Having trouble getting in the seasonal spirit? There are plenty of online options that will bring the holidays to you; you can also try a safe, socially distanced tour or light show (see our list here). And if you're skipping Christmas this year, you can still enjoy free, illuminating entertainment and educational programs, including a movie about Ludwig van Beethoven in honor of his 250th birthday.
If you still have cash in your wallet and want to attend an online ticketed event, see our list here. If you want to save your cash, check out these free events this weekend and beyond:
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements
Saturday, December 19, starting at 1 a.m.
As the world celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic is partnering with Rocky Mountain Women’s Film to screen the HBO documentary Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, a memoir about a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Ludwig van Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata. You only have 23 hours on December 19 to start watching; after that, you have 48 hours to finish. Find out more about the free screening here.
RiNo Social Distance Scavenger Hunt
Saturday, December 19, starting at 9 a.m.
RiNo Art District
On December 19, the RiNo Art District will hide fifty special tubes around RiNo, each loaded with a custom ROAM RiNo bandanna featuring the artwork of Olive Moya. If you find one, post a photo on Instagram with the tube and number to #ROAMRiNo, and you'll get a $10 gift card to a RiNo business...as well as the bandanna. Follow RiNo Art District on Instagram and keep up with #ROAMRiNo for clues. Find more RiNo opportunities, including a shopping guide, on the RiNo website.
Home for the Holidays: Denver Philharmonic Orchestra
Saturday, December 19, 4 p.m.
Join host Jon Olafson for a free holiday concert with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring music director Lawrence Golan, Giovanna Golan, Joseph Golan, principal harp Rebecca Mortizky, principal piano Ani Powell, Andrew Rowe, principal trumpet Ryan Spencer and concertmaster Katherine Thayer. The concert starts at 4; sign in here at 3:45 for a pre-show holiday dance party.
Roshni: A Holiday Special
Saturday, December 19, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Aurora’s cultural bridge-building nonprofit will whisk you off on a virtual armchair voyage celebrating international holiday traditions, such as Mexico’s Las Posadas, Sweden’s Santa Lucia festival, the Jewish Havdalah service and Christmas carols for all. To top it off, the dancers of Roshni will create a mandala that will be swept away to close the presentation and symbolize a time of renewal — a welcome thought for all as this trying year comes to an end. RSVP in advance here for the Zoom link.
Fever Dream Festival: Winter Holiday Special
Saturday, December 19, and Sunday, December 20, 7 p.m.
Benchmark Theatre's gift to the community is sci-fi, fantasy and horror with a seasonal twist, shared in a collection of ten new ten-minute plays by local playwrights. All were written as a part of Benchmark's 48-hour playwriting contest and will be performed by some of Denver's favorite actors. It will all be streamed live, for free, over two nights; sign up here.
Bite Size: A Book Launch With BookBar Press
Saturday, December 19, 7 p.m.
Back in 2018, BookBar hosted Bite Size, a series of five micro-plays presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Off-Center. Ensconced throughout different niches within the store, the immersive walkabout of ten-minute plays with bookish themes was curated by Meridith Grundei and Off-Center’s Charlie Miller, who employed local playwrights, directors and actors. Now it’s also a book — Bite Size: An Anthology of Micro Theatre, the first publication from BookBar’s new in-house press, which launches on Zoom with a free virtual panel discussion including Grundei and several playwrights. Find more details here.
Gift Wrapping With the Original Dickens Carolers
Sunday, December 20, 1 to 6 p.m.
Number Thirty Eight, 3560 Chestnut Place
If your idea of checking a holiday chore off your list involves drinking while you do it, stop in at Number Thirty Eight for a free and entertaining gift-wrapping event. This spot has you covered: It's stocking all the gift wrap supplies, scissors, tape, ribbons and bows; you just have to show up with your unwrapped gifts. Enjoy carols and entertainment from the Original Dickens Carolers while you eat, wrap and day-drink from the taps of Colorado-only breweries, distilleries, cideries and wineries, and dig into food from the Number Thirty Eight kitchens (bao buns, ramen, piled high bowls of fries and more). Free, but make your reservation here.
Fourteenth Annual Vail Winterfest
Sunday, December 20
This year's Winterfest includes an installation of twenty illuminated ice sculptures representing lanterns from around the globe on the Gore Creek Promenade from dusk until 10 p.m. Alongside the sculptures will be an exhibition of nearly 100 lanterns created by local students on the International Bridge. Art in Public Places invites guests to create their own lantern, too, through video instruction with Alpine Arts Center (email email@example.com to reserve a free kit); they can then be displayed virtually or on the Lantern Walk. For more information, go to artinvail.com.
And free, anytime bonuses through the year:
A Christmas to Remember
Through December 31, anytime
Sound of the Rockies, a barbershop chorus, is offering a special virtual Christmas performance that you can listen to any time this month. Hear it here.
L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour
Through December 25, anytime
After 43 years as a signature holiday event in Denver, L’Esprit de Noël Home Tour went virtual for the first time ever in 2020. The Central City Opera Guild’s only fundraiser of the year, L’Esprit has a long history of featuring Denver’s most interesting neighborhoods through a two-day walking tour of grand and historical homes. This year, “Le Petit” tour moves online, in the form of a video walk-through of the Fisher Mansion, complete with performances by Central City Opera artists. Although it's free to watch, donations are definitely requested to support Central City Opera. Find out more here.
Lumonics Mind Spa: Light Intersection
Through January 31
UnderStudy, 700 14th Street
One of the big losses this year was artist Dorothy Tanner who, along with her late husband, Mel Tanner, made light sculptures designed to create a state of comfort, relaxation and creativity. Many of them are currently presented in a “fishbowl”-style installation at UnderStudy, located at the Colorado Convention Center — which is closed, but you can see the Lumonics exhibit through the window. Find out more here.
UCCS Presents Theatreworks Month of Joy
Through December 31, 7 p.m. nightly
Theatreworks has invited 31 artists to share their work — poems, songs, speeches — through the month. Find the full lineup and the YouTube link here.
Know of a great free event around town? We'll be updating this list through the week; send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.