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The best Colorado mountain town holiday festivals in 2019

From a Christmas mountain in Salida, to the Polar Express train in Durango, find out where the best Christmas celebrations and festivals are happening.
Credit: Joe Kusumoto

COLORADO, USA — Nothing puts you in the Christmas spirit quite like the snow-covered streets and twinkling lights in a Colorado mountain town.

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Celebrate the holidays with some of these fun and unique events while enjoying that special small-town ambiance.


For two weekends every December, this historic mountain town along Interstate 70 transforms into a nostalgic Christmas wonderland. The featured event is a free, European-style Christmas market carrying handcrafted gifts, ornaments and decorations as well as food vendors. After shopping, visitors can enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides through the historic downtown, visits by a traditional St. Nicholas, Victorian carolers, dancers and live music, museum tours and the heavenly smell and taste of roasted chestnuts. Georgetown also features the Scandinavian tradition of a Santa Lucia Children's Procession each day of the market.

Annual Georgetown Christmas Market

  • When: Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Where: 6th Street, Georgetown
  • Cost: Free


Named one of the Top 10 Christmas Towns by HGTV, there is plenty to do around the holidays in this Colorado ski town. The unique shopping district is beautifully decorated and lit up during the holiday shopping season and it also features an arts and crafts festival during the first weekend of December. But for a truly unique holiday experience to remember, check out the Polar Express Train Ride, operated by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Families will hear the Polar Express story and enjoy hot chocolate and treats as they ride to the North Pole where they get to see Santa and his elves hard at work. On the ride back to Durango, Santa visits each car and delivers a special gift to each child as everyone sings carols. There are even live reindeer! And the best part – you get to wear your pajamas.

Durango Polar Express Train Ride

  • When: Nov. 15 – Jan. 2; 5:15 p.m., 6:50 p.m., and 8:25 p.m. most nights
  • Where: 479 Main Ave., Durango
  • Cost: $22 - $78/ticket depending on class level and peak times

RELATED: Get unique gifts at these Colorado holiday markets


Each holiday season, the town of Frisco hosts a holiday festival dedicated to sipping cider. During Wassail Days more than 50 stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses throughout town serve their own blend of wassail, a hot spiced cider. Visitors can stroll through town, sampling the different varieties while collecting stamps on a "12 Sips of Wassail Card." Those who fill their card with at least 12 different stamps can then turn it in in exchange for a commemorative mug and to vote for their favorite wassail.

Wassail Days

  • When: Nov. 30 - Dec. 8
  • Where: Frisco, assorted businesses
  • Cost: Free
Credit: Joe Kusumoto


You really can find something for everyone in Aspen around the holidays with the town's 12 Days of Aspen celebration featuring a huge array of fun and festive activities, many of which are free! There are storytimes and fun crafts for the kids (holiday ornament workshops, cookie making, stocking decorating, etc), unique activities and shows for the whole family (film screenings, magic shows, fireworks, ice skating, acrobats, etc), and adult-oriented gatherings (après drink features, live music, DJ sets, private snowcat tours, gourmet dinners, etc.).

12 Days of Aspen

  • When: Dec. 20 – 31; all day
  • Where: Around Aspen
  • Cost: Varies by event


Breckenridge's annual "race of the Santas" features hundreds of people dressed in Santa suits sprinting six blocks down Main Street. It's all part of the town's annual start of the holiday season. There is also a kid's run and a dog parade, a snowman building competition and a free concert. The run is followed by Breck's annual tree lighting ceremony featuring Santa and caroling.

Lighting of Breckenridge & Race of the Santas

  • When: Dec. 7; 3 - 9 p.m.
  • Where: Main Street, Breckenridge
  • Cost: $10 - $15 for race

RELATED: Christmas shows and concerts coming to Colorado in 2019

Credit: Getty Images


This quaint ski town in the southeastern corner of the state has two Christmas events worth checking out. First, the Holiday Prelude is a full weekend of events to get visitors into the holiday spirit. Take a free train ride or go ice skating - also for free - while sipping on hot cocoa. There's even a curling demonstration. Kids can enjoy crafts, gondola rides to "Santa's workshop" or holiday movies with free popcorn. Then, on Christmas Eve, the slopes of Telluride light up in the beautiful Torchlight Parade. An incredible light show is created by ski school employees who coast down a run carrying blazing red torches while fireworks light up the sky around them.

Telluride Holiday Prelude

  • When: Dec. 14 - 15; 1 - 5 p.m.
  • Where: Mountain Village, Telluride
  • Cost: Free

Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade

  • When: Dec. 24; 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Coonskin and Telluride Trail, Telluride
  • Cost: Free


Keystone is definitely known as a ski town, but there are plenty of ways to play in the snow at this resort even if you've never strapped on a pair of skis and never intend to. Kids can play in a giant snow fort complete with mazes and slides. The whole family can go tubing or ice skating on a 5-acre frozen lake. And adults can enjoy a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride to a rustic ranch or a scenic gondola ride to a 5-star restaurant for a unique dinner. After a day of exploring, head to the Keystone Lodge and Spa to see their famous Chocolate Village! Featuring 7,000 pounds of chocolate and a working chocolate gondola and train, Keystone Resort’s Pastry Chef, Ned Archibald has handcrafted the entire thing, adding a new piece each year.

Keystone Resort Chocolate Village

  • When: About Dec. 6 - Jan. 7; on display 24 hours
  • Where: Keystone Lodge and Spa lobby
  • Cost: Free

Keystone Winter Activities

  • When: Throughout the winter season
  • Where: Keystone Resort
  • Cost: $21-$105


For the seven weeks between Thanksgiving and the famous Ouray Ice Festival in January, the idyllic mountain town celebrates winter with different events every weekend. This includes a tree lighting and Christmas parade the first weekend of December; a wine, chocolate and cheese festival on Dec. 8; movie nights at the Wright Opera House, gingerbread house decorating workshops and holiday concerts.

Ouray WinterFest

  • When: Nov. 29 - Jan. 22
  • Where: Ouray
  • Cost: Varies


Who wouldn't want to celebrate the holidays in Colorado with a little skiing or snowboarding? Vail has two big festivals this holiday season. The first is Snowdays, taking place Dec. 12 - 15 this year. After a day on the slopes, enjoy an impressive lineup of free concerts in Vail Village: Modest Mouse and The Head and the Heart. The following weekend is Vail's tree lighting ceremony, part of their annual holiday festival. It also includes a holiday market, crafts for children, a sweater run, ice skating performances, an ice theater, carolers and more. It's a perfect setting to experience one of Colorado's premier ski towns.

Vail Snow Days

  • When: Dec. 12 - 15; concerts start at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday night
  • Where: Ford Park, Vail
  • Cost: Free

Vail Holidays

  • When: Dec. 14 - 31; all day
  • Where: Vail Village
  • Cost: Varies


Forget a Christmas tree, Salida has a Christmas mountain! Each year, hundreds of colorful lights are strung on Tenderfoot Mountain, generally adorned with an S, creating the outline of a giant 750-foot tall Christmas tree. It's lit during a ceremony and parade of lights on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The celebration also includes a fireworks display from the top of the mountain and a festival at the outdoor Riverside Park and inside at the SteamPlant Event Center with free treats and hot cocoa.

Christmas Mountain Lighting and Parade of Lights

  • When: Nov. 29; 6 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Riverside Park, Salida
  • Cost: free

Steamboat Springs

Steamboat is celebrating the holiday season in true Colorado style. During their festival, you can watch Santa ride down the slopes of the ski resort on horseback before visiting him and some of his reindeer at his workshop. You can also get free holiday treats by joining in a "stocking scramble" at participating stores and restaurants. There will also be free cookie decorating, night skiing, a torchlight parade, concert and fireworks.

Steamboat Holiday Festival

  • When: Dec. 22; 2 - 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Steamboat Ski Resort
  • Cost: Free (except lift tickets for night skiing)
Credit: Larry Pierce; Steamboat Resort

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