Living in Denver is a huge change for us. My husband and I are used to a small town and rural living. Denver is definitely none of those things. But each day we are finding it more and more easy to live in a big city. The holidays are definitely one of those great things city folk get to enjoy! There are so many holiday activities in Denver, CO. From being able to go Christmas window shopping in countless malls to seeing Christmas lights around each corner, Denver definitely has an activity for everyone.
Over November and December, we have definitely taken advantage of all of the fun and exciting holiday events, and below are our top ten with some added tips and stories!
1. The 9News Parade:
The 9News Parade is an annual parade that occurs on the first weekend of December (Friday and Saturday evenings) and is one of the coolest parades I have ever seen! It is a Christmas Light parade featuring floats, dancers, marching bands, and more! While watching the parade, it is a great time to look at the city lights as well. Everyone goes all out during these parades!
Because this parade is such a great event, many people come out to see it. This, unfortunately, leads to large crowds. If you plan on checking out this great parade, GET THERE EARLY! I mean it. At least an hour (or more!) to secure a good location. A mistake we will not make again.
2. Civic Center Park + Union Station
Denver does a great job in making the city look festive. Among the top points of interest include Civic Center Park along with the Denver City Council and Colorado State Buildings. Both buildings are lit up with amazing colors and the park itself is festive as well! Be sure to check it out! You can just drive by to enjoy the lights!
In addition to Civic Center Park, Union Station is another amazing building that is completely decked out! On the outside, there are gorgeous red and green lights and the inside contains a magnificent tree with garland, wreaths, and ornaments in every corner. They even host different events here including a visit from Santa and a Christmas tree market!
3. Christkindl Market
Each year, downtown hosts a cute a festive Christmas market filled with music, vendors, food and more! It is located at the 16th street mall and just a quick walk or bus ride from Union Station!
4. Ice Castles
Among my favorite activities during the holidays was visiting the Ice Castle in Dillon, CO. Dillon is a little over an hours drive from Denver, but the experience is all worth the drive. The ice castle is literally that! A castle made of ice! It is a large structure completely made from ice with multiple rooms, a fountain, small passageways, an ice slide, and fire performers.
If you plan to visit the Ice Castle, be sure to purchase tickets as soon as you can and arrive early. Also, remember to bring warm clothing! We purchased our tickets for the 4:30-5p entry slot and were able to see the castle both while it was light and dark out.
5. Ice Skating
There are numerous places to go ice skating around Denver. Both indoor and outdoor locations are available. Skyline Park is definitely one of the most visited locations. However, that being said, it is also one of the most crowded places to skate! For that reason, we decided to skate elsewhere.
We had such an… interesting experience I just have to share. On Christmas Eve, our family decided to go ice skating at the Rink at Belmar. There were not a lot of people and it all sounded like a fun idea! The rink is a great size and has a large bench in the middle for those who need a break. After signing our waivers and grabbing our ice skates and were on our way. At first, we were all having a great time. There was plenty of space for everyone, other families were having a great time and the staff was cheerful (even though they were working on Christmas Eve). We were all smiles until the incident…
After about an hour of skating, we were beginning to feel a bit tired. The sun was now high above us and our Christmas Eve dinner was sounding more and more appetizing. We were just on one of our last trips around the rink when I looked over and saw one of us begin to look unbalanced. Then WHAM! She lost her balance, slipped, went straight up into the air, then landed straight on her back on the ice. It all happened so quickly!
We rushed to her side to see if she was okay. Fortunately, my husband is in Physical Therapy school and my brother is an EMT. They began asking her questions and evaluating what we should do. Next thing I knew, the ambulance was arriving and we were heading to the hospital! After a couple hours in the ER and numerous tests, she was released with a concussion and a sore bum.
Moral of the story? Don’t go ice skating.
Just kidding. Of course, you should go ice skating! That is why it is on my top ten list! Just be sure to add a helmet and some padding to all of those you doubt on the ice. And keep an eye on them.
6. Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens
Impressively, the Blossoms of Light event at Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the top holiday events in the United States! And rightly so! There are thousands of lights twisted into hundreds of trees and bushes along with interactive light displays that change colors. There is also food and entertainment on different nights!
This event runs from late November to the end of December and tickets sell out quickly. Be sure to snag yours early and of course get there early for parking!
7. Neighborhood Light Displays
I was on a mission to find some killer neighborhoods to check out this year. Living in the city, I thought this was going to be an easy task! Boy was I mistaken! My husband and I traveled to dozens of neighborhoods to find the best ones. I wasn’t just looking for individual houses to look at, but entire streets that festive displays.
After many hours on the road, we were able to pinpoint some great neighborhoods and definitely had fun doing it! Our personal top areas and neighborhoods include Washington Street/Canyon Point Circle in Golden and The Preserve (Preserve Parkway N) in Greenwood Village.
We hope to find more neighborhoods to visit next year. If you know of any good neighborhoods, list them in the comments! We would love to check them out!
8. Downtown Golden
Not only is Denver a beautiful city during the holidays, Golden is as well! The city puts up hundreds of lights along Clear Creek and Clear Creek Trail. They are absolutely stunning! They even host numerous events including an art market, visit from Santa, a candle walk, open houses, a parade, and much more!
9. Zoo Lights
Along with Blossoms of Light, Zoo Lights is another popular event in downtown to see amazing light displays! Each year, the Denver Zoo puts on this fantastic event for families to come and enjoy lights, animals, entertainment, and delicious food.
10. Larimer Square and 16th Street Malls
Last, but definitely not least on my top ten activities is window shopping at the Larimer Square and 16th Street Malls. Of course, these malls are always a popular destination for shoppers, but during the holidays they are extra festive! If you’re in need of some Christmas shopping or perhaps are looking for a night on the town, this is the place to go!
Other fun activities in the city and nearby that didn’t make the top ten list:
- Vail, CO
- Denver City Park
- Aspen, CO
- Denver Tuba Christmas
- Central City, CO
- White Christmas
- Highway and City Lights: around the malls in particular
- The Polar Express in Golden, CO
Looking for a bigger adventure? Check out our favorite activities in Aspen, CO!