Let there be lights! While things are looking dark for traditional festivities this holiday season, there are some bright spots ahead, including illuminating virtual programs and free in-person shows. While Night Lights Denver continues to glow on the 16th Street Mall, it's about to be joined by the Mile High Tree, which is moving over to the mall from Sculpture Park for its second year.
There are also a number of holiday markets already up and running, for both in-person and online shopping. See our list of holiday markets here, and keep reading for the ten best free events in town this week.
Night Lights Denver
Tuesdays Through Sundays, 5:15 to 10 p.m.
1601 Arapahoe Street
Even though Denver is supposed to shut down at 10 p.m., Denver Night Lights will keep the lights on until the last possible second, running free illuminated shows with "the people's projector" on the side of the Clocktower. The lineup is new for November; find out more here.
Peak Expeditionary Bike Park Opening
Thursday, November 19, 8:30 a.m.
Peak Expeditionary School, 4617 Independence St., Wheat Ridge
Join Peak Expeditionary School in celebrating the opening of its on-campus bike park, made possible by park builder Flow Ride Concepts as well as Street Reach and Wish for Wheels, which collectively donated 130 bikes and 100 helmets.
No Place to Go Virtual VR Release Party
Thursday, November 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
No Place to Go premiered before Halloween as an immersive, queer-themed haunted-house experience created by a team of artists and experienced from inside your car. People who missed the road show will now have a chance to experience it at home: To celebrate the second wave of No Place to Go, co-directors Serena Chopra, Kate Speer and Frankie Toan will talk up the virtual-reality home version and share original video footage during an online event that's free to attend. Afterward, you can register to play in place or for $25 here, and you'll receive a set of cardboard VR goggles to enhance your trip through the haunt. Register for the Zoom virtual release party in advance.
MIXTAPE Track #3:1985-2020
November 19, 7:30 p.m.
Join the grand finale of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts' 35th annual celebration. Denver-based motivational speaker and comedian Debbie Scheer will be the emcee for this totally rad, ’80s-style virtual program, which will include talks by CBCA friends and a live ’80s dance party with DJ Rascer. During the dance party, the CBCA will give away tickets to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for the best ’80s outfits. Find out more here.
Keep a Light in Your Window
Thursday, November 19, 8 p.m.
Though Daddy Bruce Randolph died in 1994, his legacy lives on through the OG Denverites who remember when the good-hearted barbecue maven served thousands at his restaurant on Thanksgiving, as well as the Epworth Foundation, which took over Randolph’s philanthropic mission after his passing. If you want to know about the man for whom the northeast Denver avenue is named, watch the 2016 documentary Keep a Light in Your Window in its broadcast premiere a week before Thanksgiving, for free on Rocky Mountain PBS. Find more information on Daddy Bruce here.
Thursday, November 19, 8 p.m.
Delve into the metaphorical matrix with creative technologist Ian Holtum during this Denver Museum of Nature & Science date-night program. Board the Fantasy Spaceship for an exercise in mind-expanding creativity with Lighthouse Writers Workshop; be wowed by optical and auditory illusions and a microscopic tour of a mineral. Sign up here.
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation 35th Annual Awards Celebration
Friday, November 20, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation is going virtual with this year's annual awards, which celebrates leaders in the community who've made a meaningful contribution to Denver's arts and culture scene. This year's honorees include Ed Dwight, Marcela de la Mar, Susan and Jeremy Shamos, and Catherine O’Neill Thorn. And there will be more arts and culture on display with performances by Colorado Ballet, Wonderbound and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, along with spoken-word pieces by local youth poets who participate in Art From Ashes programming. Register here.
Tour de Force: Q&A
Friday, November 20, 2 p.m.
Tour de Force, a film presented in partnership with Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema, is now accompanied by a Q&A event with movers and shakers from the international and Colorado dance worlds: Brad Stabio (director, Tour de Force documentary), Cleo Parker Robinson (Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble), Gil Boggs (Colorado Ballet) and Garrett Ammon (Wonderbound). The discussion builds on Chautauqua@Home’s virtual screening of the Tour de Force film, but you do not have to purchase a ticket to participate in the free Q&A. Sign up here.
Mile High Tree
Friday, November 20, through January 2, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturdays, 5 to 8 p.m. Sundays
16th and Welton streets
The Mile High Tree, a 110-foot digital-art installation, returns to downtown Denver to light up the night, courtesy of Visit Denver. For its second year, the tree is moving to a new location, and it will also have public-safety guidelines in space. But there will still be a light show, programmed to holiday music. It's free to visit; find out more here.
A/Live Inside: A virtual showcase of artists and their stories from Colorado's prisons
Saturday, November 21, 6 p.m.
This live virtual event weaves together theatrical performance, song, music, dance, visual art and panoramic true-life stories of incarcerated artists from multiple prison facilities in Colorado. It will be followed by a live roundtable discussion from incarcerated participants, DU Prison Arts Initiative and the Colorado Department of Corrections. Find out more and sign up here.
Know of other great free events around Denver? We'll be updating this list through the week; send information to email@example.com.