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Things to Do in Denver This Weekend, January 1-3, 2021

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We’ve left 2020 in the dumpster: Time for a new start. You can take a virtual class, watch a virtual show…or venture out into the great outdoors. This weekend, there are intriguing events in and around downtown Denver, or you can venture even farther afield and enjoy a First Day Hike. (Remember: It’s also First Friday.)

But before you head out (or as you head online), sign up for the Winter of Reading, the Denver Public Library’s adult equivalent of the Summer of Adventure, except it’s designed for adults. There are two months of activities ahead; find out more here.

Keep reading to book more adventures, many of them free:

January Colorado Virtual Distance Challenge
Friday, January 1, through January 31
You need the exercise. We all do at this point of endless lockdown, and here’s an incentive: Just in time to tone up your muscles for spring, Colorado Brewery Running Series is bringing back its January Colorado Virtual Distance Challenge, which — if you can believe it — has always been virtual. You log your hours spent running, walking, hiking and biking throughout January (treadmill and stationary bike miles count, as well), and win rewards based on how many increments of 25, 50 or 100 miles you can rack up. You can even register your dog. Fees run from $30 to $135; find info and register at Eventbrite.

Happy New Year! Ten Things to Do in Denver This Weekend

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

First Day Hikes Colorado
Friday, January 1
Colorado State Parks and Recreation Areas

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an array of First Day Hikes planned in different parks around the state. In addition to a variety of jaunts of different lengths, you’ll find other recreational pastimes at various locations, such as a scavenger hunt at Highline State Park near the Colorado-Utah border, a forest-bathing hike at Roxborough State Park, and a snowshoe hike near Walden. All First Day activities are free, but you’ll have to pay a fee to enter the parks. Find a list of First Day Hike events here.

New Year’s Day Drag Queen Bingo Brunch
Friday, January 1, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Denver Milk Market and Dairy Block are kicking off 2021 with New Year’s Day Drag Queen Bingo Brunch in the (heated) Alley. Hosted by Shirley Delta Blow accompanied by Kai Lee Mykles & Dixie Krystals, the fun is free; buy brunch at Milk Market or at one of the restaurants offering holiday brunch celebrations in the Alley, including Blanchard Family Wines, Seven Grand, Pola Lola Social Club and BRUTØ. For more information or to make a reservation, go to dairyblock.com.

Day of Jubilee 2021
Friday, January 1, 4 to 5 p.m.

Day of Jubilee — a monthly First Friday cultural event hosted by the Aurora’s People’s Building and local partners — carries a little more weight this month, since it falls on a momentous New Year’s Day. Virtual entertainment includes a live set by R&B singer-songwriter Lee Clark Allen and, in the art category, a 360-degree gallery viewing of anime-inspired ink drawings and background paintings by animation artist Shane Bryant. It’s free; all you have to do is tune in here.

Virtual Kwanzaa 2020
January 1, 7 p.m.

Denver’s Kwanzaa activities conclude a week of free programming with Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center and the Denver Kwanzaa Committee; find out more here.

MCA Denver Penny Saturday
Saturday, January 2, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1485 Delgany Street

Yes, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is open, and, as always, admission is just a penny on the first Saturday of the month. Come see Citizenship: A Practice of Society, a survey of politically engaged art made since 2016. In response to political events and the current climate, as well as recent art-world trends, the exhibition posits art-making as a critical civic act, and the works exemplify how artists act as citizens. You’ll need to reserve your ticket in advance here.

Walter Chaw and Rian Johnson Talk Under the Skin
Saturday, January 2, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Join film critic Walter Chaw and director, producer and screenwriter Rian Johnson (Knives Out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) as they talk about Under the Skin. The 2013 film is free to watch on the streaming service Kanopy, which you can subscribe to using your Denver Public Library card. The talk is free, but registration is required to receive the Zoom link and password.

Happy New Year! Ten Things to Do in Denver This Weekend

Mile High Tree
Through Saturday, January 2, 5 to 9:30 p.m. nightly
16th Street Mall at Welton Street

Last year the Mile High Tree debuted downtown in front of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This year the 110-foot digital art installation is back, in a different location. Watch the choreographed lights dance to the holiday music, or join the socially distanced line to get inside the tree to see the five-minute program up close. Even when the tree is closed to visitors, it will still be lit for all to see. Find out more and get the complete schedule here.

Night Lights Denver
Through January 3, 5:30 to 11 p.m. nightly
1601 Arapahoe Street

Night Lights Denver has been brightening spirits on the 16th Street Mall for over a year, but the new holiday display is something special, full of holiday- and winter-themed work by Colorado-based artists for “the people’s projector” that uses the Clocktower as a canvas. The new lineup includes pieces by Estee Fox, Erin Anderson, Steve Smith, Maya Dite-Shepard, Michael Sperandeo, Chandler Bree Dolan, Waveform.exp, Rainbow Militia, ArtToyz, Wendy Shattil and others. Watch for updates here; this free display gets glowing reviews!

and plan ahead:

Chicano/a Muralism of Colorado
Tuesday, January 5, 6 to 7 p.m.

The last session of the Denver Art Museum’s Mexican Modernism in Context lecture series, a complement to the exhibition Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, brings it all back home by showing how the legacy of Mexican Modernism lives on in bold Denver murals depicting ancestral lore of the local Chicano community. Lecturer Lucha Martínez de Luna, curator of Latino Heritage at History Colorado and director of the Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project, will walk you through the exhibit, pointing out similarities to the local mural movement. Admission is $18 to $20; Learn more and register for the Zoom link here.

Know of a great event in Denver? Send information to [email protected]; we’ll be updating this list through the weekend.

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