It may be winter, but Denver heats up during the holidays. Throughout the Mile High Holiday Weekends, enjoy millions of twinkling lights, dazzling parades, outdoor ice skating, free festivities, heartwarming holiday theatrical productions, horse-drawn carriages and lively concerts.

More than 40 Denver hotels are offering special holiday packages with at least a dozen of the hotels offering rates that start at the “mile high” price of $52.80 (Denver is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level – one mile high). Go to MileHighHolidays.com for more information.

Here are 10 reasons to plan a Mile High Holiday weekend getaway in Denver:

1) Holiday Lights
The Downtown Denver Grand Illumination on Nov. 29 illuminates downtown from Union Station to Civic Center Park with nearly 600,000 lights, kicking off a month filled with spectacular light displays.

  • At Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light (Nov. 29, 2013-Jan. 1, 2014), embrace the holidays with more than one million colorful lights draped in elegant designs.
  • During Denver Zoo Lights (Dec. 6, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014), stroll through more than 38 acres of lights and see 150 animated animal sculptures. Don’t miss the month-long Zoo Lights Lantern Festival taking place in the new Toyota Elephant Passage.

2) Holiday Shopping
The Mile High City offers a wide array of holiday shopping options, from upscale offerings at Cherry Creek North, Cherry Creek Shopping Center, downtown and Larimer Square to bargains at outlet stores throughout the metro area. Denver’s diverse neighborhoods are also home to dozens of one-of-a-kind boutiques. Throughout the holiday season, find locally-crafted gifts at museum shops and at special events like downtown’s Christkindl Market (Nov. 22-Dec. 22).

3) Theatrical Performances
The whole family will get into the holiday spirit at the theater – from classic productions to magical musicals and ballet – enjoy incredible sets, beautiful music and stunning choreography.

  • Cirque Dreams Holidaze (Dec. 10-22) – Rediscover the magic of the season while watching brilliantly costumed artists perform astonishing feats. From Gingerbread men flipping mid-air and toy soldiers marching on thin wires to reindeer soaring above, this energetic production is sure to amaze.
  • A Christmas Carol - (Nov. 29-Dec. 29) There will be no “bah-humbugs” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' A Christmas Carol – at least from the audience! Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, the production features gorgeous sets, stirring songs and a heartwarming tale of holiday redemption.
  • The Nutcracker (Nov. 30-Dec. 28) - Whether it’s your first time or 20th time, captivating costumes and scenery, unforgettable characters, and Tchaikovsky's treasured music make Colorado Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker (Nov. 30-Dec. 28) the ultimate holiday event. 

4) Museum Exhibitions

  • Passport To Paris (through Feb. 9, 2014) - Add a little joie de vivre to your winter getaway. The Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris brings the rock stars of the art world to The Mile High City: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and more. There will be more Monets on view in Denver than ever before during this incredible journey. Take advantage of great hotel packages with untimed VIP (ie. skip-the-line) tickets at parisindenver.com.
  • MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition (through Jan. 5, 2014) - Uncover the truth behind some of science's popular myths at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Just like the dynamic TV series, the fully interactive Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition mixes scientific method with gleeful curiosity and old-fashioned ingenuity to create a hands-on – and yes, explosive – experience for guests of all ages.

5) Holiday Concerts
Mile High Holidays are full of seasonal sounds every weekend in December.

  • Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) - Grammy Award winner Chip Davis has created a show that features beloved Christmas music along with dazzling multimedia effects performed in the Buell Theatre’s intimate setting.
  • Handel's Messiah (Dec. 13-15) - Experience the full majesty of Handel’s masterpiece – one of the most revered oratorios of all time – when the Colorado Symphony and Chorus exalt Messiah to new heights.
  • Colorado Christmas - (Dec. 20-22) - Join the Colorado Symphony, Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, vocalists and dancers in a program of your favorite traditional Christmas carols and songs.
  • TubaChristmas (Dec. 22) - Tap your toes to your favorite holiday tunes at the TubaChristmas Concert at Skyline Park, featuring 300 tuba players from all over the region.

6) 9News Parade of Lights
The 9News Parade of Lights is the signature event of Denver's holiday season, with countless sparkling lights, marching bands, giant balloons, majestic floats and delightful characters traveling through downtown Denver. The event will dazzle the crowd along the route on Dec. 6 (8 p.m.) and Dec. 7 (6 p.m.). Viewing along the parade route is free, and grandstand tickets are sold for seating in front of the beautifully illuminated City & County building.

7) Southwest Rink at Skyline Park
Located on the 16th St. Mall under the D&F Tower, Denver’s historic landmark, the rink is FREE and open to the public with the option to bring your own skates or rent a pair at a minimal cost, from Nov. 29 to Feb. 16.

8) Santa Sightings
No holiday season would be complete with at least one meet-n-greet with jolly old St. Nick himself.

  • Santa Claus Special (Dec. 7, 14-15 and 21) – Head to the Colorado Railroad museum to share your list with Santa and Mrs. Claus – and to ride some amazing historic trains!
  • Santa On Larimer Square – Every weekend starting Nov. 30, Santa will ride his sleigh into downtown Denver and set up shop in a magical wonderland in the Bull & Bear Courtyard on Larimer Square. Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Santa at Cherry Creek – Santa will be at Cherry Creek Shopping Center through Dec. 24 for family photos and is available during all mall hours with limited breaks daily. Added bonus? You can even bring your pet for a photo with the big man (Dec. 8).

9) Front Range Holiday Celebrations
Enjoy a Denver day trip this winter. Just a short distance from The Mile High City, you'll find quaint towns, seasonal celebrations and great shopping. Check out the festive fun across the Front Range of Colorado this holiday season. Here’s a sampling of holiday activities happening during Mile High Holidays:

  • During Boulder’s Lights of December Festival (Dec. 7), enjoy marching bands, festively lit fire engines, holiday carolers and much more in downtown.
  • In Estes Park, Explore the endless miles of trails on snowshoes or cross country skis or stroll through this authentic mountain town’s many quaint shops and galleries.
  • In Fort Collins, visit the authentic Santa’s Workshop, check out the Winter Farmers’ Markets and relax with a cup of hot cocoa or a local craft brew.
  • Kick off the season in Greeley with the annual holiday parade (Nov. 30) and enjoy The Nutcracker at the Union Colony Civic Center.
  • Just 40 minutes from Denver, don’t miss the annual Longmont Lights celebration in Roosevelt Park (Dec. 13-14), with a hands-on Santa’s Workshop offering craft activities for children ages 1-9.
  • In Loveland, find the perfect holiday gift or stocking stuffer at one of the many boutiques, national retailers or outlet stores found at The Promenade Shops at Centerra, the Marketplace of Centerra, historic downtown and the Outlets at Loveland.
  • Within the foothills of Pikes Peak, the storybook town of Manitou Springs offers a little bit of something for everyone during the holidays, including Miramont Castle’s Victorian Christmas, lights throughout the historic downtown and breakfast with St. Nick at City Hall.

10) New Year's Eve Fireworks
Ring in the New Year with Denver’s annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks with viewpoints along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. The two spectacular fireworks shows will occur at 9 p.m. and Midnight. Head to the 16th Street Mall for optimal viewing spots! Make a night of it – discover a great New Year’s Eve party and take advantage of great downtown hotel deals.

Start planning your Mile High Holidays weekend wonderland excursion now. Events and hotel deals can be found at MileHighHolidays.com.