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One of the many light displays at Zoo Lights.EXPAND
One of the many light displays at Zoo Lights.
Linnea Covington

Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Family-Friendly Holiday Events

Jingle bells, holiday lights, cookies, reindeer and all things merry and bright have officially landed in Denver, which means it's time to make plans for kids who are hyped up and home for the holidays over winter break. Get into the spirit of the season by exploring all the fun that Denver has to offer these small humans, from making cookies to visiting Santa to festive shopping complete with hot cocoa. Events are in chronological order, with ongoing things to do at the bottom of the list.

Elf Hot Chocolate Bar
Friday, December 14, and every Friday in December

How does you improve on an already great film like Elf? Easy: Just add a hot chocolate bar to the screening. The Curtis (1405 Curtis Street) is offering free showings of the movie every Friday; you can watch Buddy the elf spread Christmas glee all over New York City from 3 to 5 p.m. right in the festive lobby. Top off your cup of cheer with marshmallows, candy canes, sprinkles and more; for the adults, there's a little splash of Baileys Irish Cream to make your drink very merry. All of this is free, though the hotel is asking for donations to the Tennyson Center for Children. Find out more at thecurtis.com.

The holiday parade in Golden.
The holiday parade in Golden.
Visit Golden

Olde Golden Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 15
Fresh air, festive floats, cowboys and free horse and carriage rides (from noon to 3 p.m.). What could be better? How about having the parade repeat twice more, on Saturday, December 8, and Saturday, December 15? The fun kicks off at 10:30 a.m. all three days right on Washington Street, in the center of Golden. Expect to see Santa as well as elves on unicycles, the Grinch and some shiny old cars perfect for inspiring Christmas list dreams (for both you and your child). After the free parade, head to the Golden History Park and get a dose of homestead life by wandering around the old barn, farmhouse and chicken coop where, for 25 cents, you can feed some pretty fantastic-looking birds.

Breakfast With Santa
Saturday, December 15, and Saturday, December 22

Every Saturday from now until Christmas, you can have breakfast with Santa at the Brown Palace Hotel's Ellyngton restaurant. Mrs. Claus will be there too, dancing along to the Danny Showers Band and listening to tunes straight from the North Pole. While the kids wait to get a photo with Santa, they can nibble on eggs, bacon, potatoes, fruit, pastries and pancakes from the elf-sized buffet. Breakfast runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and the prix fixe starts at $20.95 for children 5 and under, $30.95 for those 6 to 12, and $40.95 for the rest. Reservations are required; make them at the Brown Palace website.

Christmas cookies!EXPAND
Christmas cookies!
Linnea Covington

Cookie Decorating and Santa at ViewHouse Locations
Wednesday, December 12, and Wednesday, December 19

Making cute gingerbread men and other festive sweets has long been a holiday tradition, and what better way to do it than by letting someone else do all the hard work? Two ViewHouse locations are hosting a free cookie-decorating party, complete with supplies like sprinkles and frosting and a kids' Christmas movie. For $20, adults can get a bottle of wine and flatbread. Visit the Littleton spot (2680 West Main Street, Littleton) on December 12 from 6 to 8 p.m., or the LoDo location (2015 Market Street) on December 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Be sure to reserve a spot, as space and supplies are limited. Also, Santa will be coming to the Littleton ViewHouse on December 2 during brunch starting at 7 a.m., and the ViewHouse Centennial (7101 South Clinton Street, Centennial) starting at 7 a.m. December 19.

A Colorado Christmas With the Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Sunday, December 14, through Sunday, December 16

If you've been thinking about introducing your kid to the symphony, this holiday concert conducted by Christopher Dragon is a good way to start. Featuring songs such as "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," excerpts from "Too Hot to Handel," traditional carols and a live narration of "’Twas the Night Before Christmas," the program is a grand package of classic and modern holiday cheer. (It runs for approximately one hour and 40 minutes with an intermission.) Catch it at Boettcher Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. on December 14, 2:30 and 6 on December 15, and 1 p.m. on December 16; tickets start at $15.

Two happy kids during the holiday season.EXPAND
Two happy kids during the holiday season.
Linnea Covington

Polar Express Movie Party
Sunday, December 16

Get dressed in your best pajamas and head to Alamo Drafthouse for a low-cost but super-fun holiday field trip. This animated film brings to life Chris Van Allsburg's classic book about a boy who boards a train to the North Pole to meet Santa. Order popcorn, milkshakes, cheese pizza and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and enjoy seeing this movie on the big screen. Book tickets for 11 a.m. December 16 at the the Sloan's Lake spot, 4255 West Colfax Avenue, on the website.

 ALREADY OPEN AND ONGOING

The Denver Flea in Union Station.EXPAND
The Denver Flea in Union Station.
Linnea Covington

Union Station Holiday Market by Denver Flea
Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 16

While shopping might not be the best kid event, the Denver Flea at Union Station has incorporated plenty of fun for tots. While they check out the stunning, forty-foot tree, adults can enjoy a spiked coffee from Pigtrain Coffee, and youngsters can visit Milkbox Ice Creamery's hot chocolate bar; on Sundays, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And in the afternoon, you can tackle the make-your-own sundae bar for $5 a person. That's in addition to the $5 admission price for the Denver Flea itself, which is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays through December 16.

12 Days of Invertebrates
Now through December 31

Who needs elves when you have spineless wonders of the insect kingdom? From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through December 31, you can see invertebrates from around the world at the Butterfly Pavilion (6252 West 104th Avenue, Westminster). And to make this buggy event extra-special, there's an original "12 Invertebrates of Christmas" song written and performed by Boulder musical duo Jeff & Page that you can hear online at butterflies.org. Wear a festive sweater and not only will you get happy holiday points, but you can also get $2 off admission, which starts at $8 for children from 2 to 12; $10 for 12 and up; and 2 and under are free.

Elf: The Musical
Through December 23

Older kids will get a kick out of this production of Elf, that feel-good Christmas movie from 2003 starring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel. Unlike the movie, Elf: The Musical at the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard) features a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin and some variation on plot twists. It's definitely different from the film, but fun and whimsical, perfect for an older kid who'd enjoy a holiday outing at the theater. Tickets start at $53.

Blossoms of Light at the Gardens.EXPAND
Blossoms of Light at the Gardens.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Through January 1

Every year, the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street) dresses the trees, bushes and lawns up with a spectacular light display, and this year's is bigger and better than ever. Guests can also purchase special HoloSpex glasses, which allow you to witness the show in a totally different way (think: tens of thousands of Santas). Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and don't miss the interactive, sound-based light field that's the grand finale. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance; they're timed to help with the flow and tend to sell out. Blossoms of Light is open from 5 to 9 p.m. daily; admission is $13 for children ages 3 to 15; $16 for ages 16 to 64; $14 for 65 and up and the military; and little ones 2 and under get in free. Get tickets at botanicgardens.org.

Winter Fest in Cherry Creek.EXPAND
Winter Fest in Cherry Creek.
Joyce Keum, Studio JK

Santa's North Pole Adventure at the Georgetown Loop Railroad
Through January 5

Two things most kids love: Santa and trains. The Georgetown Loop brings them together during this sixty-minute adventure. The train arrives at Devil's Gate Station (646 Loop Drive, Georgetown) completely decked out in holiday finery. Guests can book the fancy presidential car, mid-range parlor car, or laid-back coach car, all heated and enclosed. Once seated, the train takes off along the Georgetown Loop through fantastic scenery; Santa will pass through with his bag of goodies, treats and holiday magic. After the ride, wander through Georgetown, which has been decorated for the season. Tickets start at $28; call 1-888-456-6777 for reservations and a complete schedule.

Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo.
Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo.
Denver Zoo

Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo
Through January 6

Roar into the holiday season with live and lighted lions at the Denver Zoo. For 28 years, the zoo has celebrated the holidays by decking out the place with thousands of twinkling lights in fun animal shapes dangling from trees, molded into tunnels and "walking" on the grass. Ride the train and carousel or pay a little extra for the special nighttime giraffe-feeding experience; it's all a fun family adventure. As you tour at your own pace, stop at one of the food kiosks for popcorn, hot cocoa, beer and cider. Zoo Lights runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; book online for an extra $2 off and secure your date and time. Admission for children under 2 is free, $14 for ages 3 to 11, $20 for ages 12 to 64, and $17 for 65-plus.

A live band at the Christkindl Market downtown.EXPAND
A live band at the Christkindl Market downtown.
Christkinkl Market

Christkindl Market
Through December 23
This charming market is back at 1515 Arapahoe Street. Wander in for free and sing, eat German food, soak in the holiday cheer and shop: There are unique ornaments, Christmas trees, handmade Nepali winter wear, beautiful German and Bavarian steins and more. Try a blinchiki, a type of Russian crepe, or a Christmas Stollen from Kaiser Bakery. When you're full and shopped out, head to the ice rink at Lawrence and 16th Streets for free ice skating; bring your skates or rent them there. The Christkindl Market is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Downtown Denver Rink is open until February 3; hours vary.

Santa at Chatfield Farms' Santa's Village.EXPAND
Santa at Chatfield Farms' Santa's Village.
Linnea Covington

Santa's Village at Chatfield Farms
Through December 23

One of the most magical places for your child to see Santa is at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms (8500 West Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton). From 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, get in line for a special meet-and-greet with the man in red as he perches on a vintage sleigh in the farm's barn. While you wait, kids can explore the area and do a craft with Mrs. Claus. After meeting the Man, you can all find the live reindeer and give them a pat, explore the colorful lights and tiny elf houses, and catch a short holiday film. Pizza, holiday drinks and treats are available for purchase. Admission for children 2 and under is free, $15 for military and seniors over 65, and $20 for all others; get yours at botanicgardens.org.

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