It’s December in Colorado, when the snow is falling and people are gathering at indoor holiday events aplenty—except, not this year. With unseasonably mild weather and Omicron variant-fueled COVID-19 cases spiking, winter break 2021 is the perfect time to stay merry, bright, safe and warm at a variety of outdoor festivities. Experience some of the top things to do (including many outside options) in the Denver metro area before DU classes resume on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Check the websites linked below to purchase timed-entry tickets, if necessary, and for current face mask and/or COVID-19 vaccination requirements.


Photo courtesy of Visit Denver

(1) Go ice skating: Skate for free at the Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park. Bring your own skates or rent them for $9. Hours vary so check the website before you go.


(2) See the sights and sounds of the season: Take a self-guided walking tour around Downtown Denver while it’s all dressed up for the holidays. Must-see stops include the Denver Milk Market, Union Station, 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square.


(3) Marvel at the lights: It doesn’t really feel like the holidays without twinkling lights, so if you’re in the mood for some festive illumination, visit Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo through Jan. 2, 2022, or check out Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens through Jan. 8, 2022. More holiday-inspired events are available on the Visit Denver website.


Be sure to check the trail conditions before heading out on your hike!

(4) Take a hike: Colorado’s hikes are for everyone. With options that vary in difficulty, length and proximity, the possibilities for a getaway in nature are endless. To find the hike that’s right for you, take a look at this list of the best hikes near campus.


(5) Ski or snowboard: The mountains are calling, and you must go! Take advantage of the time off to ski or ride down one of Colorado’s epic slopes, honing your skills in preparation for the annual Daniels Race and Case competition Jan. 21­­–22, 2022.


(6) Catch a movie under the stars: Denver Film is presenting its Film on the Rocks Holiday Drive-in at famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre Fridays–Sundays through Dec. 12. For $59.50 per vehicle, tickets include popcorn, candy, soda and access to an outdoor classic holiday film, such as Home Alone, Love Actually, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the (debatable) Christmas classic, Die Hard.


Help fulfill the holiday wishes of a person or animal in need this season

(7) Give back: Practice Daniels’ mission of dedication to the public good by giving back this holiday season. Project Helping is a mental health nonprofit that carries out its mission through volunteer experiences. The Gathering Place, Denver Rescue Mission, Metro Caring and Volunteers of America are other notable nonprofits with volunteer and donation opportunities. Or, “adopt” a child, senior or support animal in need of holiday gifts, clothing and other essentials this season. You can select a tag on the Denver and Aurora Housing Authorities’ Giving Tree at Daniels alumni-founded Stanley Marketplace and return wrapped wish list items by Dec. 15.


(8) Travel without the travel: Check out the (indoor or outdoor) activities with a day trip to Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, or book a staycation—complete with access to indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, spa, gym and restaurants—for that getaway feel, no air travel required. Colorado locals get a discounted room rate with promo code LPR. Christmas at Gaylord Rockies lasts through Jan. 2, 2022, and includes activities such as the Cirque Dreams Holidaze show, interactive elf experience, ice skating, ice bumper cars, snow tubing and more.


(9) Eat a meal at an alumni-owned restaurant: DU alumni are cooking up platefuls of delicious food across the Denver metro area. Stop by a few of the many restaurants owned by DU and Daniels grads and remember, this list is just a starter course. Many even feature outdoor dining options!


(10) Discover Denver: Want more ideas of things to do in Denver during winter break and throughout the year? Check out (and bookmark) Daniels’ Discover Denver page.