Get in the Holiday Spirit at 10 of the State’s Most Festive Events

Whether you want to attend a luxury 1940s-themed ball or party it up in the name of the Norse god of snow, there’s something for everyone in the Centennial State
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Colorado Ballets production of The Nutcracker | Photo by Mike Watson

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it wouldn’t be complete without the most wonderful kinds of festivities.

From markets and parades to musical performances and train rides through Durango, Colorado has a lot to offer by way of holiday cheer.

The snowy streets and surrounding mountains make it an idyllic backdrop for all things winter, and folks around here have dedicated a great deal of time to perfecting the art of celebrating the season.

If you’re looking for some sure-fire ways to kick off the holidays but aren’t sure where exactly to start—there is an awful lot to do, after all—this is the guide for you. 

Denver Christkindlmarket | Denver

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Want to experience a European-style Christmas village without booking a flight? Look for further than Denver’s Civic Center Park.

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Starting on Nov. 19 and running through Dec. 23, Christkindlmarket features wooden vendor huts, bright lights, music, dancing, an authentic German Bier Hall and an opportunity for guests to meet St. Nikolaus, Krampus and the Christkind herself.

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It’s hosted by the German American Chamber of Commerce—Colorado, and it features both local and international small business vendors selling a range of treats and holiday gifts.

Polar Express Train Ride | Durango

Family On San Juan Car 2020 Polar Express

Photo by Jerry Day

Take a trip to the North Pole on the Polar Express. A vintage steam train will depart the station in Durango and set off for the North Pole to pick up Santa. Once onboard, the chefs will serve hot chocolate and a sweet treat and guests will enjoy a reading of The Polar Express by your conductor.

A light show set to music awaits at the North Pole, and on the return trip, Santa will visit each car to give out the first gift of Christmas.

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Photo by Jerry Day

The train trip lasts roughly 65 minutes, but it’s recommended that travelers allow two hours for the entire adventure. Guests are also encouraged to wear pajamas to capture the Christmas spirit. Even though cabins are thoroughly heated, bring a coat–it gets cold at the North Pole!

Trains run from Nov. 19 to Jan. 1, and tickets are on sale now.

COVID-19 mask policies are also in place while guests are riding in enclosed train coaches when windows are closed, in the public spaces of the depot and in the museum, regardless of vaccination status. Remember to bring masks with you for all those over the age of 2.

Catch the Glow Holiday Celebration and Evening Parade | Estes Park 

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Photo courtesy of Town of Estes Park/Julie Klett

The annual “Catch the Glow” parade will be held the day after Thanksgiving — Nov. 26 — at 5:30 p.m. As many as 20,000 people line Elkhorn Avenue each year and spend the afternoon visiting Santa or strolling through downtown Estes Park.

The parade features more than 40 units, including hand crafted floats from the Town of Estes Park and nonprofits, marching bands, fire trucks and other specialty vehicles.

Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker | Denver

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Photo by Mike Watson

After last year’s pandemic-induced cancellation, Colorado Ballet is back once again to perform “The Nutcracker.”

This year’s production will feature the debut of brand-new sets and costumes, created in the classic Victorian style especially for Colorado Ballet.

Running from Nov. 27 to Christmas Eve at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the family-friendly show is an acclaimed holiday classic.

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Photo by Mike Watson

Colorado Ballet has joined the resident companies of the Denver Performing Arts Complex in implementing health and safety policies to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As of Oct. 1, all patrons 12+ must be fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine before attending performances. “Fully vaccinated” means two weeks after a person’s second dose in a two-dose series and two weeks after a single-dose vaccine. 

All audience members 2+ must wear masks unless enjoying refreshments in designated areas. Food and beverages will not be permitted inside the theater. Children under the age of 12 must instead provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within six hours of the performance start time that was administered by an official testing center. Home testing kit results will not be accepted for entry.

Pueblo Parade of Lights | Pueblo

Kick off the holiday season with one of the largest parades in Colorado.

The Pueblo Parade of Lights has been a community staple for 31 years, featuring festive floats, school marching bands, drill teams, decorated saddle club horses and car club vehicles festooned with lights as the ​parade passes from the Mesa Junction down Union Avenue to Main Street, then west to disband at 6th and Court. Scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or Nov. 27, the parade’s theme this year is Toyland.

11th Annual 1940s White Christmas Ball | Denver

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Take a trip back in time at this 1940s and 50s themed Christmas ball! The event features old-timey cars, movie set lights and props, re-enactors, sleighs, Christmas trees, a canopy of lights and a range of big bands and vintage touring acts including The Satin Dollz and Jukebox Saturday Night.

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This year’s theme, It’s A Wonderful Life, aims to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1946 Christmas classic of the same name. Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey in the film, will be in attendance, signing custom “It’s a Wonderful Life” ornaments. A gourmet, 1940s-style dinner will be served as well. 

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Scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4 at the Hyatt Regency hotel, this retro event has earned accolades from The Denver Post, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and more, and it’s for a good cause; a portion of proceeds from ticket sales go to various charities.

The Little London Winds’ 2021 Hanukkah Concert | Colorado Springs

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Join the Little London Winds on Dec. 4 for a concert filled with Hanukkah and Klezmer music to celebrate the Festival of Lights. After the concert, guests are invited to join the performers and congregation for an Oneg Shebbat, or refreshments, hosted by the members of Temple Shalom.

The concert is free and open to the public. All faiths are welcome, and visitors are not required to wear yarmulkes at this event.

Temple Shalom is located at 1523 East Monument Street, just behind the Olympic Training Center. A time for the event has not been announced, but any updated–including those regarding COVID-19 safety measures–will be updated on The Little London Winds’ website, Facebook page and Instagram account as well as sent in an email to those on its mailing list.

Lighting of Breckenridge & Race of the Santas | Breckenridge

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A couple hundred Santas will race down Main Street on Saturday, Dec. 4 to kick off the festive holiday season in downtown Breckenridge.

Even if some local large-scale events may look a little different again this year in the interest of COVID-19 safety, event organizers still promise a celebratory and exciting atmosphere filled with holiday cheer and illuminated by 250,000 lights strung up throughout the city center.

Sothebys Holiday Lights

With the goal of dispersing downtown guests from Main Street’s narrow sidewalks and creating some extra outdoor space, a festival of holiday trees, decorated by community businesses, will be added to the Blue River Rec Path and remain on display throughout the month of December.

Ugly Sweater Brew Run 5K | Lakewood

Dig out those ugly sweaters and get ready to run 5K-ish.

On Dec. 4, the event kicks off at 9 a.m. at LandLocked Ales, 3225 S. Wadsworth Blvd. The run officially begins at 10 a.m., and from 11 a.m. on, there will be games, beers and, of course, the Ugly Sweater Contest.

The dog- and family-friendly event features a flat course through Bear Creek Greenbelt. Tickets include run entry, LandLocked Ales Brew, RMBR pint glass (or swag of your choice), entry to the ugliest sweater contest and more giveaways from event sponsors. And, 10% of ticket sales go to Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue, a charity that works to find forever homes for labrador retrievers or lab mixes.

Ullr Fest | Breckenridge

Sledding Down Main Street At Ullr Fest In Breckenridge

This unique festival honors Ullr, the Norwegian snow god. The 10-day celebration of all things winter and snow began shortly after the Breckenridge Ski Resort was founded in the 1960s, when Sigurd Rockne and Trygve Berge created the first Ullr Dag Festival. The majority of the ski school instructors were Norwegian and had a long tradition of celebrating Ullr. 

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Photo by Louie Traub

To repay Ullr for his gift of snow, Breckenridge continues to hold a festival to honor the god of winter with Ullr Fest. Traditions like the Ullr Ball, the Ullr Bonfire, the Ullr Parade, Snow Sculpting, Ullr King and Queen, the Ullympics and the Ullr Dating Game have been established over the years, and offer an eclectic range of winter activities for snow-lovers who like a good party, too.

The party starts Dec. 8 and will run through Dec. 17 at a variety of locations through historic Breckenridge.

Categories: Colorado Destinations, Events