This year, along with hundreds of holiday traditions and festivities, The Mile High City will feature two brand-new lighting attractions illuminating downtown, making the city look and feel more festive than ever. The Mile High Tree – the tallest digital tree in North America – will feature pre-programmed LED light shows choreographed to multicultural holiday music; and Night Lights Denver – an outdoor projection mapping installation featuring local artists – will also light up the city skyline.
These new attractions complement the already robust programming that makes up Denver’s Mile High Holidays. There are also world-class exhibitions, like Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature and The Science Behind Pixar, at the city’s museums; innovative and immersive performing arts like Camp Christmas and movies with the Colorado Symphony; and plenty of local gifts to be found in neighborhoods, galleries, boutique shops and marketplaces.
Below are just a few experiences to be found during Mile High Holidays. For more information on how to spend a night or a long weekend in Denver, and to take advantage of holiday hotel deals starting at $99, visit MileHighHolidays.com.
The Denver Art Museum is the sole U.S. venue for the most comprehensive exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades. The exhibition features more than 100 paintings spanning Monet’s entire career and focuses on the celebrated French impressionist artist’s enduring relationship with nature and his response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked. In connection with Denver Art Museum, several hotels have created VIP packages that include untimed, skip-the-line tickets, which allow access to the exhibition even if the date is sold out to the general public; these packages can be found at monetindenver.com.
Enjoy a unique look into the Pixar process, and explore the science and technology behind some of the most beloved animated films and their characters with The Science Behind Pixar at Denver Museum of Nature & Science. This interactive exhibition showcases the science, technology, engineering, art, and math concepts used by the artists and computer scientists who help bring Pixar’s award-winning films to the big screen. With more than 50 interactive elements, the exhibition’s eight sections each focus on a step in the filmmaking process to give you an unparalleled view of the production pipeline and concepts used at Pixar every day. Participate in fun, engaging hands-on activities, listen to firsthand accounts from members of the studio’s production teams, and even come face-to-face with re-creations of your favorite Pixar film characters, including Buzz Lightyear, Dory, Mike and Sulley, Edna Mode, and WALL•E.
Visitors will be put to the test as they jump, fly, dive, climb and explore some of the riskiest activities in the world at this Denver Museum of Nature & Science exhibition. Physical, multimedia and creative challenges place guests inside the minds and bodies of extreme athletes and their passions such as wingsuit flying, ice and rock climbing, parkour, and free diving. Amid exhilarating speeds, breathtaking heights, and profound depths, the stories of these passionate athletes will leave visitors inspired to push their own personal limits.
Explore Colorado’s brewing industry from the saloons of the Gold Rush through Prohibition to today’s booming craft beer scene at History Colorado Center’s Beer Here! Brewing the West. Learn about the Centennial State’s brewing past, present and future through historical artifacts, interactive elements and more.
Holiday Performing Arts
The newest indoor immersive installation from Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Camp Christmas, will feature mesmerizing displays of decorations that shift time and reality. Performed at Stanley Marketplace, Camp Christmas is Denver’s newest holiday experience, where yuletide traditions of the past and present get merrily mashed together in a massive 10,000-square-foot wonderland. All ages are welcome at this family-friendly experience.
Innovative digital graffiti and visuals transform the landscape of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s beloved story from traditional 19th Century Germany to the vibrant, diverse sights and sounds of contemporary New York City. Through this re-mixed and re-imagined version of the classic, performed at Buell Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the dynamic performers of The Hip Hop Nutcracker take audience members on a journey that celebrates love, community and the magic of a New Year.
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.
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical returns to the Buell Theatre in Denver to steal Christmas after a blockbuster debut in 2014. More than 2.5 million theatre-goers across America have been delighted by this heart-warming holiday musical, featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” from the original animated TV special. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the holiday-loving Whos. Magnificent sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville and helps remind them of the true meaning of the holiday season.
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.
Love Actually is the ultimate romantic holiday comedy. Featuring an all-star cast, the film will take audiences on a tour of love’s delightful twists and turns. The score will be performed by the Colorado Symphony and conductor Christopher Dragon.
For 28 years, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has been blending dance, live music, spoken word and seasonal celebrations and customs from around the world into a memorable holiday tradition like no other. A Denver original, Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum is a family favorite that inspires audiences of all ages to discover, celebrate and honor the holiday traditions of cultures from around the world.
The celestial voices of multi-platinum Irish singing group, Celtic Woman, will be coupled with the Colorado Symphony in Denver’s stop of The Best of Christmas Tour. The performance at Boettcher Concert Hall will feature music from the all-female ensemble’s most favorite Yuletide songs.
The one and only Moscow Ballet will present the Great Russian Nutcracker at Denver’s Paramount Theatre. 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.
Celebrating 35 years of holiday magic, Mannheim Steamroller will once again bring their annual holiday tour to Denver’s Buell Theatre. Performing the album that started it all, LIVE – Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, the group will bring back fond memories and embrace the traditions of audience members of all ages.
With a book by Emmy Award® winner Greg Garcia (“My Name is Earl,” “Raising Hope”) and Emmy Award® nominee Mike O’Malley (“Survivors Remorse,” “Shameless”), Escape To Margaritaville is the musical comedy featuring both original songs and beloved Jimmy Buffett classics, including “Fins,” “Volcano,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and many more. Performed at the Buell Theatre, Escape to Margaritaville will be the perfect tropical escape during the holiday season.
Mile High Holiday Events
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.
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.
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.
Back for its third year 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. Skaters can pick up free skate rentals and enjoy a few spins accompanied by a variety of entertainment, winter treats and family-friendly music playing in the background.
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.
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
The Denver Theatre District launched Night Lights Denver in early November 2019. This ongoing, year-round projection mapping installation will be projected on the Arapahoe Street side of the historic Daniels & Fisher Tower every Thursday through Saturday evening. Night Lights Denver will include rotating content, designed by artists and the community, featuring a wide range of art. During the holiday season, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the installation will include works by Colorado-based artists Joel Swanson and Sofie Birkin among others.
Light the Lights is Denver’s annual lighting of the City & County Building. This fun and heart-warming event is a Denver tradition and the perfect kick-off to the holiday season. There will be a variety of free, family-friendly activities, including a crafts corner and silly selfie booth hosted by the Denver Animal Shelter, a Bookmobile and story-time tent presented by the Denver Public Library, surprise activities with the Denver Police and Denver Fire Departments, more crafts and photo opportunities hosted by Denver Parks and Recreation, and luminaria making project coordinated by Denver’s Census 2020 initiative. Additionally, there will be roaming carolers and live entertainment on the main stage, as well as food truck offerings and warm beverages for purchase.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Denver Union Station will light up for the holidays during the Grand Illumination. The event features entertainment and a lighting ceremony for the 40 foot tall Plaza Christmas tree and historic station 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.
Embrace the holidays with thousands of colorful lights draped in elegant designs at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light. The 2019 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.
Denver’s newest holiday attraction, the Mile High Tree, will be the tallest digital tree in North America, as well as the tallest art installation in the history in Denver. At a stunning 110 feet tall and 39 feet in diameter, the tree will feature dynamic, pre-programmed light shows every 30 minutes throughout the evening using pixel LED technology choreographed to multicultural holiday music. The free attraction will also be surrounded by a festive atmosphere at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) where visitors will enjoy photographic lighting displays, entertainment, holiday treats and libations. Special themed evenings will include a princess night for children and pup pics with Santa for dog lovers, among other offerings.
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 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 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.
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.
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, Hermes, Lawrence Covell, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For a unique holiday shopping experience, Denver Botanic Gardens offers a Winter Gift Market at its York Street location. Vendors sell one-of-a-kind, handcrafted holiday items; bath and body products; pottery; jewelry; specialty foods; clothing; antiques and more. The Gardens Guild also offers its popular herbal vinegars and seasonings.
New Year’s Eve
The sky will once again sparkle over downtown Denver at the close of 2019 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.
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.
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 2019 — and the 6:30 pm start time ensures dancers will not miss the 16th Street Mall fireworks.
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.
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.