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Holiday Sparkle: December in Denver

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

The holiday season is well underway, with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah behind us and Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s ahead. Recent snows have bathed the Metro area in white, so we truly resemble a winter wonderland this week. Instead of getting cabin fever, we long to be outside, enjoying the temporary festivities and ogling the fancy light displays.

Forgive me if I’m a little punchy—that’s just the holiday spirit taking over. This month in Denver, you’ll find a bevy of outdoor activities to celebrate the holidays and winter, and to see some sparkling spectacles. Now, onto all that glitters!

Through December 23: Denver Pavilions Holiday Carousel

It’s hard to believe that the first holiday carousel in the history of the 16th Street Mall only launched for the first time in November 2014. Now in its second year, you can ride the ponies and re-live childhood glory days (or bring a kid and introduce them to the whimsy of a ride) at the Denver Pavilions Holiday Carousel. Rides are just $3 each or free when you bring a canned food donation for Food Bank of the Rockies. Giddy-up!

What: Denver Pavilions Holiday Carousel

When: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily through December 23

Where: Denver Pavilions, 16th Street Mall and Glenarm Place

Tickets: $3 per ride

Through December 23: Denver Christkindl Market

In the 14th Century, German Christmas markets were all the rage. Trends may change, but Christkindl markets still feel timeless (the mulled wine might help) and this year, Denver’s Christkindl Market celebrates its 15th anniversary. If you’re not into watching music or dancing, stop by to check out all the trinkets, baubles, and tsotchkes. You might even find a gift for someone on your “nice” list. Grab a glass of gluhwein—hot spiced wine made of delicious—or a Paulaner and do some people-watching soon, as this German beer garden is only around for about a month each year. Prost!

What: Denver Christkindl Market

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday through December 23

Where: Skyline Park, 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street

Tickets: Free

Through December 31: Downtown Denver Illumination

Though the Parade of Lights is always a big deal in early December (especially the traffic, oy!), the lights are on through December 31. Wander by foot or pedicab from the City and County Building—which, you have to admit, looks a little like Casa Bonita, but in the best way possible—through downtown to Denver’s Union Station. Look for twinkling lights along the 16th Street Mall and other buildings all decked out as well. The Denver Gas & Electric Building at 15th and Champa is a personal fave.

What: Downtown Denver Illumination

When: After dark through December 31

Where: Throughout downtown Denver

Tickets: Free

Through January 2: Blossoms of Light

If you’re going to pay to see holiday lights, this is my favorite and totally worth the entrance fee. The gardens are gorgeous this time of year and I turn into a kid at Christmas (get it? get it?) when it comes time to don HoloSpex glasses and wander through the maze of decorations. With several HoloSpex options to choose from, I recommend bringing along a few friends so you can each try out seeing holographic images. Pro tip: I always get snowflakes. Even without springing for the glasses, it’s gorgeous.

When: 5:30-9 p.m., through January 2

Where: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street

Tickets: $13 Adult; $11 Adult Member, Senior (65+), Military; $10 Child (Ages 3­-15); $8 Child Member; Free for children 2 or younger; Group of 15 or more ­- member pricing applies

Through January 3: Zoo Lights

I have a confession to make: I’ve never been to Zoo Lights. It’s on the list because it’s hosted by a Denver cultural landmark and it’s the kind of thing I’d definitely like to check out one day (I mean, many of the lights are animal-themed—how could I not be intrigued?). With 70 acres of lights and more than 150 animated animal sculptures, this year’s showcase is nearly twice its previous size. If you’ve been before or you go this year, send me a full report!

When: 5:30-9 p.m., through January 3

Where: Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele Street

Through February 15: Southwest Rink at Skyline Park

This is the only one you don’t have to rush out and make happen right away, but there *is* something magical about ice skating during the holiday season. It has a soft sort of romance. Plus, picture a date with ice skating followed by some gluhwein at the Christkindl Market. It’s practically a John Cusack movie! Ready to lace up your skates?

What: Southwest RInk at Skyline Park

When: Hours vary by day and month, through February 15

Where: Skyline Park, 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street

Tickets: Rent skates for $2 or bring your own to skate for free

Is something noteworthy missing? Or is one of these on your all-time favorite or oh-hell-never-again lists? Comment below or give me grief about it (and keep us in the loop for next time) over on our Facebook page!

—by Leah M. Charney

Leah Charney is sassy yet classy and is most excited by the things she can't stop writing about, like food, music, and people. She directs operations for the team, which is just a fancy way of saying she is chief cat herder.


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