Tips for Transplants: Ten Rules for December in Denver

Denver likes its holiday drama.
Denver likes its holiday drama.
Larry Johnson at Flickr

December is one of those months that tends to fly by: You think you have all the time in the world, then the holidays come and go, and all of a sudden it’s January.

This year has been something of a bitch, but we have 31 more days of 2016 (ugh), and we might as well make the best of it, Denver style.

December in the Mile High City isn’t too dissimilar from December in the rest of the country, but there are a few things that both natives and newcomers could benefit from remembering during this hap-hap-happiest time of the year.

Here are the top ten tips for transplants.

It's time to light the lights.EXPAND
It's time to light the lights.
emarschn at Flickr

10. You’re Decorating for Two
Two reasons, that is: Whatever holiday you might celebrate, and the National Western Stock Show. Back in the day, the Stock Show was more than that thing that ties up traffic on I-70 something awful for a couple of weeks in the middle of January. It was the raison d’être for what was then still largely a cowtown at the western end of the American plains, and in its honor, Denver citizens were encouraged to light up their homes in festive style — so do it up right. One strand across your gutter is fine, but go bigger. No one’s asking you to rent a cherry picker, hire a crew or put on a display that would make Zoo Lights go resentfully dark. But if you’re going to participate, jump in with both feet. Fun fact: Outdoor Christmas lights were invented in Denver.

Snow in Denver is generally measured from the surface of patio furniture.
Snow in Denver is generally measured from the surface of patio furniture.
Jeniferlinneaphotography at Flickr

9. There Won’t Be Enough Snow
People think that Colorado, and Denver in particular, is lousy with snow in winter. But frankly, it’s not, and definitely not in December. Sure, we’ll probably get a few quick storms that will move in and out of the Front Range and leave behind a dusting or a few inches. Yes, there has been the freak December storm that socks everyone in, and, yes, everyone wants a white Christmas. But none of those happen very often, so your dreams of a Calvin-inspired snowman emergency scene may have to wait until 2017.

Hey, kids, look — it's gaping-mouth terrifying nutcracker-man! Now go to bed.
Hey, kids, look — it's gaping-mouth terrifying nutcracker-man! Now go to bed.
Aranami at Flickr

8. The Parade of Lights Is Always the Same
Sure, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade boasts the same character balloons every year, and (spoiler alert!) Santa always brings up the rear. (That’s what Mrs. Claus said! Ba-dum-dum.) But much of it is different from year to year, which is why we watch the parade year after year — that, and the fact that it’s on virtually every channel Thanksgiving morning. Anyway, Denverites know that the Parade of Lights is great the first time — and then you’ve pretty much seen all it has to offer. That’s no reason not to see it again, but taking a year or two off so you can comfortably forget the experience might help you enjoy it more the next time.

Clearly, this dapper gentleman is attending an Awesome Sweater Run.
Clearly, this dapper gentleman is attending an Awesome Sweater Run.
Brynn Traughber Howard

7. December Has The Best 5Ks
Most people know the Colder Boulder (December 3), but the best run in December is clearly the Ugly Sweater Run, which supports the burgeoning ugly-sweater industry while at the same time serving as an excuse for drinking beer and jingling more than those around you would normally support. Besides, this is the season for eating way too damn much, so you might as well take the opportunity to get off the couch, bundle up and work off some of that eggnog.

6. Check Out the Sie Film Center for Christmas Flicks
In past years, fans have been able to semi-enjoy the complete jaw-dropping amazing awfulness that is the Star Wars Holiday Special. They’re giving the Wookiee Life-Day celebration a rest this year (just another way 2016 has utterly sucked), but the Sie is still offering a host of holiday films that go from the traditional (It’s a Wonderful Life on December 11) to the rad (Gremlins on December 16) to the completely out there (Krampus on December 2). Bonus: If you get a large popcorn, you can string what you don’t eat with some cranberries when you get home and decorate like you’re in a Dickens novel.

Keep reading for five more tips.
 

Welcome to Colorado, where we all support each other's hobbies.
Welcome to Colorado, where we all support each other's hobbies.
jrm353 at Flickr

5. Whether or Not You Ski, You’ll Get Ski Updates
’Tis the season for everyone assuming that you like to strap waxed planks to your boots and hurl yourself down steep hills. Want to know what the forecast will be? Have to get the snow totals in the mountains first. Want to listen to the radio? You’ll hear copious ads about lift tickets and resorts and ski sales. Want to head up I-70 to Georgetown for some shopping? Don’t bother, buddy. Yeah, it's an important part of the Colorado tourism economy, but starting in December, skiing is going to become a part of your life whether you want it to or not.

4. NORAD Tracks Santa
A lot of TV meteorologists across the nation do this on their local newscasts on the days leading up to Christmas, but when it’s Colorado’s own North American Aerospace Defense Command handling the tracking, it makes it just that much cooler. No, kids, no one’s going to blow Santa out of the sky — we’re just tracking him so you can see where in the world he is. Enjoy this tradition while you can, starting December 1 at noradsanta.org. Next year, under the Trump administration, Santa will probably have to show his birth certificate in order to enter the U.S.

3. Enjoy the Fireworks Downtown on New Year’s Eve
If you’re celebrating within sight of downtown on the last night of 2016, be sure to look up at the sky at 9 p.m. and midnight, because Denver lights it up. Whether you’re ringing in 2017 Gatsby style at the 15th annual White Rose Gala at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House or just bar-hopping in LoDo, take a moment to stop, crane your necks, ooh and ahh, and let the new year come in bright and shiny.

Frings are going to be okay.EXPAND
Frings are going to be okay.
Teague Bohlen

2. Support the Cricket
After the fire Thanksgiving Eve, the Denver’s venerable burger joint had to close for an indeterminate amount of time. Fortunately, the old Breckenridge Brewery building was already in the process of transforming to a second Cricket (the two spots now have the same owner), but, still, the folks at 2200 Blake Street are going to need a warm welcome in the chill of December. So you know where you’re stopping for lunch while you’re shopping — not just because it’s delicious, but (with apologies to Wilford Brimley) because it’s the right thing to do. Don't forget the original Cricket, though: Chi-chi Cherry Creek needs a down-home dive now more than ever.

We're all living our lives like candles in the wind, Elton.
We're all living our lives like candles in the wind, Elton.
L.C. Nottaasen at Flickr

1. Light a Candle for 2017
Because hope is everything. And besides, it gets dark at, what, 4:30 in the afternoon now?


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