Whether you’re visiting family or taking a solo trip during winter break, few places feel like as much of a winter wonderland as Colorado. Denver is no exception. The best part is that there’s something to do for everyone, from families with small kids to couples, groups of friends, and solo travelers.
1. Visit the Mile High Tree
No matter how extravagant your town’s Christmas tree is, there’s no competing with the Mile High Tree in Denver. Even the tallest Rockefeller Center Christmas trees couldn’t beat this 110’-tall immersive art masterpiece. The tree is outfitted with 60,000 LED lights to facilitate nightly public light shows featuring unique choreography and multicultural music.
This immersive viewing experience takes place within the tree itself, which can accommodate 140 guests at a time. The program restarts every 15 minutes from 5 PM to 10 PM. This family-friendly activity is completely free, so there’s no excuse for missing it.
2. Ice Skate at Skyline Park
Looking for something more active to do while on vacation? Skyline Park offers an opportunity to get out on the ice and enjoy one of America’s most cherished winter traditions. Whether you’re new to ice skating or a seasoned pro, you’re welcome at this public rink in downtown Denver.
Like the Mile High Tree, Skyline Park offers free admission. There’s one caveat, though. You’ll need to either bring your own ice skates or rent them at the rink. Expect to pay between $5 and $11.
3. Visit the Christkindlmarket
The Christkindlmarket offers a unique cultural experience unlike any other. The German-style holiday market is open daily until December 23 at the Denver Civic Center Park and features local and European food vendors, crafts, and entertainment.
The best part is that every day is different at Denver’s only authentic European holiday market. Check the website to view a comprehensive event calendar that includes all the bands and events. You can also reserve a table in the Festival Hall in advance. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy traditional German food and drinks while taking in the live entertainment from the best seats in the house.
4. Snowboard at Ruby Hill Rail Yard
When most people think of winter sports, they imagine ski slopes out in the pristine wilderness. Ruby Hill Rail Yard is a little different. This urban terrain winter sports park is open from 5 AM to 10 PM every day to both snowboarders and skiers. Admission is free. The park even has free equipment rentals on Thursday nights and Saturdays.
The Rail Yard is a perfect place for snowboarders who want to try something a little different. Featuring 10 rails and boxes with carefully designed configurations, this unique winter sports haven almost feels like a skatepark.
5. Ride the Santa Express Train
Kids of all ages love the Santa Express Train. This year, the train got a new holiday locomotive upgrade, making the ride through the Royal Gorge to the North Pole even more fun. Featuring hundreds of hand-painted snowflakes, pine trees, reindeer, and Santa’s sleigh riding under a full moon, the train itself is a work of art. However, it’s the experience that kids remember for the rest of their lives.
Once all the guests have boarded the train, Santa makes his rounds to greet everyone and give each child a special gift. The train then travels through the Gorge to a North Pole display featuring over 50,000 lights. If you plan an evening trip, you may even catch some festive Northern lights on the way back.
6. Soak in the Indian Hot Springs
After a few days of holiday events, it’s time to relax with a Soak in the Indian Hot Springs. Just 30 miles from downtown Denver, the Indian Hot Springs feels like a completely different world. You can soak in geothermal caves or secluded private tubs, get in a dip among the groves of banana trees in the atrium, or even schedule a spa treatment.
Every vacation should include some time to sit back and relax. Scheduling a trip to the Indian Hot Springs will help you do just that. Reservations aren’t required for day use of the pool and caves but keep in mind that parts of this resort spa are adults-only areas, including the hot springs.
7. Friday Art Walk
The Denver Friday Art Walk isn’t a winter-only affair. Instead, it occurs on the first Friday of the month, year-round. The winter holidays bring a festive air to this beloved monthly event, though, and it’s not to be missed.
Taking place in the Mile High City’s celebrated Art District, the First Friday Art Walk allows visitors to view the work of hundreds of artists, not just in local galleries but also in open studios, co-ops, and even alleyways. There will also be food trucks and vendors, so come prepared with a hearty appetite.
8. Winter Brew Fest
So far, most of this list has focused on family-friendly events celebrating the holiday season. Given that Denver is known for its craft breweries, it’s only appropriate to include the Winter Brew Fest. This 21-plus event takes place in late January, which makes it a good fit for those who want to plan a winter trip to the Mile High City but don’t want to worry about skipping holiday celebrations closer to home.
The Winter Brew Fest features unlimited tastings of Colorado’s best brews from a souvenir glass, musical entertainment, and even a chance at winning special prizes. Daytime and evening sessions are available, and VIP-hour offers attendees the chance to get the first taste of many unique brews, plus a cheese sampling and access to VIP swag.
9. Winter Hiking
Serious nature lovers know that with the right gear, every month is part of the hiking season, including the winter months. You’ll have to leave the city to get a taste of the winter wonderland that occurs from November to April every year, but there are plenty of day hikes with easy access and no treacherous driving.
Red Rocks Trails
Red Rocks Park is best known for its iconic amphitheater, but there’s also plenty to see of the natural world. The Trading Post Trail is ideal for winter hikes since this short loop lets visitors check out ten red rock formations in just 1.4 miles.
Want to enter the Red Rocks Park by trail? If so, Matthews/Winters Park is arguably the best starting point. Just be sure to check the alerts and closures before heading out. Poor weather is only one reason for trails to be closed. Hunting and forest health management can also restrict access to certain areas in the winter.
Chief Mountain Trailhead
Chief Mountain is just an hour’s drive from Denver but offers incredible scenic views. The 2.8-mi hike up the mountain and back is considered moderately challenging even during the warmer seasons, so while it’s open year-round, the Chief Mountain Trail is only appropriate for seasoned hikers in the winter. Visitors should also note that the roads leading to the trailhead may be subject to road closures depending on the weather.
Shanahan Ridge Trailhead
The Shanahan Ridge Trail is longer than most on this list, clocking in at 4.2 miles. Plan for a moderate hike and leave early to make full use of the day. You should also check for wildlife closures before leaving.
Elk Meadow Park
Elk Meadow Park is much less strenuous than Shanahan Ridge or Chief Mountain, which makes it ideal for families. This easy 2.6-mi hike is just outside of Evergreen Lake, so don’t forget to pack some ice skates.
10. Take a Trip to the Ski Slopes
While not technically in Denver, Colorado’s famous ski slopes are worth putting in the extra effort of a day trip or even a multiple-day excursion. If you’re planning a day trip, note that these resorts are all located within a two-hour drive of the city:
- Echo Mountain Resort (36 mi)
- Loveland Ski Area (56 mi)
- Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (63 mi)
- Eldora Mountain Resort (48 mi)
- Winter Park Resort (66 mi)
- Keystone Ski Resort (69 mi)
- Copper Mountain Resort (77 mi)
These are just a few options available to avid winter sports enthusiasts. If you have the time, you may want to include a multiple-day trip to Breckenridge, Vail, or one of the state’s other world-class ski areas.
Places to Stay in Denver
Whether you’re in Denver for the holidays to visit friends and family or just for a much-needed vacation, there’s no need to settle for a generic, overpriced chain hotel. Denver vacation rentals range from cozy and affordable to truly luxurious, so it’s easy to find options that fit your family’s needs and budget.
The winter holidays are just around the corner. If you don’t have plans for how you’re going to spend them yet, it’s time to get moving. Check out some of the top attractions described above online so you don’t miss out on any of the fun.