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15 Kid-Friendly Christmas Activities in Denver, Colorado With Kids

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Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by Leslie Stroud

The Mile High City offers many activities that can make December a memorable month for your children. From outdoor activities to festive lights to cozy indoor traditions, there’s something for every family member to enjoy.

Dazzling delights at Cherry Creek Christmas Market

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Things To Know About Visiting Denver WIth Kids

Denver Weather

For anyone who hasn’t been to Denver before, you may picture a snowy mountain town. On the contrary, Denver in the winter can be very similar to California. Temps in the ’60-’70s are not uncommon in December, but the weather can change instantly. There is a saying among Colorado natives: if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour or two!

Growing up, a snowy Christmas Day was a rare treat. I remember many more Christmas holidays playing outside with new toys. However, Denver can also be hit with freak snowstorms every few years and be blanketed with feet of snow.

This translates into packing for all kinds of weather when you visit Denver. From shorts and sandals to full snow gear, you’ll likely need it all when you visit Denver in the winter.

Flying Or Driving Into Denver

Unless you are already in the Denver area, your winter travel plans to Mile High City must be considered carefully. It’s fairly easy to drive into Denver, and you have a few major interstates. If going through the mountains on I-70, plan carefully for the weather. If snow is predicted, I’d advise you to pick another day or stay somewhere overnight on the route. Snow in this area is not to be taken lightly.

We totaled a car easily in our marriage in a snowstorm driving out of Denver. We counted dozens of rolled vehicles before we rolled our own.

If flying into Denver, you’ll also need to anticipate possible delays. The weather can be sunny and easy, or a snowstorm can cancel flights for a couple of days, stranding hundreds or thousands of passengers.

Why You Should Visit Denver As A Family

Colorado and its capital offer major benefits to families.

  • Colorado folks are generally amiable. Unlike visiting back east, you’ll find people generally to be warm and welcoming.
  • Denver is easy to access as it’s a major hub for several airlines. Flights can be affordable, and you’ll find lots of availability.
  • Denver sits at the mountain range’s base, offering incredible skiing, charming mountain towns, and many winter activities.
Illuminating Denver nights at the Trail of Lights

Things To Do in Denver for Christmas

1. Ice Skating

Lace up your skates and glide onto one of Colorado’s many ice rinks. Our family loves outdoor rinks like the one at Denver’s Civic Center Park or the stunning Evergreen Lake, both offering picturesque ice skating settings. Some rinks even host special holiday events and feature festive lights, making the experience even more enchanting.

2. Denver’s Zoo Lights

Kick off the holidays by visiting the Denver Zoo Lights, a beloved Denver Christmas tradition for families. This annual event transforms the Denver Zoo into a winter wonderland, with over a million lights, animated animal sculptures, and festive music. After walking through the light displays, we love treating our kids to hot cocoa and visiting Santa at his workshop.

3. Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens

The Denver Botanic Gardens is transformed into a holiday wonderland during the Blossoms of Light event. Stroll through the stunning illuminated gardens featuring dynamic light displays and interactive activities. This is a fantastic opportunity for kids to explore the magic of the outdoors during the winter season. You may even hear local carolers on your stroll! No wonder this is one of our favorite Christmas things to do with kids in Colorado.

4. Chatfield Farms Trail of Lights

The Trail of Lights provides a perfect opportunity for families to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit as they wander along the glowing paths, taking in the festive atmosphere and sipping hot cocoa. You’ll be outdoors, so don’t forget winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves! With its enchanting ambiance, seasonal music, and various interactive features, the Chatfield Farms Trail of Lights is a magical holiday tradition that offers a truly memorable and heartwarming experience.

5. Home Light Displays

If you’re into over-the-top holiday home displays, there are a few homes that are worth a drive to see. Load the kids in a car (or book a limo!), and drive around the city and suburban neighborhoods to take in the beauty of the homes lit up in the dark. The Gingerbread House in Highlands Ranch is one of our favorites, and it regularly tops state, national and international lists of best holiday light displays.

6. Denver’s Parade of Lights

This annual event is one of the most classic and beloved Christmas things to do with kids in Colorado. Bundle up and take to the streets of downtown Denver to see floats, marching bands, special guest appearances, and more. Or enjoy it the way we do, from the comfort of your home or hotel room, by watching it on TV! Booking a downtown hotel can be a great idea for this event!

Some of the family-friendly hotels nearby are:

  • The Westin Denver Downtown is nestled in the entertainment city and is close to the Denver Zoo. The hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool.
Kids always delight in Christmas lights

7. Denver Christkindlmarket and Downtown Denver Lights

Looking for a European holiday experience in the heart of Denver? Don’t miss Denver’s Cristkindlmarket, an authentic German-style holiday market. Local and European food and craft vendors display and sell their wares from traditional wooden stalls. Visitors will find specialties from clothing and gifts to chocolates and cheeses to seasonal drinks and mulled wines…and more!

Stay until dark to enjoy the lights of the Mile High Tree, a 110-foot-tall immersive and choreographed music and light experience. The tree is located adjacent to the City and County Building, which also showcases a beautiful and festive light display for the holidays. And best of all, all of these experiences are FREE admission!

8. Attend a Holiday Show

Colorado boasts a vibrant arts scene, and many theaters put on special holiday shows and performances in December. Check the schedule at the Denver Performing Arts Complex to see what seasonal performances they are offering. Whether it’s a classic holiday play like “A Christmas Carol”, a ballet like “The Nutcracker,” or a festive concert, attending a holiday show can be a wonderful way to introduce your kids to the world of the performing arts.

Grabbing some hot choco on a cold day

9. Holiday Tea at the Brown Palace

Get dressed up and experience this classic Denver hotel’s iconic Afternoon Tea. This can be especially fun with girls, but young boys who don’t mind sitting still would also enjoy this event. The beautiful and historic Brown Palace Hotel is decorated especially festive during the holiday season, and Santa and Mrs. Claus may even make an appearance!

10. Luminova Holidays at Elitch Gardens

In December, Elitch Gardens Theme Park showcases over 4 million dazzling lights in addition to its thrilling theme park rides. A visit also includes viewing a 65 ft. Christmas tree, a 300 ft. candy cane tunnel, glow train rides, interactive activities, photo ops, and more!

Gaylord Rockies’ fun Christmas activities for kids

11. Christmas at Gaylord Rockies

Each winter, the Gaylord Rockies Resort transforms into a festive holiday showplace. Peruse holiday movie-themed ice sculpture exhibits, enjoy hands-on activities for all ages, and book tickets for a spectacular holiday show. The Gaylord Rockies regularly hosts exceptional Cirque shows that will thrill the whole family!

12. Camp Christmas

Hosted annually in various locations around the Denver area, this one-of-a-kind whimsical event is a true feast for the senses. Camp Christmas is a holiday extravaganza that invites guests of all ages to explore an enchanting world filled with creatively designed holiday displays, interactive installations, and festive decor. From the moment you step inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in a magical landscape where twinkling lights, larger-than-life decorations, and joyful surprises await at every turn.

It’s a good idea to check the specific details and age-appropriateness of any given year’s Camp Christmas event before you go, as offerings may vary from year to year. There are some alternative activity options, such as Drag Night. Tickets are required for entry.

13. Horse Drawn Carriage Ride

If you’re looking for things to do at Christmas with kids, a holiday horse-drawn carriage ride in downtown Denver is a wonderful way to create lasting memories and embrace the festive spirit of the season. Snuggled up with your loved ones, you’ll witness the city’s enchanting decorations, charming storefronts, and the joyous atmosphere of the season. A horse-drawn carriage ride in downtown Denver for Christmas promises to be a heartwarming and unforgettable holiday experience.

It’s worth noting that the carriages can usually accommodate four people, so you may have to book two carriage rides and split up if your family is larger. Our family of 7 needs two carriages.

14. Visit Santa

Of course, it isn’t a Denver Christmas with kids without a visit to see Santa! Opportunities to have a meet and greet with Santa Claus are available at various locations around the city, including Denver’s Union Station, Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and Park Meadows Mall. Prices vary depending on location.

15. Give Back

Looking for a fun way to give back during the holiday season? Visit the Giving Machines from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The #LightTheWorld campaign offers machines nationwide and can be very fun for families to do together.

Donate various items, such as chickens, a hygiene kit, and more, by using your credit card at the vending machine. The donation will drop into the bottom to be donated later. You’ll get a receipt by text or email, and no information is gathered from you. Learn more here.

Spread joy through the power of giving! These Giving Machines make charitable moments unforgettable

Beyond Denver: Things To Do in Colorado for Christmas

Hit the Slopes

Colorado is renowned for its world-class ski resorts, and December is the ideal time to introduce your kids to the joys of skiing or snowboarding.

Resorts like Aspen, Breckenridge, and Keystone offer excellent family-friendly slopes, lessons, and childcare services for young skiers. We love Vail for a true Colorado ski resort getaway and Loveland Ski Area for a smaller, less expensive, and more local feel. Whether your children are beginners or seasoned pros, there’s fun to be had for all on the mountainsides.

North Pole Amusement Park

The North Pole, located in the Colorado Springs area, is a whimsical Christmas-themed amusement park nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. While this amusement park is open year-round, it becomes extra magical at Christmas time.

Visitors can meet Santa Claus and his cheerful elves, explore Santa’s workshop, and enjoy a variety of holiday-themed rides and attractions. This park is great for kids of all ages but is mostly geared for ages 12 and under,

Ice Castles

In the mountains of Colorado, escape into a fairytale! In 2023, Cripple Creek will host the Ice Castles in Colorado, but various mountain towns have been home to this fabulous experience over the years.

Designed for all ages, the ice castles are fun for kids AND parents. Slide down the ice slides, crawl through tunnels and passageways, lose yourself in a frozen maze, marvel at the intricate ice sculptures, and even interact with magical winter fairies.

Chase the holiday magic on the Colorado rails!

Ride a Holiday Train

No matter where you go in Colorado at Christmas, you will surely find an enchanting holiday train experience to delight everyone in your family. If you are interested in a holiday train experience with your family, we recommend that you book very early for any of these train ride excursions. Tickets go on sale as early as the beginning of October, and they regularly sell out quickly.

Colorado Railroad Museum – If you’d like to stay close to Denver, experience The Polar Express Train Ride at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Located in Golden, this book-themed adventure includes themed snacks and gifts, a theatrical experience, a real train ride, and a meet and greet with Santa Claus himself.

Georgetown Loop Railroad – If you don’t mind traveling a bit further west into the mountains, the Georgetown Loop Railroad offers daytime and evening holiday train experiences for a festive trip through the Rocky Mountains.

Royal Gorge Route Railroad – About 2 hours south of Denver, you can experience the scenic Royal Gorge on either the Holiday Train or the Santa Express, hosted by the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum – The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in the southwestern corner of Colorado will immerse you in the story of The Polar Express. Wear your pajamas for this 2-hour adventure!

Experience the holiday magic at Gaylord Rockies, Denver’s crown jewel of festive luxury

Top Kid-Friendly Hotels in Denver

  • Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center is our go-to hotel when in Denver. It has everything you need for a perfect family getaway. From a heated pool (perfect for winter!) and lazy river to playing fun games like scavenger hunts.
  • The Slate Denver is in Downtown Denver. Some of the activities nearby are the Children’s Museum of Denver and the Wellshire Golf Course.
  • Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver is close to Empower Field at Mile High and Bellco Theatre. Some of the area’s activities include ski lifts, skiing, and ski runs.
  • Le Meridien Denver Downtown is near a train station and is close to cultural highlights like the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Denver Art Museum.

Colorado in December offers diverse activities for families with kids, ensuring you’ll have a memorable and joyous holiday season. Whether enjoying the great outdoors, admiring holiday lights, or immersing yourselves in indoor cultural experiences, the Mile High City and the greater Centennial State have something for everyone. So, grab your warmest winter gear and get ready to create cherished memories with your children in this magical winter wonderland.

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