The Mile High City celebrates the return of favorite traditions alongside the arrival of new ones, including U.S.-debut art installations, Colorado premiere lighting displays and more
There is a lot to celebrate this season in The Mile High City – from the return of many beloved traditions to the debut of brand-new attractions; and Mile High Holidays is back to get everyone in the spirit. This year will see the exciting comeback of Denver holiday favorites – many of which were modified or postponed in 2020 – including the Mile High Tree, in-person performing arts, New Year’s Eve fireworks and the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo. And several attractions are welcoming brand-new lighting displays, art installations and more – providing the perfect opportunity to create new traditions.
Below are just a few of the happenings and attractions this holiday season; a full list, including hotel deals to spend a night or long weekend in Denver, can be found on the Mile High Holidays website. Many venues and attractions have safety precautions in place, so revelers are encouraged to check with individual venues and businesses for recommendations and requirements.
Cherry Creek North Winter Wanderland, November 18 – December 31, 2021
The 16-block Cherry Creek North neighborhood will be adorned with more than a half-million twinkling lights wrapping more than 600 trees — including eight musical trees elaborately decorated with long hanging strands of lights in motion. New this year is the U.S. debut of interactive outdoor art installation, “domino effect” by Creos, which will feature 120 brightly colored dominos, each with its own sound profile. And during Saturday Night Lights (Dec. 4, 11 and 18) stroll beneath 600 illuminated trees while enjoying free festive treats and entertainment.
The Mile High Tree, brought to you by presenting sponsor Modelo® USA, November 19, 2021 – January 1, 2022
Denver’s newest holiday attraction, the Mile High Tree, is the tallest digital tree in North America, as well as the tallest art installation in the history of 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 new multicultural music and holiday hit. The free attraction will also be surrounded by a festive atmosphere on the heart of Denver’s 16th Street Pedestrian Mall. Drink responsibly. Imported by Crown Imports, Chicago, IL.
Blossoms of Light, November 19, 2021 – January 8, 2022
Embrace the holidays with thousands of colorful lights draped in elegant designs at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light. The 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.
Zoo Lights, November 22, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Zoo Lights span 80 acres of Denver Zoo’s campus with two million LED lights, with nightly entertainment, animal encounters, ice carving demonstrations 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, and there will be several new displays.
Luminova Holidays, November 24, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Making its Colorado debut, this family-friendly event brings larger-than-life holiday displays and immersive experiences to Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park for all to enjoy. It features more than 3 million dazzling lights, a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 25-foot-tall snowman that never melts, a 200-foot-long candy cane tunnel, giant ornaments, a wall of lights, rides on limited Elitch Gardens attractions, train rides for the kids (and the kids at heart), interactive activities like a light-up hopscotch, strolling holiday entertainers, Old Saint Nick and his elves, and more.
2021 Light the Lights, November 25, 2021 & nightly through January 23, 2022
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock will kick off the City & County Building’s holiday festivities on November 24, flipping the switch to turn the building into a festive scene for the whole season. The interactive holiday show will play twice per night through January 23, 2022, at 5:45 and 6:45 pm.
Grand Illumination, November 26 – December 27, 2021
Denver Union Station’s annual Grand Illumination event will feature performances of classic holiday hits by the Denver Dolls, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the grand highlight of the evening—the lighting of the station’s outdoor 40-foot-tall Christmas tree that features more than 7,000 holiday lights. The Grand Illumination will also kick off the Merry & Bright Lights show, which will once again transform the exterior façade of Denver’s landmark train station into a spectacular canvas spreading holiday cheer every night.
9News Parade of Lights, December 4, 2021
The 9NEWS Parade of Lights is a free holiday spectacular throughout downtown, featuring more than 40 extravagantly illuminated floats, giant helium-filled character balloons, magnificent marching bands, traditional equestrian units and vibrant cultural displays. The parade concludes with a special appearance by Major Waddles the Penguin and Santa. After the parade, the floats will be displayed until Dec. 26 on various plazas like Denver Union Station and Denver Pavilions.
Night Lights Denver, permanent installation
Night Lights Denver features rotating content designed by local artists and the community and projected on the Arapahoe Street side of the Daniels & Fisher Tower every Tuesday through Sunday evening. Visit the Night Lights Denver website for details about each projection and the artist behind it.
Holiday Performing Arts
The Polar Express TM Train Ride, November 11 – December 23, 2021
The story of The Polar ExpressTM is theatrically re-created and combined with a magical train ride at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Children get to meet Santa and experience all the sights and sounds of this classic tale as if happening all around them. This year, a whole host of carefully crafted updates have been made in order to ensure the health and safety of guests, cast and crew, so put on your pajamas and your most fashionable mask and bring the family to enjoy sharing hot cocoa and cookies together as the “Hot, Hot, Hot—Chocolate” song and dance unfolds before your eyes.
Camp Christmas, November 18, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Guests will journey through Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ biggest holiday experience ever at Camp Christmas. New this year, the experience will be an outdoor/indoor extravaganza at Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, featuring artist Lonnie Hanzon’s fantastical wonderland of lights, dazzling decorations, music and memorabilia in various yuletide scenes across a six-acre landscape.
A Christmas Carol, November 19 – December 26, 2021
Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol is a joyous and opulent musical adaptation that traces money-hoarding curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. This year, A Christmas Carol will be performed in the newly renovated Wolf Theatre.
Colorado Ballet Presents The Nutcracker, November 27 – December 24, 2021
The beloved holiday favorite returns in a dazzling production like no one’s ever seen, featuring all-new sets and costumes created especially for Colorado Ballet. A sellout every year, this magical tale of Clara, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King is going to be dreamier than ever.
Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum, December 11-12 & 16-19, 2021
A Denver family tradition for 29 years, this incredible blend of dance, music and spoken word lifts the spirit and fills the heart with joy, love, and peace. Even in challenging times, the magic of Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum, presented by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, continues. Guided by the Three Angels of the Rainbow, Granny visits Africa, the Americas, Mexico, Asia and the Caribbean to celebrate the joy of Holiday Times! From the African Harvest to Kwanzaa, from the Chinese New Year to Junkanoo…. a celebration of both diversity and oneness!
Hip Hop Nutcracker, December 19-20, 2021
A holiday mash-up for the whole family, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is back and better than ever. Directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, this contemporary dance spectacle is set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music.
Survival of the Slowest, through January 9, 2022
In Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s “Survival of the Slowest” guests will meet live animals such as a two-toed sloth, a green iguana, a chameleon and several other species that manage to thrive in a world where large, strong and fast animals are often at the top of the food chain. Explore dozens of habitats teeming with live plants and animals, and discover their counterintuitive adaptations and surprising strategies for survival. Survival of the Slowest encourages guests to slow down and consider some of the advantages of being slow and some of the disadvantages of being fast.
Whistler To Cassatt: American Painters In France, November 14 – March 13, 2022
Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France at Denver Art Museum features more than 100 paintings made between 1855 and 1913 in the first comprehensive examination of France’s stylistic impact on American painting of the period. From academic training in Paris to exploration of the countryside landscape, Whistler to Cassatt reveals both the visual and conceptual influences of France on American painters in the 19th and early 20th century. The significant artistic contributions of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt also take the stage in the exhibition’s narrative. These artists were known to be part of the first wave of Americans to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, and to Paris—then considered the center of the art world. Each contributed to the rich complexity of American painting, which was in close dialogue with their French contemporaries during this period. Denver Art Museum’s renovated and unified campus reopened to the public on October 24, 2021. New and revitalized spaces include the J. Landis and Sharon Martin Building (previously the North Building), the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, eight levels of art galleries and programming space, as well as new outdoor public spaces, dining options and more.
GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World, November 19, 2021 – May 15, 2022
GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World at Denver Museum of Nature & Science will take guests on a fascinating exploration of the science, sound, history and pop culture behind the world’s most popular instrument. Visitors will experience and celebrate the many facets of this iconic instrument, from its origin and continued evolution, to the music it creates and the cultural impact it has had. Explore STEAM concepts like sound waves, frequency, mathematical scales, engineering and more through a wide range of hands-on experiences; and get to know some local guitarists through short biographies and imagery featured throughout the exhibition.
Downtown Denver Rink, through December 31, 2021
After a year hiatus, the Downtown Denver Rink Presented by Southwest will return to Skyline Park in the heart of downtown Denver this year. Celebrating its 11th year of welcoming skaters, the rink provides free ice skating to holiday revelers all season. Skates are available for rent, and the rink is open to all ages.
Film on the Rocks, November 26 – December 12, 2021
Enjoy a one-of-a-kind drive-in movie experience at the iconic Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre with a new lineup of films to celebrate the holidays such as “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Home Alone,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Scrooged,” and more.
1940s White Christmas Ball, December 3-4, 2021
Revelers will enjoy an enchanting evening of dancing amidst 1940s and 50s vehicles, movie set props, re-enactors, sleighs, Christmas trees and live music from big bands and vintage touring acts including Jukebox Saturday Night, The Satin Dollz, Dandy Wellington, The Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles, and Bianca and the Flyboys with the Denver Dolls. Held at Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, the 1940s White Christmas Ball is a classic Denver holiday tradition.
National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, January 8-23, 2022
Held every January since 1906 at the National Western Complex, the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo is the world’s largest stock show, involving more than 15,000 animals. The three-week event features more than 20 professional rodeo