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The snow has hit the ground more than once, which means it’s almost time for Christmas in Denver! Kids know that with the arrival of snow, it means all sorts of holiday events await from Christmas carol sing-alongs to Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo. Whether you are a local or visitor, check out the fun Denver Christmas events for your family to enjoy. Updated for 2019!
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Denver has been ranked among the top U.S. cities for holiday lighting displays by CNN Travel. Every year, the Denver Post highlights the best light displays in the city and posts them on an interactive map. Take a look around the local neighborhoods and set your own sightseeing route.
Downtown Denver’s public displays are easy to find and stay lit throughout the month of December, following the Grand Illumination on November 30th. You can enjoy the lights of downtown Denver anytime, but if you are looking for extra fun, the Parade of Lights takes place on December 6 & 7th.
The Denver Zoo puts on its annual Zoo Lights event in the evenings of December, with nightly entertainment and Santa meet-and-greets. The Botanic Gardens also has beautiful displays in two separate locations of the city. One in Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms, and the other at Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Finally, the Butterfly Pavilion, located between Denver and Boulder, has a special “Living Lights” exhibit running during the evenings through the holidays.
Santa visits kids in both predictable and unpredictable spots around Denver! Call for a reservation and you can pair a family visit to the Downtown Aquarium with one of their Breakfasts With Santa.
Get some cute shots of your kids with Firefighter Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Denver Firefighter’s Museum during the Holiday Open House. Visit the Colorado Railroad Museum to watch a theatrical rendition of The Polar Express and see Santa and Mrs. Claus on select evenings in November and December.
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.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Parker features free holiday carriage rides and activities at Discovery Park, including pictures with some of Santa’s special helpers. Finally, one of the most popular Santas in Denver is Santa’s Flight Academy interactive Santa experience found at the Cherry Creek Mall through December 24th.
Parades aren’t just for summer! Every Saturday in December in Golden, families are entertained throughout the day by the Olde Golden Christmas Parade. Enjoy the 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. This parade is one of the biggest in the state, featuring floats, light displays, marching bands, huge balloon characters, and more. The parade takes place the first weekend in December.
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.
Look for the best prices on Family Friendly Hotels in Denver.
For many families, watching the Nutcracker ballet is a yearly tradition. There is no shortage of opportunities in the Denver area to join in on the excitement. Don’t worry about little ones squirming or chattering during a long show.
Several of the venues listed below offer kid-friendly matinees, abridged performances, and audience-participation activities. Find specific schedules and ticketing information for the following venues: Paramount in Denver, University of Denver, Ballet Ariel in Denver, Boulder & Longmont, Parker, Littleton, and Lakewood.
For more culture, head to Boettcher Concert Hall for the Colorado Symphony and their performance of A Colorado Christmas.
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 called “Noon Year’s Eve.” Fun activities and ball drops run all day long on December 31st.
Another daytime activity takes place at The Rink at Belmar in Lakewood. Enjoy family ice-skating and celebrate in the daylight! Finally, Downtown Denver has families in mind with its two fireworks displays on the evening of December 31st at 9:00 pm and midnight, so early birds can still get home to tuck everyone into bed.
Many 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. Similarly, The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has hands-on workshops for kids of all ages during winter break as well.
Check out our Top 10 Things to do in Denver to find more great ideas on what to do in Denver with kids.
If you are looking to get some holiday shopping done, head to Denver Pavilions to shop ’til you drop. You can coax the kids along on this shopping trip because they are sure to want to ride the mall’s holiday carousel.
For some extra special, visit Skyline Park’s Christkindl Market. There are vendors from Germany and as well as local artists selling handcrafted items. Traditional German food and Glühwein (hot spiced wine) are available for purchase. The environment is extra festive with caroling and live German music.
Pin this to bookmark all the holiday fun; we update it yearly:
Many thanks to Cindi Brothers for the original version of this guide. Thank you to Tarlie Harris for updating this guide for 2019.
Featured photo by: Shutterstock