6 Reasons Why Denver is the Best Place to Celebrate the Holidays

From 'Zoo Lights' to warm Colorado cocktails, it's December in Denver!

Denver knows how to throw a holiday party. This Mile High City gets decked out in festive lights, from a lit-up clock tower beaming red and green lights on the 16th Street Mall to the City and County Building that goes all out with its light display. Oh, and for drinks? Colorado’s famous craft brewers roll out their winter seasonals and local restaurants have renditions of hot toddies and mulled wines to keep your spirits merry and bright. As for the music: There’s plenty of Christmas-themed theatrical performances happening at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.


Here’s 6 reasons Denver is an ideal place to celebrate the holiday season.

  • 01 of 06

    You can ice skate at Denver International Airport

    (Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport)

    As soon as you touch down at Denver International Airport (DIA), you can get in the holiday spirit. DIA opens up a free ice-skating rink for travelers to glide about on, whether you’re coming, going or just on a layover. Skate rentals are free, and so are the storage cubbies for your carry-ons. Plus, there are extras like carolers spontaneously showing up to serenade crowds and holiday movies playing. A clever slogan they’ve billed? “There’s snow place like DEN.” The ice skating rink is typically open from late November until the beginning of January. The rink is outside of the TSA lines and is in between the airport’s main terminal and the relatively new Westin Hotel.

  • 02 of 06

    You can relieve stress by seeing the 'Santaland Diaries'

    The Santaland Diaries
    (Photo courtesy of the Denver Performing Arts Complex)

     In-laws visiting. Halls to deck. And, an endless list of gifts to buy. We get it, you need to "LOL" to relieve a little holiday stress. Head to the Denver Performing Arts Complex to do just that and catch the 'Santaland Diaries' playing in The Jones theater. Plot summary: This sometimes snarky one-man show takes you inside a New York City Department store during the holiday season. You'll get to see the holiday hijinks pulled off by Crumpet the Elf.

  • 03 of 06
    Courtesy of The Denver Zoo

     While Santa’s reindeer are getting ready for their magical, epic, around-the-world prance on Christmas Eve, you can turn your attention to the animals at the zoo as they’re throwing a party of their own. The family-friendly zoo lights exhibit includes nightly entertainment and animal encounters. The Benson Predator Ridge, an exhibit that houses lions, spotted hyenas and African wild dogs is open. Plus, you’ll spot illuminated animal sculptures swinging through trees, leaping across the zoo lawns and hiding in pushes. Santa Claus will make some guest appearances, as well.

    The Denver Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and reopens nightly at 5:30 p.m. for Zoo Lights. Prices vary, with the costs going up on peak nights near Christmas. 

  • 04 of 06

    You can drink a beer that tastes like Christmas

    (Photo Courtesy of Breckenridge Brewery)

    Colorado is a craft beer capital and home to the Great American Beer Festival. During the holidays, the breweries deliver. At Breckenridge Brewery, you can toast a pint of Christmas Ale, which is a delish blend of caramel and chocolate. Or taste “campfire in a glass” with the Graham Cracker Porter at Denver Beer Co. The porter is made with vanilla, smoked cedar and mulling spices. At Wit's End Brewing Company, the Ugly Sweater Brown Ale is a brown ale brewed with roasted pumpkin seeds and palm sugar.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    You can get nostalgic at an old-school candy factory

    (Photo courtesy of Emmy Conroy)

    You can tour this famed candy factory anytime of year, but leading up to Christmas is an especially fun time to drop by and learn how candy canes are made. Hammond's Candies opened up in the 1920's and the candy shop has been a Denver staple since. Tours are free and you don't need a reservation so long as your candy crew isn't more than 10 people. You can stop in and see how candy canes, ribbon candy and lollipops are pulled, twisted and shaped, staying true to the original recipes.

    Tours run every half hour, typically on the half hour. They run Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The candy shop closes up on Sundays). 

  • 06 of 06

    There's a Hot Buttered Rum for Vegans

    Photo Courtesy of The Nickel

    A classic, warm winter drink is a perfect way to warm up after a day on the slopes or ice skating. But, The Nickel, 1100 14th St., has one for everybody, even vegans! Their version of a hot buttered rum is made with coconut oil, maple syrup, Plantation 5-Year Barbados Rum and house-made spiced cherry bark bitters. Other drinks on their winter menu include a Fortified Cider made with a house-spiced pear liqueur and a boozy hot chocolate, which will be made with rotating flavors like s’mores infused whiskey and spiced Mexican chocolate.