Free Things to Do in Denver (and Beyond) This Week

Let there be lights! The holidays are upon us, with free light shows and other seasonal entertainment all over town. This week, you can hit the ice at the Downtown Denver Rink and watch both the Denver City and County Building and Union Station get lit. Several holiday markets have already opened, and they’ll be joined by plenty more on Shop Local Saturday (watch for our list later this week).

But in the meantime, there will be a solemn memorial tonight for the victims of the shooting at Club Q. Keep reading for the details on that, and more of the best free activities in and around town:

Vigil Honoring Club Q
Monday, 7 to 8 p.m.
ReelWorks Denver, 1399 35th Street
Reelworks is opening its doors so that the community can mourn for the victims and families impacted by this horrific act of violence targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in Colorado. Get more information here.

Downtown Denver Rink
Opening Monday, November 21.
Skyline Park, 1601 Arapahoe Street
The Downtown Denver Rink is one of the best winter attractions in the city, a space right off the mall to engage in fun and games and celebrate the city. Admission to the rink is always free; bring your own skates to add to the savings, or rent skates on-site ($11 for adults and $9 for children twelve and under). After opening today, the rink will be open daily Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (6 p.m. on Thanksgiving), Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hours will change in January; the rink is slated to stay open through February 14. Get all the details here.

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Light the Lights Celebration
Wednesday, November 22, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock Street
Mayor Michael Hancock will flip the switch to illuminate City Hall for the season for the last time before he ends his third term, while the Denver Municipal Band entertains the crowd. As is traditional, the holiday display will stay on through January 22, until the Stock Show ends. This year, there will be an eight-minute choreographed light and music holiday show at 5:45 and 6:45 p.m. nightly; the lights will stay on between shows and all night. The opening celebration is free, as is the show all season; find out more here.

Grand Illumination
Friday, November 25, 5 to 8 p.m.
Denver Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street

The annual Grand Illumination of Union Station starts with the Denver Dolls performing on Wynkoop Plaza while Santa and Mrs. Claus take pictures with kids and their families. The big event is at 6:15, when the forty-foot tree covered with more than 7,000 lights is illuminated. The Merry & Lights projection show will continue through the evening, and the Dolls will perform again at 6:30 p.m. The Merry & Bright Lights Show will continue through December 27, from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly, and it’s all free.Find out more here.

AF Après Ski Holiday Market
Friday, November 25, 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, November 26, and Sunday, November 27, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee Street

Winter athlete or not, you can indulge in the après-ski vibes at this Dairy Block holiday market, set up every weekend through Sunday through December 18. Within the heated, art-filled alley, you can sip cocktails from some of Denver’s trendiest bars. Milk Market has sixteen restaurants for every taste, and retailers can be found both inside and out. Admission is free; get the details here.

Downtown Littleton Candlelight Walk
Friday, November 25, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Main Street, Bega Park to Rapp Street, Littleton

Get that old-fashioned holiday feeling at Downtown Littleton’s annual Candlelight Walk, a 38-year tradition that continues to draw families to a well-preserved downtown dressed up with holiday lights. Starting at 5:30 p.m., pick up a cup of hot cider and a candle at Bega Park on the east end of the main drag; street entertainment segues into a procession heading west on Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Along the way, you’ll meet up with Santa and his reindeer. It’s free to participate; find additional info here.

Horseshoe Holiday Market
Saturday, November 26, and Sunday November 27, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Highlands Masonic Temple, 3550 Federal Boulevard

The tried-and-true Horseshoe Holiday Market returns to its old indoor home at the Highlands Masonic Temple, with all its charm intact — along with a fantastic mix of 120 artisans, vintage merchants, makers and micro businesses. If you’re an early bird, you might snag one of fifty Horseshoe holiday totes handed out to the first rush of folks at the door. The market is free (or an optional donation of $5 to support local Denver’s Edison and Centennial elementary schools); learn more and RSVP to enter a $50 giveaway here.

Market Place of Ideas and Made in Walsenburg
Saturday, November 26, and Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Museum of Friends, 109 East Sixth Street, Walsenburg

Ready for a quick road trip? The Museum of Friends was so named to express a welcoming attitude toward visitors and artists from all walks of life to this southern Colorado town. At this time of year, that includes a broad scope of makers in Huerfano County, from broom makers to fine artists, who will be giving demonstrations and chatting up customers in addition to selling wares. Santa will drop by as well, and there will be plenty of hot chocolate, with homemade goodies to munch on. Admission is free; learn more here.

Farolito Lighting & Pine Cone Ceremony
Sunday, November 27, 4 to 5:30 p.m.
The Fort, 19192 Highway 8, Morrison

The late Sam Arnold was inspired by Bent’s Old Fort near La Junta, which started as a fur-trading center in southeastern Colorado and became a major way station during the 1830s and 1840s, when he built the adobe Fort Restaurant — originally imagined as a family home — in the early 1960s. It was Arnold who came up with the idea of a pine cone ceremony befitting the restaurant’s Southwestern theme: Farolitos (or luminarias) are lit, and people are invited to tuck a message to a lost loved one into a pine cone and toss it into a bonfire, where the sentiment crackles and flies into the sky. The Fort has been holding the ceremony ever since; learn more here.

Ongoing:

Cherry Creek Holiday Market
Daily through December 24
Fillmore Plaza, Fillmore Street between First and Second avenues
The third time’s the charm for Cherry Creek North’s outdoor holiday market, celebrating its third year of bringing eighty rotating vendors to sell their wares at Fillmore Plaza. As in years past, the market includes  CCN’s romantic Winter Wanderland lighting display and LAPS, a Journey Through Time, a series of six interactive musical hourglass sculptures that viewers can set in motion. And on the first three Saturdays in December, enjoy Saturday Night Lights, which brings lighted trees and choreographed music into play, while street performers create a circus atmosphere at dusk. The market continues through December 24; learn more here.

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The Mile High Tree is now in Civic Center Park.

Visit Denver

Mile High Tree
Through December 31, 5 to 10 p.m.
Civic Center Park

The Mile High Tree has moved to Civic Center Park, right by the Denver Christkindlmarket. America’s tallest digital tree puts on a dazzling show every fifteen minutes, with songs timed to the tree’s light display. Admission is free from 5 to 10 p.m. daily. Find out more here.

Denver Christkindlmarket
through December 23, hours vary
Greek Amphitheater, Civic Center Park
The German American Chamber of Commerce – Colorado Chapter has opened the Christkindlmarket for the 33rd year; it’s back at Civic Center Park with booths selling holiday wares and snack items. And yes, there’s a beer garden! Through December 23, hours will be Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (festival hall open until 10 p.m.) and Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a,m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free; find out more here.

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The Pearl Street Mall is offering some virtual fun.

City of Boulder

Snow Much Fun Virtual (AR) Experiences
Daily through January 31
Pearl Street Mall, Boulder

Boulder has a new holiday attraction: Snow Much Fun Virtual (AR) Experiences, a self-guided tour along the Pearl Street Mall that has you encountering Boulder’s own mascot, Freezie the Snowman, as well as other characters along the way. It’s free; find out more here.

Do you know of a great free event in Denver? We’ll be updating this list through the weekend; send information to [email protected]

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