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.
Denver is a city that never ceases to attract newcomers to its many inviting neighborhoods. One such neighborhood that adds to the flavor of the Mile High City is Congress Park, located in central Denver. This charming area has a real small-town vibe while still maintaining some city atmosphere. This friendly neighborhood is full of tree-lined streets and historic architecture that speaks to Denver’s beginnings.
The quaint area was known as Capitol Heights back in the 1880s. William Larimer, one of Denver’s founders, created the Mount Prospect Cemetery area which then transformed to today’s Cheesman Park, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Congress Park itself. It was developed around the same time as the tramway lines on East Colfax, East 12th Avenue, and East Sixth Avenue, which heavily influenced its population. In fact, many rich Denverites at the time decided to migrate to the neighborhood to try to escape the polluted city environment. The streetcar lines also influenced business, and many flourishing ones popped up along 12th and Clayton/Elizabeth and 12th and Madison. Their old shop buildings can still be seen along this route today. In the 1970s, the neighborhood was finally given its name Congress Park.
Today, residents and visitors enjoy the gem that is the Congress Park area, with its charming feel and local restaurants. The neighborhood is named after the park that it contains, which hosts many resources, including a playground, swimming pool, baseball field, and even the Denver Botanic Gardens. On a balmy summer’s day in Denver, you can always find locals relaxing in Congress Park. Here are a few of the gems that are sure to give you a taste of all that Congress Park has to offer:
EAT: Shells and Sauce
This neighborhood holds a few hidden gems, including this one. Shells and Sauce is an incredible spot that serves up delicious, traditional italian dishes. This authentic joint has a cozy vibe, so you can pull up a chair and tuck in for some of the best service and delectable plates in the neighborhood. Show up for their happy hour specials and try their small plates like their stuffed portabella with spinach and mozzarella served with roasted red pepper coulis.
Another great local spot for happy hour drinks with a wine focus is Sienna Wine Bar. Come for a superb glass of wine and maybe even try a flight of a few different selections. The experts there can help you choose just the right varieties to try and tell you which ones pair well with their tasty small plates. Swing by this neighborhood gem with a friend or date and share a couple small plates paired with excellent wine.
LISTEN: Bluebird Theater
Approach Bluebird Theater on E Colfax Ave in Congress Park and you’ll be sent back in time when you gaze up at their historic, lighted marquee sign. Step inside and you’ll get even more historic charm in this intimate music venue with gargoyles adorning the walls. This quaint concert spot has been around since 1913 (then called Thomson Theater) and today has a slew of talented musicians coming through. Be sure to check their calendar for one that fits your liking. On a street in Congress Park that sports many new businesses, Bluebird Theater retains some of the older Congress Park appeal.
GET OUTSIDE: Denver Botanic Gardens
One of the lovely outdoor attractions in Congress Park is the Denver Botanic Gardens. Walk along the meandering paths that lead you through well-arranged flora which has been grouped according to type and climate. They also host a very popular temporary sculpture exhibition that keeps residents returning for more. The mission of the botanic gardens is entertain its visitors and help spread the education of the Gardens through outreach and collaboration. They even host conservation programs that deal with the protection of species and natural habitats. Come check them out for some fresh air in their unique and captivating greenspace.
It’s easy to group all of Denver into one style, culture, or description. Upon further inspection and adventuring, visitors and residents can get to know the individual neighborhoods of the Mile High City that have people entranced by their unique charm. If exploring Denver appeals to you, don’t miss the Congress Park neighborhood!
When adventuring through Denver, it’s essential to explore the different neighborhoods to get a taste of the unique character of each. Many of the areas of Denver have transformed over the years, but perhaps most drastic of these transformations is the Five Points neighborhood. Five Points is one of Denver’s largest neighborhoods, with a triangular shape that encompasses the areas of RiNo, Ballpark, Curtis Park, San Rafael, Clements, and the Five Points Historic Cultural District. The area gets its name from the five-point intersection of Welton, Washington St, 27th St, and 26th St. In 1881, there was a streetcar that ran through the neighborhood; since all the street names at the intersection were too much to fit onto a sign, they settled on calling the stop “Five Points”.
Today in Five Points, you’ll find a culture-filled neighborhood that has been revitalized into a great place to live. The area has a long history as one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, at some points having rough reputation. It’s often called the “Harlem of the West” thanks to its history of jazz. Many of the greats like Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday were known to pass through and play at the Rainbow Room and the Rossonian. Jack Kerouac even mentions Five Points several times in his second—and most famous—novel, On The Road On the Road. The area was shaped as a mostly black neighborhood from the 1920s to the 1950s due to the regulations that barred African-Americans from living elsewhere in Denver. At this time, the neighborhood was full of successful local businesses like jazz bars, barber shops, and restaurants. However, from the 1950s to 1990s, the market crash transformed the neighborhood into one wrought with crime and drug use, which is where its less-favorable reputation began. Since then, the area has been revitalized and gentrified, which has improved its reputation, but, unfortunately, lessened its diversity. Today you can still get a taste of the history in Five Points through jazz street-art, the plethora of authentic soul food, as well as some local barber shops. The neighborhood was deemed a cultural historical district in 2002; it’s the only one in Denver.
Take a visit to Five Points and see for yourself the vibrancy and creativity that shines through this diverse neighborhood. The unique mix of old and new has attracted many to its streets. Here are a few things to put on your list to get a feel for this neighborhood:
GROOVE: Five Points Jazz Festival
This popular festival draws quite the crowd each year, taking place on the third Saturday of May. The free festival began in 2004 and celebrates the area’s rich jazz roots with a great mix of musicians, delicious food, and activities to engage the whole family. Each year, the festival gets larger, often with more stages, performers, and attendees. If you’re in Denver at the time, you won’t want to miss this event.
VISIT: Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace
Another great way to get a sense of the community in Five Points is by catching this seasonal, Saturday farmer’s market full of homegrown produce and local goods. The mission behind Mo’ Betta Green Marketplace is to help spread the idea of a sustainable food model that’s accessible to all and which helps support small businesses. This festive event even includes DJ’d music, adding to the fun, community vibe. You can visit the market from June through mid October.
EAT: Welton Street Cafe
When hunger strikes in Five Points, locals know to indulge in the best soul food options in the area. One such joint is the Welton Street Cafe, which offers traditional, homestyle cooking. Their fried chicken, catfish, and other soul food specialties keep patrons coming back for more. As you stroll through the neighborhood, don’t miss this soul-food hub for a taste of culture in Five Points.
Meeting a friend for a drink in Five Points? Look no further than Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company where you can quench your thirst with some of Denver’s best craft brews. This trendy place has been around since December 2012, when it was founded on the mission of creating a place where the community could gather over a local craft brew. They offer many of their own beers as well as other Colorado guest taps. Their laid-back taproom is full of rotating artwork which adds to the hip vibe of this place. With a beautiful outdoor patio space, they’ve create a place where locals and visitors alike can taste their brews made with locally-sourced ingredients. There’s frequently a food truck alongside their patio, and they also host fun events like “Keep the Glass Night” where customers get to keep a unique glass after enjoying their beer. Come by Tuesday through Sunday to sample some of the best beer that Five Points has to offer.
Five Points is often described as a unique and diverse neighborhood, and there’s no other place quite like it in Denver. For visitors and locals alike, this neighborhood is a fun place to explore. If you get a chance, put these places on your itinerary and and check out all that Five Points has to offer.
The diverse neighborhoods of Denver are certainly a large part of what makes this city so captivating. Park Hill is one of those quaint “suburb-in-the-city” neighborhoods that offers a relaxing escape from the bustle of downtown. Located in the northeastern quadrant of Denver, this area is actually broken up into three different ‘hoods: Northeast Park Hill, North Park Hill, and South Park Hill. What you’ll likely see strolling through Park Hill today is an upscale yet diverse neighborhood, but that was not always the case.
Among these well-kept properties and ancient houses on Montview Boulevard, lies a history of division between economics, class, and race. Park Hill’s roots go back to 1887 when Baron Allois Gullaume Engine von Winckler designed the neighborhood on a plot of land he owned. Homes were built and sold to new settlers in the early 1900s, including families from Europe as well as African Americans. In the 1920s, as Park Hill was becoming one of the most sought-after neighborhoods, developers began to create racial restrictions, which caused the area to become demographically almost all white. After World War II, North Park Hill began to draw in middle-class black families, which spurred the “white flight” that realtors used to their advantage. As a result, segregation within Park Hill was imminent.
Today, Park Hill is made up of people from varying ethnic backgrounds, making it a much more diverse neighborhood than in past years. You can find something for everyone in this area of the Mile High City, including local restaurants and shops, great little grocery stores, and many hidden gems. This friendly neighborhood is also quite bike friendly, with ample bike lanes throughout. If you’re visiting on a weekend, you may even notice that cyclists seem to outnumber cars. Of course, public transport is well-developed in this area, so it’s easy to go without a car. Here are some of the key spots you should check out if you find yourself in the Park Hill area:
BRUNCH: Park Hill Hub
Looking for a interesting joint to satisfy your brunch needs? Take a walk over to Park Hill Hub and see why locals love this neighborhood coffee and breakfast spot. Caffeinate with a spicy Bhakti Chai latte while sitting out on their shaded patio surrounded by plants. Not just a coffee shop, this place plates up some serious brunch options, including their protein breakfast bowls. Try their Mediterranean delight which includes two perfectly-cooked eggs, pesto, mozzarella, quinoa, zucchini, artichoke hearts, and sundried tomatoes.
STROLL: City Park
Just adjacent to Park Hill is City Park — a great place to escape the city noise and experience nature. This 330-acre urban park contains a 7.5 mile-long bike path, which leads you past many sights, including tranquil duck ponds, civil rights memorials, and beautiful greenery. As well as containing tennis courts, multipurpose fields, two lakes, and historical monuments, City Park also holds two major attractions — the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science. If you’re looking for something to do with your kids, head over to the Zoo to give them an educational experience they won’t forget.
Finally, if you’re searching for a great hidden gem in Park Hill for a date or night out, grab a reservation at Tables and see why it’s a local favorite. This farm-to-table neighborhood bistro has a comfortable yet elegant feel. On warm Denver evenings, try to get a spot outside in their trendy outdoor seating area. The fantastic wait staff serve up specialty cocktails that vary by season, so you can always find something new to experience. Tucked away in the residential area of Park Hill, this homey spot serves up mouth-watering fares, like their pan-seared trout served with a pumpkin green bean sauté, smoked trout-tonnato sauce, and a hazelnut -pepita and horseradish crumble.
These are just a few great places to start exploring all that Park Hill has to offer, but certainly the best way to get a feel for this neighborhood is by taking a walk around their tree-lined streets and seeing the new hip places that are popping up left and right. It’s a fun neighborhood to explore, whether as a resident or visitor.
Among all the varied neighborhoods that make up the city of Denver, Cherry Creek sits at the center with a character all its own. The area got its name from the Cherry Creek that runs along its south side. In this neighborhood, you can find a mix of tree-lined residential streets and more urban areas. Cherry Creek is home to about 6,000 people who consider it a little oasis within the Mile High city.
This area wasn’t always referred to as Cherry Creek. When exploring this neighborhood, you may come across an old building with a plaque that reads “Harman Town Hall” on the corner of 4th and St. Paul. This hints at the history of the neighborhood which was established as the town of Harman in the 1800s and remained so until 1895, when it was annexed by Denver. In the 1800s, this neighborhood was rich in agriculture and trade since it bordered the creek. The Cherry Creek was known for causing trouble, and in 1864, it overflowed and flooded much of the city. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the new Cherry Creek neighborhood had been plotted out. The city tried to quell the creek with concrete walls, and in 1950 the Cherry Creek Dam was complete. Around the same time, a man named Temple Buell built the famous Cherry Creek Mall. While the mall has been rebuilt several times, the history of area rests largely on the Cherry Creek and the area’s transformation.
Today in Cherry Creek you can, of course, find the popular Cherry Creek North outdoor shopping and dining area, as well as the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, both of which attract many residents and tourists. Cherry Creek North boasts mostly locally-owned, independent shops within its 16 blocks. The upscale neighborhood itself is a very welcoming and energetic community with a lively nightlife. Whether visiting briefly or spending a bit more time in Cherry Creek, here are a few places that you won’t want to miss:
SIP: Aviano Coffee
To get your caffeine fix, head to Aviano Coffee. You’ll find them in their new location in the heart of Cherry Creek North. This place has an array of unique coffee drinks and a modern, inviting space, making it one of the most hip coffee joints in the neighborhood. Often with lines out the door, Aviano’s cult-like following is a testament to the great quality of coffee you can get there. They pay careful attention to perfecting each cup, so don’t come in a hurry. Instead, pull up a chair in their relaxing outdoor patio area and enjoy the atmosphere.
This new restaurant opened a little over a year ago in August of 2016, and Denverites have been raving about it ever since. Self-described as a “global adventure in dining”, this Asian-fusion restaurant puts a delicious spin on authentic dishes and even offers a handful of vegan options. The space itself is modern and trendy, sometimes described as futuristic, with bright lights adorning the indoor space. They also have a rooftop terrace called “Departure Elevated”, reached by a ride in their disco elevator. Here you can gaze at the gorgeous downtown Denver skyline, sip a finely crafted happy-hour cocktail, and eat some delicious dim sum.
GET OUTSIDE: Cherry Creek Bike Path
If you plan to spend one of Denver’s many sunny days enjoying the outdoors, consider grabbing your bike and heading to the Cherry Creek Bike Path. This 11.2-mile path runs from downtown Denver’s Confluence Park all the way to Cherry Creek Reservoir. The trail hits many different attractions along the way, including Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Cherry Creek State Park is a great place to stop for a break, offering activities like boating, swimming, camping and horseback riding.
VISIT: Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Cherry Creek is host to several popular festivals, particularly in the summer months. The Cherry Creek Arts Festival (CCAF) is a weekend-long, world-class festival where the visual, performing, and even culinary arts are celebrated. Over 350,000 people gather for this 3 day long event, which includes live music, food, performance art, and family fun. This is a free festival whose mission is to give access to art and to support education for all. It takes place annually on the 4th of July weekend when the neighborhood of Cherry Creek is alive and buzzing.
While the neighborhood of Cherry Creek has undergone major changes from its farmland and small town roots, it’s maintained much of it’s charm. Today, of course, many flock to Cherry Creek for their shopping needs or a summer festival, but its residents know that the day-to-day experience in this special neighborhood is equally worthwhile.