Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Christmas Activities
Looking for fun 
Christmas activities to do with your kids? Colorado is full of festive events and storybook settings for a magical holiday season. 

This is our list of favorite things to do with the kids in the Yuletide season.






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Skiing with the kids at Monarch Mountain, Colorado
Photo: Monarch Mountain ski area offers great family skiing on 100% natural snow.

Read our article: Ski Colorado with the Kids






Photo Credit: Matt Inden/Weaver Multimedia Group
Photo: Adults and kids, alike, have fun at an outdoor fire pit in Copper Mountain, Colorado

Colorado offers families with kids outdoorsy fun all year long.

But at Christmastime, Colorado becomes almost magical with its snowy, slidey peaks, native pine and spruce trees, and fresh air fun – like skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, swimming (surprise!) and sleigh rides. And when cheeks are rosy enough and toes and fingertips tingle with the frosty cold, its time to come inside, where Colorado folks can provide legendary hospitality and a bit of indoor amusement. 


When our kids become too caught up in the Christmas gimmies, it’s time to reacquaint them to the real pleasures of the season and the wonders of nature.


Christmas brings out the child in all of us. And Colorado is especially full of beautiful ways to celebrate the winter holidays. Here is a list of our favorite Colorado Christmas activities and attractions.



Open-air Ice Skating


Evergreen Lake Park and Lake House


Evergreen Lake sighs, and settles into its lovely valley between gentle hills that rise to high peaks in the distance. The view is easy on the eyes, and the lake stills as temperatures drop. Soon the water sleeps, frozen solid on top, silent below.

 

And then the party starts. Boys and girls, covered in brightly colored snow pants, parkas, mittens, and hats, come out of the woodwork to ice skate on Evergreen Lake. Some of the boys and girls are senior citizens, obviously sporting years of skating experience. 


Some are toddlers barely walking, clutching a parent’s outstretched hand with chubby fingers as they flail and skitter on the ice. One mom is valiantly building up shoulder and arm muscles on both sides as she helps two wobbling, windmilling youngsters to stay atop their skates. In the end they pile, laughing, at her feet, then climb back up her legs to try again.

 

At forty acres, this is no little pond. There is room for hockey matches in addition to the public skating area. The ice is rough, lake ice, and though the staff waters and runs a Zamboni over the ice, ruts and cracks may grab the blades of unwary skaters. Use caution. But still,  the crowds mill about, laughing and shouting in the fresh air and sunshine.


Smiling and breathing hard, when the skating is over they tromp into the beautiful wood-beamed Lake House to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate as they unlace their skates. Then it’s time to visit downtown Evergreen’s charming shops, just a few blocks away, to do a little Christmas shopping. 

 

(Other locations for skating outdoors include Denver’s Skyline Park, The Rink at Belmar in Lakewood, Louisville’s WinterSkate, Ouray’s Rotary Park, on the pond in Telluride’s town park, the Silver Circle Ice Rink in Aspen, Keystone Resort Ice Rink, and more.)

 

Location: Evergreen Lake Park and Lake House, Evergreen, Colorado

Dates: Mid to late December (when the ice freezes thick enough to ice skate) until the ice melts in late winter or early spring

Times: Opening and closing hours vary from year to year, generally running 8am to 7or 8pm on weekends and school breaks. Holiday hours vary as well. Call to confirm times. 

Cost: Admission to the ice varies from year to year as well. Plan about $5 or so for adults, and $4.75 or so for kids ages 4 to 18 years. Skate rental runs about $6 per pair.

For More Information: Your best bet is to call the Evergreen Lake House Skating Hotline at 720-880-1391, or 720-880-1300 to speak to a live person. or look at the Evergreen Parks and Recreation webpage about the Lake House


C
ut Your Own Wild Christmas Tree

Bundle up the family, grab a pruning saw and head for the hills. Selected National Forests, Colorado State Forests, and State Parks offer families the chance to hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski into the woods, pick a Christmas tree, cut it down, and pull it through the snowy forest back to the car. If you plan ahead, hot cider from a Thermos will treat your rosy-cheeked Yuletide lumberjacks.

Cutting your own wild Christmas tree creates a wonderful memory for the kids, while ensuring your family gets fresh air and exercise in the great outdoors. A plus is that you end up with the freshest of trees to last the season.

Location: Various National Forests around Colorado, plus Golden Gate State Park. 

Dates: Permits go on sale around the first of November. Tree cutting continues all the way through December 23 in some locations. In other places, you permit restricts you to cutting only on certain dates.

Times: Varies with the Christmas tree cutting area. Check your permit ahead of time.

Cost: $10 for National Forest tree cutting permits. Prices vary in other locations.

For More Information: Look at the government web page for Christmas tree cutting permits in the National Forests.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park has limited Christmas Tree Cutting, but it's close to Denver. Check out their webpage, and call them directly for information. 

An excellent website for information about Christmas tree cutting all over the state of Colorado is the Colorado Forest Products page on cutting your own wild trees.



Parade of Lights

 Denvers Parade of Lights  Photo: Families enjoy the Parade of Lights in Downtown Denver

For two magic nights in early December, the streets of downtown Denver fill with 3-story-tall floating balloons, waving sugar plum fairies, fire swallowers, dancers, horse brigades, marching bands, and glorious fairyland floats. They flow along a two-mile course and all are covered in millions of tiny, twinkling lights. The baton twirlers have lights, the drums and trumpets and tubas have lights, the big clowns on their little bikes have lights, and the elves throwing candy into the crowds have lights.

This is one of Denver’s most popular events and the streets fill with spectators early. If you have short people in your group, plan to arrive at least an hour or two early, to stake out spots on the curb. (We bring blankets, and have a picnic dinner while we wait.) And plan for the winter weather. It can get really, really cold sitting or standing along the parade route. In addition to hat, mittens, and big, puffy coats, lots of folks bring sleeping bags to wrap the kids in. But when the parade begins, the wraps come off as the children yell and laugh and clap their hands at the wonderful, twinkling holiday show that streams down the streets and into the dark of the city night.

Location: Denver

Dates: Friday and Saturday, the first weekend in December

Times: Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 6pm

Cost: Free to watch the parade, but parking will cost you, if you can find it. Easiest transportation to the Parade of Lights is provided by RTD.

For More Information: Check out the Parade of Lights website for route maps, times, parade line up, and other information. 

To avoid a huge traffic snarl, plan ahead and look up information about light rail or bus transportation at RTD-Denver.com. 

 

Blossoms of Light 



Photo: Christmas lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens


December nights in Denver are dark and cold, yet the Denver Botanic Gardens bloom with bright color. Over a million tiny sparks swirl and cluster, outlining trees, lining fountains, and creating a winter wonderland for families.

Location: Denver Botanic Gardens

Dates: First weekend in December through the first weekend in January (including Christmas eve, Christmas day, and New Year’s eve)

Times: 5:30 to 9:30 pm nightly           

Cost:$9.50 Adults

$7.50 Adult Member, Student, Senior (65+)

$6.50 Child (ages 4-12)

$4.50 Child Member

Free for children 3 and under 

For More InformationGet the lowdown on the highlights of this winter festival at the Denver Botanic Gardens web page on the subject. 

  


Nutcracker Suite Ballet with the Colorado Ballet

The classic of Christmastime ballets, The Nutcracker Suite is ideal for young audiences. This is a chance to get dressed up, put on your company manners, and experience one of Denver’s most beautiful holiday events. The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, with its striking design and huge seating capacity is as much an experience as the live orchestra, soul-stirring score, and mesmerizing dance.

Location: Downtown Denver

Dates: Late November until the day after Christmas

Times: Matinee and evening show times vary throughout the month

Cost: $19 to $135 per seat, depending on location in the auditorium.

For More Information: Nutcracker dates, times, ticket prices, and other information can be found at the Colorado Ballet website. 




Broadmoor White Lights Ceremony 

Photo: Christmas lights reflected 
in Cheyenne Lake at the 
Broadmoor Resort, Colorado Springs 

Tucked at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, the Broadmoor Hotel has been receiving five stars and five diamonds since the awards were invented. And as the Christmas season begins, those twinkly diamonds and stars multiply a million-fold when Christmas bulbs light up the grand old hotel and its beautiful grounds.  On the day after Thanksgiving, in a White Lights Ceremony, Santa flips the switch. Then the trees, lawns, and shrubbery turn into a magical fairyland, all reflected in the sparkling dark waters of Cheyenne Lake.  

Before and after the White Light Ceremony, families can enjoy watching Broadmoor chefs put the finishing touches of frosting on a huge gingerbread village or listen to stories read by Mrs. Clause, herself. With outdoor fire pits and opportunities to buy cups of rich hot chocolate, the White Lights Ceremony is a lovely way to kick off the Christmas season.


Photo: Chefs put the finishing touches on a huge 
gingerbread village at the Broadmoor Hotel's White Lights celebration.

Location: The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs

Dates: The Friday after Thanksgiving

Times: Activities for kids start in the late afternoon.

Cost: Free, and you need not be staying at the hotel.

For More Information: Contact the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs


 

Catch the Glow Holiday Celebration and Parade

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and in the mountain town of Estes Park busy sidewalks are dressed in holiday style. Just after lunch animal characters begin to stroll past shops filled with sugarplums and tempting gifts. They stop to shake a toddler’s mittened hand or steal a young boy’s wool hat, only to hand it back to the sweet sound of children laughing. Meanwhile families climb onto free hayrides or line up to visit Santa Clause.

 Dusk comes early, and by then the streets are packed with 25,000 folks, cheerily lining the curbs as the first sounds of carols, played by marching bands, fills the air. Cool old trucks and cars, baton-twirling majorettes, and festive floats covered in thousands of twinkle-lights pass by the cheering crowds. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.

 

To avoid scrooge’s curse, it is an absolute must to book a hotel room or cabin lodging well ahead of time. The town is packed for this event, and with good reason. It is a picture-postcard way to launch the Christmas season. Also, if you want a spot on the curb to watch the parade be sure to stake out your territory at least an hour or more in advance.

Location: Downtown Estes Park

Dates: Friday after Thanksgiving

Times: Celebration starts at noon, Parade starts at 5:30

Cost: Free

For More Information: Read about the event on the Estes Park Convention and Visitors Bureau website.   



Hot Springs on a Cold Night

         

Photo Credit: Glenwood Hot Springs 

Dark outlines of frosted mountains loom against an inky sky. Stars wink overhead. Far below, in a snowy valley, great clouds of steam waft into the sky and children in their bathing suits and bare feet squeal and splash and do cannonballs off the diving board.

Here a crack in bedrock allows gallons of hot water, heated by the earth’s subterranean furnace, to well to the surface, making a gigantic swimming pool.

Victorian architects, influenced by the opulent tastes of that bygone era, erected grand lodges around the font of hot waters. Gables, balconies, and massive walls of hand-hewn stone lend a fairytale feel to the bathing area, while steamy wisps swirl into the lamplight.

It seems such an odd thing to go swimming outdoors in the wintertime. It goes against reason to be floating around in your bathing suit while snowflakes prick your forehead with sharp dots of cold. Odd, maybe, but also very Colorado, with the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains all around, the fresh cold of air and powdery snow, and the lovely hot water gift of nature for soaking sore muscles at he end of a hard day skiing. 

Location: Glenwood Hot Springs, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Dates: With a few exceptions for maintenance, the pool is open daily, year round.

Times: 9am to 10pm, except for Christmas eve, when they close at 6pm, and Christmas day, when they open at noon.

Cost: Rates range from $9.25 for children during value periods to $18.25 for adults during peak weekends. If you want to swim only at night (after 6pm) rates are reduced slightly. There is an extra charge for the water slide. Kids 2 and under are free.  

For More Information: Check out the website for the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool to learn all the details.