Denver is aglow with free light shows, both informal displays in neighborhoods and holiday extravaganzas in spots ranging from Cherry Creek to downtown, all designed to get you up, out of the house, and entertained in a safe way. But you don't have to leave home to have an illuminating, free adventure.
Here are the ten best free things to do in and around town (and inside your abode) this week:
Law Enforcement Leaders Read JustUs: Stories From the Frontlines of the Criminal Justice System Thursday, December 3, 6 p.m.
Law enforcement leaders including Boulder County DA Michael Dougherty, Lafayette Police Operations Commander David Self and Captain Corey Pass of the Estes Park Police Department will read aloud stories by Motus Theater’s JustUs monologists, including Juaquin Mobley, Dereck Bell and Daniel Guillory. Following the presentation, the readers will reflect on the impact of sharing the story of a person impacted by racism and violence within the criminal justice system, and the JustUs monologists will talk about what it means to have their story read by a law enforcement leader. Musical guest Spirit of Grace will provide powerful musical response between each monologue. This is part of Motus Theater's "Moving Stories That Move Us Forward"; sign up here.
Black Cube Virtual Book Launch and Panel Discussion
Thursday, December 3, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Even in a pandemic, Cortney Lane Stell kept busy as director and curator of the Denver-based Black Cube Nomadic Art Museum — planning for the future while looking back at Black Cube’s history of site-specific projects with a new fifth-anniversary survey, A Nomadic Art Museum: Black Cube 2015 — 2020, which she put together with help from Black Cube founder Laura Merage and art writers Angella d’Avignon and Paddy Johnson. Look back on the accomplishments of more than eighty artists and 35 projects during a virtual launch and panel discussion with d’Avignon and a handful of Black Cube artist fellows. Register for the event here; if you like what you see, pre-order the book here.
Street Serenade at The Orchard
Thursday, December 3, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The Orchard stage, Town Center Drive, 14697 Delaware Street, Westminster
See the two-story tree and enjoy Jenny Shawhan's contemporary holiday performance; masks and social distancing required. This is a rain (or snow) or shine event; bring your own chairs. Seating availability is on a first-come-first-served basis. Get more information, as well as upcoming schedules, here.
Black Faces, White Spaces: A Conversation With Carolyn Finney
Thursday, December 3, 7 to 8 p.m.
The story of Central Park birder Christian Cooper’s encounter with Amy Cooper, a woman who exposed her innate racism by calling the police, was well-covered by the media. But her twisted white perspective regarding seeing a black man communing with nature wasn’t widely discussed. Carolyn Finney, a scholar-in-residence at the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College, will take on that topic in a free virtual talk, “Black Faces, White Spaces,” that gets to the bottom of why Anglos view African-Americans as anything but outdoorsy. That, she says, is just another piece of our nation’s Jim Crow legacy — and she’ll take it from there. Find more information here.
Telluride Fire Festival
Thursday, December 3, through Sunday, December 6
The sixth annual Telluride Fire Festival will take place with safety protocols in place and most events outdoors. Among the highlights: Costume artist MIcki Flatmo will display elaborate Burning Man-style outerware at Slate Gray Gallery, with an opening reception on December 3; there will be free fire-art performances along with flaming cars on the public plaza in Mountain Village; the Fire on the Mountain display on top of the ski area will showcase wood sculptures during the day, then ceremoniously burn them to the ground on December 5. Find the complete schedule and learn more here.
Santa's Parade of Lights
Friday, December 4, 8 p.m.
While the pandemic immobilized this year's Santa's Parade of Lights — in order to accommodate social distancing, the floats are set up in and around downtown Denver, so that you can walk around them — it also inspired a special broadcast by KUSA, the sponsor of the parade. This hour-long special on 9News will give Coloradans a glimpse into parades past, while celebrating a very different holiday season with music, special guests and, of course, Santa. The show repeats at 6 p.m. December 12 and 10:35 p.m. December 24. Find out more here.
FirstBank Colorado Gives Trivia Contest
Through Friday, December 4
Yes, Colorado Gives Day is coming on December 8 (all those emails are a giveway), and Colorado Humanities has come up with a fun way to observe it. Trivia questions will be posted twice a day, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., starting November 30; winners will be drawn randomly from the correct answers, and FirstBank will give $1,000 to the nonprofit of their choice. Questions will be posted here.
Whittier Walking Holiday Market
Saturday, December 5, noon to 4 p.m.
The Whittier Neighborhood Association, in collaboration with Make a Community Move, is hosting the fourth in a series of markets. Nearly thirty vendors will be outside their homes, displaying everything from art to crafts to holiday knickknacks. Find more (and a map) here.
Night Lights Denver
Through December, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
1601 Arapahoe Street
Night Lights Denver has been brightening spirits on the 16th Street Mall for over a year, but the new holiday display that debuted on November 30 is something special, full of holiday- and winter-themed work by Colorado-based artists for "the people's projector" that uses the Clocktower as a canvas. The new lineup includes pieces by Estee Fox, Erin Anderson, Steve Smith, Maya Dite-Shepard, Michael Sperandeo, Chandler Bree Dolan, Waveform.exp, Rainbow Militia, ArtToyz, Wendy Shattil and others. Watch for updates here; this free display gets glowing reviews!
UCCS Presents Theatreworks Month of Joy
Through December 31, 7 p.m.
Theatreworks has invited 31 artists to share its work through the month. The lineup begins with Theatreworks producer Elena Hansen on December 1, followed by a song performance by Lina Ramirez on December 2 and a toy theater show by Caitlin MacLeod on December 3. Find the full lineup and the YouTube link here.
Know of other great free events in and around Denver? Send information to [email protected]