While there may be no place like home, sometimes, it’s fun to do something a little different for the Christmas holidays. If you’re envisioning a Christmas vacation surrounded by a snowy winter wonderland with all sorts of things to see and do, including holiday-related activities, the Rocky Mountain State offers some of the best. These destinations in Colorado are particularly ideal for a magical escape you won’t soon forget.
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Cripple Creek, just west of Pike’s Peak is famous for its old-fashioned Christmas celebration that begins with the Gold Camp Christmas Holiday Headframe Lighting. There will be dazzling light displays throughout the area, and activities that take place all month long. Skate around the Christmas Tree, roast marshmallows on the open fire and sip hot cocoa or cider to ward off the chill. The Christmas Parade is a highlight with appearances from Santa, while the historic Butte Theater always puts on a fabulous melodrama for the season.
There are plenty of things to do in America’s highest elevation town: Leadville. Around the holidays, this Victorian city is pretty much guaranteed to be covered with a blanket of snow, which makes for great, affordable skiing at nearby Ski Cooper as well as picture-postcard scenes with all the twinkling lights and Mount Elbert in the background. Visitors can also watch Santa and Mrs. Claus travel down the main street followed by a parade of colorful floats accompanied by holiday music. Within the city’s 70-square-block downtown, designated a National Historic Landmark of Victorian Architecture, you’ll find many unique shops to pick up holiday gifts as well.
Durango is often named among Colorado’s top Christmas towns, which makes it impossible to leave this southwestern Colorado city off the list. Hop aboard the magical Polar Express train ride, hosted by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a journey to the “North Pole,” which brings the award-winning The Polar Express book and movie to life, complete with Santa, his elves and many of your favorite characters. Throughout December, the town is filled with festive music, holidays lights and puts on a variety of Christmas events. Just north of town at Purgatory Resort, you can enjoy snowboarding, skiing and other popular winter sports.
Breckenridge is a world-renowned ski town, and over the holidays it becomes one of the most magnificent Victorian-style Christmas towns. Look forward to sing-along carols while sipping hot cocoa paired at the mountainside Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, watching the Holiday Dog Parade for lots of four-legged adorableness, all in a scene that feels as if you’ve stepped into an old-fashioned holiday painting. It begins with the Lighting of Breckenridge on the first weekend in December, which includes the Race of the Santas, with hundreds of red-clad elves taking to the streets.
Christmas in Aspen pretty much guarantees a snowy holiday, with the famous mountain village hosting the 12 Days of Aspen over the final days of December. There are free activities every day during the event, including visits with Santa and his reindeer, carolers, hot cocoa and cookies, ice skating, live music and gift-making events. After dark, bundle up and take a stroll along the streets downtown and you’ll be mesmerized by the gorgeous holiday decor like festive wreaths and twinkling red, green and gold lights. Of course, nearby are the famous Aspen and Snowmass ski resorts.
Georgetown at Christmas feels like walking into a small town in the early 20th century, with its many historic buildings and old-fashioned holiday feel, complete with festive decor and colorful lights. Just an hour west of Denver, you’ll be able to shop for unique European Christmas items and more at the annual Historic Georgetown Christmas Market which features unique, hard-to-find gifts, indulge in chestnuts that were roasted on an open fire and ride through the streets on a vintage horse carriage. It all kicks off with the annual tree lighting on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, bringing visitors and locals who gather to visit Santa, sing holiday songs and sip hot chocolate around the bonfire.
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.
Telluride, one of the most beautiful ski towns in all of North America, becomes even more Spectacular over the holidays. This Victorian-era silver-mining community nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado features Victorian storefronts and frontier-era facades that are all decked out with holiday decor and offers a variety of events for Christmas as well. The Christmas Ski Tree Lighting & Ullr’s Ceremonial Ski Burn is especially popular with a massive “Ski Tree,” a retro construction made up of used skis donated by the Telluride community. The tree is lit up, then ceremoniously burned to honor the old Norse god Ullr, Patron Saint of Skiers. The town is transformed into the North Pole for the Holiday Prelude which brings Santa and his workshop, reindeer, ice skating, train rides, holiday movies and more.