With the new year coming up fast, people are packing as much activity into the next few weeks as they can, whether they're enjoying traditional holiday events or checking more ambitious adventures off their bucket lists.
Don't miss our complete lineups of holiday events and holiday markets in the metro area, and keep reading for eighteen of the best free events in and around Denver this week. (Alert: new COVID cases are prompting some cancellations or additional safety precautions — and a few locations are still clearing up wind damage.)
Mutiny Krampus Mart
Sunday, December 19, 10 a.m.
Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway
Old-school buddies will gather for a Mutiny K-Mart. Jack Jensen, Lindsay Kuhn, Rai Zupa, TJ Little and Vincent Cheap will be selling prints and more original art. Don't miss the chance to take your photo by the Krampus throne. Find out more here.
The Last Chance Gift Fest
Sunday, December 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, Longmont
This annual holiday shopping extravaganza brings over 150 Colorado vendors — of arts, crafts, toys, home decor, food and more — together inside the Exhibit Hall at Boulder County Fairgrounds. Admission is free, as is parking, and there will be live music from Kenny Lee Young on Saturday and Chance Gallagher on Sunday starting at noon. Find out more here.
Veggie Viernes Holiday Edition: Domingos en Westwood
Sunday, December 19, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rise Westwood, 3742 Morrison Road
The makers of Westwood are closing the year with consecutive days of holiday festivities at Rise Westwood. The Domingos en Westwood farmers’ market makes a holiday appearance with a bounty of handmade food gifts and cooking workshops. Viva Westwood! Find more detailed information here.
Sunday, December 19, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Belleview Station, 6785 East Chenango Drive
Holiday BAZAAR returns to Belleview Station for a final weekend, with 50+ craft vendors and fashion trucks, holiday-themed pop-up bars, live entertainment and more. Admission is free, but package bar deals are available. Find out more here.
Downtown BAZAAR Lakewood
Sunday, December 19, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
439 South Teller Street, Lakewood
The Denver BAZAAR brings its holiday shopping extravaganza to downtown Lakewood, filling a huge, 27,000-square-foot indoor space next to the Belmar Plaza with eighty-plus craft vendors and fashion trucks, holiday-themed pop-up bars, live entertainment and more. Admission is free, but special drink packages are available. Find out more here.
Little Elves Workshop
Sunday, December 19, noon to 1 p.m.
Little Man Ice Cream Factory, 4411 West Colfax Avenue
Join the other elves at the Little Man Factory at noon to decorate gingerbread cookies. Little Man will provide the supplies for free. Find out more here.
Sunday, December 19, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
International Bridge, Vail Village, Willow Bridge Road, Vail
Vail’s free Winterfest comes wrapped up in art, everything from a collaborative illuminated ice-sculpture installation by visual artist Olive Moya and ice sculptor Paul Wertin along the Gore Creek Promenade to cheerful handmade lanterns spanning the Vail Village International Bridge. For hands-on fun, take a lantern workshop at the Vail Public Library (by reservation) or pick up a lantern kit at the Vail Village Welcome Center (through December 26) and do it yourself. Grand-opening festivities on Sunday at the International Bridge pull everything together just as the sun goes down and the art lights up. Learn more here.
Franktown Festival of Lights
Through December, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
575 North White Tail Drive, Franktown
This annual display at a private home open to the public features approximately 200,000+ Christmas lights across 2.5 acres of property that you drive through. You can also get out of the car to enjoy a fifteen-foot Ferris wheel featuring favorite Disney characters, Frosty’s Forest Trail, a ten-foot airplane suspended in the air, and a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree with a five-foot angel on top. There are shows every twenty minutes; get information and the set list here.
Night Lights Denver: 3D Holiday Projection Program
Through December 31, 5 to 11:59 p.m. daily
Daniels & Fisher Tower, 1601 Arapahoe Street
The Denver Theatre District’s Night Lights Denver is showing new, 3D-compatible artwork this month, with work by Chris Bagley, Kim Shively, Koko Bayer, Eileen Roscina, Estee Fox and Meow Wolf, all displayed on the Arapahoe Street side of the Daniels & Fisher Tower. Thanks to Meow Wolf, 20,000 pairs of ChromaDepth glasses will allow you to see the work in 3D (it works without the glasses, too); afterward, take the glasses to Meow Wolf's Convergence Station for more 3D viewing. While supplies last, the glasses will be available at Understudy, at the Colorado Convention Center, and the Downtown Denver Rink, in Skyline Park. Find more information here.
Merry & Bright Lights Show
Through December 27, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
Denver Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street
Union Station is all decked out for the holidays, with Santa dropping in from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, the Miracle Bar now open in the evenings ($2 to secure a reservation), and the Merry & Bright Lights Show every evening, with interactive visual imagery created by local Denver artists projected across the historic facade while classic holiday music plays. Find all you need to know here.
Mile High Tree
Through January 1, 5 to 10 p.m. daily
16th Street Mall at Welton Street
The Mile High Tree is back on the mall; the tallest digital tree in the country, it's 110 feet high and has 60,000 digital lights. The tree offers free nightly light shows choreographed to multicultural holiday music programs, and there are also activations in the space surrounding the tree, including selfie lighting displays and musical interludes between each program recorded by the Colorado Symphony. Find out more here.
Holiday Art Market
Through December 29, daily
Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden
The Foothills Art Center’s Holiday Art Market is the perfect excuse for a drive to downtown Golden, where merchants, restaurants and businesses on the main drag radiate with holiday spirit. Nearly fifty years old, HART offers high-quality artisan crafts, including pottery, jewelry, glass, fiber, leather, metal, wood, food items, ornaments and greeting cards, which could ostensibly take care of everyone on your list. The market is also one of the few that stay open for a few days after Christmas — when folks can shop for themselves! Get the details on hours and ticketed admission here.
Cherry Creek North Winter Wanderland and Holiday Market
Through December 24, daily
Fillmore Street between First and Second Avenues
Cherry Creek Winter Wanderland returns, filling sixteen blocks with holiday decor and interactive art installations; there will be special events on Saturday nights. And after the inaugural event last year, the free Cherry Creek Holiday Market is back on Fillmore Street, with thirty local makers (including one that does baby fire pits!), designers and creators. Produced by Fetch Concepts, it will also offer food, a full bar and live music Friday through Sunday. Hours vary; find more information here.
Through December 24, daily, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (9 p.m. starting December 17)
Civic Center Park, 101 West 14th Avenue,
For a magical holiday shopping experience, you can’t beat the old-world Christkindlmarket, a light-filled tradition in downtown Denver for twenty years and counting. The market is returning to Civic Center Park in 2021 after moving there last year mid-pandemic, for a more roomy stroll from one charming wooden hut to the next, as shoppers search for hand-blown glass ornaments, Russian nesting dolls, hand-knit mufflers, hot pretzels and pastries, German bier and mulled glühwein, to name a fraction of what’s available. Adding to the spirit of the market are polka bands, old-world characters and other entertainers. Admission is free; find info (including schedule changes) here.
Downtown Denver Rink
Through February 20, daily
Skyline Park, 1601 Arapahoe Street
There’s nothing quite like winter ice skating in the frosty outdoors, somewhere like the Downtown Denver Rink, a big-city experience that’s perfect for families, greenhorns, romantic couples and outdoorsy folks of all ages. Admission is free when you bring your own skates; if you don’t, skate rentals are $7 to $9. Find a schedule and learn more here.
Light the Lights
Through January 23, 4:45 and 5:45 p.m., daily
City and County Building, 1437 Bannock Street
The Denver City and County Building got lit on November 24, and while the lights will stay on through the National Western Stock Show, it will put on its own show at 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. daily. Find details here.
L’Esprit de Noël, Central City Opera
For decades, L’Esprit de Noël has raised funds to help support Central City Opera, including education and community engagement programs serving more than 40,000 people each year. For the second year in a row, the event is virtual, and comprises an online tour of a historic Denver property — this time, the McCourt Mansion. Once the home of Peter McCourt, a younger brother to the infamous Baby Doe Tabor and a theatrical manager, today the mansion sits on the National Register of Historic Places and is back to being a single-family home after decades of mixed-use. Watch it here.
Without a Home in Aurora
Through May 29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
15051 East Alameda Parkway, Aurora
The Aurora History Museum just opened Without a Home in Aurora, an exhibit based on an oral history project that captured the personal challenges, trials and resilience of Aurorans experiencing homelessness. Much of the photography in the display was provided by local street photographer Amy Forestieri; more than twenty people shared their stories. Admission is free; find out more here.
Do you know of a great free event around Denver? We'll be updating this list through the week; send information to [email protected]