5) The City and County Building, Union Station and more across downtown Denver
Covered in hundreds of thousands of lights in a rainbow of colors, the Denver City and County Building's grand holiday decorations have been a staple of the season for decades (although they're now LED). From the steps to the bell tower, the whole structure is enveloped in bulbs, which are lit up each night at 5:45 p.m. with an animated light show. Through Sunday, and again Tuesday through Thursday, volunteers will play classic holiday songs from the bell tower at 6 p.m. On the other end of downtown, Union Station brightens up each night with festive beams of light to complement its classic neon signage. Larimer Square's LoDo Aglow sees local merchants adorning windows and storefronts with holiday decor and the 16th Street Mall gets into the spirit with lots of illumination. No matter where you are in the city center, you'll find a free lighting display to match your mood.
4) Denver Botanic Gardens' Blossoms of Light/Tralls of Light (York Street and Chatfield locations)
Both Denver Botanic Gardens locations are turned into brilliant, eye-catching scenes of foliage and illumination for this annual tradition. Walk the maze of paths to see trees come to new life in the dark and water features play host to spheres and sticks bursting with color and light. What's most remarkable about Blossoms of Light at the Denver site is that just as the plants and flowers here come in a variety of hues, so do the lighting displays — which burn bright in bold primary colors, neon tints and pastel shades. Prices range from $11 to $14 (which includes a Chatfield hayride); find details here.
3) ArtReach Festival of Trees in Lakewood
Extended through December 20 by popular demand, the ArtReach Festival of Trees brings the world of holiday decoration together with local artists. Renowned installation artist Lonnie Hanzon oversaw the work of more than thirty creators, who dressed and illuminated dozens of trees. The best part? The Festival of Trees is inside at 6300 West Colfax Avenue, so you can step out of the cold and into a warm indoor forest of beautiful art, lovely lights and holiday cheer. Admission is $8.
2) Windsor Gardens
Back before high-definition, super-powered LED lighting took over the holiday decoration market, there were good, old-fashioned twinkling bulbs. Windsor Gardens is full of them; residents of this retirement community have filled the rolling lawns with nativity scenes, painted lawn ornaments and an array of festival, inflated Santas and toy soldiers. Cruise with ease through the quiet blocks — it's all free for the taking.
1) Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo
The animals come out at night at the Denver Zoo — in illuminated form, anyway. Whether it's the brilliant outlines of lions and tigers and bears or the bright scenes of sea life, each pocket of the park has its own animated habitat happening after dark. Make sure to look up — wild, versions of primates and birds light in the trees once the sun goes down. Admission ranges from $9 to $11; find out more here.