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. 

By: Colorado.com Staff Writer
Updated: March 22, 2024

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 (Dec.), located less than an hour from Denver.

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 (Nov.–Jan.) 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.

The Cherry Creek Chanukah Celebration in Denver (Dec.) in Denver is a can’t-miss event. An outdoor Menorah is lit, and you can enjoy festive treats, face painting and crafts. And the Christkindl Market in Civic Center Park will make you feel like you're wintering in Bavaria.

Grand Junction’s largest parade of the year features more than 100 lit entries making their way along the downtown streets. Parade of Lights (Dec.) will delight the entire family. While there, you can check out the incredible holiday displays in business windows — it kind of feels like you’ve stepped into “A Christmas Story.”

Experience the delights of the season, small-town style, at the northeast Colorado town of Holyoke’s Country Christmas (Dec.) and Parade of Lights. The most popular activity of the night is the parade, which features floats decorated according to the annual theme. 

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

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 (Dec.). 

It wouldn’t be the holidays in the Mile High City without Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens (Nov.—Jan.), where millions of lights transform the gardens into shimmering colorscapes: Massive glowing orbs float over grasslands and pond surfaces and bright tunnels shift their patterns along with festive music. 

Potentially the most over-the-top experience you’ll have this holiday season is Camp Christmas in Lakewood (Nov.—Dec.). Artist Lonnie Hanzon crafts an insane world of pink holiday trees, thousands of lights and many miniature Santas. It’s as if an art museum solely existed to celebrate the season. Did we mention they sport seasonal cocktails and specialty hot chocolates? Oh yeah, warm your cheeks as you wander along!

At Las Posadas in Morrison (Dec.), you can sip Mexican hot chocolate or hot apple cider and snack on traditional biscochitos (spice-dusted cookies) while commemorating Mary and Joseph’s journey in search of shelter. There will be people reenacting the moments — and a donkey might make an appearance!

Cool Museum Exhibits in Denver & Boulder

If you need a respite from the cold, Denver’s world-class museums will warm you up and fill your cultural cup. Here's a sampling of places that are known for having amazing permanent collections along with sweet rotating exhibits. 

At Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the permanent Gems and Minerals exhibition showcases all types of sparklers, from crystals to stalactites and even Tom's Baby, an eight-pound gold nugget discovered in Breckenridge during the Colorado Gold Rush. 

Explore the works by more than 50 artists including Benny Andrews, Arthur G. Dove, Childe Hassam, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe and Jackson Pollock in All Stars: American Artists from The Phillips Collection (Nov. 2023–March 2024), an exhibit hosted by the Denver Art Museum.

Let the oral histories of Colorado's Black residents illuminate your perspective of the state's rich and complex history in the Museum of Boulder's Proclaiming Colorado's Black History (through Sept. 2025). 

Meow Wolf: Convergence Station is a mind-bending installation full of bright colors, fascinating landscapes and trippy creations. The four-story exhibit has more than 70 exhibits, so plan ahead to spend at least two hours exploring the rainbow of art.


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 now at their present-day celebration (Dec.) — but even better with running water and restrooms. Try your hand at activities like toy making, play period games, feast on frontier cooking and more. Tip: Check the fort's official website for when it's open while you're planning; its hours can change during different seasons. 

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 Christmas in the Gold Camps (Dec.) 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.

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 skinny skis — Latigo can outfit your whole group.

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 De Beque 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, so you can expect to sample some while you're there.

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