Colorado looks good no matter what time of year you catch her, but she really shines during the holidays — how Hollywood and Hallmark created the perfect set for a feel-good Christmas movie and transported it to our backyards.
One of the few perks of an earlier sunset is more time to enjoy the region’s seasonal man-made spectacles, from professional light shows that you can enjoy on foot or from your car (while sipping cocoa) to sparkling ones Adventures where someone else does the driving.
Here’s a recap of the Christmas Lights events and train travel starting this month for those who want to get in the mood (and tickets):
Friday-Jan 1: Magic of Lights – Drive-Through Christmas Lights at Pikes Peak International Raceway, 16650 Midway Ranch Rd, Fountain.
More than a mile of animated lights and dozens of displays, including life-size dinosaurs. The 10-foot-tall Barbie doll and oversized Bigfoot monster truck welcome cruisers to the seasonally dazzling racetrack south of Springs. Nightly shows begin on Friday and continue through New Year’s Day.
Friday-Dec 31: Santa Express Train and Holiday Rides — Royal Gorge Route Railroad, 401 Water St., Canyon City.
A senior engineer and Santa Claus take the controls of the historic railroad’s Santa Express Train, which this year chugs to the North Pole and back in a newly rebuilt and refurbished 1969 locomotive. The Railroad’s Holiday Train taps into the same spirit, sans Santa, with a tour of the Royal Gorge in decorated railcars.
Friday-Nov 27th, 1st-4th, 8th-11th and 15.-31. December: Bridge of Lights Christmas Drive-Thru — Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, 4218 Colorado Road 3A, Canyon City.
The Royal Gorge Bridge launches its first light event, beginning Friday and lasting (mostly continuously) through New Year’s Eve. Visitors can check out the lighted park, then roll onto a lighted America’s Bridge for sweeping views of the night canyon and the moonlit Arkansas River nearly 1,000 feet below.
Friday-Jan 1: The Polar Express Train Ride — Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, 479 Main Ave., Durango.
From America’s Bridge to America’s Railroad, for a themed ride on a vintage steam train inspired by the classic Christmas books and movies. Riders of all ages get an immersive experience of chef-created hot chocolates, treats and more as they head to the North Pole to meet Santa and see a light show set to festive tunes.
Friday-Jan 7: Blossoms of Light — Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St., Denver.
More than 1 million eco-conscious LED lights transform the Gardens location on York Street into a “glistening winter wonderland filled with Christmas flowers,” an annual extravaganza that has been cultivating the seasonal spirit in the Mile High City since the ’80s.
Nov 25-Nov 2 Jan 1: Light trails – Chatfield Farms by Denver Botanic Gardens, 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton.
Stroll along a winding path lined with lights in the Colorado countryside on a tour of this vast historic estate that has been transformed into a shimmering garden of delights. The one-mile route winds through the former Hildebrand Ranch to the 1880’s homestead and children’s playground converted into a Christmas village.
Nov 25-Nov 2 Jan 1: Luminova Holidays — Elitch Gardens, 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver.
This second annual theme park festival of lights in downtown Denver features millions of lightbulbs scattered across 200,000 square feet of “immersive outdoor entertainment” with a 65-foot Christmas tree, 300-foot candy cane tunnel and ornate rides.
26 Nov – 1 Jan 14: Holiday Headframe Lights — Various places, Victor and Cripple Creek
Beginning at sunset on the 26th, drivers can take a self-guided tour of “the largest gold camp in US history” and the site of the last great American mining boom in the 1890s. Download a free map for directions to the city’s historic headframes – towers built over mine shafts – many of which are adorned with giant illuminated decorations to celebrate the season. The displays are illuminated on weekend evenings from November 26th to January 1st. 14, and every night on Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day.
Info and map: visitcripplecreek.com/event
28 November: Broadmoor Lighting Ceremony – The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 5:00 p.m., Broadmoor kicks into high gear with special music performances, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the flick of a switch. Check out the outside spectacle, then head inside for more holiday inspiration and exhibits, including a giant gingerbread sculpture that will remain until New Year’s Day. This year’s design remains under wraps until its debut, but last year the resort’s pastry chefs created a 10-foot-tall gingerbread castle.