From Thanksgiving weekend to New Year’s Eve and beyond, Denver celebrates Mile High Holidays with an abundance of events, performing arts, light displays, shopping and more, along with great hotel deals. Both time-honored traditions and new classics help The Mile High City revel in the holidays throughout the whole season.
Below are just a few experiences to be found during Mile High Holidays. For more information on how to spend an evening or a long weekend in Denver, and to take advantage of holiday hotel deals starting at $99, visit MileHighHolidays.com.
¡CUBA! (through January 20, 2019) – ¡CUBA!, the latest major exhibition at Denver Museum of Nature & Science, explores the dynamic culture and abundant biodiversity of the Caribbean’s largest island. Although its complex politics and vibrant music have primarily attracted the attention of the world, Cuba is also home to the unexpected. It is a place of stunning contrasts: mysterious caves and bright boulevards, sweltering fields and cool forests, hard challenges and high energy. This lively experience—presented in English and Spanish—takes a look at the people, landscapes, unique species and daily life of this intriguing country.
Dior: From Paris to the World (November 19, 2018 – March 3, 2019) – Denver Art Museum is hosting the U.S. debut of the renowned exhibition, Dior: From Paris to the World. Surveying more than 70 years of the House of Dior’s legacy and influence, the exhibit features a selection of 150 haute couture dresses, accessories, photos, original sketches, and archival material. Curated by Denver Art Museum’s Florence Müller, it will trace the history of the iconic haute couture fashion house, its founder, Christian Dior, and the subsequent artistic directors who carried Dior's vision into the 21st century.
Holiday Performing Arts
A Christmas Carol, November 21 - December 23
A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition during the holiday season in Denver. Based on Charles Dickens' classic novel, and presented by Denver Center for the Performing Arts, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge's triumphant overnight journey to redemption. Live from the Stage Theatre, A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.
Movie at the Symphony: Home Alone in Concert, November 23
A holiday classic, Home Alone will feature renowned composer John Williams’ charming and delightful score performed live by the Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall as the film is shown on large suspended screens in Boettcher Concert Hall. Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old boy who is accidentally left behind when his family leaves for Christmas vacation, and who must defend his home against two bungling thieves (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Hilarious and heartwarming, Home Alone is holiday fun for the whole family.
The SantaLand Diaries, November 23 – December 24
Crumpet the Elf returns to The Jones Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Complex for more hilarious holiday hijinks in this acclaimed one-man show. David Sedaris' offbeat tales from his stint as a Macy's elf in New York City are the sure cure for the common Christmas show.
The Nutcracker, November 24 - December 23
Children and adults will enjoy Colorado Ballet's 58th annual production of the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker, held at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and featuring unforgettable characters, classic choreography, exquisite sets, dazzling costumes and Tchaikovsky's extraordinary arrangement performed live by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, December 5-15
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, this is a timeless tale of joy and good will.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, December 7-8
The one and only Moscow Ballet will present the Great Russian Nutcracker at Denver’s Paramount Theater. Featuring world class Russian artists, hand-painted sets, Russian Snow Maidens, and jubilant Nesting Dolls – Great Russian Nutcracker brings the Christmas spirit to life for all ages.
John Legend: A Legendary Christmas, December 15
Renowned singer/songwriter John Legend will perform songs from his newest album, A Legendary Christmas, at the Bellco Theatre this holiday season. Also included with every pair of tickets purchased online is a standard copy of the album.
Ingrid Michaelson Trio Presents: Songs for the Season, December 3
The holiday spirit continues through the end of December, when singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson returns to Denver to perform with the Colorado Symphony. The concert – held at Boettcher Concert Hall – will feature her biggest hits as well as songs from her upcoming holiday album, Ingrid Michaelson's Songs For The Season.
Mile High Holiday Events
The Polar Express™ Train Ride, November 10 – December 23
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 family with the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic children's tale – complete with an actual train ride, golden souvenir ticket and hot chocolate.
Denver Christkindl Market, November 16 – December 23
The Christkindl Market at Skyline Park includes vendors from Germany, Ukraine, Ireland and other countries, as well as local artisans, offering high-quality, handcrafted gifts such as traditional hand-carved wooden figurines, handmade candles and ornaments. Traditional German food, warm Glühwein (hot spiced wine), and traditional Christmas carols and live German music make the market a full holiday experience.
Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park, November 20, 2018 – February 3, 2019
One of the most popular holiday events in Denver, the Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park returns in 2018 with ice skating and family fun. 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.
Ice Skating Rink at DEN, November 23, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Back for a second year, Denver International Airport’s (DEN) free ice skating rink will be on the DEN Plaza for everyone to enjoy daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This year's rink will be bigger and will be accompanied by a variety of entertainment and family-friendly music playing in the background.
Breakfast with Santa at the Aquarium, weekends December 8-24
Join Sharkey and Santa for a delicious breakfast buffet at Denver's Downtown Aquarium. After breakfast, explore the Aquarium Adventure Exhibit with more than one million gallons of extraordinary marine life.
43rd Annual TubaChristmas, December 16
More than 300 tuba players from all over the region will play favorite holiday tunes at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which will be decorated for the season, making it a perfect setting to experience this holiday spectacular. The TubaChristmas Concert is one of the most celebrated and longest-running holiday festivities in Colorado; and participants have ranged in ages from 7 to 86 with instruments including tubas, sousaphones, baritones, euphoniums, antique tubas from the Civil War era, decorated tubas, and more.
Holiday Light Displays
Grand Illumination, November 23
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Downtown Denver’s major landmarks will light up for the holidays during the Grand Illumination. The event features entertainment and lighting ceremonies at Denver Union Station and the City & County Building. Hundreds of thousands of lights will also illuminate the 16th Street Mall, Skyline Park, the D&F Clock Tower, 14th Street, Larimer Square and more.
Light the Lights: City & County Building Holiday Lights, November 23 – December 31
The largest lighting display in Denver comes on nightly at 6 p.m. at the City & County Building, where 600,000 lights deck the neo-classical building. The bell tower plays carols nightly as well.
Blossoms of Light, November 23, 2018 – January 1, 2019
Embrace the holidays with thousands of colorful lights draped in elegant designs at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light. The 2018 event will display more than one million colorful lights highlighting the Gardens' winter beauty. Visitors can enjoy 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.
9NEWS Parade of Lights, Nov. 30 (8 p.m.) and Dec 1 (6 p.m.)
The 9NEWS Parade of Lights is a signature event of the Denver holiday season. The countless sparkling lights, marching bands, majestic floats and delightful characters will once again wow hundreds of thousands. Viewing along the parade route is free, and grandstand tickets are sold for seating in front of the beautifully illuminated City & County Building.
Zoo Lights, November 30, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Zoo Lights span 70 acres of Denver Zoo's campus, with nightly entertainment, animal encounters, Santa meet-and-greets 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. New this year, guests will be able to control some of the sculptures at special interactive stations featuring “kid-level” control panels. Visitors can get a sneak peek of the lights over Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-25.
Shopping and Santa Sightings
With more than 450 unique shops and more than 300 restaurants, downtown Denver is the perfect place to spend the holiday season. Check out the holiday shopping at the Denver Pavilions, which will also have fun holiday activities including a carousel. Larimer Square, Denver’s most historic block, features unique shops and boutiques full of great gift ideas – plus Santa on the Square will return this year. And stroll down the 16th Street Mall for eclectic finds for everyone.
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.
Santa’s Flight Academy
This season, “Santa’s Flight Academy” returns to Cherry Creek Shopping Center – a one-of-a-kind, immersive holiday experience that combines a giant re-imagination of the North Pole with state-of-the-art technology to enable children to become a member of Santa’s flight crew. Partnering with an elf, each child will help ready Santa’s sleigh so he can deliver presents to children around the world. At the end of the experience, each child will step inside the sleigh for a snowfall dance party before meeting Santa.
Cherry Creek North
Denver's premier shopping and dining destination in the Rocky Mountain region – with twinkling holiday lights and festive atmosphere – this charming district has everything to celebrate the holidays in style. The neighborhood is home to sophisticated fashion boutiques like Andrisen Morton, Kate Spade, Hermes, Lawrence Covell, Calypso St. Barth, Loro Piana, St. John Boutique. 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.
WinterFest on Fillmore, December 8
Cherry Creek North will once again host Winter Fest on Fillmore Plaza and at participating businesses throughout the neighborhood. The festival will include live ice carving, face painting, complimentary refreshments, giveaways and more; and businesses throughout the area will also host activities such as ornament decorating, entertainment and more.
Denver Holiday Flea, Fridays - Sundays, November 23-December 16
The Denver Holiday Flea is a contemporary marketplace showcasing makers and retailers who cultivate the Colorado lifestyle. This year’s biggest and best ever Denver Flea will be the 10th annual; and it will take place on the Plaza at Denver Union Station.
Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms, November 23 – December 23
Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Farms will be transformed into a magical village for Santa and his friends. Visitors can take hayrides, watch a movie at Santa’s cinema, meet the reindeer, get pictures with Santa, craft with Mrs. Claus and more.
Denver Jackalope Holiday Market, December 8-12
Celebrate the holiday season with Jackalope, an indie artisan market on December 9th and 10th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the newly renovated McNichols Civic Center Building downtown. Shop more than 150 handmade vendors from art and photography, fashion and accessory design, home decor, housewares and more. Enjoy local food, full bar, and DIY workshops at this free and family friendly event.
GIFT SHOPS AT MUSEUMS & ATTRACTIONS
One of the best ways to see the city and find unique holiday gifts is to visit the gift shops at some of Denver’s top attractions. 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.
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art has a museum store that features art replicas and prints, jewelry, housewares and decorative art, among other things. At the Denver Art Museum, buy beautiful posters and prints, in addition to art books and handmade jewelry. Grab a piece of the cutting-edge arts world at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver's eclectic SHOP MCA. 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 offers all-natural gifts, plants and gardening supplies, art and much more. The Molly Brown House Museum features art deco-inspired jewelry, home décor and gift items.
Museum Store Sunday, November 25
Across the world, museum stores representing all fifty states, ten countries, and three continents – including five 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, showcasing broad assortments of highly curated, unique, mission-specific gifts.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
The sky will once again sparkle over downtown Denver at the close of 2018 with the New Year's Eve Fireworks Downtown. The two spectacular fireworks shows will occur at the family-friendly hour of 9 p.m. and the traditional midnight. For the best viewpoints, stand along the 16th Street Mall, where there will also be costumed entertainers including magicians, mascots, balloon artists, stilt walkers and comedians.
Resolution NYE 2019
This New Year's bash boasts three floors of DJs, dance parties, live music, art installations and open bars. The party, held at the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park, offers a direct view of the Denver New Year's Eve Fireworks show.
A Night in Vienna
The Colorado Symphony transports revelers to Austria with an evening of live polkas, waltzes and marches conducted by Music Director Brett Mitchell. The festive performance at the Boettcher Concert Hall is a time-honored tradition and fantastic sendoff to 2018 — and the 6:30 pm start time ensures dancers will not miss the 16th Street Mall fireworks.
17th Annual White Rose Gala
Celebrate New Year's Eve in the classic elegance of art deco of the Roaring 20s. The themed event takes guests to an era of a modern renaissance where style, opulence, and grace were the only way to swing. Held annually at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, partygoers come dressed to the nines in their best Gatsby-esque costumes to ring in the new year. White Rose Gala is a high end and elegant Charity event where you are enveloped by musical and theatrical performances. This year’s entertainment will include Je Te'aime Swing Band, DJ Amuse, DJ G6, Swing, Big Band & 80's music and Hip Hop.
Noon Year’s Eve
Children can experience the excitement, thrills and festive fun of New Year's Eve in Times Square in Denver — all before bedtime. The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus will hold its annual Noon Year’s Eve with glittery ball drops, rainbows of confetti and huge sheets of bubble wrap (the museum's version of fireworks) for kids to stomp on. After the ball drops, the celebration keeps going with sparkling art projects and activities on the plaza.