christmas in denver

See the lights on the Denver City and County Building. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

6 Reasons There’s No Place Like Denver for the Holidays

Denver is a natural setting for holiday adventures, with its mountain backdrop and roughly 20 percent chance of a white Christmas on any given year.

The Mile High City offers all of the expected annual diversions — such as performances of “The Nutcracker” and holiday lights — but also upholds its own unique traditions, involving cows, tubas and more — including the recent addition of the Mile High Tree, a colorfully lit, 110-foot-tall immersive art installation.

As always, check for any travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Lights on the Denver City and County Building

The holiday season is no time for restraint, which seems to be the message of the dazzling, multicolored annual light display on the Denver City and County Building. Every color of the rainbow is represented, and the bell tower chimes out Christmas carols you can hear for blocks.

The tradition started in the 1920s when a city electrician asked the mayor if he could light up City Hall for the holidays. Almost a century later, the lights burst on every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

To take in the whole spectacle, consider hopping on a horse-drawn carriage ride such as those offered by Irish Rose Drafts.

christmas in denver
Stroll down festive 16th Street. (Photo: Getty Images)

Denver Christkindl Market

If you can’t make it to Europe for the holidays, the Denver Christkindl Market offers the next best thing in the heart of downtown Denver on the 16th Street Mall.

Keep warm sipping cocoa, beer, glühwein or schnapps as you stroll under the sparkling lights of an outdoor artisan marketplace that sells authentic European ornaments, toys and clothing.

Sample German knödel (bread dumplings), Russian blini and hot roasted nuts, and listen to live music by groups ranging from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to German polka bands. The market is open every year from the Friday before Thanksgiving to December 23.

Parade of Lights

For two nights in early December, the streets of downtown Denver fill with floats, balloons, bands, Santa in his sleigh, Chinese dragons, tricked-out lowriders and revelers cheering on the illuminated Parade of Lights.

Blossoms of Light

The Denver Botanic Gardens is a treasure in any season, even when outdoor flowers lie dormant, thanks to this annual display that fills its grounds with ice sculptures and illuminated surprises.

Ward off the chill in its indoor greenhouse and Tropical Conservatory, home to stunning orchids, palms and bromeliads.

Polar Express Train Ride

The Colorado Railroad Museum (located in Golden, 30 miles from Denver) is a train-lover’s delight, with its rail yard filled with miniature steam engines zooming on their tracks and historic, full-size trains you can climb aboard.

Every holiday season, the museum mounts interactive performances of the “Polar Express” story, complete with hot cocoa and cookies for all attendees and a trip around the outdoor rails on an authentic steam train.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the 16th Street Mall

Ring in the New Year with this annual midnight fireworks display on New Year’s Eve, visible from anywhere along the bustling outdoor 16th Street Mall.