K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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One of the most wonderful times of the year is especially unforgettable in Colorado, with a wealth of picturesque towns made even prettier with a blanket of snow and dazzling lights. If you’re looking for an ideal Christmas town to discover in the Rocky Mountain state, be sure to put one or more of these on your itinerary.
This Victorian mining town is just an hour west of Denver in the Rockies and is a place where visitors experience Christmas cheer all year round at multiple shops, like Shoppe Internationale, where they sell unique European Christmas items. But during the holiday season, it really goes all out – you can experience those quintessential things like chestnuts roasting on an open fire and vintage horse carriage rides, along with the annual Historic Georgetown Christmas Market, which features unique, hard-to-find gifts. It all begins with the annual tree lighting, where locals and visitors alike gather for holiday songs, visit Santa, and sip hot chocolate around the bonfire.
This internationally renowned ski town is transformed into a magnificent Victorian-style Christmas town during the holidays. It kicks off with the Lighting of Breckenridge on the first weekend in December, which includes the Race of the Santas – an event in which hundreds of supersized red-clad elves take to the streets, all just as ski season gets into high gear. Throughout the season, you can enjoy carriage rides, loads of shopping opportunities, delicious holiday treats, and the chance to feel as if you’ve stepped into an old-fashioned holiday painting. If you’re still here for New Year’s Eve, you’ll get to watch the torchlight parade make its way down the mountain, followed by a fireworks display.
Durango has been named among the top Christmas towns in the entire country, which surely makes it one of the best in the state to experience a dazzling array of holiday delights. This is the time of year when its famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad features the Polar Express train ride, one of the most memorable ways to celebrate the season. Plus, throughout the month of December, the town is filled with festive music and dazzling lights and offers a host of Christmas events. Just north of town is Purgatory Resort, offering outstanding skiing and a host of other winter activities.
Telluride is often called the most beautiful ski town in all of North America as a Victorian-era silver-mining community nestled deep in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains. In the winter, it’s an even more idyllic destination in the U.S., with the Victorian storefronts and frontier-era facades all decked out with holiday decor. Of course, while you’re here, you should really take advantage of its secluded, serene ski resort, which is known for its uncrowded trails and fantastic terrain. In addition to the slopes, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing on guided hikes, free mountain tours along with plenty of shopping and dining options.
Aspen at Christmas is truly wondrous. Join in with the locals for the annual Tree Lighting ceremony at The Little Nell, which features free hot chocolate and cookies, carolers, Santa and live reindeer. During the city’s 12 days of Aspen Christmas celebration, you’ll find a wide range of activities to participate in, in addition to the world-famous slopes. Design your own Christmas ornament, enjoy holiday concerts, theater and apres ski drink specials, Victorian caroling, and free ice skating, as well as a host of shops and restaurants.
Cripple Creek is a popular destination for those who want to test their luck at the casinos or get a taste of history and the Old West. During the holidays, you can experience all of this with a Christmas twist. The historic Butte Theater features melodrama with a holiday theme, and the town’s historic buildings are dressed to the nines with festive lights. Experience the nightly Gold Camp Christmas Holiday Headframe Lighting and the Winter Wonderland every weekend at the Cripple Creek District Museum. There’s a Christmas parade with appearances from Santa, activities for kids, s’mores and marshmallows roasting on an open fire, and free hot chocolate and cider during the Gold Camp Christmas Weekend.
The holiday festivities begin in Ouray at Thanksgiving with a seven-week Winterfest celebration. This town, nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, is often referred to as the “Switzerland of America,” surrounded by dramatic peaks and renowned for its ice climbing, hosting the world’s first ice climbing park. The Main Street really comes to life during the season, with the grand Victorian and old western mining town-style buildings all decked out with sparkling lights and festive decor. Every weekend during Winterfest, a different event is hosted to celebrate the season, from ice skating and sledding to the Yule Day Celebration. Visitors can also enjoy soaking in the soothing mineral springs surrounded by the wintry landscape.
Steamboat Springs is another world-famous ski town, but it offers a whole lot more during the winter. The Steamboat Holiday Festival offers the chance to watch Santa himself ride down the slopes on horseback, and visitors can meet him at his workshop, along with his reindeer friends. There are holiday concerts, cookie decorating, a torchlight parade, and fireworks. Visitors can also enjoy snowshoeing, hot air balloon rides, soaking in hot springs and more.
The highest incorporated city at over 10,000 feet in the heart of the Rockies, Leadville is stunning all year round, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, but under a blanket of snow, it’s especially breathtaking. Visitors can also enjoy the Parade of Lights, complete with appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Claus, as well as free cookies and hot cocoa. Ski Cooper is just a short drive from town and is considered one of the state’s top affordable, crowd-free ski resorts, and visitors can also join dog-sledding tours and whizzing down the Dutch Henry Tubing Hill.
In Estes Park, the eastern gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, you can “Catch the Glow” at this year’s Christmas parade and celebration. This picturesque town that enjoys a stunning backdrop of the Rockies hosts holiday events every weekend from mid-November through New Year’s Eve. It starts with the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and includes a lighted Christmas parade on Thanksgiving weekend, as well as a holiday pub crawl to Breakfast with Santa. Shop for gifts at the locally-owned boutiques and embark on the Yuletide Lights Driving Tour to marvel at the festively decorated houses and businesses. When you want to get more active, this is a wonderful time for snowshoeing in the national park.