Get lit: A brief guide to some of Denver's best holiday lights this season

Ah, the holidays, that special time of year when we turn on a ridiculous amount of very small light bulbs to comfort us, because it gets dark too early, and also because this is America, and by gum, we can. Still, there's no denying the austere beauty of the snow all illuminated, making halos around all those trillions of megawatts of wasted electricity -- and really, what better than needless gratuity to ramp up the Christmas spirit? After all, isn't it what baby Jesus would have wanted? Don't let baby Jesus down. Here's our guide to this year's best and brightest light-related activities.

Downtown Denver's Grand Illumination The unofficial start of the holiday season now hovers somewhere around labor day, but the official start is still black Friday, a designation that happily acknowledges its commercial roots while also carrying some oddly disturbing connotations. Nevertheless, that's when the big switch gets thrown in many places, and Downtown Denver is one of them.

The lights on 16th Street Mall, Larimer Square, the City and County Building and other landmarks around downtown stay on until January 31, but you can be there when they fire up by showing up at the official party at Union Station (17th and Wynkoop) at 5:30 p.m., with the illumination at 6:30.

Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens The City of Denver claims that "romantic and popular kissing spots" will return at the Denver Botanic Gardens' annual light-stravaganza, which lights up December 3, but if lights and kissing aren't enough for you, then have some damn 3D goggles to look at the lights with, because real life just doesn't look enough like a psychedelic Magic Eye. Luminarias de Santa Fe Also kicking off December 3 -- which, conveniently, coincides with first Friday, The Santa Fe Arts District will line the street with luminarias, or paper bags with candles in them. Fire hazard? Perhaps, but it'll be about the prettiest darn fire hazard you ever saw.

9NEWS Parade of Lights What would the holidays be without bundling your kids up and hauling them out into the frigid cold to watch marching bands and whatnot until their tears freeze, so that you might derive pleasure from inflicting the same sadistic routine on your kids as your parents inflicted on you? Boring, is what. As is tradition, the parade, which passes once through downtown at 8 p.m. on December 3 and again at 6 p.m. December 4, begins at Civic Center, snakes its way down Tremont to 17th, all the way down to Arapahoe and back up 15th, and spots along the route are free. The psychological toll it will inflict on your offspring, however, is not.

Living Lights at the Butterfly Pavilion Electric lights? Pshaw to that, we say -- that shit is old hat. What we really want to see is something weird, like animals that glow. Of course, there will also be thousands of your humdrum, everyday Christmas lights decking out the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster from December 11 to 19, but will that impress us? Nay. Bring out the glowing tree frogs.
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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte