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9Things to do in Colorado this Thanksgiving weekend

Celebrate Thanksgiving weekend at a Colorado holiday festival, lighting, parade, celebration, 'The Nutcracker' performance or 'A Christmas Carol' production.
Credit: Thinkstock

KUSA — Happy Thanksgiving!

Colorado is known for terrific festivals, concerts, sporting events and the arts. Kick off the holiday season right by experiencing the unique culture, food and geography that make the Centennial State special.

Before and after you enjoy the turkey this weekend, consider one of these fun Thanksgiving and holiday season events in all corners of the state:

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9NEWS Light the Lights — Denver

A nearly 100-year-old Denver tradition returns this Friday. The City and County of Denver and 9NEWS are proud to present the lighting of the Denver City and County Building in downtown Denver. This Friday's festivities take place between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. with a winter festival at Civic Center Park. There will be family-friendly activities from the Denver Public Library, hot chocolate, adult beverages, a Yellow Snow Dog Race and food trucks. Entertainment from The Beverly Belles will begin at 6 p.m. on the main stage in front of the City and County Building. 9NEWS will help Light the Lights around 6:15 p.m. Denver's Police Chief Paul Pazen, Fire Chief Eric Tade and Sheriff Patrick Firman will be doing the honor of flipping the light switch this year.

READ MORE | 9NEWS Light the Lights to kick off holiday season on Nov. 23

Credit: Turkey ROCK Trot; HAL Sports

Turkey ROCK Trot — Castle Rock

Castle Rock's Thanksgiving morning tradition returns Thursday. The 14th Annual Turkey ROCK Trot is a 5K family run/walk/stroll perfect for the serious runner or the whole family. The event begins at 9 a.m. at the Douglas County Event Center. New this year is a Kid's Dash, for youth under 12, which starts at 8:30 a.m. The Turkey ROCK Trot Health and Wellness Expo opens at 7:30 a.m. Thursday with over 30 health and wellness vendors, giveaways, bounce house, face painting, balloon twisting and free one beer and food item for registered participants. For race registration, visit TurkeyROCKTrot.com.

Credit: Harvesting Hope 5K

Stanley Harvesting Hope 5K — Denver

The 4th Annual Stanley Harvesting Hope 5K arrives Thanksgiving morning at Denver's Stapleton Central Park. The event features a 5K fun run/walk as well as a kid's fun run, free for children under 10. Dogs, strollers, wheelchairs are all welcome along the race's paved course. There will be free entertainment and hot chocolate and race registration includes a long-sleeved shirt, free race photos and a finisher's medal. All of the event's race proceeds are donated to charity. You can register at HarvestingHope5K.com.

Credit: Briargate Family YMCA

Turkey Trot 5K & Kids’ Tiny Trot — Colorado Springs

The Briargate YMCA in Colorado Springs is hosting the 21st Annual Turkey Trot 5K and Kids' Tiny Trot on Thanksgiving morning. The runs serve as a fundraiser for the YMCA and its many programs. The free kids' run starts at 8:15 a.m. and the Turkey Trot follows at 9 a.m. You can register for the Trot at PPYMCA.org.

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Mile High United Way Turkey Trot — Denver

The 45th Annual Mile High United Way Turkey Trot will take place Thanksgiving Day at Denver's Washington Park. Registration can be completed at South High School starting at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. The trot is a four-mile run/walk with proceeds supporting the Mile High United Way. Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m.

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Gobble Wobble — Littleton

The Gobble Wobble is a 5K race at Littleton's Clement Park. The run/walk is open to serious athletes, aspiring runners and families and children alike. This year, the Gobble Wobble will begin on the east side of Clement Park near Columbine High School. The race will get underway at 8:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Credit: Visit Estes Park

Catch the Glow Christmas Parade & Celebration — Estes Park

Estes Park will kick off the holiday season with its annual Catch the Glow Christmas Parade and Celebration. The lighted parade steps off Friday at 5:30 p.m. and runs the length of Elkhorn Ave. with marching bands playing holiday tunes, dancers with twinkly lights and terrific floats. Kids will be able to visit with Santa Claus at his workshop by Bond Park from noon to 2 p.m.

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Greeley Lights the Night Parade — Greeley

The City of Greeley welcomes in the holiday season at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with its 23rd Annual Greeley Lights the Night Parade. The parade steps off at 9th Ave. and 15th St. and travels north to Lincoln Park with horses, marching bands, dance teams, classic cars and more. After the parade is a lighting ceremony in Lincoln Park with tasty holiday goodies and a visit from Santa Claus.

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Pueblo Parade of Lights — Pueblo

The 29th Annual Pueblo Parade of Lights will mark the start of the Christmas season in southern Colorado. One of the largest Christmas parades in Colorado, the parade features brightly-colored floats, school marching bands, drill teams, saddle club horses, classic cars lined with lights and much more. The Pueblo Parade of Lights steps off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday from the Mesa Junction down Union Ave. to Main St. and then 6th and Court.

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Salida Parade of Lights — Salida

Salida will hold its annual Parade of Lights starting at 6 p.m. Friday. Salida will be transformed into "Christmas Town" following the parade with the lighting of "the world's largest Christmas tree" — a 4,500-bulb string of lights on Tenderfoot Mountain shaped into a Christmas tree. The huge holiday symbol, which can be seen over the Arkansas River Valley for miles, will be lit until January 6.

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Denver Union Station’s Grand Illumination — Denver

Denver Union Station's Grand Illumination aims to be grander than ever before. The holiday celebration on Friday includes the grand lighting of the station and a brand new 40-foot outdoor Christmas tree. The inaugural Denver Union Station Holiday Market with the Denver Flea also opens Friday with live music and holiday entertainment. The Grand Illumination event runs from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Mayor’s Holiday Lighting — Parker

The Town of Parker is excited to welcome in the holiday season with the annual Mayor's Holiday Lighting this Friday. The Mayor and Parker Chorale will lead a sing-along to "Silent Night" to kick off the event, followed by the Town Tree and Grand Park Lighting. After the lighting at O'Brien Park, guests are encouraged to enjoy the sights of ice sculpture displays, holiday characters, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus and holiday food vendors. Live entertainment includes the Parker Chorale, local high school choirs and Colorado School of Dance performers. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. sharp and runs until 7 p.m.

PHOTOS | Mayor’s Holiday Lighting in Parker

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Palmer Lake Fall Lantern Festival — Palmer Lake

Palmer Lake's annual Fall Lantern Festival returns this Saturday with events planned from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. The day begins with local artists and crafters at the lake and kids' activities at the fire department. The 83rd Annual Palmer Lake Fire Department Chili Supper takes place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with chili, mac and cheese, potato soup and cinnamon rolls. The annual Star Lighting is set for 7 p.m. on the side of Sundance Mountain, followed by the release of paper lanterns onto Palmer Lake. Tickets, which benefit the Pedestrian Bridge and park improvements in Palmer Lake, can be purchased online.

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Downtown Tree Lighting Ceremony — Longmont

Friday's Tree Lighting Ceremony will officially kick off the holidays in downtown Longmont. Starting at 6:30 p.m., Patrick Paws of LMNO Puppets and his puppet friends will explore holiday celebrations around the world, followed by the lighting of the big tree on Main St. at the 6th Ave. Plaza. The ceremony also features caroling and a holiday sing-along, crafts, snacks, warm drinks, goodie bags and an appearance by Kris Kringle himself.

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Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration — Keystone

Keystone's 6th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration offers cookies, hot chocolate, carolers, kidtopia parade, family carnival, a visit from Santa Claus, holiday tree lighting, fireworks and more. River Run Village will have face painting, kids crafts and live music from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday leading up the 5:15 p.m. tree lighting and 7 p.m. fireworks show. The holiday festivities are free.

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Montrose Tree Lighting — Montrose

The historic Montrose County Courthouse is the site of the annual Tree Lighting this Friday. The event offers a reading of "T'was the Night Before Christmas," live music, Christmas carols and complimentary hot cocoa. Santa Claus will be welcomed to Montrose where he'll open his cabin for the season at the Uncompahgre Events Plaza.

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Littleton Candlelight Walk & Tree Lighting — Littleton

The 35th Annual Littleton Candlelight Walk and Tree Lighting takes place Friday in historic downtown Littleton. Festivities and entertainment include the Littleton High School choir, Heritage High School Brass, live reindeer plus a holiday float with a glittering ice princess and elves. Main St. closes Friday at 4 p.m. with festivities beginning at 5:30 p.m. Santa Claus makes his way down Main St. at 6:30 p.m. before illuminating more than one million downtown Christmas lights.

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Grand Lake Tree Lighting Ceremony — Grand Lake

Grand Lake is holding its first-ever festival of lights this holiday season. The town will be lit up for the holidays through the new year and the Town Christmas Tree will be lit the day after Thanksgiving. The lighting ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Friday with "treats and cheer for all."

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Beaver Creek Tree Lighting Ceremony — Beaver Creek

The 38th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday kicks off the holiday ski season at Beaver Creek. There will be entertainment and festivities from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday leading up to the lighting which will be followed by fireworks.

Credit: Denver Botanic Gardens

Blossoms of Light — Denver

Denver Botanic Gardens' Blossoms of Light has been the garden's signature event for over three decades. The holiday tradition transforms the York St. gardens into a twinkling wonderland. The family-friendly event is brighter and bigger than ever before with thousands of ever-changing displays of light and color. Blossoms of Light opens Friday and runs through January 1. Get your ticket reservations early at BotanicGardens.org.

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Creede Chocolate Festival — Creede

Chocolate lovers, rejoice! The two-day Creede Chocolate Festival runs Friday and Saturday with business owners showcasing all things chocolate. The wildly-unique samples range from tiramisu, tortes and chocolate-covered pretzels, to jalapeno bean fudge and chocolate-dipped bacon. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will also be found around town during the holiday shopping weekend.

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Festival of Trees — Greeley

The 30th Annual Festival of Trees returns this weekend with the Union Colony Civic Center lobby being turned into a true winter wonderland. The festival features beautifully-crafted trees, each decorated in their own unique theme and style, all vying for prizes. The nine-day Festival of Trees, which opens Friday and runs through Saturday, Dec. 1, also offers visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, face painters, arts and crafts, holiday demonstrations, carriage rides, prize drawings and choir performances. Check out the full Festival of Trees schedule at GreeleyGov.com.

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Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker — Denver

The Colorado Ballet's 58th annual production of The Nutcracker returns this holiday season for 27 stunning performances at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The Colorado Ballet's production has been one of Denver's most popular holiday traditions for decades. With a story that sparks the imagination of audiences young and old, The Nutcracker showcases exceptional dancers as well as Tchaikovsky’s beloved score performed by Colorado Ballet Orchestra. The Nutcracker opens Friday and plays through Christmas Eve. Performances consistently sell out, so get your tickets early at ColoradoBallet.org.

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Colorado Springs Philharmonic's The Nutcracker — Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs' only professional performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker will play for this weekend only at the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic production features the Oklahoma City Ballet and Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale. Five performances of The Nutcracker are scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday in downtown Colorado Springs. Grab your tickets at AXS.com.

Credit: The Hudson Gardens & Event Center

A Hudson Christmas — Littleton

The Hudson Gardens' A Hudson Christmas is an outdoor festival of Christmas lights that will brighten your holiday spirit. The garden's woods are transformed into a winter wonderland of brightly-lit trees set against the night sky, reflecting off bodies of water. With friends and family, hot chocolate, tasty treats and photo opportunities with Santa Claus, A Hudson Christmas is a must-see Colorado tradition. A Hudson Christmas will be open weekends and select dates through Christmas. Tickets can be found at AltitudeTickets.com or at the door on event nights.

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Christmas in Color at Water World — Federal Heights

Christmas in Color is a mile-long, drive-through display set to open in the Water World parking lot in Federal Heights on Friday. The attraction, which is new to Colorado this year, features vibrant glowing tunnels illuminated by an assortment of LED lights – all of which are synchronized to a festive holiday music lineup that attendees can tune into from their vehicles. Christmas in Color will be open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31.

READ MORE | 'Christmas in Color' comes to Colorado

Credit: Garland Photography; Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Scrooge! The Musical — Johnstown

A favorite Candlelight Dinner Playhouse holiday tradition returns this weekend in Johnstown. Candlelight's musical adaption of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a fun, festive journey towards redemption as Ebenezer Scrooge finds the true meaning of Christmas. Scrooge! The Musical, which features the songs "Thank You Very Much" and "I Hate People," is penned by Leslie Bricusse and based on the 1970 movie, Scrooge. Scrooge! The Musical opens Friday and will play through New Year's Eve with tickets sold at ColoradoCandlelight.com.

Credit: AdamsVisCom; Denver Center for the Performing Arts

A Christmas Carol — Denver

A Denver holiday tradition returns to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts this Thanksgiving weekend. The rousing, joyous musical adaption of A Christmas Carol, penned by Richard Hellesen, "warm your heart and renew your holiday spirit." Denver Center's A Christmas Carol plays at the Stage Theatre through Christmas Eve. Find your perfect ticket at DenverCenter.org.

Credit: Getty Images

A Christmas Carol — Longmont

Longmont Theatre Company's production of Dickens' classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim opens this weekend. The Romulus Linney adaption of A Christmas Carol remains a perennial holiday favorite, reminding everyone of the true spirit of Christmas. Tickets for Longmont Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol are available online.

Credit: Miners Alley Playhouse

Miners Alley Playhouse's A Christmas Carol — Golden

The newest production from the Miners Alley Playhouse opens Friday in Golden. This hilarious and face-paced production of A Christmas Carol uses six actors to bring Dickens' beloved characters to life. The Josh Hartwell adaptation uses nothing more than simple props, fun physicality, and the power of imagination to tell the classic story of redemption. Miners Alley Playhouses' A Christmas Carol has performances scheduled through Dec. 24. Tickets can be found at MinersAlley.com or by phone at 303-935-3044.

Credit: AdamsVisCom; Denver Center for the Performing Arts

The SantaLand Diaries — Denver

The acclaimed one-man show The SantaLand Diaries opens this Friday at the Jones Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Intended for mature audiences, the twisted comedy is the cure for the common Christmas show. Based on the author's time as a Macy's elf, The SantaLand Diaries plays through Christmas Eve, with tickets sold at DenverCenter.org.

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Santa’s Village at Chatfield Farms — Littleton

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms will be officially transformed into a magical Christmas village beginning Friday. The holiday experience for all ages offers crafts with Mrs. Claus, photos with Mr. Claus, Santa's live reindeer, holiday lights, hayrides, Santa's Cinema and Christmas craft vendors. Tickets for Santa's Village can be found at BotanicGardens.org or at the parking lot ticket booth. Santa's Village at Chatfield Farms will be open Friday to Sunday through Dec. 23.

Credit: Hotel Colorado

Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony & Fireworks — Glenwood Springs

One of Colorado's most historic hotels is ready for the holidays. Hotel Colorado will have live Christmas music and entertainment all day Friday leading up to its annual lighting ceremony and fireworks show. Symphony of the Valley, Liberty Classical School, the Glenwood Springs High School ROTC, the Denver Dolls and the Rocky Mountain Scots are among the performers set to participate in the festivities. Santa Claus and hot cocoa and cookies from the Boy Scouts will lead into the 7 p.m. lighting ceremony and fireworks show.

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A Mountain Holiday — Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek's Mountain Rep Theatre opens its newest holiday production on Friday at the historic Butte Theater. A Mountain Holiday is a classic Christmas melodrama that tells the tale of a young Jack Dempsey in his first big fight on Christmas Eve 1914. The show will also have your favorite holiday tunes and toe-tapping choreography. A Mountain Holiday plays through Dec. 24 with tickets available online.

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Santa Express Train — Cañon City

More than 30,000 guests ride the unique Santa Express Train each year. The fun holiday tradition features new and old Christmas music, delicious food, cookies and cocoa as kids and their families make their way to the North Pole where each child receives a holiday bell from Santa and his Elves. The Christmas train, along the historic Royal Gorge Route, has departures planned through December 30. Reservations sellout quickly at RoyalGorgeRoute.com.

Holiday Guide 2018 | Everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays in Colorado

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — Denver

The Denver Broncos are back to their winning ways thanks to a last-second Brandon McManus field goal last Sunday. Now, the refocused, 4-6 Denver Broncos welcome the talented 7-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers to the Mile High City. Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Look for the Broncos' Color Rush uniforms to make their annual appearance this weekend.

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Rocky Mountain Train Show — Loveland

The Ranch Events Complex is the site of this weekend's Rocky Mountain Train Show. More than 50 vendors will be on hand for the family-friendly, all ages show. New and experienced train hobbyists alike are invited to explore the operating train layouts and vendors selling trains in all scales. The Rocky Mountain Train Show is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the show or at RockyMountainTrainShow.com.

Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

Air Force Football vs. Colorado State — Colorado Springs

Now eliminated from postseason play, the Falcons and Rams will be playing for pride in their season-ending football matchup. Air Force hosts Colorado State on Thursday in a turkey day Mountain West battle. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at Falcon Stadium. Avoid the stadium box office lines by snagging your tickets at AFTickets.com.

Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Air Force Men's Basketball vs. Colorado — Colorado Springs

The Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball team will travel to Colorado Springs for a Saturday matchup with the Air Force Falcons. The Buffs vs. Falcons tips off at 4 p.m. at Clune Arena. You can get tickets for this early-season, non-conference game at AFTickets.com.

Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars — Denver

The Colorado Avalanche return home from a three-game road trip for a Saturday night game at Pepsi Center. The Avs host the division rival Dallas Stars on Saturday at 7 p.m. Grab your tickets at AltitudeTickets.com.

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets vs. Orlando Magic — Denver

The Denver Nuggets are back at Pepsi Center on Friday for a game against the Orlando Magic. Pretty Lights band member, turntable musician, VH1 Master of the Mix Finalist and three-time Red Bull Thre3style Champion Chris Karns is set to perform at halftime and post-game. Nuggets tickets are available at AltitudeTickets.com.

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Hot Import Nights — Denver

Hot Import Nights is bringing its global car show back to Denver for one night only this Saturday night. The nationwide automotive festival, which features cars, models and music, will run from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the National Western Complex. There will be hundreds of customized vehicles, top car crews and teams, live DJ entertainment, model competitions, merchandise stands, automotive exhibitors, food and beverage concessions and more. Hot Import Nights tickets are sold at HINevents.com.

Credit: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Free Fallin' - The Music of Tom Petty — Denver

The Colorado Symphony will honor the late Tom Petty with "Free Fallin'" on Saturday night at Boettcher Concert Hall. The symphony will be joined by Jeans 'n Classics to interpret some of the great works in Petty's forty-year career. Get your tickets at ColoradoSymphony.org.

Credit: Getty Images

Colorado Symphony's Drums of the World — Denver

The Colorado Symphony's percussionists will be using unique instruments at this Sunday's "Drums of the World" performance. The fun concert will involve marimba, bongos, bass drums, woodblocks, log drums, boo-bams, Chinese cymbals, metal trash cans, darabukkas, talking drums, plastic pipe, acoustic guitar, toy trumpet, tablespoons, Burma gongs, water can, crow call, tambourine, gankogui and sleigh bells. Drums of the World is set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall. Tickets can be found at ColoradoSymphony.org.

Credit: University of Denver Athletics

DU Pioneers Hockey vs. Providence — Denver

The DU Pioneers continue their homestand with a pair of games this weekend against Providence. The Pios and Friars take to the ice at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Magness Arena. DU tickets are available at the arena box office or DenverPioneers.com.

Credit: Nicholas Monaghan/Colorado Eagles

Colorado Eagles vs. San Jose Barracuda — Loveland

The Eagles return home to Colorado this weekend for two games at the Budweiser Events Center. The Eagles host San Jose Barracuda at 7:05 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday. The first 1,500 children under 16 will receive a free youth jersey on Friday. Saturday night's game will have a mystery bobblehead giveaway. For game tickets, head to ColoradoEagles.com.

Credit: Thinkstock

Holiday Sugar Plum Bazaar — Denver

The 8th Annual Holiday Sugar Plum Bazaar returns this weekend to the McNichols Building, across the street from the Denver City and County Building. More than 100 local vendors, crafters and artists will be at the bazaar with cocktails and coffee available to keep you going while you shop. The event runs Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first 25 adults in the door each day will receive a swag bag of goodies.

Credit: Thinkstock

Holiday Craft Show & Mini-Market — Golden

The first-ever Colorado Community Crafters Craft Show and Mini-Market runs Saturday and Sunday at the Jeffco County Fairgrounds. More than 90 crafters will help you get a start on your holiday shopping with unique, handmade gifts. The show is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free to the public.

FIND MORE | Holiday Craft Shows in Denver

Credit: Thinkstock

Horseshoe Holiday Market — Denver

Over 100 local vendors will be on hand for this weekend's Horseshoe Holiday Market. The award-winning market will be held at the historic Highlands Masonic Temple at 35th and Federal Blvd. in northwest Denver from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Do you know of a cool, fun Colorado festival, fair, expo, concert or event you think we ought to mention in this week's 9Things or in the future? Send it to alexander.kirk@9news.com!

Have a thankful weekend!