Denver’s surrounding areas are a winter paradise for the adventurous. The Mile High City is lovely in itself in the winter season, but venture a bit outside of city limits and you have access to multitudes of exciting outdoor, heart-pounding activities. Whether a seasoned adventurer or just starting to explore, there’s something for every skill level to enjoy. Make sure you layer up properly, grab your gear, slather on some sunscreen, and get out there! Here are a few of the best winter day trip activities from Denver:
Of course, if you’re in Denver during the winter, you’ll know to take advantage of some of the best skiing and boarding. For one of the most quintessential Colorado winter adventures, get your skis or board tuned up, and hit the slopes at the Arapahoe Basin. At just a 1.5 hour drive from Denver, A-Basin continues to keep its devoted fans happy. This place offers a frills-free experience focused on the sport itself and the absolutely stunning scenery and elevation of 13,050 feet. This height allows the mountain to stay open until June, and is therefore popular for spring skiing as well. What you won’t find here is a crowded, commercial resort, but instead, skiers who are immersed in the culture and come for the old-school, relaxed vibe. At a competitive value, you can pick up an adult day pass for $95.
One of the best winter hiking spots close to Denver is in Roxborough Park. At under an hour’s drive from the city, this hike is located at 4751 North Roxborough Drive in Littleton, CO. The park itself has some beautiful geological red rock formations to gaze at along the trails. This natural setting is the perfect place to stretch your legs and gain some elevation at your own pace. With trails to suite all levels, the most challenging path is Carpenter’s Peak. The wide trails offer views of downtown Denver as well as the stunning red rock cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the wildlife to be found here, including mule deer and red fox.
If you’re not quite up for a strenuous hike, strap on your snowshoes for a more leisurely walk on the Lost Lake Trail. Located at the edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, you can get to the trailhead in about an hour and 15 minutes from Denver. By accessing this 4-mile loop trail from the Hessie Trailhead, you can get beautiful views of the northwest side of Eldora. There are also a couple of old mines and cabins to check out south of Lost Lake to make your snowshoeing adventure even more exciting.
After a day of exertion and adventures, it’s a godsend to soak in a mineral hot spring and soothe those aching muscles. Though there are many high-end hot springs closer to Denver, if you’re looking for a more natural experience, it’s worth the 3 hour drive to to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Located in Steamboat Springs, you can explore their rustic mineral springs and relax and unwind from your day’s adventures. If you’re looking to treat yourself, sign up for their watsu treatment, a bodywork massage that takes place in their geothermal waters. Make a whole day of it in this area and take a hike at Fish Creek Falls in the Routt National Forest. There you can easily access the lower falls view in a .25 mile walk, or take the longer hike up to gorgeous views at Upper Fish Creek Falls and Long Lake.
It’s easy to stay hunkered down in the winter season and hibernate at home; but even when the snow is piling up, there are plenty of ways to get out and avoid cabin fever. Driving just a short distance from Denver can lead you to some of the best hidden gems just waiting to be explored.
The Mile High City draws visitors from near and far in its sun-filled summer months, but many would also agree that Denver is one of the most magical places to be around the winter holidays as well. From the stunning snow-capped mountainscape to the spectacular red and green light display of the famed clocktower, its residents and visitors can’t help but enjoy its enchanting atmosphere. As you travel through the city, don’t miss some of these favorite activities to help get you in the holiday spirit:
In the central business district of downtown Denver stands the Denver Pavilions Holiday Carousel which is back for its fourth year. Perfect for the whole family, it offers a beautiful light display and costs only $3 a ride. The best part? A portion of the funds goes straight to the Food Bank for the Rockies. Head down between 11am and 9pm daily from now through New Year’s Eve (open until 1am on NYE!).
If you need an evening to laugh a little during this busy time of year, head to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to see the Santaland Diaries. This comedy show, written by David Sedaris, is the perfect antidote to the chaos of the holiday season. Decompress while enjoying the stories of Sedaris’ time as a Macy’s elf in NYC. Directed by Steven Weitz and adapted by Joe Mantello, this one runs from Nov 24 through Dec 24. If you decide to take the whole family, there are a few great kid-friendly shows, like ELF The Musical and the classic A Christmas Carol.
One family holiday attraction you won’t want to miss is the Polar Express train ride at the Colorado Railroad Museum. Located in Golden, this magical experience is designed to feel just like the classic tale, complete with dancing chefs serving up cookies and hot cocoa on the ride. Each child receives their very own “First Gift of Christmas” bell to take home to remember the magical journey.
Stop into this superb brewery just 10 miles south of Denver, and grab a pint of their Christmas Ale. The rich, malty brew has caramel and chocolate overtones and has been around for 25 years. Stop in and try one or take some home to enjoy cozied up by the fireplace.
Looking to sip something warm? Head to Steuben’s, and sample their Rock & Rye Toddy, a twist on the more traditional Rock & Rye cocktail. They start with Rittenhouse Bonded Rye and infuse it with cassia bark, clove, lemon and orange zest, horehound, and their own personal addition, liqueur-infused rock candy. These warm cocktails were once thought to be the best cure for a sore throat, so there’s your excuse to head down and try one for yourself.
Whether you come to Denver for the first-rate skiing nearby or to visit the city, make sure you catch some of the most spirit-warming festivities both in and around the Denver. The best way to beat the winter blues and cabin fever is to get out and about in this wonderful city and take part in all it has to offer.
The Denver area is exciting year round, but it really transforms into a magical place in the winter months. The sparkling city has so much to offer both within city lines and into the mountains. If you’ve already enjoyed a bit of the city and are looking for a great family excursion, there are many within a short drive from Denver. The following are a few of the best family-friendly day trips that shouldn’t be missed this winter!
Visit the Georgetown Loop Railroad in the warmer season, and you can take an hour long ride in the open air; but come on a winter’s day, and you can catch a warm ride through a snowy wonderland. On the Santa Train, young ones can enjoy riding along with Santa and Mrs. Claus. There are also Santa’s helpers to entertain, serving hot cocoa, cookies, and candy canes to add to the festive feel. Make a reservation online or by phone see why many families find it to be a favorite winter tradition.
A little over an hour from Denver, don’t miss spending a day in the snowy Rocky Mountain National Park. This famous park offers some of the most beautiful and tranquil scenery in Colorado. Strap on your snowshoes or cross country skis and explore some of the amazing trails they have to offer. The rangers at the visitor center can help your family find the right path based on experience and expectations. If you’re looking for an activity your youngest ones can take part in, bring a sled to the Hidden Valley area and expect some tired kids at the end of your day out. Get a firsthand look at some of Colorado’s wildlife including moose, elk, mule, bighorn sheep, coyotes and deer. Moose are often seen at the west side of the park around the Colorado River. Pack a lunch and come for the whole day to take advantage of this scenic beauty of this park.
If you and you family are lower on time but still want to enjoy some outdoor activities, head to one of large parks in the Mile-High city. Both City Park and Cheesman Park have acres and acres of snowy natural space. Grab a sled and bring the kids to spend a few hours enjoying an afternoon outside in the fresh air. Many Denverites also enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the city’s greenspace. If you have your own gear, bring it along; otherwise, rent some at one of the nearby gear shops.
Denver makes it easy to fight the temptation to stay inside during the long winter months. If you and your family are looking for a fun way to spend the day, you don’t have to go far. Whether you head to a park for the afternoon or make a quick drive out of the city, Denver and the surrounding areas have so much to offer. Though you might have to bundle up, the winter scenery and fun will definitely be worth it.
Denver is an active city full of exciting cultural events year-round, and it becomes particularly magical during the winter holiday season. The picturesque twinkling lights amidst snow-capped trees are sure to get you in the festive spirit.
In addition to some exciting holiday activities, Denver’s top craft breweries serve up some of their best winter brews, and restaurants fuel the cozy feelings with hot toddies. If Denver’s winter charm has you feeling the holiday cheer, you’ll want to check out some of Denver’s most anticipated holiday happenings.
The famous Denver Zoo transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland every evening in December and attracts families from far and wide. The zoo itself is open until 5pm each day, when it briefly closes and reopens at 5:30pm for the Zoo Lights attraction. Come down and check out the animated light-up animal sculptures, as well as ice sculptors in action creating beautiful frozen masterpieces. You’ll encounter some animals along the way, and you may even get a visit from Santa himself!
You can catch a performance of the famed holiday ballet at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Performed each year by the Colorado Ballet, Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic charms children and adults of all ages. With live music played by the incredibly talented Colorado Ballet Orchestra, you’re sure to leave full of holiday cheer. Whether you’ve seen it countless times, or this year is your first, seeing The Nutcracker is always a favorite holiday activity.
Looking for more magically-lit spaces after you’ve visited Zoo Lights? Explore the Denver Botanic Gardens, open evenings from 5-9pm, and see why visitors find the array of light displays so stunning. In a season when the plant life isn’t as extensive, the Botanic Gardens still amazes tourists and Denverites alike. Don’t miss their field of animated LED lights that respond to sound, making for a fun, interactive exhibit that adults and children can both enjoy. A great time to visit is for a live performance in the gardens. December 10th is their UltraSoniX show, and you can find more events on their website as well.
Looking for a festive event in Denver that will keep you moving? Head down to the Skyline Rink in downtown and practice your figure eights. Located at 16th & Arapahoe, skating here is free for everyone in the family if you have your own skates. If you need to rent, skate rentals run from only $6-8. It’s the perfect activity for a date, outing with a friend, or the whole family.
If you’re in the mood for some Christmas carols with a twist, head down to Arapahoe Street between 17th and 18th and check out the annual TubaChristmas Concert. This popular event has been a Denver staple since its beginning in 1976. The concert is produced by the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Arts & Media and includes musicians of all ages. This free event takes place from 1-2pm on December 17th and is one of the most-celebrated holiday events in the city.
There is so much more to the holiday season than holiday shopping. Denver makes it easy to find holiday festivities all over the city with its variety of great events throughout December. Whether you’re visiting or a local, you won’t want to miss these holiday happenings.