The City,  Travel Guides

Free Events to Celebrate Christmas in Denver

These days, Christmas in Denver might actually be worth the hype 🤔. As the last 2 (or is it 3? I lost track) holiday seasons have been pummeled by the pandemic, there’s a small chance that I am actually looking forward to the holiday hoopla and traditions this year. 

I know, I know. My friends describe me as The Grinch, but I feel I’m more of a Cindy Lou. I find that we set our holiday expectations a bit too high, just to be dissatisfied year after year. Whether that’s because you didn’t get the gift (ahem, *proposal) that you wanted, or your holiday outfit/meal didn’t quite “sleigh” the way you had hoped. There’s always something that could’ve been brighter. However, I think this year may be different. With the pandemic teaching all of us a lesson about family and the present moment, I’m hoping we don’t get too wrapped up and can just appreciate celebrating traditions together again. 

Plot twist…the pandemic actually saved Christmas?

Anyway, while the holidays may feel a bit sweeter this year, they’re still a financial bitch. So I compiled this list to relieve some of the pressure and help you avoid that budget airline, connecting flight home for the holidays. Whether your vibe is a musical light show extravaganza, a European-inspired outing, or browsing a holiday market, there’s an option for you to celebrate the perfect Christmas in Denver this year…for free. 

Winter Wanderland

  • When November 17th-December 24th 
  • Where: Cherry Creek North 
  • Winter Wanderland features a holiday market with local vendors and a Christmas musical light walk lining the festive blocks of Cherry Creek North. Be sure to head there for “Saturday Night Lights” on December 3rd, 10th, and 17th from 5-7 pm. Saturday Night Lights is a light show set to holiday music that featuers performers like stilt walkers. Winter Wanderland also has events to celebrate Small Business weekend and a Chanuka Celebration! 

Mile High Tree

  • When: November 18th-December 31st
  • Where: Civic Center Park 
  • The Mile High Tree presented by XCEL Energy & Xfinity is a giant, immersive digital Christmas tree that sits on The Great Lawn at Civic Center Park. The lights of the tree are set to a music show which occurs every 15 minutes from 5-10 pm every night until December 31st. 


  • When: November 18th-31st 
  • Where: Civic Center Park 
  • Christkindlmarket is an authentic German holiday market that features local and international vendors. Transport yourself into the likes of a traditional European holiday this season. Oh, and don’t leave here without getting your hands on some gluhwein (mulled wine) or German Bier…Prost! 

Light the Lights

  • When: November 23rd, 4:30-5:30 pm 
  • Where: Denver’s City and County building 
  • Light the Lights is an annual holiday light show to kick off Christmas in Denver. The initial show is an event that features extras like live music from the Denver Municipal Band & the mayor flipping a giant switch…From then on the light show will occur every night at 5:45 and 6:45 pm through January 22, 2023.

Parade of Lights

  • When: December 3rd at 6 pm 
  • Where: Here’s a map of the parade route
  • The Parade of Lights is Denver’s annual holiday parade. The route runs downtown while showcasing over forty festive floats, giant balloons, marching bands, and other miraculous parade traditions. You don’t want to miss this one-night event, so head to 14th and Bannock street to kick off Christmas in Denver! 

Merry and Bright Lights

  • When: Nov. 25th-December 27th, 5-10 pm
  • Where: Union Station
  • Merry and Bright Lights showcases extravagant lights, music, and holiday decor (like the 40-foot-tall outdoor Christmas tree) in and around Denver’s Union Station. Be sure to catch the “Grand Illumination” of the holiday display on November 25th at 5 pm to experience live musical performances and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Clause! Gasp! 

16th Street Mall Holiday Festival

  • When: November 19th-20th, 26th-27th, and December 10th, 11 am-7 pm 
  • Where: 16th Street Mall at Welton and Glenarm 
  • The 16th Street Mall Holiday Festival is the perfect place to buy all of your unique gifts this year. The shopping festival features local vendors selling handcrafted goods and seasonal offerings that are sure to knock the socks off of your gift recipients. The event will also have ~free~ extras that you can go and enjoy instead of shopping. Extras include live music, visits from Santa, and Christmas Carolers. 

RiNo Holiday Bazaar 

  • When: November 26th-27th 11 am-5 pm 
  • Where: Streets near Zepplin Station 
  • The RiNo Holiday Bazaar is appropriately set on “small business weekend”. This is another season-curated shopping event to fulfill all of your gift-giving (and selfish) needs. Now, GA at this event is free, but the bazaar offers “Shop & Sip” options for a price. You can choose from $20 bottomless mimosas (only offered 11 am-1 pm), or the $35 drink token package which gets you 5 drink tokens to cash in at any of the bars. 

Apres Ski Holiday Market

  • When: Every weekend from Thanksgiving to Dec.18th. Fri. 4-8 pm, Sat/Sun 11 am-5 pm
  • Where: Alley at Dairy Block
  • Apres Ski Holiday Market is the second European-inspired holiday market on this list, but it definitely doesn’t feature wooden huts like the aforementioned Christkindlmarket. This event screams luxury & class. Tickets to browse the event are free, but once inside get ready to spend on unique dining, drinks, and quality goods. I, for one, will be browsing and pretending that I am on a ski vacation in the Alps. 

I hope this list helps to minimize the financial burden while providing those perfect moments of holiday joy this season. For more ways to get in the spirit on a dime this season, be sure to check out “Denver Volunteer Opportunities: Holiday Edition”. Kill two birds with one stone and volunteer your time at a holiday event that gives back to the community. A win-win-win as it doesn’t cost a thing, you can be a good person, and celebrate Christmas in Denver. Anyway, happy holidays we can do this. 

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