It's the holiday season, and there's something for everyone to celebrate around Denver, with free carousel rides, visits to Santa, Kwanzaa events and even a Car Menorah Parade. Unpack some fun this week! Keep reading for the 21 best events this week in and around Denver.
Monday, December 23
The Denver Pavilions Carousel started spinning for a sixth year this past weekend, and will keep twirling through January 2. While rides are normally $3 (or free with a voucher from a Denver Pavilions merchant, hotel or community partner), on Monday, December 23, rides are absolutely free, and the Denver Choir League will add to the merriment with a holiday concert from 5 to 6 p.m. The Carousel runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 500 16th Street; find out more about Denver Pavilions programming here.
In the United States, Hanukkah is too often viewed as Jewish Christmas, when it's really a celebration of Jewish resistance against assimilation. To mark the occasion — the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem — the Orthodox group Chabad’s Jewish Life Center puts on one of Denver’s biggest, brightest and least orthodox Hanukkah celebrations. Light Up the Night starts with a Car Menorah Parade that leaves the Shops at Northfield at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, December 23, and heads to Stapleton Town Center, 7352 East 29th Avenue, where at 5:30 p.m. there will be a grand menorah lighting, BMX stunt show, hot cocoa, doughnuts, and other games and festivities. For more information and to register for the car parade, go to jewishstapleton.com/parade.
The weather outside might be frightful, but life according to Escape to Margaritaville is anything but. A musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffet's long and illustrious career, Margaritaville debuted on Broadway in 2018 and is now hitting the road, promising to take you to a place where the sand is hot, the water is warm and margaritas flow like wine. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 23, at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where it runs through January 5; find tickets and more info at denvercenter.org. Cheeseburgers in paradise not included.
Tuesday, December 24
Last Christmas Eve saw disappointed diners (Jewish and otherwise) heaving sighs of dismay as Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen took a hiatus from hosting its annual Jewish Christmas meal. But on Tuesday, December 24, the "Jewish Christmas" Chinese Food Pop-Up — inspired by the tradition of Jewish families heading out for a feast of Chinese food on the eve of a Christian holiday — is back at the eatery's Stanley Marketplace location, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora. From 6 to 9 p.m., people of all faiths are invited to gather for Reuben egg rolls, smoked salmon rangoon, teriyaki kippered salmon and kung pao pastrami, along with beer, wine and spiked cider and cocoa. All-inclusive tickets are $80 for adults and $25 for children under twelve at eventbrite.com; proceeds from sales will benefit Conscious Alliance, a nonprofit feeding the hungry via food drives at concerts and the sale of music-themed art and memorabilia.
Wednesday, December 25
Highland Tap & Burger, 2219 West 32nd Avenue, is opening its doors on Christmas Day for its annual Orphans' Christmas; the bash, which has been happening for nearly a decade now, promises free food and drink to whatever motley and merry assortment of folks show up from 1 to 5 p.m. It also serves as a fundraiser for various causes around town; this year, the beneficiary is Denver Public Schools. In lieu of a cover or canned goods, you're asked to show up with cash or a pre-paid debit card to donate to the cause.
There's no shame in staying home on Christmas to watch movies, eat seasonal treats and enjoy your newly unwrapped presents. But the day will offer plenty of magic outside your front door — especially at A Very Harry Potter Christmas Part 2! On Wednesday, December 25, the hip punks at Occidental, 1950 West 32nd Avenue, joined this year by Williams and Graham, will reprise the one-night-only nerdy party that pays homage to those witchy Brits. Sneak through Occidental's version of Diagon Alley to find magical surprises, watch the HPs on the big screen and partake in themed cocktails; be sure to wear your best Harry Potter-themed costume for the bar's own Tri Wizard Cup Tournament. The event is 21+, but don't forget to bring your childlike wonder. Entry is free and the fun starts at 6 p.m.; find more info at facebook.com/occidentaldenver.
If being cooped up in the house with family is dragging you down and you want to celebrate Christmas gaily, head to Gladys: The Nosy Neighbor, at 500 Santa Fe Drive, for a night of queer Yuletide glee during Showtunes Goes Homo for the Holidays. The holiday musical sing-a-long, which takes place from 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Wednesday, December 25, is the perfect place to throw back a few and feel the Christmas spirit with your real family — not those people who raised you. For more information, go to facebook.com/gladysdenver.
Thursday, December 26
Have you been sleeping on Natura Obscura? The immersive arts installation and myth-infused dreamscape by Prismajic at the Museum of Outdoor Arts (on the second floor of the Englewood Civic Center Building, 1000 Englewood Parkway) has been one of the surprise successes of 2019, and was extended months past its original closing date. But now that time is drawing nigh: If you haven't experienced the multi-artist technological wizardry in all its Jungian glory, there's no time to lose. You can buy timed tickets for $15 online or $20 at the door for Thursday, December 26, through the closing date of Sunday, December 29; for available hours and more information (including how to download the accompanying app), go to naturaobscura.org.
Book time at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street, from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursday, December 26, for Celebrate Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), a special performance that honors the African first-fruits harvest tradition. The Kwanzaa cross-cultural events will continue through the week at various Denver libraries, with a discussion of Kujichagulia (self-determination) at 12:30 p.m. Friday, December 27, at the Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway. All programming is free, and light refreshments will be served; find more information at denverlibrary.org.
Friday, December 27
Right about now, when all the used wrapping paper is in the trash, the doldrums set in. In other words, it's the perfect time to get going — and growing — by learning how to make your own terrarium, and maybe throw in a few aliens for good measure. The Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver can get you started when it brings back Black Sheep Friday: Extra Terrariums, a favorite from the guided DIY pastime’s first ten years. Led by MCA friend Thadeaous Mighell, the workshop provides materials and the creative inspiration for you to follow through. Get ready to make on Friday, December 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the rooftop MCA Cafe, 1485 Delgany Street; admission is free for members and teens, and free with museum admission, which is just $5 after 5 p.m. — which is when happy hour conveniently begins. Learn more at mcadenver.org.
Do things really seem funnier when you’re drunk? Local comedians will put that question to the test — while dressed as Star Wars characters — at Drunk Star Wars, a soppy competition hosted by Rey, aka Denver comic Allison Rose. Whether or not you choose to get drunk, too, is up to you, but the contestants are likely to be completely out to lunch and off the planet. They'll start cracking jokes in hopes of grabbing the $150 cash prize at 8 p.m. Friday, December 27, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Cantina scene, anyone? Admission is $10 in advance and $20 each for a VIP table for two at eventbrite.com, or $15 at the door. Find details on the Drunk Star Wars Facebook page.
Slam Nuba celebrates the second night of this year’s pan-African holiday — dedicated to the principle of Kujichagulia, or self-determination — with the Nuba Kwanzaa Show, a slammin’ round of performance poetry by favorite local bards. Join the poets on Friday, December 27, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street. Admission is $7.50 at eventbrite.com or $10 ($5 student with ID) at the door; learn more at Slam Nuba’s Facebook page.
Saturday, December 28
"Grow your own!" is the rallying cry for pot smokers, psilocybin advocates...and anyone who wants to make the best cream of mushroom soup ever. You don't need to settle for bland supermarket mushrooms when you can cultivate your own portobellos, criminis and more, thanks to Mushroom Cult, which is putting on a home lab-skills class for budding mushroom growers. From noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 28, learn how to create agar plates and inoculate them with spores at the Four Seasons Farmers & Artisan Market, 7043 West 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. Purchase your $40 tickets at mushroom-cult.ticketleap.com; for the price, you'll get to take home the petri dish cultures you create during the class. Then call the neighbors over for stroganoff, stuffed mushrooms, mushroom risotto, fried mushrooms...well, you get the idea.
Ever performed poetry or spoken word in front of a crowd that coughs and hacks instead of snaps and claps? Test your skills before an easy-to-please audience during Spoken Weed at the Coffee Joint, Denver's only licensed pot lounge. On Saturday, December 28, from 4 to 6 p.m., the lounge will host cannabis-friendly open-mic performances of spoken word, freestyle rap and other poetic styles. Entry (21+) to the Coffee Joint at 1130 Yuma Court is $5, or free with a purchase at the dispensary next door. You must bring your own cannabis and paraphernalia; only vaping is allowed. Find out more by calling the Coffee Joint at 720-583-4657.
At the start of December, the Denver Theatre District’s Understudy artist incubator turned into a pop-up retail clothing store with a message about the power of a cooperative economy. But all good things must come to an end, and the RMT4EVA Clothing Store, run by the family-owned Rich Mob Tendencies, is going out with a double-whammy Closing Party and End of the Decade Celebration. Wear your RMT gear to the event (or buy some, if you haven’t already) and party down with the fam from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 28, at Understudy, in the Colorado Convention Center at 890 C 14th Street; a performance by local R&B artist Rachael Bailey will top off the evening. It’s all free; get more info at facebook.com/understudydenver.
If you think you know the blues, think again. Boulder musician Otis Taylor, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame earlier this month, has been pushing the boundaries of the genre, creating what he calls trance blues — a chordally simple and rhythmically relentless form of music that he uses to explore race, history and identity, eschewing the tired tropes of romantic heartache that dominate the blues canon. Taylor will perform at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street, on Saturday, December 28, at 6:30 p.m. and again at 9 p.m.; get tickets, $15 to $35, and more information at dazzledenver.com.
If you love Colorado bands and the Grateful Dead, to boot, you can’t go wrong winding down Hanukkah 2019 with Street Cats Making Love Presents: A Grateful Hanukkah, at 9 p.m. Saturday, December 28, at the Roxy on Broadway, 554 South Broadway. Light up the night with Denver musicians from bands including Paper Bird, Shady Elders, Glowing House, Heavy Diamond Ring and more, and enjoy their spin on the Dead’s classic tunes; Clayton Dexter Norman will open. Tickets are $8; for more information, go to broadwayroxy.com.
Sunday, December 29
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Taking a few days off before the new year? Why not take a scenic drive across the state, with a special stop on Sunday, December 29, at the very scenic town of Silverton? And remember to take your skis or snowboard, because this is Ski Free at Kendall Mountain day. Kendall is one of those small, municipally owned ski areas that used to dot the West; the 55-year-old facility has four groomed trails, multiple tree runs, a terrain park and a double chairlift serving 240 vertical feet. You don't need to be a resident to hit the slopes; just show up with your gear at Kendall Mountain, 1 Kendall Place in Silverton. For more information, call 970-387-5522 or go to colorado.gov/townofsilverton or skikendall.com/events.
As a companion to the current show Anna: A Unique Exhibit Exploring the Life and Art of Anna Pavlova, the Dairy Center for the Arts will celebrate artist Peggy Turchette, whose painstakingly stitched miniature costumes document the ballet diva’s legacy. Turchette will kick off Anna: A Multimedia Life Event Exploring the Life & Art of Anna Pavlova with a presentation about the dancer and her life; afterward, a member of the Boulder Ballet will perform Pavlova’s signature solo, "The Swan." Turchette will then take questions before leading a tour through the exhibition. The celebration runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 29, at the Dairy, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder; admission is free, but a donation of $5 to $10 is suggested, and an RSVP is recommended at tickets.thedairy.org. Find out more at thedairy.org.
Once Christmas fades away, Jews and everyone else can celebrate the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple without distraction. On Sunday, December 29, from 4 to 6 p.m., Jewish Colorado will put on Chanukah in Candyland, a holiday shindig in the community area at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora. There you can enjoy a gargantuan candy menorah, doughnut decorating, candy dreidels, latkes, applesauce, an appearance by Judah Maccabee and a party sure to put the spin in your top. And it's all free! For more information, go to stanleymarketplace.com.
If your holidays were a little humdrum, it's time to put the magic back in your life. Specifically, Adam Trent's Holiday Magic, an immersive entertainment extravaganza of magic, comedy and music designed for the entire family. Boulder native Adam Trent was a breakout star of Broadway's The Illusionists; he'll be back in his home state for a 7 p.m. show on Sunday, December 29, at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. The evening also includes America's Got Talent finalist Evie Clair, a singer-songwriter. Tickets start at $19.99; get them and find out more at altitudetickets.com.
Have an event that belongs in 21 Best? We need information at least three weeks in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org.