Denver in Winter

9 Things to Do in Denver in the Winter

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Most people travel to Colorado in the winter to enjoy the mountains. It makes sense. The mountains are the best place to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and many other outdoor winter activities. I get it. As a local, I’m up in the mountains a lot in the winter, enjoying the ski resorts as often as possible.

But if you plan a trip to Colorado in the winter, I recommend sticking around Denver and checking out some of the holiday – and non-holiday – fun you can have in the Mile High City. Just as Denver has several summer activities to enjoy, the city also has plenty of winter fun to keep you entertained.

Denver Holiday Activities

1. Zoo Lights or Blossoms of Light

At the Denver Zoo, you can enjoy an electric light show that weaves through 60 acres of the zoo campus. Zoo Lights is a treasured holiday tradition in Denver, with thousands of people visiting every year to experience the twinkling lights and magical illuminated animal structures. Throughout the month of December, the zoo offers nightly entertainment such as animal encounters, choir performances (select nights), the pioneer train and caroling train elves (a new addition this year). Zoo Lights runs from December 1-31, and ticket prices vary on the date.
(Quick Tip: Purchase tickets online to save $2)

Denver Zoo Lights in Winter
The lantern display at Denver’s Zoo Lights

The Denver Botanic Gardens puts on its own special light show. The Blossoms of Light is an annual, beloved tradition that turns the gardens into a colorful winter wonderland. Stroll through the exhibits and twinkling light displays, and be sure to check out the interactive demonstration that includes sound-reactive, LED lights. If it’s a cold night, you can grab a hot drink in one of the souvenir mugs. Blossoms of Light runs from November 24, 2017 – January 1, 2018. There’s a limited number of tickets each night. You should check ahead of time to make sure the night you plan to visit isn’t sold out.
(Quick Tip: Advanced pricing is less expensive than purchasing at the door.)

Winter Activities in Denver. Blossoms of Light.
Interactive light display. Credit: Denver Botanic Gardens
Winter Activities in Denver. Blossoms of Light.
Colorful lights brightening up the gardens. Credit: Denver Botanic Gardens
2. Denver Christkindl Market

For 17 years, the Denver Christkindl Market has delighted residents of Colorado. The holiday market, located at Skyline Park on 16th St. Mall and Arapahoe St., features some 25 craft, food and beverage vendors, many of which offer traditional German and European-style designs and cuisine. Head to the large beer tent to pick up a souvenir mug filled with gluehwein, or mulled wine, and enjoy a sweet German treat as you peruse the booths. The Christkindl Market is free and runs from November 17 – December 23, 2017.

3. Visit the City and County Building

Every holiday season, Denver decks out one of its most iconic downtown buildings in reds, blues, greens, purples and golds. The City and County Building, located next to Civic Center Park facing the State Capitol Building, has been part of the city’s government structures since 1932. The neoclassical-style building, with its Corinthian columns, immaculate staircase, curved wings and soaring clock tower, make it the perfect backdrop for the festive lights that illuminate its facade every year. The lights are on every day until January 22, 2018, from 6pm – 11pm. There are light shows that run at 5:45pm and 6:30pm, with a few exceptions.
(Quick Tip: On Sundays, some of the neighboring buildings shut off their lights, so you can get a better shot of the building all lit up.)

Fitness Fun in Winter

4. Yoga at a Brewery

Denver is known for its beer scene, but it’s also an extremely active city. So what better way to combine the two than a fitness class at a brewery? There are a number of yoga classes offered at popular craft beer spots all over the city. It’s a great way to get in a quick workout and sample some of the local brews. The Brew on Broadway has an hour-long yoga class every other Sunday, led by registered yoga instructor Gabby Robinson ($15). Seedstock Brewery hosts occasional free yoga sessions on Saturday mornings during December and January (check their calendar of events for dates). (NOTE: The post below is from Feb. 2017. Dates for 2018 will be different.)

5. Indoor Rock Climbing

Sometimes it’s tough to get outside in the winter months. Indoor rock climbing is the perfect solution for people looking to get their climbing fix, or for first-timers seeking a new thrill. Denver has numerous indoor rock climbing facilities where experienced climbers can test their skills in the off season and beginners can take courses to prepare them for the real thing (if that’s your goal). It’s also an entertaining way to spend an afternoon, step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

6. Sled at Ruby Hill Park

Ruby Hill is a neighborhood located about five miles south of downtown Denver. It’s known for its many trails and recreational areas, but mostly for the park it’s named after. Ruby Hill Park offers people a slew of winter and summer activities, as well as a great place to get a view of the city. In the winter, the famed hill is filled with families and young kids sledding down the slopes. I went there as a kid, though I don’t really remember it, but my parents said it’s one of the best – if not the top – sledding hill in the city.

Ruby Hill - Denver Winter
Believe it or not, this is what Ruby Hill looks like at the end of November. Fingers crossed for some snow soon!

If sledding isn’t your piece of cake, there’s the Ruby Hill Rail Yard, a free urban terrain park open to skiers and snowboarders. It’s a popular spot where athletes can go to hone their skills on the many rails and boxes that range in difficulty.
(Quick Tip: Use of the Rail Yard and the sledding hill is dependent on the weather. Denver usually doesn’t get enough snow for the park to open until at least January, but it varies each year.)

Denver Classics

7. National Western Stock Show

When the holiday celebrations end, the post Christmas festivities begin. In early January, Denver hosts the annual National Western Stock Show. The 16-day event was established back in 1906 and has been a treasured tradition for over 100 years. The National Western Stock Show features rodeos, horse shows, a livestock show and Colorado’s largest western trade show. Several special events take place during the stock show, including the kick-off parade that features hundreds of Texas Longhorn cattle sauntering through the streets of Denver. Nothing else says stock show time quite like that.

8. Tea at the Brown Palace

Get a taste of Denver history and luxury all at once with afternoon tea at the Brown Palace. This iconic Denver hotel has been around since 1892. Hundreds of famous people throughout history have kicked back in one of the Brown’s guestrooms. Inventors, businessmen, international politicians, celebrities and nearly every U.S. president since Teddy Roosevelt have stayed here (Barack Obama, you have an open invitation if you ever want to reserve a room). But you don’t have to book a suite at the Brown Palace to experience its elegance.

Afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition at this Denver institution. There’s no better time to visit than in the winter – especially during the holidays. Sip on herbal teas and munch on freshly made scones and finger sandwiches as a harpist or pianist plays mellow tunes in the background. It’s the perfect way to class up your afternoon and experience a true gem of Denver.

9. Visit a Museum

I know I recommended this for a summer activity, but the museums in Denver are great every time of year.

The History Colorado Center is a must-visit. The museum focuses on the history of Colorado, while also welcoming rotating exhibits from all over the country. The latest permanent exhibit to debut is Zoom In: the Centennial State in 100 Objects. The collection is made up of – you guessed it – 100 artifacts, each one playing an important role in shaping Colorado. You can see a variety of items, including John Denver’s Yamaha guitar, and a Coors prohibition-era malted milk can.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is always welcoming new and exciting exhibits to ignite passion for education and discovery. Right now, you can see Ultimate Dinosaurs, showcasing fascinating new fossils recently discovered (exhibit ends January 15, 2018); or Nature’s Amazing Machines, which presents the marvels of natural engineering (Exhibit ends January 1, 2018). Starting in February, you can see Creatures of Light, which explores the world of all “living things that blink, glow, flash and flicker.”

Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Winter
You can find several sculptures surrounding the Museum of Nature and Science

I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that goes on in Denver in the winter. But this should be a good start to get you inspired to explore the Mile High City a little bit, before you head to the mountains for more winter adventures.

What’s your favorite Denver wintertime activity? I’d love to hear about it!

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There's so much to do in Denver in the winter season. From holiday festivities, to seasonal favorites, to snowy activities. There's tons to do in the Mile High season, and winter is no exception.

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4 comments on “9 Things to Do in Denver in the Winter”

  1. Yoga at a brewery? Sign me up! haha. I cant believe I still haven’t been to Colorado. I need to make it out there, especially in the winter!

  2. My son lives in Denver so we’ve been a few times at Christmas and I’ve enjoyed the Botanic Gardens, the City & County building and even a free day at the Art Museum. But I would really like to do the indoor rock climbing, the sledding and have tea at the Brown Palace. And if you haven’t yet – and you like quirky – check out Tuba Christmas. It’s pretty cool.

    1. I haven’t tried Tuba Christmas, but I definitely want to. I recommend the Brown Palace, it’s a special experience. I haven’t done it in a few years, but I want to plan a day there soon.

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