Things to Do

Twelve Things to Do for Free in Denver This Weekend

All aboard for holiday fun.
All aboard for holiday fun. Denver Union Station
Take advantage of any free time you have this weekend to get out of the house and enjoy some of the town's traditional holiday events and activities — all free. And if you're stuck inside still cleaning the kitchen, you can still enjoy the offerings of some cultural groups that have moved their celebrations online.

Catch those bonuses and keep reading for fifteen of the best free activities in and around Denver this weekend:
.
Reindeer and Princess Day
Sunday, November 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Barr Lake State Park, Nature Center, 13401 Picadilly Road, Brighton
Take those antsy kids on Thanksgiving break out to Barr Lake State Park, where the annual Reindeer and Princess Day is a favorite for families. Santa and his reindeer will pay a visit, as will a kindly princess or so; busy hands will be put to work on holiday crafts. Space is limited for this popular event; RSVP in advance for your timed-entry slot, and remember that while admission is free, a $9 daily use fee or annual parks pass per vehicle is required at the gate. Info here.

WAP UP: Womxn in Business Holiday Pop-Up
Sundays, November 28 and December 5, 12 and 19, noon to 5 p.m. weekly
Blush & Blu, 1526 East Colfax Avenue
Here’s where to support local women-run businesses in one place, Sundays through Christmas: Hosted by the queer/lesbian bar Blush & Blu, WAP UP hand-picked makers, crafters, tarot readers, light workers, artisans and vendors of used and vintage finds for the flight of markets. It’s free to attend, but for $15 up front, you can leave with every gift you buy wrapped and ready to go under the tree. Learn more and RSVP at Eventbrite.

Ongoing:

click to enlarge All aboard for holiday fun. - DENVER UNION STATION
All aboard for holiday fun.
Denver Union Station
Merry & Bright Lights Show
Through December 27, 5 to 10 p.m.
Denver Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street

Union Station is all decked out for the holidays, with Santa dropping in from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, the Miracle Bar now open in the evenings ($2 to secure a reservation), and the Merry & Bright Lights Show every evening, with interactive visual imagery created by local Denver artists projected across the historic facade while classic holiday music plays. Find all you need to know here.

Holiday Art Market
Now through December 29, daily
Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden
The Foothills Art Center’s Holiday Art Market is the perfect excuse for a drive to downtown Golden, where merchants, restaurants and businesses on the main drag radiate with holiday spirit. Nearly fifty years old, HART offers high-quality artisan crafts, including pottery, jewelry, glass, fiber, leather, metal, wood, food items, ornaments and greeting cards, which could ostensibly take care of everyone on your list. The market is also one of the few that stay open for a few days after Christmas — that’s when folks can shop for themselves! Get the details on hours and ticketed admission here.


Cherry Creek North Winter Wanderland and Holiday Market
Now through December 24, daily
Fillmore Street between First and Second Avenues
Cherry Creek Winter Wanderland returns, filling sixteen blocks with holiday decor and interactive art installations; there will be special events on Saturday nights. And after the inaugural event last year, the free Cherry Creek Holiday Market is back on Fillmore Street, with thirty local makers (including one that does baby fire pits!), designers and creators. Produced by Fetch Concepts, it will also offer food, a full bar and live music Friday through Sunday. Find more information here.

Denver Christkindlmarket
Now through December 24, daily
Civic Center Park, 101 West 14th Avenue
For a magical holiday shopping experience, you can’t beat the old-world Christkindlmarket, a light-filled tradition in downtown Denver for twenty years and counting. The market is returning to Civic Center Park in 2021 after moving there last year mid-pandemic, for a more roomy stroll from one charming wooden hut to the next, as shoppers search for hand-blown glass ornaments, Russian nesting dolls, hand-knit mufflers, hot pretzels and pastries, German bier and mulled glühwein, to name a fraction of what’s available. Adding to the spirit of the market are polka bands, old-world characters and other entertainers. Admission is free; find info (including schedule changes) here.

click to enlarge Now open. - DOWNTOWN DENVER PARTNERSHIP
Now open.
Downtown Denver Partnership
Downtown Denver Rink
Now through February 20, daily
Skyline Park, 1601 Arapahoe Street

There’s nothing quite like winter ice skating in the frosty outdoors, somewhere like the Downtown Denver Rink, a big-city experience that’s perfect for families, greenhorns, romantic couples and outdoorsy folks of all ages. Admission is free when you bring your own skates; if you don’t, skate rentals are $7 to $9. Find a schedule and learn more here.

Light the Lights
Now through January 23, 4:45 and 5:45 p.m.
City and County Building, 1437 Bannock Street

The Denver City and County Building got lit on November 24, and while the lights will stay on through the National Western Stock Show, it will put on its own show at 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. daily. Find details here.


And anytime bonuses:


"Unknown," Opera Colorado
Anytime through December 11, online

"Unknown" is a song cycle honoring the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Opera Colorado co-commissioned the twenty-minute song cycle. which was created by two award-winning American artists — Shawn Okpebholo and Marcus Amaker — to explore the ideas of war, honor and memory through the eyes of soldiers, family members and Tomb Guards, who are connected to each other and the Tomb through their mutual service and sacrifice. Watch it here.

L’Esprit de Noël, Central City Opera
Anytime, online

For decades, L’Esprit de Noël has raised funds to help support Central City Opera, including education and community engagement programs serving more than 40,000 people each year. For the second year in a row, the event is virtual, and comprises an online tour of a historic Denver property — this time, the McCourt Mansion. Once the home of Peter McCourt, a younger brother to the infamous Baby Doe Tabor and a theatrical manager, today the mansion sits on the National Register of Historic Places and is back to being a single-family home after decades of mixed-use. Watch it here.

Rocks Karma Arrows
Anytime, online

November 29, 1864, marks the 157th anniversary of the Sand creek Massacre. As a special Thanksgiving gift, Motus Theater's is offering the first half of its award-winning Rocks Karma Arrows, which explores the Sand Creek Massacre with a focus on how this history is woven into the founding of Boulder. Watch the first half for free, then learn more from an online discussion. Find out more here.

Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale: Inside the Artist's Studio
Anytime, online
The Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale will be back in January, and in advance of that annual art extravaganza, some of the artists will be offering virtual talks about their work; last year's talks have been archived, too. See the complete schedule of new programs and watch videos of past talks here.

Know of a great free event in Denver? We'll be updating this list through the weekend; send information to [email protected]
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.