There's a reason that classics endure. Sure, there will always be something new to catch our eye, something cutting-edge to shake things up. But every year, we anticipate the return of Denver traditions, events we look forward to year after year, because they keep growing, keep evolving and keep delivering. If you're new to town, don't miss these events; they help make Denver what it is. If you've been around a while, take a second (or third, or fourth) look; some things just get better with age. Here are some of our favorite annual fall/winter events, as well as a few newcomers worth your attention, in chronological order.
Denver Film Festival
Through Sunday, November 12
The Denver Film Festival has been around for forty years, and this city's premier film event is still going strong. The 2017 edition will mark the fortieth anniversary with over 200 films from 35 countries showing over twelve days, a mind-boggling amount of programming for even the most avid cinephile. But that breadth means there's truly something for everyone. Coming-of-age drama directed by indie darling Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan? Got it. Darker-than-dark Icelandic psychodrama (like there's any other kind of Icelandic film)? Check. There are also red-carpet events, an awards brunch, parties and panel discussions. Hosted by the Denver Film Society at various locations around town; tickets are $15 and up. For more information, call 303-595-3456 or go to denverfilm.org.
Neustadt JAAMM Festival
Through Sunday, November 12
The JAAMM Festival is already under way, but there's plenty left to see between now and November 12. After all, this annual festival focuses on Jewish arts, authors, movies and music — a huge range of cultural happenings. Check out Alexandra Zapruder's fascinating lecture about her book Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film; Beau Jest, a comedic play addressing the universal experience of parents who disapprove of your love life; Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell's rich baritone rendering Yiddish music; and much more. It's all at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street; tickets are $10 and up. For more information, call 303-316-6360 or go to jccdenver.org.
Denver Arts Week
Through Saturday, November 11
While the nine days of Denver Arts Week aren't nearly enough time to explore over 300 music, theater, art, comedy and dance events, give it the old college try. You'll find a slew of First Friday happenings, free admission to museums across town, and a wealth of workshops and performances — everything from Japanese music to hip-hop dance to comedic depictions of your therapy sessions — at deep discounts. There's no excuse to be bored, not with Denver's art scene at your fingertips. Presented by Visit Denver at locations around town; prices vary. For more information, go to denver.org.
Blossoms of Light
November 24 through January 1
Christmas lights are usually seen from the family car as it cruises slowly up and down neighborhood streets, but the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light is a much better option. Not only are the animated LED displays far more elaborate than your neighbor's, but you'll get hot drinks and holiday snacks from the staff. Enjoy bundling up and touring the show in the crisp winter air, and when your toes start to go a bit numb, warm up in the Orangery (a Renaissance-inspired greenhouse) or Marnie's Pavilion, which features a waterfall and orchid display. The DBG is at 1007 York Street; tickets are $11 and up. For details, call 720-865-3500 or go to botanicgardens.org.
November 25 through December 24
If there's anything that says Christmas more than the tale of a young girl and a shape-shifter locked in mortal combat with a giant mouse, we don't know what it might be. While the bones of The Nutcracker story are certainly bizarre, there's no denying this ballet's eternal charm. The Colorado Ballet's excellent production is a major seasonal draw at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, 1400 Curtis Street. Tickets are $30 to $155 at 303-837-8888 or coloradoballet.org.
Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair
December 9 through December 10
December is a frenzy of holiday preparation: From shopping to decorating to hosting to cooking, there's always something looming. Some thrive on it; some abhor it. If you're the type who enjoys the prep, visit this fair for a one-stop, anti-Amazon shopping spree. It's a juried fair, so the artists, producers and designers are legitimately talented, and wares for sale include craft food and drink, stationery, handmade accessories, clothing, bath and body products and homewares. Even if you're not the shopping type, give it a try: Drinks from the bar while you shop will take the edge right off. Admission is free at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue; call 323-989-2278 or go to their website for more information.
Mini Comic Con 2
Saturday, December 9
Summer — and with it the celebration of pop-culture geekery that is Denver Comic Con — seems very distant in the dark days of December. But you can brighten up your winter at the free Mini Comic Con 2, a Denver Public Library event. This year's Artist's Alley will host thirty comic-book artists, who will have art and comics for sale and will offer the opportunity to get professional feedback on your own work. There will also be face painting and button making for younger fans, and green-screen photo shoots that drop you directly into your fave fantasy world. So pick your fandom and don your best cosplay for the chance to win prizes; we'll be sharpening our bat'leth. It's all at the Sam Gary Branch Library, 2961 Roslyn Street; for more information, call 720-865-0325 or go to denverlibrary.org/event?id=32603.
Colorado Blizzard Arena Soccer
December 16 through February 17
We're no meteorologists, but we think the Colorado Blizzard could take Denver by storm this winter. The arena soccer team is relocating from Colorado Springs to Denver, bringing Major League Soccer's distant cousin to the Mile High City. The season boasts six games from December through February and has several distinct advantages over the MLS: The field is smaller, so the action is faster and scores are higher; it's indoors, so any inclement weather is purely a result of the play; and it's a hell of a lot cheaper. All games are at the Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt Street. Tickets are $13 to $25; for more information, call 720-274-4711 or go to facebook.com/CoBlizzard.
National Western Stock Show
January 6 through January 21
You may scoff at the idea of a livestock event being listed among film festivals and ballets, but the West has a culture all its own, and for three weeks in January, the National Western Stock Show celebrates that culture and much of what makes this city special. From parading a steer through the streets of the city into the lobby of one of the town's swankiest hotels to slapping a pair of cowboy boots on a toddler and perching him atop an ornery sheep, the sights, sounds — and, yes, smells — of the show are iconic Denver. The Stock Show is at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt Street; tickets are $10 and up. Get more information at 303-295-6124 or nationalwestern.com.
Friday, February 23
Artopia, Westword's annual celebration of the arts, is well into its third decade, but the venerable event has some tricks up its sleeve. The 2018 edition moves to a new day — Friday — and a new venue: the Church, at 1160 Lincoln Street. As always, though, you can expect Artopia to overflow with this city's most cutting-edge visual and performance art. For details, watch westwordartopia.com.
This story originally appeared in the Fall Arts Guide in the November 2 issue of Westword.