As the malls start to fill and annual family traditions take over your weekends, it is time to start planning your holiday entertainment. Denver is filled with plenty of things to ring in the holiday season from music and theater to lights and even visits from the big man himself, Santa Claus. So as your visions turn to sugar plums, pick out one or two of these great ways to celebrate the holiday season in Denver this year. Or, try them all and make a bunch of new traditions for you and your whole family.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Lynne Ronk from Deckers sent in this photo taken at Denver Botanic Gardens in December 2010. (credit: CBS)

Blossoms of Light
Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York St.
Denver, CO 80206
(720) 865-3500

Dates: Nightly through January 1, 2013
Price: Tickets range from $7 to $12

Get lost in the magic and beauty that is the Denver Botanic Gardens during the holiday season. With more than one million lights filling every corner of the gardens, it is a truly romantic way to spend a crisp, cool Colorado night. Making a popular return this year is the HoloSpex glasses that bring the lights into a magical 3-D world. Of course, there will be plenty of hot cocoa, warm drinks and tasty treats available.

The Nutcracker
Colorado Ballet at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House
1101 13th St.
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 837-8888

Dates: Playing through December 24, 2012
Price: Tickets start at $28

Perhaps one of the longest-standing Colorado holiday traditions is the annual production of Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” For more than 50 years, Colorado Ballet has been wowing audiences of all ages with this timeless classic. The production is sure to amaze even the youngest of dance fans as “The Nutcracker” whisks them away with the magic and glitter that only the holiday season can provide. Featuring all of the classic choreography and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, this is one tradition that should definitely make it on the list for your family.

Related: 2012 Denver Holiday Theater Preview

Santa Claus Special
Colorado Railroad Museum
17155 W. 44th Ave.
Golden, CO 80403
(303) 279-4591

Dates: December 8, 15, 16 and 22 only
Price: Admission is $20 per family

Everyone knows that Santa travels by reindeer, but for just a few quick visits, Santa also likes to pay a visit to Colorado by train. Bring your kids to this very special event at the Colorado Railroad Museum where they will be able to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, plus enjoy plenty of hot cocoa and browse all of the trains and railroad-themed memorabilia. As tradition demands, your kids can download their letter to Santa from the website and bring it to the event. Their special letter will be sent off at the Museum’s authentic Railroad Post Office, open just for the holidays. Once the letter is mailed, your kids will receive a commemorative Rail Card to remember the occasion. There are only four times when Santa has time to visit, so be sure to catch him while he’s here.

Colorado Christmas
Boettcher Concert Hall
1000 14th St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 623-7876

Dates: December 7, 8, and 9
Price: Tickets start at $25

For 27 years, the Colorado Symphony has joined forces with the Colorado Children’s Chorale and the Colorado Symphony Chorus to bring one of the most spectacular treats of the season. A musical celebration that brings the rich holiday traditions to the Boettcher Concert Hall, this annual treat is a must for the whole family. Sit back and get transported to a world of mistletoe and holly as these talented musicians entertain you with all of the traditional songs performed in a way that only they can do. This classic is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season.

Related: Top Spots for Winter Fun in and Around Denver

16th Street Mall Holiday Lights
1001 16th St.
Denver, CO 80265
(303) 534-6161

Dates: Nightly through January, 2013

There is nothing more stunning than downtown Denver during the holidays, and everyone simply must spend an evening wandering the 16th Street Mall at Christmas time. The mall is decorated by more than one million sparkling lights and a 22-foot-tall tree choreographed to holiday music. All of the major buildings in the downtown area are also decorated for the season including the historic D & F Tower. There are always different events happening every weekend including carolers and other musical treats, plus you can catch a horse-drawn carriage to take you on the mile-long trip down the mall. It is the most romantic way to spend the evening with your sweetie.

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at