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6 Unique and Special Ways to Spend Christmas in Colorado

Horses pulling a sleigh in the snow

From decorating cookies and cutting down your own Christmas tree to holiday movies on repeat and last-minute local shopping, Christmas in Colorado is brimming with tradition.

2020 has been anything but traditional, however, and many people want to switch things up. Maybe your holiday plans changed due to the pandemic or you’re just looking to try something new this year. Either way, there are several unique, memorable ways to spend Christmas in Colorado.

1. Spend Christmas in Colorado at the North Pole

The North Pole in Colorado Springs
Photo courtesy of @northpolecolorado

How could we not start our list with the North Pole? Colorado Springs has a ton to offer, but the North Pole is easily one of the most unique.

Nestled into the base of Pikes Peak at 7,500 feet elevation, the North Pole features rides, a zip line, an arcade, several gift shops, and of course, visits with Santa himself — can you think of anything more “Christmas in Colorado” than that? The North Pole is open daily from 9:30-4:30 through Christmas Eve and visitors must purchase tickets in advance.

2. Ride ice bumper cars

No, that’s not a typo: ice bumper cars. Christmas at Gaylord Rockies in Aurora came up with this fun and clever twist on the classic amusement park ride, and it’s every bit as epic as it sounds.

The resort is a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas in Colorado in general, as the ice bumper cars are just one of many family-friendly holiday activities. Check out ice tubing, gingerbread house decorating, a massive, immersive walk-through holiday movie experience, and more. All activities are open to the public and run through January 3rd, 2021. Advance ticket purchase is required.

3. Hike, ski, or snowshoe to dinner

Why not spend Christmas in Colorado having dinner in the backcountry? Tucked into the forest near Leadville lies a hidden gem called the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse. It’s one of just a handful of restaurants in the country that’s not accessible by car, which means getting there takes some effort.

From the parking lot of the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, visitors hike, snowshoe, or ski the one mile to the cookhouse. The experience and ambiance alone are worth the trek, but the four-course dinner is almost unreasonably good. After devouring entrees like elk tenderloin with smoked blueberries or Colorado rack of lamb with fresh mint chimichurri, you’ll be thankful you have the trip back.

Tennessee Pass Cookhouse is open daily including Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, but reservations are required.

4. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride

Horses pulling a sleigh in the snowPart of what makes Christmas in Colorado so magical is that the natural scenery is so spectacular. It’s quite literally a winter wonderland. Add to that a horse-drawn sleigh ride and you have something straight out of a fairytale.

You’ll find sleigh rides in every corner of the state, but we have a few favorites. Steamboat Springs’ Saddleback Ranch offers dinner sleigh rides followed by roping lessons and even dancing. Two Below Zero in Frisco provides both scenic and dinner rides in one of the most picturesque areas of the state, near Breckenridge and Dillon. Finally, Buck’s Livery just north of Durango even includes a stop for cocktails with its horse-drawn sleigh rides.

5. Board the Polar Express

Nothing says Christmas in Colorado quite like a scenic train ride through the mountains. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad hosts the Polar Express train ride each winter, recreating the iconic holiday story.

The Polar Express runs from Durango to the North Pole (AKA Silverton, one of the most historically significant Colorado mining towns). It features singalongs, elves, real reindeer, warm cookies and hot cocoa, and photos with Santa. In addition to the Polar Express, the D&SNGRR runs the Cascade Canyon Winter Train. While it isn’t technically holiday-themed, it is just as spectacular and quintessentially Christmas in Colorado.

6. Volunteer your time

Rounding out our list of unique ways to spend Christmas in Colorado, we have some volunteer opportunities across the state. There are dozens of great reasons to volunteer, and this year help is needed more than ever before. Fewer people are volunteering and donating, and more people need assistance.

The Denver Rescue Mission helps Colorado’s homeless, primarily by serving hot meals and hosting clothing banks. They need volunteers to hand out meals in both Denver and Fort Collins, including on Christmas Eve.

In Colorado Springs, COS I Love You partnered with El Paso County Health to coordinate hand-written letters to isolated residents of long-term care facilities, as well as grocery delivery for people most susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.

If you’re an animal lover, consider volunteering your time or donating to the Colorado Pet Pantry. The organization distributes pet food at 65 locations throughout the state, with the goal of easing the burden on families and keeping animals out of shelters. They need people to staff the distribution centers, as well as cash and pet food donations.

We want to hear about you’re spending Christmas in Colorado this year! Tag us in your photos @riverbeatscolorado and let us know. From the River Beats family to yours, stay safe and happy holidays!

From the River Beats Colorado team: 2020 has been a very challenging time for travel, adventure, and events around our state. While we’re aware these uncertain times may limit many aspects of life, we hope our editorials provide helpful tips while ensuring safe social and physical distancing

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