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How to Spend the Holidays in Colorado

Move over, North Pole: Colorado’s cosmopolitan cities and storybook mountain towns really know how to turn on the festive charm. Check out one of our historic celebrations, dazzling light displays or doting dude ranches, and you may wonder how you ever spent the holidays anywhere else. 

Georgetown Christmas Market
Georgetown Christmas Market
Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes
Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes

Dude & Guest Ranch Stays

The term “dude ranch” may conjure up images of dusty trails and summertime horseplay, but a cowboy’s work is never done — even in winter. Holiday stays at Colorado ranches offer scenery right out of a snowglobe, backcountry adventures ranging from sleigh rides to dog sledding and countrysides so quiet you can hear a snowflake fall.

Latigo Ranch in Kremmling offers all-inclusive stays in the Yampa Valley, where 200 average inches of annual snowfall create opportunities for all kinds of powder play. Explore more than 30 miles of cross-country trails on skis or fat bikes, with massive tires made for gripping snow.

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes, just west of Fort Collins, is a favorite pet-friendly mountain lodge (because four-legged friends deserve to enjoy the holidays, too). Activities include peaceful horseback rides through the snow, a wide variety of winter sports and unbeatable stargazing from a toasty hot tub.

High Lonesome Guest Ranch in DeBeque on the Western Slope offers activities like wild horse viewing, backcountry snowmobiling and farm-to-table dining. The ranch raises and ages its own Angus beef and even crafts sodas, barrel-aged cocktails and beer in house.

Historic Happenings

Charming displays and throwback festivities ring in the season at Colorado’s celebrated historic sites. Step back into holidays past with these soul-warming events.

When fur traders, trappers and Santa Fe Trail travelers passed through Bent’s Old Fort near La Junta in the 1840s, the holidays would have looked a lot like they do at their Traditional Holiday Celebration (but even better with running water and restrooms). Try your hand at toy making, play period games, feast on frontier cooking and more. Dec. 6–7, 2019

The sight of hundreds of candles illuminating the magnificent Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings near Cortez at Mesa Verde National Park Luminaria Holiday Open House may just take your breath away, but save some energy for live music, special tours and night-sky interpretations. Dec. 12, 2019

Miners and prospectors once streamed into the towns of Victor and Cripple Creek with hopes of striking it rich. These days, families flock to the annual Gold Camp Christmas to see mine headframes decked out in sparkly lights, meander through a Christmas fair and watch a parade with appearances by a certain man in red. Dec. 13–14, 2019

Holiday Markets & Lighting Displays

Wrap up your holiday shopping or simply mix, mingle and marvel at these colorful displays around Colorado. 

Dream of time traveling to a 19th-century European market? Browse one-of-a-kind wares, nibble on roasted chestnuts and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Victorian streets of Georgetown at the majestic Georgetown Christmas Market, located less than an hour from Denver. Dec. 7–8 & 14–15, 2019

Featuring more than 80 stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, Chapungu Sculpture Park in Loveland is worth a stop any time of year. But their Winter Wonderlights affair brightens things up with nightly interactive music-and-light shows, plus food from local eateries, shopping and the state’s largest inflatable igloo (aka: the perfect cold-weather bandshell) on the weekends. Nov. 15, 2019–Jan. 1, 2020 

Experience the delights of the season small-town style, at the northeast Colorado town of Holyoke’s Country Christmas and Parade of Lights. The most popular activity of the night is the parade, which features floats decorated according to the annual theme. There are contests for best float, tree and window display. Dec. 2, 2019

The Boulder Winter Market is an indie-minded bazaar held at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont. Stroll the works of more than 100 local makers, ranging from foodstuffs to jewelry, skincare and home decor, to find something for all of the VIPs in your life. Dec. 7–8, 2019

Bikes, cars and floats cover themselves in holiday lights and roll through downtown Alamosa to bring cheer to San Luis Valley families and visitors during their Christmas Lights Parade. There’s also a Round-Up Rudolph 5k beforehand, where participants dress in holiday finery. Dec. 21, 2019

It wouldn’t be the holidays in the Mile High City without Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens, where millions of lights transform the gardens into shimmering colorscapes. The kaleidoscopic spectacle is even more eye-popping with a pair of HoloSpex glasses. Just be sure to take them off afterwards, OK? Nov. 29, 2019–Jan. 3, 2020

Cool Museum Exhibits in Denver

If you need a respite from the cold, Denver’s world-class museums will warm you up and fill your cultural cup.

Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Explore more than 40 one-of-a-kind vintage prints, along with notes, letters and postcards related to this American photographer's creative coming of age in the mid- to late 1970s. Sept. 20, 2019–April 5, 2020

Extreme Sports: Beyond Human Limits at Denver Museum of Nature & Science lets you delve inside the minds and bodies of extreme atheletes to learn about their motivations and what makes them tick. Sept. 13, 2019–April 12, 2020

Impressionist lovers should plan ahead to attend the highly anticipated Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature at Denver Art Museum, featuring the most comprehensive U.S. exhibit of his work in more than 20 years. Artworks displayed with focus on the natural landscape of places like London, the Netherlands and Norway. Oct. 21, 2019–Feb. 2, 2020