After your out-of-town guests have finished the pumpkin pie and the rest of the Thanksgiving feast, you’re facing the next challenge—how to keep them amused and entertained for the rest of the long weekend. Head outside for festive events and genuine adventures in Colorado’s great outdoors. It’s why you live here and definitely why they’re visiting. Here are six of the best things to do for Thanksgiving weekend in Colorado this year.
1. Colorado’s Best Holiday Lights
Checking out the holiday season’s lights is a perfect family-friendly thing to do to get into the winter spirit. Downtown Denver’s spectacular Grand Illumination happens the day after Thanksgiving, with holiday lights along the 16th Street Mall and from Union Station to Civic Center Park. Other gorgeous Denver area light displays are at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Zoo, Lakewood Heritage Center, and Butterfly Pavilion. In Colorado Springs, watch the annual Festival of Lights Parade through downtown, and then head up to Seven Falls for a colored extravaganza lighting the falls. Other glowing Colorado light displays include the Night of Lights in Gunnison and the Catch the Glow parade in Estes Park.
2. Ski Colorado
The best way for the family to burn off those turkey dinner and pumpkin pie calories is to hit the slopes for early season turns. Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional start of Colorado’s ski season, and most of the resorts have turned on the snowmaking equipment so the lifts are running. Snow conditions vary, so check websites to see who’s open. Summit County is usually best early season option, including Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin. Others that plan to be open are Steamboat, Winter Park, Vail, Aspen, Crested Butte, and Purgatory.
3. Take a Scenic Drive
After Turkey Day, pack up the car and head for the hills to show the out-of-towners the real Colorado. There’s plenty of spectacular scenic drives threading the high country, offering mountain views, hiking trails, rushing rivers, skyscraper mountains, and picturesque high country towns. The best Front Range drives include the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway from Nederland to Estes Park; the Highway of Legends from Trinidad to La Veta; the rugged Gold Belt Tour, making a loop from Cañon City to Cripple Creek; and the Pikes Peak Highway, if it’s open. Best Thanksgiving drives in western Colorado are Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument; Los Caminos Antiguos in the San Luis Valley; and Trail of the Ancients near Cortez.
4. Hike a State Park
Take a post-Thanksgiving hike at one of Colorado’s 41 state parks. For Denver and northern Colorado, hit the trails at Lory State Park by Fort Collins; Eldorado Canyon State Park outside Boulder; Golden Gate Canyon State Park above Golden; Barr Lake State Park northeast of Denver; and Castlewood Canyon State Park and Roxborough State Park south of Denver. Great hikes near Colorado Springs are at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Mueller State Park.
5. Ride the Polar Express Train
Discover the magic of the Colorado winter and the holidays by riding a Polar Express train on a delightful journey over snow-covered rails that are perfect for kids. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango heads north, recreating the magic of the best-selling book The Polar Express and hit 2003 movie. The Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden also immerses families in the sights and sounds of a rail trip to the North Pole. Other post-Thanksgiving train adventures include the Santa Express Train on the Royal Gorge Railroad; two holiday train excursions on the Georgetown Loop Railroad; or a free ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in exchange for a donation of non-perishable food or toys.
6. Find an Out of the Ordinary Adventure
Take your pick of a real Colorado adventure. Strap on crampons and start ice climbing up a frozen waterfall with Front Range Climbing Company. Take a dog sledding tour with Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge or Snow Buddy Dog Sled Tours in Steamboat Springs. Buckle into skinny skis and go Nordic skiing on a groomed track at Vail Nordic Center or Breckenridge Nordic Center. See a million stars in the night sky at one of Colorado’s three designated Dark Sky Places—Silvercliffe and Westcliffe, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Hovenweep National Monument. Or for giggles and grins, grab an inflatable tube and slide downhill fast on Copper Mountain’s four-lane Tubing Hill.