kirsten Smith
Kirsten Smith
5 days ago

Everything looks so much fun. Thanks for sharing!

Sarah
5 days ago

Some lovely events and they say Denver is boring! The Parade of Lights sounds fun!

Amy
Amy
5 days ago

I’ve never been to Denver but it looks like it would be so much fun at christmas!

Elyse
3 days ago

This would definitely get people into the Christmas spirit, all looks so beautiful. I would especially love to see the Symphony Orchestra.

Krista
2 days ago

The Denver Christmas market really appeals to me because I love eating and shopping at them. Thanks for the great tips!