Downtown Denver will be twinkling like never before this holiday season. Two traditional light displays will anchor three new attractions in between, making for an exciting evening out on the town in the heart of the city. All of these attractions are free and can be experienced throughout the holiday season.
You can start the tour at any point and easily get around using the free 16th Street MallRide. See the map below. Along the way, there are tons of places to dine or warm up with a coffee, tea, cocoa or hot toddy.
Grand Illumination at Union Station
On Nov. 29, Denver Union Station will flip the holiday switch at 6:15 p.m. during its Grand Illumination. The event features entertainment and a lighting ceremony for the 40-foot-tall plaza Christmas tree and historic train station building. After, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, dine, sip drinks at The Cooper Lounge or Terminal Bar, enjoy holiday jingles by Denver Bronze, and dance to holiday classics by Denver Dolls. Entertainment will take place from 5-8 p.m. and the official lighting happens at 6:15 p.m. If you miss the big event, you can still see the lights and experience the holiday energy throughout the season.
Just two blocks from Denver Union Station, Dairy Block created Denver’s first fully activated alleyway and has become a year-round must-see in the city with access to the Denver Milk Market gourmet food hall and the Maven Hotel. For the holidays, the alley has taken on some special magical cheer.
Night Lights Denver at the Daniels & Fisher Tower
Along the 16th Street Mall, the Denver Theatre District launched Night Lights Denver in early November 2019. This year-round, cutting-edge projection mapping installation on the Arapahoe Street side of the Daniels & Fisher Tower (1601 Arapahoe St.) is on display every Thursday through Saturday evening. Don’t miss the chance to see ultra-creative minds utilize this iconic Denver landmark—once the tallest building in Denver and west of the Mississippi—as a cultural canvas for sharing their work. During the holiday season through Jan. 31, Night Lights Denver features works by Colorado-based artists Joel Swanson, Sofie Birkin and others.
Mile High Tree at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
The spectacular new Mile High Tree is located in the Denver Performing Arts Complex’s Sculpture Park. Step inside this brilliantly lit, 110-foot-tall, 39-foot-wide immersive art installation that debuts on Nov. 30 with the ceremonial lighting at 5 p.m.
It’s the tallest digital tree in North America (and the tallest art installation in Denver’s history by the way) and features spectacular evening light shows using pixel LED technology choreographed to the classic songs of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holiday celebrations. Nightly lights and music shows take place every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Nov. 30-Jan. 1) and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Jan. 2-Jan. 31).
Special holiday and cultural events are planned throughout the season such as a princess night for children on Dec. 8, pup pics with Santa for dog lovers on Dec. 22, and a Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 26.
From Jan. 2-31, the light/music show shifts to homegrown Denver and Colorado musicians as well as music inspired by the annual National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, which takes place Jan. 11-26.
Light the Lights
Light the Lights, Denver’s annual lighting of the City & County Building on the day after Thanksgiving dates back almost 100 years. This fun and heart-warming event, slated for Nov. 29 from 4-8 p.m., is the perfect kickoff to the holidays. The ceremonial flipping of the light switch by Mayor Michael B. Hancock will take place between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on the steps of the City & County Building.
Across the street in Civic Center Park, a variety of free, family-friendly activities are planned, including a crafts corner and silly selfie booth hosted by the Denver Animal Shelter; a heated Bookmobile and story-time tent presented by Denver Public Library; surprise activities with the Denver Police and Denver Fire departments; more great craft and photo opportunities with Elsa and the Grinch hosted by Denver Parks and Recreation; and a luminaria making project coordinated by Denver’s Census 2020 initiative.
If you need more reasons to get your Christmas sweaters and scarves on, there will be roaming carolers, live entertainment on the main stage, food truck offerings and warm beverages for purchase.
You can check out the lights on any night throughout the season.
And there’s more! Hundreds of thousands of lights also adorn the 16th Street Mall, Skyline Park, 14th Street, Larimer Square and more. Merry and magical moments are all over downtown just waiting to be unwrapped.
If you want a guided experiece where you can meet new people and learn more about the holiday traditions, check out Denver Local Tours and Denver Walking Tours. They are both offering tours that cover the aforementioned attractions.