Free Holiday Activities in Denver
posted by: Amber Johnson
Some of the Mile High City’s greatest winter attractions and events are for FREE. Don’t miss this great list compiled by our friends at Visit Denver:
FREE HOLIDAY FESTIVALS & EVENTS
The Ice Palace at Cherry Creek Shopping Center
Nov. 12 – Dec. 24
The Ice Palace, an extensive new, free holiday experience features a magical snow and light show inside a soaring 22-foot dome encircled with a series of arches and snow globes. The Ice Palace features content from the highly anticipated feature film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Note: Complimentary downtown weekend hotel shopping shuttles are available from the Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Westin to Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Nov. 26 – Dec. 19. Complimentary shuttles from Westin Hotel, Hyatt Regency, and Grand Hyatt to Cherry Creek Shopping Center Friday, November 26 and every Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 27 through Dec. 19.
Southwest Rink at Skyline Park
Opening November 26
A brand new addition to the Denver holiday scene, the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park (Arapahoe & 16th St., Downtown Denver) will kick off the holiday season with ice skating and family fun. The rink is FREE and open to the public with the option to bring one’s own skates or rent a pair at a minimal cost.
Beginning Nov. 26
This holiday season experience winter in a whole new light with LoDo Aglow, a window design contest sponsored by Great Western Bank and the LoDo District, Inc. Local business owners, designers and art students have been given the chance to let their imaginations run wild and create holiday themed window art to brighten LoDo. The entries will be reviewed by a panel of guest judges who will choose the winners based on the originality and presentation of the design. Winners will be announced in mid-December.
Visits With Santa on Larimer Square
Nov. 26 – Dec. 24 (weekends)
Santa Claus will ride his sleigh into Downtown Denver and set up shop on Larimer Square every weekend throughout the holiday season. Children will have the opportunity to tell Santa their holiday wishes atop his magical throne, while parents snap their own pictures, so don’t forget the camera and wish list. Santa will be available for visits beginning Friday, Nov. 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and continuing every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Christmas Eve. Santa will be located in a magical wonderland of the historic Lincoln Hall building. Visits are FREE and open to the public.
Denver Pavilions: Weekend Wonderland
November 26 – December 24
Enjoy the sounds of the season at Denver Pavilions. Choirs and concerts from talented groups will entertain shoppers on the weekends in the plazas.
Golden Holiday Art Market
November 13 – December 30
A seasonal tradition, Foothills Art Center (FAC) is proud to present the 36th annual Holiday Art Market (HART). Set against the vintage charm of our historic buildings and stained glass windows, HART caps a wonderful year of exhibitions at FAC by filling the galleries with a diverse, locally handcrafted selection of fine art and craft.
City & County Building Holiday Lights
November 26 – January 2011
The largest lighting display in Denver comes on nightly at 6 p.m. at the City & County Building, where 600,000 lights deck the neo-classical building. The bell tower plays carols nightly as well.
Winter Wonderland: An Andrew Sisters Holiday Concert with Reveille 3
December 18, 2-3 p.m.
This hot trio has been bringing their nostalgic sounds to packed performances for three years. Reveille 3 (Marnie Ward, Anne Zinschlag and Christine Wise) sing the songs we all cherish from holidays past at the Denver Public Library’s central branch.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Ring in the New Year with Denver’s annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks with viewpoints along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. There will be two displays, one at the family friendly hour of 9 p.m. and the other at midnight. Costumed entertainers will interact with crowds between shows, featuring magicians, costumed characters, balloon artists, stilt walkers, comedians and more.
National Western Stock Show Parade
January 6, 12 p.m.
This annual Stock Show tradition kicks off the yearly celebrations in Downtown. Beginning at Union Station and meandering down 17th Street, the parade features marching bands, floats, horseback riders and performing cowgirls and cowboys, in addition to the incredible sight of Texas Longhorn cattle being driven through downtown Denver.
First Friday Art Walk
First Friday Art Walks in Denver’s art districts are known for the rich, shared experience of performance art, music, painting exhibitions and lots more. It’s an event that feeds both the need for art and culture and the desire to have fun!
Ruby Hill Railyard
Opening January 2011
No need to head for the hills for great skiing. This free urban ski and ride terrain park located just outside of Downtown Denver in Ruby Hill Park features seven rails of varying configurations and skill levels.
Garden of the Gods
Located 60 miles from Denver, the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods features gigantic 500-foot high red sandstone rock monuments at the base of Pikes Peak.
This expansive area – one of the most renowned skate parks in the country – is filled with bowls for all levels of skating skill. Admission is free. Helmets are required.
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Learn about global warming, the 21st century’s hottest topic, at this fascinating free museum. See a hailstone the size of a softball, watch as a miniature tornado is whipped up in front of your eyes, and get an up close look at how lightning is created.
Red Rocks Performers’ Hall of Fame & Trails
Carved from towering red rock monuments, this 9,000-seat arena is one of the world’s most renowned concert venues. While the concert season is over for the winter months, Red Rocks is still worth a visit. The free Visitor Center has a museum and a Performers’ Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks.
Denver Story Trek
Ever wonder about the stories of the places in Denver? On Denver Story Trek, explore the stories behind Denver’s historic landscapes and landmarks on an interactive, self-guided tour of the city. It’s simple to use and free!
Littleton Historical Museum
Travel back in time at this free museum and get a glimpse into Colorado’s pioneer past. Located on 39 acres, the museum consists of two living history farms (one from the 1860s and one from the 1890s), with a working farm, a blacksmith shop and more than 40,000 historically Colorado artifacts.
Tattered Cover Bookstore
The Tattered Cover is one of the nation’s largest and most well-known independent bookstores and often hosts free signings by some of the literary world’s most famous authors. They also offer free wi-fi. There are three locations: Lower Downtown, East Colfax and Highlands Ranch.
See some dinos – or what’s left of them anyway. Dinosaur Ridge features famous Jurassic dinosaur bones, such as Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus, discovered in 1877, and Cretaceous dinosaur footprints. A guidebook is available for use on self-guided tours.
Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum
Housed in INVESCO Stadium (home of the Denver Broncos), this free museum honors the legacies of the Mile High City’s greatest sports heroes, and features the Gallery of Legends, a “Great Moments in Colorado Sports” exhibit and a section celebrating the achievements of girls and women in Colorado Sports.
Rockmount Ranch Wear
Browse the racks and enjoy the free museum at Lower Downtown’s historic Rockmount Ranch Wear, the originator of the western snap-button shirt. The walls are adorned with photos of the many celebs who have worn Rockmount shirts (and visited the store), including Eric Clapton, Robert Redford and Elvis Presley.
REI Flagship Store
Located in the restored 1901 Denver Tramway building, the REI Denver Flagship store is a complete outdoor resource, a historic landmark and an award-winning architectural accomplishment. Don’t miss the interactive features, including mountain bike trails, a 45-foot climbing wall and more.
Stiles African American Heritage Center
Located in the heart of Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood, The Stiles African American Heritage Center emphasizes the positive contributions of African Americans with guided tours, cultural exhibits, artifacts and more.
The Mizel Museum
Learn about Jewish life and culture, immigration, art lessons of the Holocaust, and more at this free museum.
Aurora History Museum
Check out this free, hidden gem museum, featuring community-based historic and cultural exhibits.
Clear Creek History Park
The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset. Stroll around for free and peek through the windows of these beautiful old buildings dating back to Colorado’s pioneer days.
Arvada Center Sculpture Garden
The Arvada Center Sculpture Garden features a variety of permanent and temporary outdoor pieces as well as the Dirt Wall, a public art piece that winds its way through both the interior and exterior of the center. Fifteen pieces by 12 artists are currently featured. A walking tour guide book is available free of charge from the Arvada Center box office.
Admission to Hudson Gardens, a popular destination for adults and kids alike, is free from November through April. The gardens take on an otherworldly glow during the winter months.
National Renewable Energy Lab
Visitors of all ages can take a self-guided tour through the interactive exhibit hall and learn about energy from the sun, wind, biomass and other sources of renewable energy.
Colorado State Capitol Tour
Tour Colorado’s magnificent gold-domed Capitol Building. Stand at exactly a mile high on the steps, see Allen True’s beautiful murals, listen in on the Colorado General Assembly, and check out the gorgeous Rose Onyx wainscoting. Free tours are available Mondays through Fridays.
Coors Brewery Tour
The world’s largest brewing site still uses the same Rocky Mountain spring water that Adolph Coors discovered in 1873. Free tours show every step in the brewing process, and end with free samples for those over 21.
U.S. Mint Tour
Learn how to make money! The Mint produces 50 million coins a day, each one stamped with a little “D” for Denver. Free tours show every step in the process of turning a dull, blank, metal slug into shiny pocket change.
Celestial Seasonings Tour
See how the largest specialty tea manufacturer in North America blends, packages and ships its teas, then enjoy free samples of every variety they make, and discover a gallery of original artwork from their famous tea boxes.
Great Divide Brewery Tour
Get a behind-the-scenes look at Denver’s craft beer world on a free tour at the Great Divide Brewery in Downtown Denver. Tours take place from 3 to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, and on the hour on Saturdays between 2 and 7 pm.
Downtown Denver Historic Walking Tour
This walking tour will take walkers to some of the best spots in Downtown Denver, where the city’s past and present come together in utterly unique ways. Many of the sites and buildings are listed as official Denver Landmarks, or included in the National Register of Historic Places. Many also have historic markers and plaques noting their original intended purpose and construction dates.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours gives guests the opportunity to see the all-natural brewing process and marvel at their state-of-the-art facilities, brewhouses, cellars and packaging plants. Enjoy a complimentary tasting of their finest beers and browse through gift shops. Tours are approximately one hour in length and include visits to both indoor and outdoor facilities. Reservations are required for groups of 15 or more.
Public Art Walking Tour
Great art isn’t just in Denver’s museums. Throughout the city, discover hundreds of masterpieces, ranging from the whimsical to the inspiring. Download the guide to Downtown’s public art and start exploring!
FREE DAYS AT DENVER ATTRACTIONS
Denver Art Museum Free Days
January 1, 2011
Explore this world class museum’s galleries, showcasing a world-famous American Indian art collection, as well as art from around the world.
Children’s Museum of Denver Free Target Tuesdays
A perfect after-school activity – families can play for FREE the first Tuesday of each month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Denver Museum of Miniatures Free Days
January 2, 2011
The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, one of Denver’s greatest hidden gem museums, offers a “pay-what-you-can” Family Free Day on every first Sunday of every month. Contact the museum to find out what fun free craft or event will be offered on these days.
Denver Zoo Free Day
January 9, 2011
Explore one of the nation’s most popular zoos for free! See polar bears, rhinos, elephants, lions, tigers and more.
The Denver Center Free For All
See live theatre — for free. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts provides free tickets throughout the year. In order to provide a greater variety of date, time and performance options, the Denver Center has launched a new application-based ticket drawing. Apply for a chance to win free tickets — any night (or day), any time and any show! Simply apply and the Denver Center will confirm when tickets are available. It’s simple — be in it to win it.