We're heavy into the holidays now, and entertainment opportunities abound — from blowout seasonal shows to offbeat performances popping up around town. Keep reading for the 21 best things to do in and around Denver this week.
Monday, December 16
For the 21st consecutive year, the Tattered Cover is hosting acclaimed actor, director and writer Jamie Horton, who will offer the annual Holiday Reading With Jamie Horton at 7 p.m. tonight, December 16. The event is free, but you're encouraged to bring a new or gently used book to donate for the annual Children's Book Drive. Fortunately, you can find plenty at the site of the reading, Tattered Cover at 2526 East Colfax Avenue. Find our more here.
Tuesday, December 17
Leave it to the Alamo Drafthouse to upend cheerful holiday traditions with a screening of Silent Night, Deadly Night, a Christmastime slasher that's sure to satisfy the seasonal psycho in you. After young Billy Chapman's parents are killed on Christmas Eve, he's tormented by nuns in his orphanage. Adult Billy seeks revenge by dressing as Santa and going "on a yuletide rampage to punish the naughty with extreme prejudice," says the Drafthouse. If you thought the cinema's weekly Terror Tuesday was taking a break during the holidays, think again! The ’80s flick screens at 9 p.m. Tuesday, December 17, at the Sloan's Lake Alamo, 4255 West Colfax Avenue; find tickets, $10, and more info at drafthouse.com.
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Art and music interact in the best way possible at the second edition of Sonic Palette, a curated collaboration between the Union Hall exhibition space and Vinyl Me, Please record club. Aretha Franklin’s classic album I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You will provide the soundtrack, courtesy of Vinyl Me, while a guided tour of Union Hall’s community-oriented exhibition Poems for Our Country forms the backdrop; sounds by Neon Brown, bites by Citizen Rail and cocktails by Wood’s High Mountain Distillery round out the atmosphere on Wednesday, December 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Union Hall, 1750 Wewatta Street, Suite 144. Admission is $45 in advance at unionhalldenver.com.
Italian-Americans have turned what was once a simple day of fasting on Christmas Eve in the old country into the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand celebration of the ocean's bounty. The tradition has spread from the East Coast to homes and restaurants throughout the U.S., and at Sarto's, 2900 West 25th Avenue, the feast comes early this year, bringing holiday cheer on Wednesday, December 18. But this is far from your grandmother's favorite fish recipes: Chef Garret Meyer will be serving salt cod gnocchi tots, barramundi with black lentils and sausage ragu, and even a dessert topped with bottarga (cured tuna roe) crumble. Start things off with appetizers and cocktails at 6:30 p.m. before settling in for six more dishes. Call the restaurant at 303-455-1400 for reservations and details on all seven courses; the dinner runs $75 per person, with additional wine pairings available.
After an inaugural run for Halloween, Spectra Art Space’s immersive playground Spookadelia has morphed into Spookadelia 2: The Candy Conjuring, a more Christmas-y, family-friendly immersive walkabout with such attractions as a psychedelic frozen purgatory, candy tornadoes, Sugar Plum Scarry’s gingerbread house and the Crone Throne Forest. The adventure, running daily except Mondays through February 2 at Spectra, 1836 South Broadway, has a hidden theme of social and environmental issues tucked into wild visuals and interactive installations. Timed-entry tickets range from $6 to $20; reserve your time and learn more at spectraartspace.com.
Christmas and Jews have a unique relationship: This holiday is when the chosen people go out for Chinese food and maybe a movie. But Christmas also supplied the musical inspiration for some of our best Jewish songsmiths, including Irving Berlin. Larry Weinstein’s documentary Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas, aptly set in a Chinese restaurant, mashes up all those traditions and, courtesy of the Denver Jewish Film Festival, has become a new tradition all its own with a holiday-season screening and Chinese buffet at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue. Get in the mood for Christmas (you don’t have to be Jewish, you know) on Thursday, December 19, from 7 to 10 p.m.; the food follows the film in the Henderson-Withey lounge. Shèngdàn jié kuàilè! Admission ranges from $8.50 to $14 at denverfilm.org.
If you’re a woman playing bar gigs, you’re bound to drink bar spirits. These two conditions mix freely, and you can join in the fun at the hi-dive’s Whiskey, Women & Song Showcase, an evening of music from indie-scene old-timers Tammy Shine of Dressy Bessy and Erin Roberts and the full Porlolo lineup, with newcomer Nina de Freitas adding fresh notes. Boulder’s Vapor Distillery pitches in with the whiskey on Thursday, December 19, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. at the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway; get info and tickets, $10 in advance, at eventbrite.com.
Friday, December 20
Shake the hands that built the Death Star when Colin Cantwell, the Boulder-based creator and model builder for Star Wars: A New Hope, stops by local theaters to show his designs and mark the release of Rise of Skywalker. From 1:15 to 7 p.m. on Friday, December 20, he'll be at the Louisville Cinebarre; at United Artists Colorado Center 9 & IMAX from 1:15 to 6:45 p.m. on December 21; and at Pavilions 15 Denver from 1:30 to 7 p.m. on p.m. on Sunday, December 22. He'll be selling autographs for $25, but that includes a free print of either his original 1974 Star Wars concept art or his 1975 photos of the first Star Wars models. Find out more at colincantwell.com.
As a co-op, Pirate: Contemporary Art is a survivor. Though it’s not Denver’s oldest cooperative (Spark, which celebrated its fortieth year this summer, boasts that landmark designation), Pirate’s little gallery that could earns a zillion points for its rebellious reputation as a launching pad for Denver artists, even in its newest digs in Lakewood. Celebrate with the buccaneers — new and old — when Pirate’s Fortieth Anniversary Show opens on Friday, December 20, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the gallery, 7130 West 16th Avenue in Lakewood, where it runs through January 5. For authenticity’s sake, the reception will be on Friday, January 3, from 6 to 10 p.m. Find information at pirateartonline.org or on Facebook.
After all the seasonal silliness, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned will take on some serious issues. David Casiano will bring the legendary lawyer and social justice back to life in this one-man, two-act play based on Irving Stone's Clarence Darrow for the Defense that includes reminiscence of the unpopular cases in which the famous attorney was involved, as well as add some Darrow-like opinions about contemporary events. See law in action at 7 p.m. Friday, December 20, at the Castlewood Grange, 7275 South Lima Street in Englewood; the show repeats at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, December 21. Tickets are $25 (includes two drinks tickets and appetizers) and $10 at the door for students find out more here.
Meant to go Christmas shopping, but then you got high? High for the Holidaze, a canna-centric holiday market, has procrastinating potheads covered, with local vendors selling smoking, vaping and cannabis accessories and stoner apparel at the Oriental Theater on Friday, December 20, from 8 to 11 p.m. And it's not just a market: Comedians Rick Bryan and Derrik Rush will both perform throughout the night, with additional musical and burlesque shows and a special appearance and photo opportunity with CannaClaus (don't be scared by the red eyes; it's part of the costume...). Tickets (21+) are $14.20, or $4.20 for anyone with a marijuana industry badge; no pot consumption is allowed at the venue, which is located at 4335 West 44th Avenue. Find out more at theorientaltheater.com.
The Denver Pavilions Holiday Carousel returns to downtown Denver on Saturday, December 21, offering parents an easy way to keep their children occupied while they do some last-minute shopping. The carousel operates from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (1 a.m. on New Year's Eve), and rides are $3, or free with a voucher from a Pavilions merchant or community partner; part of the proceeds will go to Food Bank of the Rockies. To kick off the first round, the Blue Knights Brass Ensemble will deliver a free concert at 2 p.m. on Saturday in front of the carousel. The attraction stays open through January 2; learn more at denverpavilions.com.
Celebrate the accomplishments and resilience of African-American women when The Museum for Black Girls: A Tribute to the Evolution of Black Girl Magic takes over Elevate Fashion & Lifestyle. This multi-room immersive installation offers a nod to the #BlackGirlsMagic movement and celebrates black women in all their glory. Tickets are $40 for the opening-night celebration, which takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday, December 21, at the shop, 12203 East Iliff Avenue, #Suite J, in Aurora, where you can wander the installation and enjoy drinks, performances and live music. If you can't make opening night, tickets are $25 for general admission December 22 through 28. Find more information at eventbrite.com.
The centuries-old Ashkenazi-Jewish and Yiddish Theater tradition of klezmer is a joyful music with shades of suffering, tuned to Eastern European and gypsy-folk cadences. It’s not heard nearly enough — sometimes at Jewish weddings and on recordings — but you’ll get a toe-tapping earful at Klezfest, brought to you by the Mizel Museum during two back-to-back shows on Saturday, December 21, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Each show has a different lineup: Rabbi Joe Black, Steve Brodsky, cantor Elizabeth Sacks and Hal Aqua and the Lost Tribe perform in a more kid-friendly vein at 6 p.m.; Aqua and the Lost Tribe return with the full combo Hadgaba at 9 p.m. Find information and tickets, $25, at mizelmuseum.org.
Mexicans and Mexican-Americans alike know the posada, Spanish for "inn," as a traditional celebration just before Christmas that commemorates the journey Mary took with Joseph to find a place to give birth to the baby Jesus. But it's also an opportunity to gather with friends and family to celebrate the holiday. Unsurprisingly, local Spanish-rock group iZCALLi is putting a unique twist on the celebration, hosting La Posada at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, 1215 20th Street, on Saturday, December 21, from 9 p.m. to midnight. Get down to the cumbia-licious grooves of openers Los Reyes del Huepa, and stick around for indie sensation Neoma and iZCALLi itself, which promises to close the night with a special production. Find tickets, $10 to $30, and more info on iZCALLi's Facebook page.
If you're not already in the holiday spirit(s), head to Señor Bear, 3301 Tejon Street, which has been serving as an official Toys for Tots donation and drop-off site all month, as well as offering festive holiday cocktails and a three-course "Holiday Bear Basket" of seasonal Puerto Rican dishes. And the spirits will be overflowing on Saturday, December 21, when the restaurant hosts Bear's Naughty or Nice Holiday Party and Toy Drive from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission is free, and there will be more drink specials, along with Toys 4 Shots — bring a new toy and get a free shot! — and a photo op with Santa Claus. Admission is free; find out more at senorbeardenver.com.
Sunday, December 22
Gather up the kids and head to Breckenridge Brewery on Sunday, December 22, for the Ugly Sweater Brew Run. This family-, dog- and stroller-friendly 5K will take you along the Platte River Trail and end with holiday jams, seasonal brews, food and an ugly-sweater contest back at the brewery, 2920 Brewery Lane in Littleton. And it's all for a good cause, with a portion of each entry fee going toward Epic Experience, which organizes outdoor adventures for cancer fighters. Registration for the run, $35, includes a seasonal Breck brew, a coaster, giveaways and more. If you're not into running but want to party, opt for the fundraiser party pass, $15. The run starts at 10:30 a.m., but be sure to arrive around 9:30 to pick up all the necessary gear. Rain or shine, be prepared to lace up! Find more info and register at rockymountainbrewruns.com.
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A mashup of two great ideas has become a Denver tradition. Back in 1974, a University of Denver tuba teacher paraded his students through south Denver, playing carols; the next year, he presented a concert in Larimer Square called Tuba Caroling. But the concept really took off when the Denver musicians joined an organization called TubaChristmas, which presented the first TubaChristmas 45 years ago at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Today, there are TubaChristmas concerts around the world. At 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Denver 22, Denver TubaChristmas will fill the Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex with the sounds of 300 tubas and other brass instruments, all playing holiday tunes as their gift to the city. Admission is free; find out more at facebook.com/tubachristmasdenver.
The Alpine Art Center has a bright idea for the holidays: From noon to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 22, it will host a free lantern-making workshop suitable for all ages in the Vail Public Library Community Room. Following the workshop, you can join others with or without homemade lights at the Holiday Lantern Walk through Vail Village, then gather in Slifer Square for live music. Find more information at artinvail.com.
In the Christmas pantheon, there’s Santa, then baby Jesus, Rudolph and, not too far from the top, Charlie Brown. A theatrical rendition of Charles M. Schulz’s brilliant story of a bald boy and how his endearingly pathetic Christmas tree and friends teach him the true meaning of the holiday, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage comes to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, on Sunday, December 22, at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Tickets start at $29.95 and are available at altitudetickets.com. For more information, go to paramountdenver.com.
Denver’s newest holiday attraction, the Mile High Tree, is hosting its first Pet-Friendly Night from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 22, when Santa will be on hand for photo ops with your pet. The Mile High Tree is the tallest digital tree in North America, and is offering pre-programmed light shows every thirty minutes Thursday through Sunday using pixel LED technology choreographed to multicultural holiday music. In addition to the light show — which you can watch from inside or outside the tree — you can enjoy human holiday treats and libations (for a price...the tree is free). Visit denver.org to learn more.
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