The snow has hit the ground more than once, which means it’s nearly holiday season in Colorado! Families with kids know that means all varieties of fun holiday activities to celebrate the snow, and the growing excitement of family gatherings and community celebrations. Whether you are a long-time resident of the Front Range or just visiting and looking for a little fun, check out our list for some ideas of holiday activities to enchant kids and entertain adults.
Holiday Lights Displays
Denver is ranked among the top U.S. cities for holiday lights displays (who knew?!). Every year, the Denver Post highlights the best lights displays in the city and posts them on an interactive map. Take a look around your neighborhood and see what you can find! Downtown Denver’s public displays are an easy and enjoyable find and will be lit through the end of December. Your family can also see the Denver Zoo in a new “light” and visit from 5:30-9:00 p.m. to see the Zoo Lights display from December 6th – January 5th. The Botanic Gardens also have beautiful displays in two separate locations in the city, which are well worth a visit, running November 29th-January 1st, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Finally, the Butterfly Pavilion, located between Denver and Boulder, has a special “Living Lights” exhibit running during the evenings on weekends through the holidays, December 13th – January 12th, 5:30-9:00pm.
No matter where you are, in or around the city, you should be able to find Santa in both predictable and unpredictable spots! Call for a reservation and you can pair a family visit to the Downtown Aquarium with one of their ten Breakfasts With Santa. Mark your calendar and bring a camera to get some cute shots of your kids with Firefighter Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Denver Firefighter’s Museum during the evening Holiday Open House, from 4:00-6:00, on December 7th. Visit the Colorado Railroad Museum to send letters to Santa and take a train ride, or visit on December 7th, 14th, 15th, and 21st to share your wish list with him and Mrs. Claus in person! How about dinosaurs and Santa? Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Center has Santa events planned for several dates in December, as does the Wildlife Experience. Check their events calendars for specific dates and times. For a lower-key event, Parker features free carriage rides to the PACE center for pictures with Santa, every Saturday from Thanksgiving until Christmas from 5 to 9 p.m. Finally, one of the most popular Santas in Denver is found at the Cherry Creek Mall, through December 24th, during mall hours.
Watch a Parade
Parades aren’t just for summer! Every December Saturday in Golden, families are entertained throughout the day by the Olde Golden Christmas on Parade, which features a parade, treats from shopkeepers, free carriage rides, and much more (like Newfoundland Dog Cart rides…sadly, those are just for the kids). The 9News Parade of Lights is a downtown Denver tradition, one of the biggest parades in the state, featuring floats, light displays, marching bands, huge balloon characters, and more. The parade will take place on December 6th at 8:00pm and December 7th at 6:00pm. (Pro tip: park outside of downtown and take the RTD Light Rail to the parade route; you’ll lower your parking stress level and kids will enjoy the bonus train ride.
See the Nutcracker
For many families, watching the Nutcracker ballet is a yearly tradition. There is no shortage of opportunities, no matter where you are in the Denver area, to join in the excitement. Several of the venues listed below offer kid-friendly matinees, abridged performances and audience-participation activities if you’re worried about little ones squirming or chattering during a long show. Find specific schedules and ticketing information to plan ahead for showings in downtown Denver, Paramount in Denver, University of Denver, Ballet Arial in Denver, Wonderbound Ballet, Boulder & Longmont, Parker, Littleton, and Lakewood.
New Year’s Activities
If your kids are like mine, by midnight on New Year’s, they’re either zonked out or manic from too much soda and parade watching. The Children’s Museum of Denver has a nice alternative “Noon Year’s Eve” with activities and ball drops all day long on December 31st. Another “Noon Year’s Eve” activity takes place at the ice rink at Belmar in Lakewood on the 31st. Enjoy family ice-skating from 11:00-1:00 and celebrate in the daylight! Finally, Downtown Denver has families in mind with its two fireworks displays on the evening of the 31st: 9:00 and midnight, so we early birds can still get home to tuck everyone into bed.
Winter Break Special Activities
If your kids are off of school or the visiting cousins are bouncing off the walls, keep in mind that several Denver locations offer special activities during the winter break period. A favorite of ours is the Denver Art Museum (free for kids 18 and under!) which has TONS of hands-on activities set aside for those couple of weeks. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science was thinking ahead, too, and has dozens of hands-on workshops for kids of all ages both during the week and during weekends of winter break.
Find holiday activities and events in your neck of the woods. We’ve got the inside scoop on cities across North America.