This holiday season will shine a bright light on the end of 2020 in Denver with the return of the Mile High Tree, new light displays, holiday markets and favorite traditions – virtually and in-person
Like many things this year, Denver’s holiday traditions will look a little different; but, with safety precautions in place and some holiday ingenuity, the magic of the season will still shine in The Mile High City. The city’s newest and brightest holiday tradition – The Mile High Tree, presenting sponsor Modelo® – will return for a second year, this time in the heart of downtown, along with several spectacular light displays, holiday markets, festive events and more all around the city.
This season’s events will encourage people to continue to support the community through the winter months. Whether its participating in Small Business Weekend (November 27-29), or the City & County of Denver’s #LiveLocalDenver initiative by visiting a local artisan market or small retailer, dining in or carrying out from the city’s restaurants, patronizing cultural facilities or marveling at some of the festive lights displays, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate with family and feel safely connected to the community this season.
Below are just a few experiences that will bring the spirit of the season to life during Mile High Holidays. For more information on how to spend a night or a long weekend in Denver, safety measures and to take advantage of holiday hotel deals, visit MileHighHolidays.com.
In-Person Holiday Favorites
Mile High Tree, presenting sponsor Modelo® November 20, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Denver’s brightest holiday attraction will return for the 2020 holiday season. The Mile High Tree, presenting sponsor Modelo®, which made its debut last year, will light up the heart of downtown Denver in its new location on the 16th Street Mall at Welton St. From Thursday – Saturday (and some Sundays), visitors can step inside the 110-ft tall immersive art installation – the largest of its kind in North America – to enjoy the dazzling light displays and holiday music. From Sunday – Wednesday, visitors can still enjoy the tree’s programmed light shows and music, safely from a distance. Social distancing measures, mask requirements and limited capacity will be in place.
Zoo Lights, December 4-31, 2020
Zoo Lights span 80 acres of Denver Zoo's campus, with nightly entertainment, animal encounters and, of course, illuminated animal sculptures that swing through trees, jump across lawns, hide in bushes and appear in places where they are least expected. This year, Zoo Lights will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with more than one million lights sparkling throughout Denver Zoo.
NEW Winter Wanderland Light Walk & Prismatica, November 19, 2020 – January 3, 2021
New for 2020, the Winter Wanderland Light Walk in Cherry Creek North features a canopy of more than a half million twinkling lights dressing hundreds of trees. Along the way, guests can find eight of the trees adorned with vibrant hanging strands of lights choreographed to music during timed shows and enter for a chance to win a $1,000 gift certificate to a Cherry Creek North store of their choice. Spectators can also wander through Prismatica in Gart Plaza on Milwaukee Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, a dynamic temporary lighted art installation consisting of 25 towering prisms that rotate at their base and display a kaleidoscope of color.
Dogs! A Science Tail, through January 3, 2021
This exhibition at Denver Museum of Nature & Science highlights the extraordinary ways dogs see, hear, and smell their surroundings and explores why humans and dogs are best friends. Experiences range from listening to hidden sounds that dogs can hear but humans can’t, excavating replicas of fossils to determine if they belong to wolves or dogs, walking a dog through an interactive neighborhood to understand how pets strengthen the community, and testing your pop-culture knowledge during a game of “Jeopawdy!” based on the show Jeopardy. Denver Museum of Nature & Science is offering capacity-limited, timed tickets for museum entry and this exhibition.
Blossoms of Light, November 20, 2020 – January 16, 2021
Embrace the holidays with thousands of colorful lights draped in elegant designs at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light. The interactive displays feature a large field of sound-reactive, animated LED lights, sparkling passages, new displays and romantic spots under the mistletoe, all made even more beautiful through HoloSpex glasses. Warm drinks and tasty treats will also be available. Pre-purchased, timed tickets and masks are required.
Light the Lights, November 20
This lighting of Denver’s City at County Building is typically held the weekend after Thanksgiving, but Light the Lights will return early this year to bring some much-needed holiday cheer to the city. This year, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock will flip the giant light switch to ignite the first light and music show of the holiday season at the Denver’s grand neoclassical City and County Building. The event will be broadcast live on the City and County of Denver’s Facebook page.
Grand Illumination, November 20
The Grand Illumination event will light up downtown, from Denver Union Station to the City & County Building in Civic Center Park. The lights stay on through the end of December.
9News Parade of Lights, November 27 – December 31, 2020
This year’s annual 9News Parade of Lights, part of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Winter in the City program, will be a multi-week, socially safe array of activities across downtown Denver. The floats, which usually parade through downtown to kick off the holiday season, will be displayed as stationary objects for people to enjoy around the city all season long, spanning from Denver Pavilions to Denver Union Station.
The Polar Express™ Train Ride, through December 23, 2020
The Colorado Railroad Museum recreates the charm and magic of the acclaimed children’s book and movie, The Polar Express, during the holiday season. The theatrical re-creation surrounds families with the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic children's tale – complete with an actual train ride, golden souvenir ticket and hot chocolate. This year, carefully crafted updates have been made in order to ensure the health and safety of passengers, cast and crew – pajamas encouraged, masks required.
Night Lights Denver, permanent installation
The Denver Theatre District launched Night Lights Denver in November 2019. This ongoing, year-round projection mapping installation is projected on the Arapahoe Street side of the historic Daniels & Fisher Tower every Thursday through Saturday evening and can be viewed in a socially distant fashion. Night Lights Denver includes rotating content, designed by artists and the community, featuring a wide range of art.
Holiday Favorites Gone Virtual
Camp Christmas, November 20, 2020 – January 5, 2021
Camp Christmas, an immersive holiday experience, opened to rave reviews from nearly 70,000 people last holiday season. This year, organizers have created an interactive, virtual version that delivers curated crafts, activities, and adventures directly to the homes and imaginations of participants. The digital experience will take place on a web-based app that features multimedia content about the stories, history, and traditions of the season, as well as in-home activities. Campers can earn badges and track their progress as they complete activities in the app. Daily broadcasts counting down to Christmas will take place in the app starting in December. The “Base Camp” package includes access to the app, special events and a few materials mailed to homes to get participants started; and campers can also purchase more robust packages which unlock additional activities and bonus content.
Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker, November 26 & 27, December 19, 24 & 25, 2020
Families can enjoy Colorado Ballet's 59th annual production of the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker virtually this year. Broadcast on Rocky Mountain PBS on select dates, the special will feature beloved characters, classic choreography, exquisite sets, dazzling new costumes and Tchaikovsky's extraordinary arrangement performed by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.
Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum, December 5, 2020 – January 2, 2021
For 29 years, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has been blending dance, live music, spoken word and seasonal celebrations and customs from around the world into a memorable holiday tradition like no other. A Denver original, Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum is a family favorite that inspires audiences of all ages to discover, celebrate and honor the holiday traditions of cultures from around the world. The 70-minute performance will be available to ticket holders for unlimited online viewing throughout the season.
The Hip Hop Nutrcracker, December 22, 2020
A virtual holiday mash-up for the whole family, directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, The Hip Hop Nutcracker recorded live at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center is a contemporary dance spectacle set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music. A unique and joyful event, this evening-length production is performed by a supercharged cast of a dozen all-star dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and MC Kurtis Blow, one of hip hop’s founding fathers, who opens the show with a short set.
Jackalope Virtual Holiday Market, November 28 – December 18, 2020
Shoppers can search online for unique gifts from more than 100 artisans, including trendsetting indie goods, original fashion and jewelry design, ceramics and innovative home decor, paper goods, art, body products, family goods and so much more. There will also be opportunities to meet the makers behind the one-of-a-kind wares via Instagram live and recorded Zoom sessions.
Cherry Creek Holiday Market, November 19 – December 23, 2020
Produced by Fetch and held in Fillmore Plaza, the Cherry Creek Holiday Market offers a wide array of shopping options every day from local makers selling wares from their old-world European style chalets, themed cocktails and festive warm drinks as well as live music. On Thursday nights (excluding Thanksgiving), the shops will stay open late from 5-8 p.m. and evening shoppers can find unique gifts for everyone on their list while enjoying free treats and giveaways.
20th Annual Denver Christkindl Market, November 20 – December 23, 2020
The 20th Annual Denver Christkindl Market is moving to a more spacious, open-air location along the center promenade of Civic Center Park. This favorite annual event offers guests an opportunity to stroll through a European village festively decorated for the holiday season – no passport required. In its new location, adjacent to the colorfully-lit City and County of Denver Building, the Christkindl Market brings the most beloved elements of an authentic German holiday experience to The Mile High City – from unique, finely crafted artisan gifts and holiday treats to authentic German food and drink. Capacity will be limited during open hours, and guests will be asked to queue at the entrances until space becomes available. Masks will be required and contact tracing will be implemented.
AF Holiday Market at Dairy Block, weekends, November 27 – December 20, 2020
Enjoy an après ski vibe paired with a European holiday market at the AF Holiday Market at Dairy Block this November & December. Inspired by a European ski village, the AF Holiday Market at Dairy Block will feature 12 vendors offering a wide variety of clothing, home goods, sports gear and more, representing both local Colorado businesses and top national retailers, along with food and drink specials. Pre-registration is required to maintain safe capacity levels.
With more than 450 unique shops and more than 300 restaurants, downtown Denver is the perfect place to spend the holiday season. Larimer Square, Denver’s most historic block, features unique shops and boutiques full of great gift ideas. And stroll down the 16th Street Mall for eclectic finds for everyone.
Check out the holiday shopping during Winter Aglow on Glenarm at the Denver Pavilions, near the Mile High Tree. Denver Pavilions features everything from international brands to locally-owned boutiques, and 10 dining options all in one convenient location with easy-access parking, which will be discounted for holiday shoppers. This season, Winter Aglow will feature live carolers, family photo opportunities and three 9News Parade of Lights floats – including the Santa Float, presented by Ent Credit Union – among many other holiday festivities.
Cherry Creek Shopping Center
Cherry Creek Shopping Center is the region’s most popular shopping destination with more than 160 stores and restaurants, including RH Denver Design Gallery, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy's and 40 others unique to the region. Shoppers can pick up a complimentary Passport to Shopping at Guest Services, offering incredible discounts.
Cherry Creek North
Denver's premier shopping and dining destination in the Rocky Mountain region – with its new Winter Wanderland Light Walk – has everything to celebrate the holidays in style. Sip, savor and stroll through 16 blocks of more than 200 independently-owned luxury shops, galleries, spas, and top-rated restaurants. Located across the street from Cherry Creek Shopping Center and just five minutes from downtown Denver. Shoppers can support the more than 70 percent of small businesses throughout the neighborhood during Small Business Weekend, November 27-29 – when they will find special offers, plus the chance to win prizes valued at more than $400.
Gift Shops, Memberships & Donations at Museums & Attractions
Just because theaters are dark, does not mean you have to miss out on holiday arts and culture. Some of the most unique holiday gifts can come from Denver’s arts and cultural attractions – a membership to a favorite location or donation in the recipient’s name are unique gifts that support the attraction and keep giving all year long. Tickets are also available to future – and virtual – performances. And, this year, many cultural facilities are also offering virtual classes – from painting to music lessons and more – so this holiday season is the perfect time to gift a personalized cultural experience.
Museum Store Sunday, November 29, 2020
Across the world, museum stores representing all fifty states, 23 countries and five continents – including eight in Denver – will offer relaxing, inspired shopping inside museums and cultural institutions. Museum Store Sunday offers a special shopping experience in one-of-a kind stores or online, showcasing broad assortments of highly curated, unique, mission-specific gifts. Please contact the museum store you plan to visit to confirm hours and check on visitation guidelines or restrictions.
Admission is not necessary for the gift shops, but it is the perfect way to discover more about the attraction itself and the context of the gifts available. Many of Denver’s museums and attractions offer online shops as well. Denver Art Museum features beautiful posters and prints, in addition to art books and handmade jewelry. MCA Denver’s SHOP MCA features an eclectic selection, and Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art offers a variety of books, prints, accessories and décor. The Denver Zoo's two-story gift shop, Kibongi Market, offers hand-crafted ceramic and art items from Africa and a wide selection of toys and clothing. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science's gift shop has a great selection of books, science kits, DVDs, CDs and more. Denver Botanic Gardens' Shop at the Gardens has gone online and offers all-natural gifts, plants and gardening supplies and art perfect for gardeners and plant lovers. The Molly Brown House Museum features art deco-inspired jewelry, home décor and gift items.
Holiday Hotel Deals
Plan a holiday getaway or staycation with hotel deals throughout the city starting at $89 a night. After shopping local, wandering the myriad holiday lights of the city and supporting local restaurants, enjoy a relaxing night (or several) away from home at hotels featuring creative packages and deals. For more information, go to the Mile High Holidays website.