Family Friendly Things to Do for Christmas in Denver in 2020

Welcome to the winter wonderland of 2020, where Santa visits are virtual or behind a mask and interactive kids’ activities have been nixed until next year. Yet, there’s still a lot that’s merry and bright this year as organizations and venues work at making the season special for kids despite all the safety regulations. A lot of the usual excitement is still happening, such as Zoo Lights and the Polar Express train ride. But other events will look different; The Nutcracker won’t be live, and one theatre is putting on a radio show you listen to at home. However you decide to celebrate, give one of these events a try and support the arts while making your kids feel a bit of holiday magic.

The 2019 Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

The 2019 Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Linnea Covington

Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York Street
720-865-3500

Get a dose of pure beauty and holiday magic at the annual light display at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Tickets run $16 to $21 and are available now through January 16, and in an effort to keep visitors distanced and safe, the venue is keeping the numbers low. The crowds will be smaller, and there will be no interactive light component, but there will be plenty to marvel at as you walk the path through the gardens. Take a break near the end of the trail and purchase treats such as a gourmet grilled cheese, hot cider and soup from The Hive. Keep in mind, masks are required at all times for those ages three and older, which isn’t so bad given the chill that usually graces the season.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales
Arvada Center
November 30 to December 27

If there was ever a good time to bring back an old-school form of entertainment, this is it. Enter the radio special, something that used to be all the rage before television. This production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by the Arvada Center is different than the usual telling of Dylan Thomas’s classic story. Actress Emily Van Fleet adapted the piece for audio drama, and guests can order tickets online starting at $10 on a pay-what-you-can scale. Once you have tickets, listen to the play and be transported to holidays in the country through the eyes of child, all on your own time and with the whole family. Then, listen again as much as you want, starting November 30 through December 27. 

Enjoy vroom with a view at Christmas in Colorado.EXPAND

Enjoy vroom with a view at Christmas in Colorado.

Christmas in Color

Christmas in Color
Through January 3
Water World, 8801 Pecos Street
Bandimere Speedway, 3051 South Rooney Road

Choose to visit Bandimere Speedway or Water World for a drive-through Christmas-light experience that involves no contact save for the party in your car. Tune in to a special station to hear holiday music that’s synchronized to the lights, so while you slowly drive through the dazzling colors, they dance along. Feel free to sing too; no one but your family will hear that off-tune rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Starting now until January 3, tickets can be purchased online for $30 per car; reservations required. 

The Colorado Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is an annual tradition.

The Colorado Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is an annual tradition.

Mike Watson

Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Starting November 26
For the first time in sixty years, there will be no live production of The Nutcracker from the Colorado Ballet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a Nutcracker to see. In fact, this year the showing is free; all you need is a television and access to Rocky Mountain PBS. The ballet airs on Thanksgiving day, at 7 p.m., and again on November 27, at 3 p.m.; December 18, at 9 p.m.; December 19, at 1 a.m.; December 24 at 7 p.m.; and December 25 at 12 a.m. And, if you have extra to give, consider “paying” for this showing by supporting the Colorado Ballet, which like many nonprofits, is hurting for funds because of the pandemic.

Part of the 2020 I Love Christmas exhibit.EXPAND

Part of the 2020 I Love Christmas exhibit.

Gaylord at the Rockies

I Love Christmas Movies at Gaylord at the Rockies
Through January 3
6700 North Gaylord Rockies Blvd, Aurora
720-452-6900

There have been a lot of protocols put into place at this massive hotel to make this year’s Gaylord holiday fete take place, which is themed around Christmas movies. The interactive exhibit showcases scenes from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, Polar Express and more. There’s also snow tubing, ice skating, gingerbread house kits and snacks for purchase. As at many other venues, you must purchase tickets online and in advance. Be aware there are limited spots because of social distancing measures, masks are required, and the whole movie exhibit is meant to be mostly touch-less. The program runs until January 3, and tickets start at $13.99 for kids and $24.99 for adults. 

The Mile High Tree in Sculpture Park.EXPAND

The Mile High Tree in Sculpture Park.

Photography By: Brandon Johnson (@BJohnsonxAR)

Mile High Tree
16th Street Mall

Last year the Mile High Tree debuted downtown in front of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, and this year the 110-foot digital art installation is back. Watch the choreographed lights dance to the holiday music, and line up in a socially-distanced fashion to get inside the tree to see the five-minute program up close. The tree is open now until January 2 on the corner of Welton and 16th streets, from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 5 to 8 p.m. on some Sundays (check the schedule online). Even when the tree is closed, it will still be lit for all to see.

The Polar Express at the Colorado Railroad Museum
Through December 31
17155 West 44th Avenue, Golden
303-279-4591

Nothing can stop the Polar Express nor the wonder this magical ride brings to kids each year. Lucky for fans, the museum anticipated further safety regulations, so the venue is set to host families for its annual train ride based on the 35-year-old book, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Each kid gets a golden souvenir ticket, hot chocolate and a present from Santa. Also expect plenty of train facts, carols and stories to go along with the ride. Pajamas are encouraged, masks required and all families will be seated in the heated outdoor car a proper distance from others. Tickets are available for various times throughout December and online for $95 per person. Kids two and under can ride on a lap for free.

Santa at Belmar
7337 West Alaska Drive, Lakewood
303-742-1520

One thing COVID-19 can’t cancel is kids wanting to see Santa, and Belmar shopping mall has figured out a safe and socially-distanced way to do it. Unfortunately, this means no hugs or sitting on Santa’s lap, but your kid can chat with the big man and tell him their Christmas dreams. There will also be digital markers on the ground so no group gets too close to another. Make a reservation online and book your kids’ time with Santa on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m., and Sundays noon to 6 p.m., with longer hours on December 23 and Christmas Eve. And, instead of a candy cane, this year Santa will give out cheery masks to keep your littles safely in the holiday spirit.

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Winter Wanderland Light Walk and the Prismatica
Through January 3

Wander the streets of Cherry Creek North with your family and take in the half-a-million lights twinkling in the trees. Bring a mug of hot chocolate with you and search for the eight special trees that are adorned with dancing lights choreographed to festive music. There’s also the Prismatica, a temporary installation in Gart Plaza (on Milwaukee Street and 3rd Avenue) that features 24 large prisms of light that rotate. 

Zoo Lights is going on still in 2020.EXPAND

Zoo Lights is going on still in 2020.

Denver Zoo

Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo
2300 Steele Street
December 4 through 31

There’s every reason to don a mask and wander the glittering wonderland that the Denver Zoo creates each year, especially right now when being outside proves safer than indoor adventures. Among the giraffes, zebras, monkeys and hippos, there are one million lights covering the eighty acres, and guests can book tickets to see the display from December 4 though 31. The only way to get the $25 adult, $15 child or free two-and-under tickets is online at Zoo website. While booking your time slot, make the visit brighter with a special add-on package like the Holiday Animal Adventure, which, for between $235 and $300, gets your party an exclusive meet-and-greet with the Zoo’s Animal Ambassadors, including the hawk, porcupine, snake and more. Or book the simple VIP package that includes access to warm-up areas, a souvenir mug, cocoa or cider, a cookie kit, animal demos and HoloSpex glasses for $50.

Do you know of other family-friendly events in the area? Send information to [email protected]

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