Prior to giving -- and giving and giving and giving -- thanks at today's dinner table, do yourself a big favor: Burn some pre-meal fat and work up an appetite at Huff-n-Puff Before You Stuff, Aurora Recreation's annual invitation to battle holiday poundage before it starts. Bring a donation of two cans of food or hygiene and baby products to the Beck Recreation Center, 800 Telluride Street, Aurora, this morning, and you'll be treated to free aerobics, weightlifting or swimming from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. There's nothing like exercise to make one better appreciate a fine meal; call 303-739-6886 or log on to www.ci.aurora.co.us.
On the other hand, if you're typically one big mashed couch potato after feasting on tryptophan-releasing flesh (and ten tons of other comfort foods) but you're not a football fan, tune in to KRMA-TV/Channel 6, where the tube will be dressed gloriously for the holiday with a full day of family-style programming. Today's Turkey Day Specials, a lovely mishmash of marching bands, old movies and populist music, kick off at noon with the inspiring and possibly ear-splitting 2003 Drum Corps International World Championships, followed by a Cary Grant double-header -- Bringing Up Baby, with co-star Kate Hepburn, at 1:30 p.m., and People Will Talk, with June Allyson, at 3:10 p.m.; Liz Taylor then leads the cast in Little Women at 7 p.m., and Farm Aid 2003: A Soundstage Special Event concludes the evening (along with a turkey sandwich?) at 9 p.m. with performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and others. Ladies and gentlemen, ready yourselves for inactivity.
Friday, November 28
We all know a successful holiday season requires one to excel at certain special skills: There's the one-handed, come-from-behind sale-table grab; the ability to remain perfectly calm while trying to maneuver between two fat ladies, an ocean of package-laden strollers (where's the baby?) and a Santa line backed up all the way to some mall in Kansas; the willpower to avoid inhaling 25 Christmas cookies every single day in December; and the miraculous gift of speed-wrapping under extreme holiday duress, sometimes at three in the morning. If you're one of the lucky few able to wrap exemplary gift packages faster than a speeding bullet, you might consider entering the It's a Wrap Contest, beginning today at 11 a.m. on the lower level of FlatIron Crossing, 1 West FlatIron Circle, Broomfield. The competition is taking place in tandem with day one of the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping rush. Blow them all away, then it's time to shop! Hurry, hurry to register (extra points if you can e-mail your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to Fic@macerich.com while tying a perfect bow): The contest is limited to the first twenty entrants. For details, call 720-887-7467 or log on to www.flatironcrossing.com.
Have your kids -- turkey-stoked, released from school and spinning amok with mounting visions of sugarplums, Barbie dolls and Yu-Gi-Oh! action figures -- drilled a hole through the roof yet? There's a reason they switch on the Denver Zoo Wildlights the day after Thanksgiving, so why not take advantage of the thoughtful gesture? Bundle up for the zoo's annual winter wonderland, a sparkling vision of more than one million lights and animated light sculptures open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31. Admission ranges from $2 to $7, or come early and enjoy regular zoo attractions before the sun goes down; combined admission is $7 to $11. The Denver Zoo is at 2300 Steele Street in City Park; call 303-376-4800 or log on to www.denverzoo.org. Fast on the heels of Wildlights comes the equally spectacular Blossoms of Light, opening December 1 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1005 York Street, with a fantastic display of light-draped trees and more. Blossoms runs from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly, also through December 31; admission is $4 to $8 (children ages three and under admitted free). Call 720-865-3500 or log on to www.botanicgardens.org.
Hometown boy and Fringe Festival regular Thaddeus Phillips returns to Denver from the New York City theater scene with another of his intriguing and idiosyncratic one-man shows. This time, he's turned Shakespeare's Henry V inside out in Henry 5 Live From Times Square, an up-to-the-minute Americanization of the drama in which a Times Square vendor proposes a U.S. invasion of France, featuring the facile Phillips and a full cast of plastic action figures. Go figure. The curtain rises for Henry 5 at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, today through December 7, at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street; for tickets,$10 to $15, call 720-946-1388.
Saturday, November 29
You've just gotta get your fix of Scrooge, Cratchit and Tiny Tim each year; what would Christmas be without it? Renew your holiday spirit with the Denver Center Theatre Company's rendition of A Christmas Carol, as adapted by director Laird Williamson. It runs daily through December 28 (with the exception of Christmas Day) at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets. Admission ranges from $16 to $43; bring the family before December 8 and you'll be treated to discounts for kids ages four to seventeen. For tickets and showtimes, call 303-893-4100 or 1-866-464-2626 or visit www.denvercenter.org. That other must-see holiday classic, the Colorado Ballet's Nutcracker, which pirouettes over to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, this year while the Auditorium Theater undergoes renovation, opens today and also continues through December 28. Tickets are $20 to $74; call 303-357-2787 or go to www.coloradoballet.com.
Sunday, November 30
Despite rinks nixed at Skyline Plaza, Larimer Square and (the ghost of Christmas past?) the long-departed Zeckendorf Plaza, the Fillmore Plaza ice-skating rink in Cherry Creek is not the only game in town this year, or at least not in the Denver-Boulder area: WinterSkate, which opened to the public last week, returns this year in a fancy new home at One Boulder Plaza (13th Street and Canyon Boulevard), Boulder's own version of Rockefeller Center. The rink is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday until winter's end (or when the ice melts, whichever comes first). Admission is $2.50 to $4.50; skate rental is $2.50. Call 303-449-3825.
Monday, December 1
The Colorado AIDS Project treats World AIDS Day as an opportunity to improve visibility, and that's a good thing. Among the activities CAP will host today are street-outreach events, complete with condom distribution and HIV testing information, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on the 16th Street Mall and at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, and citywide displays of red ribbons representing lives lost to AIDS at the Denver City and County Building, the Pepsi Center, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, DIA's main terminal, and the CAP offices, at 701 East Colfax Avenue. For additional events and information, call 303-837-0166 or log on to www.coloradoaidsproject.org.
Tuesday, December 2
You know the Cherry Creek Shopping Center has a Santa: The jolly old elf set up shop this year inside the mall's gigantic Christmas tree and has been doing lap duty there for over a week. But what about kids who can't hear his ho-ho-ho? Cherry Creek prides itself in having something for everyone, and lo and behold, Signing Santa will also be on duty, along with his limber digits, from 9 a.m. to noon today and tomorrow, at 3000 East First Avenue. Call 303-388-3900 or go to www.shopcherrycreek.com for information.
Wednesday, December 3
The canopy will be heated, thank goodness, and properly decorated for the holiday concert series at Hudson Gardens, 6115 South Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, where most of the green things have gone to sleep for the winter. And besides, the music will keep you and yours warm. The December series kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. with the Aries Brass Quintet; Colcannon, Bonnie Phipps and the Ms. Behavin' Barbershop Quartet entertain on subsequent Sundays through December 21. Admission is $4 to $6; call 303-797-8565 or log on to www.hudsongardens.org.