Things to Do

Twelve Things to Do for Free in Denver

Let there be lights!
Let there be lights! Denver Night Lights
Christmas has come and gone, and this could be your last chance to catch some of the free light shows and holiday traditions around town; you can also celebrate the start of Kwanzaa. But Omicron is not gone, so be sure to check for new safety regulations and possible cancellations before you go.

Here are twelve things to do for free things in and around Denver (and online) today:
click to enlarge ARTcade is reopening at Understudy. - UNDERSTUDY
ARTcade is reopening at Understudy.
Sunday, December 26, noon to 8 p.m.
Understudy, 890 C 14th Street

If you’re downtown checking out the holiday lights, don’t miss the Denver Theatre District’s cozy arts incubator space, Understudy, which is currently hosting ARTcade. It has all the fixings of a traditional arcade — except that they’ve been souped up by a long list of participating local artists. Even the prizes are artist-made: Grab a masterpiece from a claw machine, or redeem coupons for enamel pins, coloring books, miniature paintings, jewelry, tea towels, art prints, small sculptures and more. ARTcade will be open Wednesdays through Sundays through the end of January to accommodate Stock Show visitors, but it will close on Christmas. Bonus on December 26: alcoholic beverages! Find out more here.

On a Sunday Afternoon
Sunday, December 26, 1 to 6 p.m. 3632 Morrison Road

Westwood’s D3 Arts and partners In Lak’ech Denver Arts and Cultura Craft Chocolate are launching On a Sunday Afternoon, a family-friendly monthly event that honors the tradition of lowriders and cruising on Morrison Road while preserving creativity, community-building and political statement. Along with the beautifully painted lowrider cars, expect spoken-word artists, live music, local vendor and community-resource tables, and for the kickoff, giveaways and free healthy eats.  Learn more here.

Kwanzaa Celebration 2021
Sunday, December 26, 6 to 8 p.m.
Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street, and Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre, 119 Park Avenue West

Kwanzaa, the pan-African harvest holiday created in 1966 by ’60s activist and African studies professor Maulana Karenga to uphold positive community principles, brings families and folks of all ages together for year-ending celebrations. The Five Points community keeps the seven-day tradition burning bright, starting with a Kwanzaa parade on the first night (called Umoja, for the principle of Unity). This year, the party will begin with a kinara lighting at the Blair-Caldwell library, followed by a march to the Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre for festivities and awards. Find a complete lineup of local events on Facebook.

Ongoing events:

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.

Merry & Bright Lights Show
Through December 27, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
Denver Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street
Union Station is all decked out for the holidays, with the Miracle Bar 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
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 (it's closed December 25) — when folks can shop for themselves! Get the details on hours and ticketed admission here.

Winter Wanderland
Through December 31, daily
Cherry Creek North

Cherry Creek Winter Wanderland returns, filling sixteen blocks with holiday decor and interactive art installations through the end of the month. Find more information here.

Franktown Festival of Lights
Through December 31, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
575 North White Tail Drive, Franktown

This annual display at a private home open to the public features approximately 200,000+ Christmas lights across 2.5 acres of property that you drive through. You can also get out of the car to enjoy a fifteen-foot Ferris wheel featuring favorite Disney characters, Frosty’s Forest Trail, a ten-foot airplane suspended in the air, and a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree with a five-foot angel on top. There are shows every twenty minutes; get information and the set list here.
click to enlarge Let there be lights! - DENVER NIGHT LIGHTS
Let there be lights!
Denver Night Lights
Night Lights Denver: 3D Holiday Projection Program
Through December 31, 5 to 11:59 p.m. daily
Daniels & Fisher Tower, 1601 Arapahoe Street

The Denver Theatre District’s Night Lights Denver is showing new, 3D-compatible artwork this month, with work by Chris Bagley, Kim Shively, Koko Bayer, Eileen Roscina, Estee Fox and Meow Wolf, all displayed on the Arapahoe Street side of the Daniels & Fisher Tower. Thanks to Meow Wolf, 20,000 pairs of ChromaDepth glasses will allow you to see the work in 3D (it works without the glasses, too); afterward, take the glasses to Meow Wolf's Convergence Station for more 3D viewing. While supplies last, the glasses will be available at Understudy, at the Colorado Convention Center, and the Downtown Denver Rink, in Skyline Park. Find more information here.

Mile High Tree
Through January 1, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
16th Street Mall at Welton Street

The Mile High Tree is back on the mall; the tallest digital tree in the country, it's 110 feet high and has 60,000 digital lights. The tree offers free nightly light shows choreographed to multicultural holiday music programs, and there are also activations in the space surrounding the tree, including selfie lighting displays and musical interludes between each program recorded by the Colorado Symphony. Find out more here.

Light the Lights
Through January 23, 4:45 and 5:45 p.m., daily
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.

Downtown Denver Rink
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.

Know of a great free event around town? 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.