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9Things to do in Denver & Colorado this Thanksgiving 2021 weekend

9Things to do in Denver & Colorado this Thanksgiving 2021 weekend

Colorado celebrates Thanksgiving and welcomes the holiday season with lightings, parades, The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol.

COLORADO, USA — Happy Thanksgiving, Colorado!

Before and after you enjoy the turkey this weekend, consider one of these fun Thanksgiving and holiday season events in all corners of the state.

Before the turkey day runs and walks, the Mile High City will welcome the holiday season with the annual lighting of the Denver City and County Building. Colorado holiday season traditions beginning this weekend include The Nutcracker, Blossom of Light, Hudson Christmas, Zoo Lights, Union Station’s Grand Illumination and more.

Kick off the holiday season right by experiencing the unique culture, food and geography that make the Centennial State special at one of these parades, festivals, lightings and happenings this weekend.

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DENVER — For the better part of a century, Coloradans have gathered outside Denver’s City and County building for a celebration kicking off the holiday season. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will kick off the City & County Building’s holiday festivities on Wednesday, Nov. 24, flipping the switch to turn the building into a festive scene for the whole season. The interactive holiday show will play twice per night at 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. through Jan. 23, 2022 and the National Western Stock Show.

DENVER — The 48th annual Mile High United Way Turkey Trot takes place Thanksgiving Day at Denver’s Washington Park. The trot is a four-mile run/walk with proceeds supporting the Mile High United Way. Opening ceremonies begin at 8:45 a.m. Registration can be completed at UnitedWayDenver.org.

CASTLE ROCK — Castle Rock’s Thanksgiving morning tradition returns Thursday. The 17th annual Turkey ROCK Trot is a 5K family run/walk/stroll perfect for the serious runner or the whole family. The 5K event begins in waves at 9 a.m. at the Douglas County Event Center. The free 1K Kids Dash starts at 8:30 a.m. The Turkey ROCK Trot Health and Wellness Expo opens at 7:30 a.m. Thursday with health and wellness vendors, giveaways, bounce house, face painting, balloon twisting and flapjacks. For race registration, visit TurkeyROCKTrot.com.

DENVER — The 7th annual Stanley Harvesting Hope 5K arrives Thanksgiving morning at Denver’s Central Park. The event features a 5K and a kid’s fun run. Dogs, strollers, wheelchairs are all welcome along the race’s paved course. All of the event’s proceeds are donated to the non-profit Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. You can register at HarvestingHope5K.com.

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Briargate YMCA in Colorado Springs is hosting its 24th annual Turkey Trot 5K and Kids’ Tiny Trot on Thanksgiving morning. The runs serve as a fundraiser for the YMCA and its many programs. The free kids’ run starts at 8:15 a.m. and the Turkey Trot follows at 9 a.m. You can register for the Trot at PPYMCA.org.

LITTLETON — The Gobble Wobble is a 5K race at Littleton’s Clement Park. The run/walk is open to serious athletes, aspiring runnersfamilies and children alike. The 12th annual Gobble Wobble begins just south of the new big playground near the Columbine Library at 8:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. Registration is available at GobbleWobbleRun.org.

FRISCO — The 8th annual Turkey Day 5K takes place in Frisco on Thanksgiving morning. The event is open to all ages and takes place on the Summit County Recreation Path and Town of Frisco side streets. The race begins Thursday at 9:30 a.m. starting at the old Community Center. The event will sell out so register soon at TownofFrisco.com.

> Have an event tip? Send it here.  

ESTES PARK — Estes Park will kick off the holiday season with its annual Catch the Glow Parade and Celebration. The lighted parade steps off Friday at 5:30 p.m. and runs the length of Elkhorn Ave. with marching bands playing holiday tunes, dancers with twinkly lights and terrific floats.

GREELEY — The 24th annual Greeley Lights the Lights Night Holiday Parade and Grand Lighting Ceremony takes place Saturday starting at 5:30 p.m. on 9th Avenue from 15th Street to Lincoln Park. The free parade and the lighting ceremony serve as the official holiday kick-off for the City of Greeley and surrounding areas.

SALIDA — Salida holds its annual Parade of Lights starting at 6 p.m. Friday. Salida will be transformed into Christmas Town following the parade with the lighting of “the world’s largest Christmas tree” — a 4,500-bulb string of lights on Tenderfoot Mountain shaped into a Christmas tree. The huge holiday symbol, which can be seen over the Arkansas River Valley for miles, will be lit through the New Year.

PUEBLO — The 31st annual Pueblo Parade of Lights marks the start of the Christmas season in southern Colorado. One of the largest Christmas parades in Colorado, the parade features brightly-colored floats, school marching bands, drill teams, saddle club horses, classic cars lined with lights and much more. The Pueblo Parade of Lights steps off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday from the Mesa Junction down Union Avenue to Main Street and then 6th and Court. The 2021 parade theme is “Toyland.” 

DENVER — The Colorado Ballet’s 60th production of The Nutcracker returns this holiday season for 26 stunning performances at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The Colorado Ballet’s production has been one of Denver’s most popular holiday traditions for decades. With a story that sparks the imagination of audiences young and old, The Nutcracker showcases exceptional dancers as well as Tchaikovsky’s beloved score performed by Colorado Ballet Orchestra.

This year’s production features new costumes and new sets created especially for Colorado Ballet. The Nutcracker opens Friday and plays through Thursday, Dec. 24. Performances sell out each year, so get your tickets early at ColoradoBallet.org.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs’ only professional performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker will play this weekend only at the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic production features the Oklahoma City Ballet and Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale. Five performances of The Nutcracker are scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday in downtown Colorado Springs. Grab your tickets at CSPhilharmonic.org.

DENVER — Denver Union Station’s Grand Illumination will be grander than ever in 2021. The free holiday celebration on Friday includes the grand lighting of the station and the 40-foot outdoor Christmas tree. There will be a vintage holiday performance by the Denver Dolls, the Sound of the Rockies and an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Entertainment runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

PARKER — The Town of Parker is excited to welcome in the holiday season with its annual Mayor’s Holiday Lighting on Friday. The Mayor and Parker Chorale will lead a sing-along to Silent Night to kick off the event, followed by the Town Tree and Grand Park Lighting. After the lighting at O’Brien Park, guests are encouraged to enjoy the sights of ice sculpture displays, holiday characters, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus and holiday food vendors. Live entertainment includes the Parker Chorale, local high school choirs and Colorado School of Dance. The event begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 7 p.m. 

PHOTOSMayor’s Holiday Lighting in Parker

LONGMONT — Friday’s Tree Lighting Ceremony will officially kick off the holidays in downtown Longmont. The 6:30 p.m. ceremony will have caroling and holiday sing-along, crafts, snacks, warm drinks, goodie bags and an appearance by Kris Kringle before culminating with the lighting of the big tree at the 6th Street Plaza.

MONTROSE — The historic Montrose County Courthouse is the site of the annual Tree Lighting on Friday. The event will have Christmas carolers and hot cocoa. “Letters to Santa” begins with Santa’s Mailbox located at Santa’s Cabin in the 500 Block of East Main Street.

LITTLETON — The 37th annual Littleton Candlelight Walk and Tree Lighting takes place Friday in historic downtown Littleton. The walk offers free hot cider, holiday entertainment, a parade down Main Street, live reindeer and a visit from Santa. Festivities start at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Santa will cap the evening with the lighting of the giant tree in Bowles Plaza at the west end of Main Street.

GRAND LAKE — Grand Lake’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held Friday at Town Park. Grand Lake will ring in the holiday season with festive carols, warm fire pits, hand-crafted cookies, hot cocoa and a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday.

BEAVER CREEK — The 41st annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday kicks off the holiday ski season at Beaver Creek. There will be live music, an ice-skating show, photographs with Santa and the lighting of the tree in Beaver Creek Village.

KEYSTONE — Keystone’s 9th annual Holiday Tree Lighting and Winter Carnival offers cookies, hot chocolate, a visit from Santa Claus, holiday tree lighting and more. Warren Station will have hot toddies, cocoa, letters to Santa and a winter carnival photo booth from 3 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Saturday leading up the 5:15 p.m. tree lighting in the River Run Village. The holiday festivities are free.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — One of Colorado’s most historic hotels is ready for the holidays. Hotel Colorado will have live Christmas music and entertainment all day Friday leading up to its 31st annual lighting ceremony and firework show. The free celebration includes musical entertainment, visits with Santa Claus, ice carving, photo booth and more. More than half a million Christmas lights will be turned on simultaneously followed by a firework show from the top of the hotel.

FRISCO — Frisco’s Wassail Days kicks off Saturday before continuing to Sunday, Dec. 5. Frisco businesses will be serving special wassail recipes during the event while visitors try to fill up their “12 Sips of Wassail” card. The festival begins with the Frisco Holiday Lighting at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Frisco Historic Park Gazebo. The lighting includes hot cider, hot mulled wine, cookies and s’mores kits.

LITTLETON — A Hudson Christmas is an outdoor festival of Christmas lights at Hudson Gardens that is sure to brighten your holiday spirit. Back after two long years, the garden’s woods are transformed into a winter wonderland of brightly lit trees set against the night sky, reflecting off bodies of water. With friends and family, hot chocolate, tasty treats and photo opportunities, A Hudson Christmas is a must-see Colorado tradition. A Hudson Christmas will be open weekends beginning Friday and select dates through Christmas. Tickets can be found at HudsonGardens.org.

LITTLETON — Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms will be transformed into a glistening path of lights starting this Friday. The Trail of Lights holiday experience offers singing Christmas trees, synchronized music in a children’s play area, light tunnels, model tractor displays, hot beverages, nuts, kettle corn and more. Trail of Lights at Chatfield Farms will be open various evenings through Sunday, Jan 2. Tickets are sold at BotanicGardens.org.

GREELEY — The 32nd annual Festival of Trees returns this weekend with the Union Colony Civic Center lobby being turned into a true winter wonderland. The festival features beautifully-crafted trees, each decorated in their own unique theme and style, all vying for prizes. The nine-day Festival of Trees, which opens Friday and runs through Saturday, Dec. 4, also offers visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, carriage rides, entertainment and more. Check out the full Festival of Trees schedule at GreeleyGov.com.

DENVER —  The Denver Zoo will light more than two million lights for its 31st annual Zoo Lights celebration. Zoo Lights will span 80 acres and with new installations and offerings as well as returning favorites including nightly ice-carving demonstrations. The zoo said outdoor animal viewing during Zoo Lights is limited to cold-weather species such as Amur tiger, Bactrian camel, Przewaskli’s horse and most of our pachyderms, however the Tropical Discovery building will be open, offering access to 1,800 animals — including fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, capybaras and sloths.

Zoo Lights takes place Monday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Jan. 2 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Zoo Lights will be closed on Christmas, Saturday, Dec. 25. Denver Zoo officials said Zoo Lights tickets sell out each year. The zoo encourages folks to book tickets online in advance to secure a spot.

PUEBLO — ElectriCritters will be delighting kids of all ages for a 28th year at the Pueblo Zoo. The 2021 event opens the day after Thanksgiving and continues through Sunday, Dec. 26. The Pueblo Zoo tradition features 150 magical light creations, hot cocoa, tasty treats and holiday shopping plus free photos with Santa Claus on Dec. 19, Dec. 20 and Dec. 21. Visit PuebloZoo.org for tickets.

LOVELAND — The Rocky Mountain Train Show will be steaming in to Loveland at The Ranch Events Complex at the Larimer County Fairgrounds this Saturday and Sunday. Perfect for families and train enthusiasts alike, this year’s event covers over 36,000 square feet in the North and South Exhibit Halls and will showcase operating layouts, LEGOs, numerous activities for kids and more. There will be 15 operating train layouts of different scales and sizes and over 200 tables of vendors selling trains, books, paints, scenery material and everything you might need to set up your own spectacular model train. The Rocky Mountain Train Show is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the show or at RockyMountainTrainShow.com.

GOLDEN — The newest production from the Miners Alley Playhouse opens Friday in Golden. This hilarious and face-paced production of A Christmas Carol uses five actors to bring Dickens’ beloved characters to life. The Josh Hartwell adaptation uses nothing more than simple props, fun physicality, and the power of imagination to tell the classic story of redemption. Miners Alley Playhouses’ A Christmas Carol has performances scheduled through Thursday, Dec. 23. Tickets can be found at MinersAlley.com or by phone at 303-935-3044.

LONGMONT — Longmont Theatre Company opens its new comedy this long holiday weekend. A Tuna Christmas, is a Christmas comedy set in the third-smallest town in Texas. Two actors play all the crazy citizens of Tuna, Texas, as they prepare for the town’s annual Christmas festivities. A Tuna Christmas runs through Sunday, Dec. 5. You can reserve your tickets at LongmontTheatre.org. Masks and proof of vaccination are required for everyone entering the theatre.

CREEDE — Chocolate lovers, rejoice! The two-day Creede Chocolate Festival runs Friday and Saturday with business owners showcasing all things chocolate. Wildly unique samples range from tiramisu, tortes and chocolate-covered pretzels, to jalapeno bean fudge and chocolate-dipped bacon. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will also be found around town during the holiday shopping weekend.

DENVER — The RiNo Holiday Bazaar is set for Saturday and Sunday at Zepplin Station. The outdoor market offers more than 100 craft vendors, fashion trucks, food trucks, holiday-themed cocktails, live entertainment and more.

DENVER — More than 100 talented vendors will be on hand for this weekend’s Horseshoe Holiday Market. The award-winning market will be held at the former Salvation Army campus in Globeville at 4751 North Broadway. The market runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

AURORA — More than 100 crafters and vendors will be at this unique and upscale fair at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. With shopping for the entire family, Fall Frenzy & Holiday Fair admission is $3 and parking is free.

RELATED: Visit these holiday markets to find unique gifts this Christmas

ARVADA — Olde Town will be hosting its first-ever Holiday Makers Market this year. The market will begin on Friday, Nov. 26 and run each weekend through Dec. 19. This event was first published by Mile High on the Cheap. For more local deals and discounts, visit MileHighontheCheap.com.

DENVER — The 21st annual Denver Christkindl Market is open daily through Thursday, Dec. 23 at the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park. The Denver Christkindlmarket recreates the joy of strolling a European village square during the holidays.

Guests to the market can savor the season while enjoying authentic Glühwein (mulled spiced wine) and European drinks while shopping for unique artisan gifts and holiday treats sold by local Coloradoan, European, and international merchants in wooden huts. Daily entertainment will also take place at the Greek Amphitheater Stage including German polka music, German traditional dancers, holiday hymns in multiple languages, accordion and blue grass music, high school bands and more.

RELATED: Christkindl Market returns to downtown Denver

DENVER — The Colorado Symphony and special guest vocalist Crystal Monee Hall are teaming for a concert celebrating Etta James’ iconic album “At Last.” Featuring guest conductor Scott O’Neil, this world premiere performance is being created and presented in collaboration with the Etta James Estate and Crystal Monee Hall. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall. Tickets are sold at ColoradoSymphony.org.

DENVER — The virtuoso percussionists of the Colorado Symphony will be using marimba, bongos, bass drums, woodblocks, log drums, boo-bams, Chinese cymbals, metal trash cans, darabukkas, talking drums, plastic pipe, acoustic guitar, toy trumpet, table spoons, Burma gongs, water can, crow call, tambourine, gankogui, and sleigh bells at this weekend’s performance of Drums of the World. The performance begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Boettcher Concert Hall. Reserve your tickets at ColoradoSymphony.org.

DENVER — After their bye week, the Denver Broncos are back, well-rested and ready to take on the Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos (5-5) and Chargers kick off at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High. Some tickets are available via resale at Ticketmaster.com.

FORT COLLINS — The Colorado State Rams football team plays its final game of the 2021 season this weekend. The Rams (3-8) hope to end a five-game losing streak when they host the Nevada Wolf Pack (7-4) at Canvas Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. for CSU’s Senior Day.

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Air Force Falcons football team concludes the 2021 regular season with a post-Thanksgiving game against UNLV. The Military Appreciation game between the Falcons (8-3) and Rebels (2-9) kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

DENVER — The Denver Nuggets have a game scheduled for Black Friday at Ball Arena. The Nuggets host the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. Friday night. Tickets for the Nuggets are sold through Ticketmaster.com.

DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche return to Denver this weekend to take on the Nashville Predators. The Avs and Preds play Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Ball Arena in downtown Denver. Ticketmaster.com is the official ticket source of the Colorado Avalanche.

LOVELAND — The Colorado Eagles, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, play two games this holiday weekend at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. The Eagles skate with the Stockton Heat at 7:05 p.m. Friday and 3:05 p.m. Saturday. Reserve your seats at ColoradoEagles.com.

Movies this weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is a perfect weekend to catch a movie with the family. There’s plenty of new movies playing at theaters this weekend. Disney’s newest animated flick “Encanto” opens Wednesday along Lady Gaga’s “House of Gucci” and a new entry in the “Resident Evil” franchise.

Other movies playing include “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Eternals,” “Dune,” “Spencer,” “King Richard,” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

Opening this weekend

  • Encanto
  • House of Gucci
  • Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

DENVER — Colorado’s largest production of A Christmas Carol has reopened this holiday season at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, the Denver musical adaptation traces curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption.

A Christmas Carol was last performed by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) Theatre Company in 2018. The production was paused in 2019 for theater renovations and was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

A Christmas Carol will play the newly-renovated Wolf Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex through Saturday, Dec. 26. Tickets are on sale now at DenverCenter.org starting at $30.

RELATED: ‘A Christmas Carol’ returns after 3-year absence

AURORA — A brand-new Christmas experience is open at Gaylord Rockies this holiday season. Mission: Save Christmas featuring Elf will be open at the Aurora hotel resort and convention center through Sunday, Jan. 2. The new, all-ages multisensory marquee experience lets guests join Buddy the Elf in answering the call from Santa to help muster enough Christmas cheer to help Santa’s sleigh fly. Overnight packages and event tickets can be purchased at ChristmasatGaylordRockies.com. Advance online reservations are required for all ticketed events.

RELATED: New ‘Elf’ holiday experience coming to Gaylord Rockies 

AURORA — Gaylord Rockies’ family holiday show Cirque Dreams Holidaze — which last played at the Bubly theater at Gaylord Rockies in 2019 — is back this holiday season. A cirque adventure and Broadway-style musical wrapped into one family-friendly holiday show, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is a celebration of toy soldiers, snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread, penguins, holiday characters and Santa. The show features more than 300 dazzling costumes and world-class aerialists, singers and dancers. The show plays through Sunday, Jan. 2.

RELATED: ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ returns to Gaylord Rockies

LAKEWOOD — Guests can journey through Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ biggest holiday experience ever at Camp Christmas. New this year, the experience will be an outdoor/indoor extravaganza at Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, featuring artist Lonnie Hanzon’s fantastical wonderland of lights, dazzling decorations, music and memorabilia in various yuletide scenes across a six-acre landscape. Camp Christmas runs through Sunday, Jan. 2. Get your tickets at DenverCenter.org.

DENVER — The Mile High Tree, a seven-story tall, 39-foot diameter conical structure will once again feature dynamic light shows choreographed to multi-cultural holiday music on the tallest pixel LED technology tree in the country. The giant tree will appear for a second-straight year on the 16th Street Mall at Welton Street. The Mile High Tree will be lit up nightly through Saturday, Jan. 1 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Entry to see the tree is free and open to the public.

RELATED: America’s tallest digital tree returning to Denver

Would you like to see your favorite Colorado festival, fair, expo, concert, drama, musical, ballet, run or event listed in 9Things? Send it to alexander.kirk@9news.com. 

Have a thankful weekend! 

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the holidays in Colorado

RELATED: Ice-skating rink returning to downtown Denver

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