11 Artsy Activities to Do Over the Holidays in Denver

The holiday season provides the perfect excuse to enjoy the local arts and culture scene in Denver, whether you already take part in it or not. Aside from the traditional holiday gift markets, there’s a healthy dose of other art-fueled activities happening over the next month that give you a reason to slow down and find the spirit of the holidays. Not only does your participation support local artists, but it also gives you a reason to share a unique experience with your loved ones, rather than exchanging items. Read on to see what artsy adventures await you this holiday season in the Mile High City.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Rockies Resort.

When: November 22, 2019 – January 4, 2020

Where: bubly™ theater, 6700 N. Gaylord Rockies Blvd, Aurora 

Cost: Starting at $29, here

The Lowdown: This is the ultimate holiday spectacular, complete with aerialists, acrobats, singers, dancers, skaters and gymnasts all performing together under the guidance of Broadway director Neil Goldberg. Running for 60 shows over the holiday season, Cirque Dreams Holidaze features an international cast of 30 members, along with eight talented locals from Colorado (who auditioned for the parts in July of this year). “Knowing the depth of talent in Colorado, it was our goal to engage the finest local performers in both principal and ensemble roles,” Goldberg said. The local performers are Mark Autry of Colorado Springs, Bryan Connoly of Boulder, Shannon Foley of Parker, Aubrie Hamrick of Denver, Karen Lauffer of Littleton, Bethel Lindsley of Evergreen, Channing Napieralske of Denver and finally Staza Stone of Denver’s MOTH Circus. Aside from jaw-dropping stunts, choreography and aerial artistry, expect to see stunning costumes and enjoy original music with new twists on old holiday melodies.

Christmas in Color

Photo courtesy of Christmas in Color

When: November 22, 2019 – January 4, 2020

Where: Water World at 8801 N. Pecos St., Denver and Bandimere Speedway at 3051 S. Rooney Rd., Morrison

Cost: $27 per vehicle available in advance here.

The Lowdown: If you love looking at holiday lights, especially from the warm comfort of a car, then you’ll want to check out Christmas In Color. More than 1.5 million lights blink and glow in a synchronized dance with holiday music played on the radio inside your car. The lights illuminate all the typical holiday tropes like snowmen, candy canes and evergreen trees, but they also light up arched pathways and tunnels, some of which you will drive through. It’s probably best if your car has a moon or sunroof, but even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty to see out the sides, too. Christmas In Color is happening at two locations in Colorado this year.

Holiday Market

Photo courtesy of Golden Triangle Holiday Market

When: November 29 – 30

Where: Alley behind 1112 Broadway, Denver

Cost: Free admission

The Lowdown: This summer, the alley between Broadway and Lincoln and 12th and 10th Streets turned into a mural festival featuring some of Denver’s most prominent street artists. At the end of this month, the same alley will transform into a holiday market complete with festive lights, local handmade gifts, a gift-wrapping station and an urban Christmas tree lot. In total, 25 local artisans are expected to fill the alley, including Plant Garage with the trees, EJ’s Farm with goat’s milk soaps and Rowdy Poppy with hand-made wreaths and dried florals.

Camp Christmas

Photo by Adrienne Thomas

When: November 21, 2019 – January 5, 2020

Where: The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., #135, Aurora

Cost: Between $8 and $21, here

The Lowdown: We all know someone who geeks out on Christmas decorations. Camp Christmas is an elevated version of that person’s dream. Situated inside 10,000 square feet of space in The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, Camp Christmas is a spectacular showcase of decoration, Christmas history in pop culture and some sort of hybrid between Meow Wolf and a Santa wonderland mall attraction (as one of our writers called it). Featuring different vignettes of Christmases past — like Roman, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern and more — each stop on the path is unique and crafted carefully by Lonnie Hanzon, a local artist. Hanzon worked with Charlie Miller, a curator for Off-Center with the Denver Center for Performing Arts, to add a performative aspect to the highly visual show, using performers to immerse visitors into the magic and enchantment (and sometimes over-the-top storylines) that is Camp Christmas.

Read: First Look Inside Camp Christmas, the Festive Pop-Up With More Than 1,000 Santas

Art BaZaar

Art by Lorien Stern, photo courtesy of Visions West Contemporary

When: November 29 – December 28, 2019

Where: Visions West Contemporary 

Cost: Gifts starting at $100

The Lowdown: This month-long art market will be filled, salon-style, with a variety of artwork starting at $100. It’s in direct opposition to the Black Friday mentality — where corporations sell big-ticket items. Instead, you’ll find all hand-made items here from artists that you can continue following and supporting for years to come. “BaZaar is in response to the holiday madness that starts on Black Friday where useless items are sold to consumers, for a cheap price, with the inevitability of ending up in the landfill,” Nathan Larramendy, the gallery director said.

Mile High Tree

Rendering courtesy of Visit Denver

When: November 30, 2019 – January 31, 2020, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. nightly 

Where: Denver’s Sculpture Park

Cost: Free Admission

The Lowdown: The “Mile High Tree” is really only 110 feet tall, but when it’s illuminated by 60,000 LED lights it feels like a towering centerpiece of holiday spirit. Starting on November 30, the tree will open for visits, accommodating 140 people at a time while they stroll through the enormous sculpture to the sounds of music. It was created by a Spanish artistic and decorative lighting firm, ILMEX, and is touted as America’s tallest digital tree. For comparison, this electronic tree will be 10 feet taller than the tallest Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in history.

READ: America’s Tallest Digital Tree is Coming to Sculpture Park 

A Very Munny Christmas

Customized Munny by Pedro Correa. Photo courtesy of Kid Robot

When: December 6, 7 – 10 p.m.

Where: Monkey Fist Tattoo, 4100 Tennyson St.

Cost: All items will be for sale through a silent auction 

The Lowdown: For the third year in a row, Kidrobot is throwing its annual Munny custom toy exhibition event called A Very Munny Christmas. A “Munny” is a specific type of Kidrobot customizable designer art toy and the holiday-themed event will feature 10 artists’ versions of a Munny. Denver-based artists are well-represented at the show, including Stan Yan, Awol, Drew Button and Amanda Vela. Visiting artists come from as far as Denmark (John Kenn Mortensen), Brazil (Pedro Correa) and the Phillippines (Jan Calleja) and also nationally from California (Porous Walker and Vanessa Ditullio) and New Jersey (One-Eyed Girl). All of their customized Munny toys will be for sale during the event, but you’ll have to compete in a silent auction for your favorite. The evening of holiday-themed toy art will be punctuated by beats from a DJ, demonstrations by tattoo artists and free beer.

Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum

Photo courtesy of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

When: December 7 – December 22, various times

Where: Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West, Denver

Cost: Between $30 – $40, here

The Lowdown: For almost 30 years this particular show has become a holiday tradition for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and its fans and followers. Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum is unlike any other holiday celebration in Denver, blending almost every iteration of “holiday spirit” into a beautiful dance. You’ll experience everything from the birth of Christ to the Native American Winter Solstice to Las Posadas in Mexico to the Chinese New Year and so many in between. The plot is simple — Granny’s memories of magical dances she’s seen throughout her life are fading, but she wants to relive them for her grandchildren TiSean and Nakia. Through dance, live music and storytelling, the stories of holiday traditions from around the world are highlighted and told anew. If you haven’t seen a Cleo Parker Robinson performance yet, make this your excuse to go.

Between Us Alleyway Walking Tour

Photo courtesy of Downtown Denver Partnership

When: December 11, 3 – 6 p.m.

Where: Starts at alley between Broadway and Lincoln on 16th St.

Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Spend a day with your family or friends exploring the alleys off of 16th Street Mall. No, that’s not a typo — the alleys have been transformed over the last year with artworks from a wide variety of artists. On December 11, you’ll get the chance to enjoy a guided tour of the new artworks in a few of the alleys by Sabin Aell, Lares Feliciano, Marsha Mack, Rian Kerrane and Chinn Wang. The tour will be led by Deanne Gertner of Hey Hue and Castle Searcy. Plus, some of the artists will be present for talk-backs and the whole afternoon will end with a reception at the ice rink at Skyline Park.

Night Lights Denver

Photo by Adrienne Thomas

When: Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, after dark

Where: Daniels & Fisher Tower, 1601 Arapahoe St., Denver

Cost: Free to watch 

The Lowdown: After years of planning and preparations, the Denver Theatre District debuted a huge project on November 7 — Night Lights Denver. With specially-designed visuals from a variety of local and international artists, the Daniels & Fisher Tower on the 16th Street Mall is illuminated with stunning visuals every weekend. The artists will rotate regularly and the tower will also feature other programming, like animations from local university students.

Natura Obscura

A scene from inside Natura Obscura at the Museum of Outdoor Arts. Photo by Cori Anderson

When: Open until December 28, 2019

Where: Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Pkwy., Englewood

Cost: $10 – $20, here

The Lowdown: Although Natura Obscura originally planned to stay open for four months at the beginning of this year, it’s stayed open for almost an entire calendar year due to popular demand. Curated by an artist duo who goes by Prismajic, the indoor installation is an enchanted forest with hidden secrets (use the black light to find them), surreal grottos, a swing that activates an audio experience and more. One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit is the augmented reality addition, which you’ll have to download an app to use. Aside from Prismajic, a talented group of local artists and Museum of Outdoor Arts interns helped design and fabricate Natura Obscura, like Chris Bagley and Nicole Banowetz. December is the last chance you have to walk through the forest yourself and see what all the buzz is about.