Ten Things to Do for Free In and Around Denver This Weekend

The Nutcracker will appear right in your living room.
The Nutcracker will appear right in your living room.
Mike Watson/Colorado Ballet
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The weekend is filling up with activities, although in ways that we never would have anticipated last year. Still, holiday light shows are going up, and Small Business Saturday will go on — and never has it been more important to shop online.

Whether you experience them in-person or online, these ten free events are all reason to give thanks:

Denver Thanksgiving Interfaith Service
Thursday, November 26, 10 a.m.

For almost 100 years, there has been a Denver Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which has included faith groups from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions. Because of COVID, the community event is moving online this year. Sign on here; donations will be taken for the Struggle of Love Foundation.

Thanksgiving at Denver Christkindl Market
Thursday, November 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Civic Center Park, 101 West14th Avenue

Before you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, it's useful to get out of the house and work up an appetite. That’s one reason that Denver’s twinkly, German-style open-air Christkindl Market is traditionally open on Thanksgiving — and this year is no exception, despite the times. Bring your masked companions and family to Civic Center Park to browse the booths and maybe kick off your holiday feasting with a giant pretzel; admission is free, and the market is taking major precautions to keep things safe and clean. Learn more here.

Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker
Starting Thursday, November 26, 7 p.m.

For the first time in sixty years, there will be no live production of The Nutcracker by the Colorado Ballet...but that doesn't mean there won't be a Nutcracker. In fact, this year the performance is free; all you need is a television and access to Rocky Mountain PBS. The ballet airs at 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and again on November 27 at 3 p.m., December 18 at 9 p.m., December 19 at 1 a.m., December 24 at 7 p.m., and December 25 at noon; you can also stream the show at any time after Thanksgiving through Christmas. While there's no charge to watch, contributions are definitely welcome here.

Night Lights Denver
Thursday, November 26 through Sunday, November 2, 5:15 to 10 p.m.
1601 Arapahoe Street

Even before Denver was getting lit up for the holidays, the Clocktower was glowing with illuminated art. Denver Night Lights is continuing to keep the lights on until the last possible second, running free illuminated shows that change monthly on the side of the Clocktower with "the people's projector." Find out more here.

There's a gnome in there somewhere...
There's a gnome in there somewhere...

The Hunt for the Loveland Holiday Gnomes
Through December 31
Assorted locations in Loveland

The hunt is on in Loveland, where a free, socially distanced scavenger hunt urges players to find ten holiday gnomes around the city, submit to challenges and enter to win prizes. “With so many holiday experiences changing this year, we wanted to add a new, safe way for families to have some holiday fun while exploring Loveland at the same time,” explains Cindy Mackin, visitor services manager for the City of Loveland. To play, you need to download the free mobile app EVENTZEE from either Apple or Google app stores and register; then use the code HERBIE to find The Hunt for the Loveland Holiday Gnomes game. All players who successfully complete all of the challenges on the app will win a holiday prize by showing their Challenges Complete badge to the staff at the Loveland Visitors Center during business hours. You can hunt at any time, but at dusk and in the evening, you can catch the Loveland Light Trail. Find out more here.

AF Holiday Market at the Dairy Block

Friday, November 27, through Sunday, November 29 (and subsequent weekends), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dairy Block Alley, 1800 block between Wazee and Blake streets

This LoDo micro-district will get in the spirit of the season with winter activations with an European après-ski vibe, including an outdoor market, carolers, Santa & Frosty art installations for photos and more. The fun starts with the Santa Claus & Frosty the Snowman Chalk Art installation by Kyle Bannister, debuting on November 27, which also marks the start of the AF Holiday Market, with a dozen vendors including coffee by Kicco Koffie, dog treats by Chews Happiness, vegan candles by Keystone Inspired, handbags and jewelry from Fleetful Collective, shoes by Opie Way and more. And from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, enjoy carols with the Jingle Belles. In order to maintain social distancing, the Dairy Block is asking for pre-registration here.

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday at Larimer Square
Friday, November 27, and Saturday, November 28
Larimer Square

The lights will be bright in Larimer Square, which will switch on a holiday display on November 27. You can simply stroll and take in the scene, including live music and complimentary cider and cocoa, or open your wallet: Adults can buy alcoholic beverages and snacks. And the shopping doesn't end there: The Family Christmas Trees lot will be open from noon to 8 p.m. through Christmas Eve (delivery offered), and in honor of shop-local weekend, many stores will be offering special deals. Hours depend on the shops' schedules, but there should be action until last call at 8 p.m. There will also be more giveaways and contests; follow Larimer Square here for details.

9NEWS Parade of Lights
Friday, November 27, through December 31, 5 to 7 p.m. nightly
16th Street Mall

In 2020, Denver’s traffic-stopping Parade of Lights won’t be winding its way through downtown Denver surrounded by bundled-up crowds that are anything but socially distanced. Instead, the most crowd-pleasing parade floats will be standing stationary in spots along the 16th Street Mall, between the Denver Pavilions and Union Station, while people stroll around them, oohing and aahing at the sparkle and glitter, from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve. If you’re still feeling nostalgic for the actual parade, the sponsor, 9NEWS, will also have a special broadcast giving a taste of the event, as well as some insight, debuting at 8 p.m. Friday, December 4, with additional dates to follow. Learn more here.

Latin Beats: Sonidos de las Américas
Saturday, November 28, and Sunday, November 29, 5 p.m

Celebrate Colorado's vibrant Hspanic community with Latin Beats: Sonidos de las Americas, a two-part news special and concert in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center. Starring a prestigious collection of local Colorado artists, including Raquel Garcia, Emilia Zepeda Yanez, Jeanette Trujillo-Lucero, Rumbatea, ArtistiCO, Mariachi Champaña Nevin and the Colorado Symphony, this free concert will air on Noticiero Telemundo Denver and TelemundoDenver.com. Find out more here.

Canine Christmas
Sunday, November 29, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Denver Christkindl Market, Civic Center Park, 101 West 14th Avenue

The dog days of winter: Canine Christmas at the Denver Christkindl Market is all about well-behaved, properly leashed pooches, who are invited to join their people for a perfect photo-op-and-shopping, costume-optional constitutional in Civic Center Park on November 29. Dogs don’t have to wear masks, but you do, and don’t stray from the one-way pathways through the market. Learn more here.

Know of other great free events around town? We'll be updating this list through the week; send information to editorial@westword.com.

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