Named one of Lonely Planet’s “World’s Top Cities for Travelers in 2020,” Denver is the place for your next family vacation any season. Yet when the Rocky Mountains provide a majestic and snow-capped backdrop to Denver, winter blankets the city with even more fun. From fireworks to parades, art walks to museums, free tours to hikes, enjoy the Mile High City with these 17 free things to do in Denver in the winter.
17 Free Things to Do In Denver in the Winter
Free in Denver? Absolutely! The Mile High City continues its affordable fun through the winter with these 17 free things to do in Denver in the winter. From parades to free ice skating, bundle up and be ready to explore these free activities in the Colorado capitol.
Think you know the Mile High City? Read these 10 things you didn’t know about Denver.
1. Free Ice Skating in Denver
Downtown Denver Ice Skating
From November 26 to February 16, 2020, the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park returns each year to celebrate Denver’s winter wonderland. On the 16th Street Mall at Arapahoe, ice skating is free. Carry your own skates or rent a pair for $7-9.
Regularly scheduled entertainment and activities round out the free options including DJs on Friday nights, Saturday morning skate lessons, Saturday night concerts, and family entertainment on Sunday afternoon.
Denver International Airport Ice Skating
Are you a traveler arriving in the Mile High City and/or passing through via Denver International Airport? The DIA ice rink is also free, and skate rentals are complimentary as well. This 40 x 60-foot rink will be open November 22 through January 20, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Find this skating rink on the Denver International Airport Plaza outside the Westin DIA hotel and between the terminal and hotel, and add it to your list of free things to do in Denver in the winter. On Friday afternoons, enjoy hot chocolate and hot cider or fun activities and entertainment.
2. First Friday Art Walks
Denver embraces its art communities with a monthly celebration scattered throughout Denver. First Friday Art Walks, the first Friday of every month, features cultural performances, music, art exhibits, art walks and more in Denver’s art districts. My favorite is the Santa Fe art district for its cultural exhibits and yummy food trucks.
3. Explore More with Denver Story Trek
Transport Denver’s history directly to your cell phone with free downloadable Denver Story Trek. Pick up a free map at one of the city’s museums and set off to explore the city on a self-guided tour.
4. Warm-up at LoDo’s Tattered Cover Bookstore
Step out of the snow into LoDo’s Tattered Cover Bookstore, one of the largest independent bookstores in the U.S. where many famous authors host free book signings. For travelers, this is the perfect stop as Wi-Fi and browsing are free. Denver’s Union Station also features a satellite Tattered Cover Bookstore.
5. Be a Fan at Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum
Sports fans won’t want to miss the tribute to the sports legends in our state at the free Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum, located at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
6. Channel your Inner Fashionista at Rockmount Ranch Wear
Fashionistas remember the Wild West by browsing the historic Rockmount Ranch Wear, the inventor of the western snap-button shirt. Located in LoDo, the walls are a celebrity gallery of famous personalities, from Elvis Presley to Toby Keith, who have worn their shirts.
While the store is free to browse and window shop, you’ll be tempted to purchase a snap-button Western shirt.
7. Denver’s Christmas Market
Located at Skyline Park, the family-friendly Christkindl Market is Denver’s version of the European Christmas Market and entry is free. Window shop where vendors from all over the world, including Germany, Ukraine, Ireland, and other countries, and local artisans offer hand-carved figurines, candles, ornaments and more for sale. Listen to traditional Christmas carols and live German music. Traditional German food and hot spiced wine are available for purchase.
8. Grand Illumination
Downtown Denver’s Grand Illumination lights up downtown each year. The streets of the city shine brightly when the switch is turned on from Denver Union Station to the City and County Building at Civic Center Park. The lights stay on through the end of December. Stick around to meet Santa and splurge with drinks at the Terminal Bar at Union Station.
9. Parade of Lights Weekend and Holiday Lights
Everyone loves a parade, and downtown Denver brings winter entertainment. Thousands of locals and travelers flock to downtown for a front-row seat to three Mile High parades in the winter. Begin with the best holiday displays during the 9NEWS Parade of Lights Weekend. This night parade features marching bands, ornate floats, and appearances by Major Waddles, the Penguin, and Santa.
Miss the parade? Take a walk or a drive around the Mile High City as its holiday lights, especially on the City and County Building, will bring a smile to kids of all ages.
10. New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Ring in the New Year with a Mile High bundle of fireworks and a mini-parade with magicians, costumed performers, balloon artists, and more entertainment at the annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. (Even on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find family-friendly things to do in Denver.)
11. National Western Stockshow & Rodeo Parade
Texas Longhorn cattle are driven through the streets of downtown every January during the annual Rodeo Parade during National Western Stockshow and Rodeo. This celebration of everything western brings cowboys and cowgirls, horses, marching bands, and floats, and horseback riders to welcome the kick-off of one of the world’s largest indoor rodeos, the National Western Stock Show each January in Denver.
12. Free Museum Days
From Denver’s Zoo to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the city of Denver offers multiple multiple free museum days in 2019. Here is a quick list:
- Free Days at the Denver Zoo: November 4, November 8
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science: November 17, December 8
- Denver Botanic Gardens: York Street: November 11 and Chatfield Location: November 5
- Clyfford Still Museum: November 2. December 18
- Denver Art Museum: Free first Saturdays – November 2, December 7, January 4, February 1, March 7
- Museo De Las Americas: Free cultural first Fridays are November 1, December 6, January 3, February 7, March 6
- Children’s Museum: Free first Tuesdays, play for free 4 pm to 8 pm on November 5, December 3, January 7, March 3
- Four Mile Historic Park: November 8, December 13, January 10, February 14, March 13
13. Free Walking Tours
Offered daily at 10 am, these free Denver walking tours start at the Civic Center Park and wind through downtown Denver, ending at Coors Field. These free daily tours are the perfect introduction to the city’s history, architecture, landmarks, and local businesses.
14. U.S. Mint Tour
When in Denver, one must-see stop is the U.S. Mint Tour and learn how to make money. On free guided 45-minute tours, discover how 50 million coins are produced each day ad stamped with a “D” for Denver.
15. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Marade
United marchers and parade fans assemble at Denver’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Marade.” The memorial parade begins at City Park and then marchers continue to Civic Center Park, with the final stop at the Colorado State Capitol Building.
16. St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Denver
The luck of the Irish will be with you when you attend downtown Denver’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, and join more than 200,000 parade fans for the largest St. Patty’s parade west of the Mississippi.
17. Hammond’s Candy Factory
Year-round the Hammond’s Candy Factory indulges your sweet tooth with free tours. Learn how lollipops, candy canes, and other Hammond’s treats are made.
18. Free Things to Do Outside of Denver
Downtown Denver is amazing, and the outskirts of the city also offer fun things to do. Embrace the holiday season in Cherry Creek during its annual and free Winterfest on Fillmore Plaza. The streets transform into a winter wonderland with live ice carving, temporary fire pits, face painting, complimentary refreshments, and giveaways.
Explore Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, an open-air amphitheater hosting world-famous musical acts, and experience this stunning geological wonder.
Just 20 minutes from downtown Denver, Golden is an old-west themed town that also celebrates the holidays with lights, parades and more. Be sure to include a free brewery tour at Coors Brewery.