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The 21 Best Events in Denver, November 21-27

The Botanic Gardens get festive during Blossoms of Light.
The Botanic Gardens get festive during Blossoms of Light.
Denver Botanic Gardens
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Thanksgiving is upon us, which means it's time to find different ways to avoid having political conversations with your relatives in town! We've got plenty of options (some that would put you as far away as Vail) for today on. Keep scrolling for this week's best events in Denver.

Tuesday, November 21

After a major hailstorm in May shuttered the place, Colorado Mills, at 14500 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, will finally reopen its doors at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 21, just in time for holiday shoppers eager to tackle their gift lists. Though not all of the 119 stores will be back in business — openings will roll out through early 2018 — shoppers will still have plenty to choose from, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Super Target and Yoga Pod, which all opened earlier this fall. For information on store openings and employment opportunities, visit coloradomills.com. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 22

Adelitas Cocina y Cantina, the popular Mexican restaurant at 1294 South Broadway, is once again giving us reason to be thankful. On Wednesday, November 22, Adelitas will host its annual Thanksgiving Eve Party, with classic holiday movies, music and special dishes all night long in addition to the usual menu. Among the seasonal offerings: turkey tacos for $8.95, pumpkin tamales for $3.95, and turkey enchiladas for $11.95. Wash them down with enough of Adelitas’ award-winning margaritas, and you’ll forget whatever distasteful turkey commitment you have on Thanksgiving. Find out more and make a reservation at adelitasdenver.com.

Thursday, November 23

Are you thankful for a day off? Come up with a good excuse to avoid the obligatory feast and instead head for the hills, where a number of ski resorts will be opening on Thanksgiving Day. Because of the lack of snow, Vail Mountain pushed back its opening from November 17, but there will be no shortage of free breakfast burritos and other swag on the new opening day of November 23; find out more at vail.com. Eldora also postponed its opening until Thanksgiving; get the details at eldora.com. Farther afield, Crested Butte and Telluride will also celebrate opening day on November 23. Remember, there's no business like snow business!

While Denver's Downtown Aquarium may seem like a fishy place to spend the most poultry-centric holiday of the year, its annual Thanksgiving buffet features all the tasty trappings that diners have come to expect, including carved turkey, cornbread dressing and housemade cranberry sauce. The feasting commences at 10 a.m. on Thursday, November 23 — early birds can take advantage of a waffle-making station — and seatings continue throughout the day at the gourmet gauntlet, which also features smoked fish and fresh fruit displays, a special kids' buffet, and a customizable macaroni-and-cheese station. Meal tickets, $19.99 to $39.99, grant diners 50 percent off of tickets to the Adventure Exhibit and validated parking at the aquarium, 700 Water Street. Call 303-561-4450 or visit aquariumrestaurants.com for more details.

Just as this city is growing, so are the number of Thanksgiving Day races, because one isn’t enough to handle the ever-increasing crowds who yearn to impersonate turkeys and get a head start working off those mashed-potato calories. On the far northeast edge of Denver, the Stanley Harvesting Hope 5K will handle some of that overflow, with a timed 5K walk/run from 10:15 a.m. to noon on Thursday, November 23, at Stapleton Central Park, 8801 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Registration for the 5K is $35 in advance and $40 on race day (if there’s still room); kids ten and under can blow off steam at a free 1K fun run at 9:30 a.m. Proceeds benefit the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research;  learn more and register for either race at harvestinghope5k.com.

Get in the holiday spirit at the Denver Botanic Garden's Blossoms of Light.
Get in the holiday spirit at the Denver Botanic Garden's Blossoms of Light.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Friday, November 24

No need to rise at the crack of dawn for post-prandial shopping insanity. Instead, check out a different kind of Black Friday on Friday, November 24: Station 26's Black Friday Invitational, a beer festival devoted to imperial stouts. The brewery at 7045 East 38th Avenue will pour variations of its black-as-your-soul Dark Star Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, including Sesame Brittle (flavored with toasted sesame seeds, ginger, coconut and caramel), Black Walnut and Port, and the Forager (roasted mushrooms, beets, chapulines, rosemary, thyme and sage). Our Mutual Friend Brewing, River North Brewery and TRVE Brewing are just a few of the participants that will be dispensing inky ales into glasses. And while the format of this fest may seem overly paternal (you're limited to thirteen three-ounce samples here), consider that the ABVs of these brews are likely to be above 10 percent. Tickets, $55, are on sale at eventbrite.com, where you'll also select your session (1 to 3:30 p.m. or 4 to 6:30 p.m.) This is one Black Friday tradition we can all toast.

Seeking inspiration in the midst of another maddening holiday season? The Denver Botanic Gardens has two family-friendly winter-wonderland experiences opening on Friday, November 24: Blossoms of Light at the urban DBG, 1007 York Street; and the newly reconfigured Santa's Village at the rural Chatfield Farms, 8500 West Deer Creek Canyon Road in Littleton. Chatfield’s festivities will now focus more heavily on hanging out with Santa in a magical village, with hayrides, holiday movie clips, live reindeer, Christmas crafts and gift vendors, while the central Denver location shines with more than a million sparkly LED lights, hot chocolate stations and those nifty prismatic glasses. Hours continue through Christmas Eve at Chatfield (4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and through New Year’s Day at York Street (5 to 9 p.m. nightly, including holidays). Tickets, ranging from $11 to $20 in advance, can be purchased online at botanicgardens.org, or you can take your chances at the gate, where space is limited.

With the debut of the meandering Parker Ice Trail in Discovery Park, one of only a few ice trails across the nation, ice-skating is suddenly very slick. Designed to resemble an old-fashioned coast along a frozen river, the ice trail is a new way to re-create a woodsy winter ramble, though warming pits and hot-chocolate concessions are conveniently stationed nearby. The Ice Trail opens at 11 a.m. Friday, November 24, for a weekend-long celebration; variable daily hours kick in on November 27. Channel your inner Hans and Gretel Brinker at Discovery Park; the trail, accessible near Mainstreet and Pine Drive in Parker, is open every day through February, dependent on weather conditions. Admission is $6 to $8, and skate rentals are $4; learn more at co-parkerrec.civicplus.com.

Don't miss Simulacra Vision at Pirate.
Don't miss Simulacra Vision at Pirate.
Nicole Banowetz and Chris Bagley

Denver sculptor Nicole Banowetz’s mega-sized and sometimes wearable inflatable sculptures, inspired by microscopic life forms and often lit from inside, have traveled the world, creating spectacles as they hang off of buildings or dangle from ceilings. How does Banowetz top her past accomplishments? With Simulacra Vision, a new exhibit at Pirate: Contemporary Art, where Banowetz is collaborating with video artist Chris Bagley; his psychedelic projections will dance across her sculptures from 6 to 10 p.m. on opening night, Friday, November 24, creating a sensory environment in the gallery space. Beautiful organic drawings by Lisa Kerns will also be on view in the associate area. The shows continue through December 10, with an additional reception on Friday, December 8, at Pirate, 7130 West 16th Avenue in Lakewood; learn more at pirateartonline.org.

If Thanksgiving left you stir-crazy and dying for a party without relatives, head to MCA Denver’s Black Sheep Friday: ¡Pinche Loteria!, a Spanish-language swearing tutorial and introduction to the spiritually charged pastime of the lotería, Mexico’s favorite game of chance. Learn your lotto symbols and have a sip in the cafe from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 24, at the MCA, 1485 Delgany Street; admission is free with the $5 after-hours gate admission. Visit mcadenver.org for more information and a look ahead at future Black Sheep Friday events.

If those relatives are sticking around, take your tribe to the Denver Zoo's Zoo Lights Preview Weekend, where you'll be among the first in town to wander through the annual sixty-acre holiday extravaganza. Previews are available from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 24, and Saturday, November 25, when admission is $10 to $15. Zoo Lights proper returns on Friday, December 1, for a run through New Year’s Eve that will include Santa and other delights. The zoo is at 2300 Steele Street in City Park; reserve regular-season tickets, $9 to $17, in advance and learn more at denverzoo.org.

Few bands have shown gratitude for the state they call home like newgrass jam outfit Leftover Salmon. On Friday, November 24, and Saturday, November 25, these musicians will express their appreciation for the Centennial State and its hordes of bluegrass lovers at the Boulder Theatre, 2032 14th Street in Boulder. On Both nights, the band will be joined by the High Country Horns, with Jennifer Hartswick and Skerik. On Friday, Grant Farm will open; on Saturday, Drunken Hearts will offer up support. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the music starts at 8 for both shows. Tickets are $32.50 and available at bouldertheater.com. For more information, call 303-786-7030.

Homophobic anti-trans relatives can make Thanksgiving nothing to be grateful for. Time to ditch the people who raised you for your chosen family at Queer Vibes: Fourth Friday Queer Party, Blush & Blu's monthly LGBTQ dance party, where you can shake away any holiday blues and exercise off that second slice of pie. Enjoy music courtesy of DJ L.A. Zwicky and DéCollage, and drink specials courtesy of the bar. The fun starts at 9 p.m. on Friday, November 24, and goes until 2 a.m., at 1526 East Colfax Avenue. Get in free if you show up early; admission is $5 after 9 p.m. For more information, go to blushbludenver.com or call 303-484-8548.

Skip Amazon and do your holiday shopping during Small Business Saturday.
Skip Amazon and do your holiday shopping during Small Business Saturday.

Saturday, November 25

Think of Small Business Saturday as a kinder, gentler version of Black Friday, minus the frenzy of door-busters and blind consumption, and with the added bonus of supporting Denver’s mom-and-pop retailers. On Saturday, November 25, you can support your commercial community by taking a walk, and your wallet, through your own neighborhood — or other neighborhoods where small businesses abound, full of the thoughtful, whimsical, useful, unexpected and one-of-a-kind gifts you won’t find at your local big-box store. While you don’t have to adhere to an organized Small Business Saturday agenda, some retail hot spots are offering package deals this year, from Stanley Marketplace (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora) to funky South Broadway (11 a.m. to 7 p.m., 1800 block of South Broadway), to Cherry Creek North (hours vary, but generally 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Or join the annual Tennyson Holiday Passport Crawl (9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tennyson Street between 38th and 46th avenues). For more options, consult our Small Business Saturday list of shopping destinations at westword.com.

A slew of year-end celebrity deaths hit us while we were down in 2017. Iconic TV parents Florence Henderson and Alan Thicke, beloved mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, and legendary musicians Leonard Cohen and George Michael were among the fallen. A year later, our wounds have healed a bit and we're ready to celebrate their lives. At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 25, the Colorado Symphony will honor the most famous blue-jean-clad butt in history with Faith: A Tribute to the Music of George Michael. Boettcher Concert Hall, at 1345 Champa Street, will echo with the sounds of Michael's ’80s-pop gold as vocalists and the symphony re-create his hits. Tickets start at just $25 at coloradosymphony.org — a small price to pay for reliving some of the most evocative and influential tunes of your youth.

The Horseshoe Holiday Market is Denver's most beloved flea and craft market. It was founded by Amy and Doug Yetman under the "lucky finds" motto, and they continue to package smart curation and a sense of community in a wonderful experience for vendors and buyers alike. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 25, and Sunday, November 26, 100 booths will once more squeeze into and around the grounds of the Highlands Masonic Temple, 3550 Federal Boulevard, offering vintage discoveries, artisanal foods and beautiful handmades in a cheerful setting. Admission is free; find out more at horseshoemarket.com.

If there's anything that says Christmas more than the tale of a young girl and a shape-shifter locked in mortal combat with a giant mouse, we don't know what it might be. While the bones of The Nutcracker story are certainly bizarre, there's no denying this ballet's eternal charm. The Colorado Ballet's production, which opens on Saturday, November 25, and runs through Sunday, December 24, is a major seasonal draw at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets are $30 to $155 at 303-837-8888 or coloradoballet.org.

Runners leave Riverside Cemetery after honoring Silas Soule.
Runners leave Riverside Cemetery after honoring Silas Soule.
Brandon Marshall

Sunday, November 26

It was 153 years ago that Colonel John Chivington led his volunteers in a surprise raid on a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho on the banks of Sand Creek, killing approximately 200 natives, most of them women, children and the elderly; the survivors fled the state, ultimately settling in Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. For nineteen years now, descendants of the massacre have returned to Colorado for the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run/Walk. This year's edition, which starts at the massacre site outside of Eads on November 23, will be at Denver's Riverside Cemetery at 7 a.m. on Sunday, November 26, to honor Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, who both refused to participate in the massacre; from there, it will head to the State Capitol, for a presentation that starts at 11 a.m. Find out more on nps.gov/sand.

Unless you’re a percussionist with a specialty in anthropology, there’s a good chance you don’t know the difference between a gankogui, a darabukka and a boo-bam. Percussionists from the Colorado Symphony will be performing a concert that includes all of these instruments and more familiar ones like marimbas, bongos and acoustic guitars, as well as makeshift objects such as water cans, plastic pipes and metal trash cans, at Drums of the World, a family-friendly performance at 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets start at $10 for children and $25 for adults at coloradosymphony.org; for more information, call 303-623-7876.

Monday, November 27

You're a traditionalist (or perhaps just a social climber): You love elaborate holiday decorations, dressing up for classy Christmas parties and sipping from a champagne flute. The Governor's Residence Preservation Fund's Holiday Kick-Off Party, at 6 p.m. Monday, November 27, ticks off all those boxes (and, refreshingly, kicks off the holiday season after Thanksgiving, as God intended). For $35, you can see how the other half lives at the Governor's Residence, 400 East Eighth Avenue, where you'll get a sneak peek of holiday decorations created by members of the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. In between oohing and aahing over the trees and trimming, there will be appetizers and drinks to enjoy while seeing and being seen. So slip on that slinky cocktail dress or knot your bowtie and get over to coloradoshome.org to secure your spot.

In the sentient gaze and communal lifestyle of the ape, we see something human, a quality that acclaimed Denver playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl observes in her play-in-progress, The Humanity of Orangutans. A series of vignettes set in a zoo, the play looks at dissimilar species handling similar challenges, with tongue-in-cheek results. McCarl, director Patrick Elkins Zeglarski and the And Toto Too Theatre Company will stage a reading of The Humanity of Orangutans at 7 p.m. Monday, November 27, at Syntax Physic Opera, 554 South Broadway; admission is free, but the hosts hope that audience members will buy a snack or a drink to thank Syntax for donating the space. For more bang for your buck, keep in mind that happy hour begins at 4 p.m. Learn more at andtototoo.org/reading-series.

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